You are the owner of this page.
A4 A4
Columns
Polman: Should Al Franken resign? Whoa, take a breath.

It’s admirable, in a way, that so many left-leaners are calling for Al Franken to quit the Senate.

Columnist Paul Waldman says Democrats have “a good opportunity” to take the high road against sexual harassment. Activist-podcaster Sally Kohn tweets, “Wrong is wrong. Democrats need to show they strongly and consistently stand for women’s rights.” The same sentiment is echoed by progressive groups like Credo Action and Indivisible.

But let’s not be hasty here.

I’m warning against haste not because Franken is a Democrat; if he were to quit, Minnesota’s Democratic governor would keep the seat blue anyway. I’m warning against haste simply because, amidst the flood of raw info about predatory misogyny in high places, and with so much we still don’t know, the allegation-and-punishment process threatens to veer out of control before we’ve even established a fair and balanced system of justice.

I’ll explain what I mean in a moment. But first, here’s Waldman’s argument. He wrote on Monday that Democrats should call for Franken to resign, as penance for the two accusations lodged against him, because “it would demonstrate that they’re willing to put their actions where their principles are, that they want to take this opportunity to begin really changing the culture of male supremacy ... If Democrats want to show that they’re different [from Republicans], now’s their chance.”

I get what he says—with one caveat.

He’s basically advocating unilateral disarmament. Democrats can walk the high road and set whatever noble example they want, but there’s no way Republicans will follow suit. At virtually the same time that Waldman and other liberals were calling for Franken’s head, Trump propagandist Kellyanne Conway was telling Fox News that Roy Moore, accused repeatedly of pedophilia, was perfectly acceptable because “we want the votes in the Senate to get this tax bill through.” If self-policing Democrats stand up for morality, amoral Republicans will try to leverage that to their advantage.

In that view, I’m hardly alone. Kate Harding, a feminist author and podcaster who wants Franken to stay, points out that, like it or not, we have a two-party system, and that unilateral Democratic disarmament will empower the other party: “If we (compel Franken to quit) in the interest of demonstrating our party’s solidarity with harassed and abused women, we’re only going to drain the swamp of people who, however flawed, still regularly vote to protect women’s rights and freedoms.”

As mentioned earlier, I’m most concerned that we’re at risk of losing all sense of proportion. We’re at risk of ushering in an era of mandatory sentencing (Franken must go!) before we even set up a fair system of justice.

Step back from Franken and look at the big picture. Not all accused male lawmakers (the ones we know, the ones we will soon know) have erred equally. Should accusations that involve the use of taxpayer money be treated more seriously than other accusations? Should any exculpatory weight be given to testimonials from women who were treated with respect by the accused?

In Franken’s case, he has gotten such testimonials. And neither of his two accusers were in the workplace. If he is frog-marched out of the Senate—if quitting one’s seat is deemed the appropriate punishment for non-consensual kissing and groping—it surely means that all lawmakers accused of anything more severe should summarily resign. Heck, if Franken is compelled to quit, then surely Donald Trump (with 16 accusers) should do the same.

Even Waldman, whose work I admire, acknowledges that “we need to make sure we don’t lose our ability to make moral distinctions between different kinds of sexual misconduct, and whatever punishments we mete out are proportional and just ... A man who doles out the occasional unwanted kiss might deserve a vigorous public shaming, but still be allowed to have a career.”

All the more reason to take a deep breath. We need proportion. We need just punishments that fit the alleged offenses.

Dick Polman writes for NewsWorks/WHYY. Email him at dickpolman7@gmail.com.


Letters
Your Views: Deniers surrounded by signs of global warming

The politics of not respecting our environment and denying climate change are everywhere. We have Rush Limbaugh and Ann Coulter and their misleading statements about Hurricane Irma in Florida. Coulter ridiculously said Miami was suffering from a “light rain,” and Limbaugh sarcastically said the media exaggerated the hurricane’s severity as a way to increase fears about climate change.

Then there are Florida Gov. Rick Scott and federal Environmental Protection Agency Director Scott Pruitt, who don’t want citizens or their staff to talk about climate change, even though citizens want to know how climate change affects their lives. Our president feels global warming is a hoax. His cabinet is filled with climate skeptics and deniers, and he has pulled the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord.

A Chicago Tribune article states higher temperatures, increase in number of storms and more flooding are reducing the lifespan of roads and bridges and causing railways to buckle. The Midwest Economic Policy Institute reports the Midwest’s average air temperature has risen 4.5 degrees since 1980, and there has been increase in electricity outages and the number of heavy rains.

A Wisconsin State Journal article indicates the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration believes the earth has warmed by 1.8 degrees, and seas have risen by 8 inches. Scientists feel global warming is manmade because of carbon dioxide, which fills the air from burning coal, oil and natural gas. They also state global warming is causing many Americans to experience sickness, injury and early death.

LEON K. FREEBURG

Janesville


Other_views
Guest Views: Don't buy promises of tax-cut boost

As Congress closes in on passing some of the biggest tax cuts in U.S. history, even conservative economists suggest the boost to the economy won’t come at rates politicians are promising.

The huge cut in the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent would mark the biggest decrease in that rate over the last 50 years. The 1986 tax reform act lowered it 12 percentage points from 46 to 34 percent. It was raised back to 35 percent as part of the 1993 Budget Reconciliation Act to help reduce the federal deficit.

When the corporate tax rate was lowered in the 1986 reform, it added only 0.33 percent annually to what the GDP would have been, according to the conservative leaning Tax Foundation. The foundation recently estimated the bill that passed the House would add 0.35 annually to the GDP.

The organization uses a “tax and growth” model that assumes that economic growth will result from most tax cuts. But in a report looking at tax cuts going back to the Kennedy tax cuts of 1962, the group reports the impact of an entire tax cut on GDP has never been more than 0.8 percentage point gain annually.

That growth came during the Reagan tax cuts of 1981. While GDP growth was impacted by almost 1 percent per year, federal revenue dropped almost 3 percent as a percentage of GDP.

That ballooned the federal deficit and caused the Federal Reserve to raise interest rates.

Some estimates of the current tax cut proposal that passed the House this week are projecting a 4 percent annual growth in GDP from the typical 2.2 percent of the last few years. So that would be a growth rate never before experienced in tax cut history since the 1960s.

We would do well to be skeptical.

While the House proposal also cuts taxes for individuals, most notably doubling the standard deduction, it still imparts most of the benefits on corporations, with the “trickle down” assumption that they will hire, invest and build new factories.

That’s a big assumption to hang our hats on, and skeptics argue corporations will simply use the money to buy back their own stock and increase dividends—benefits that would go to the well off.

But if we want to look at the 1981 tax cuts as a barometer of where we should put most of the tax cut, it should be to individuals—and to individuals who spend more of their money.

The 1981 tax cut reduced individual rates across the board on the lowest earners from about 14 percent to 11 percent. Those reductions, the Tax Foundation argues, contributed to about half of the 0.8 percent increase in the growth rate.

Economists generally agree when lower income consumers get tax breaks, they tend to spend the money, thereby increasing consumer spending, which makes up about 70 percent of the U.S. economy.

Of course, there are those who can make reasonable arguments that tax cuts have virtually no impact on the economy. But if we believe putting more money in someone’s pocket causes them to engage in more spending, we would probably be better off giving it to consumers instead of corporations.

—Mankato Free Press

(Mankato, Minnesota)


Other_views
Other Views: Girls Scouts is the right choice for girls

At Girl Scouts, everything we do is for girls. Our proven program, pairing girls with strong female mentors who prepare them to take the lead, is based upon 105 years of experience. When it comes to girls, we are the experts.

Recently, Boy Scouts of America announced that in 2018 they will permit girls to participate in Cub Scouts. It is disappointing that Boy Scouts will soon shift recruitment focus away from the 90 percent of boys who are not members. It’s disappointing that one of their reasons is that the “tag along little sister” will be able to become a member. At Girl Scouts, we believe girls deserve their own space, not tag-along status. We believe girls deserve access to an environment where they are the sole focus; where their needs are paramount.

According to research, all children—girls and boys—benefit dramatically from single-gender environments. In Girl Scouts, girls try new activities without fear of failure and the added pressure to look or act in a certain way. Girl Scouts is where girls are free to talk about issues they may not talk about when boys are around.

Girl Scouts is where they see and learn from other girls and female role models, such as Madison Fire Captain Jen Roman. A Girl Scout troop leader and volunteer, Roman knows firsthand about stereotypes. Succeeding in a male-dominated field, Captain Roman identified an opportunity for girls and declared, “If she sees it, she will be it!” and developed CampHERO. Girls attending this one-of-a-kind Girl Scout camp experience the pride and challenge of being a firefighter, police officer and EMT through hands-on activities delivered by real-life professionals in an empowering environment.

Transformative experiences such as those are priceless. And they’re unlimited. Girl Scouts are revitalizing local parks, organizing and sending care packages to Puerto Rico, learning about “leave no trace” camping, building robotic arms and networking with leading female entrepreneurs. At any given time, Girl Scouts are working to make their communities better.

Each year, on average, Girl Scouts altogether deliver an amazing 75 million hours of community service. These take-action projects make a real difference in our communities, country and even the world.

Older girls may earn the prestigious Girl Scout Gold Award, our highest award. Within just the last few months, five Girl Scout Gold Award projects have been completed locally, including an impressive undertaking to combat the declining bee pollinator population. Girl Scout Gold Award projects are impactful, sustainable and often lead to college scholarships as well as higher educational and career outcomes.

Isn’t it time the community rallied and championed for girls? Soon the future will be in their hands. I invite you to join me in support of Girl Scouts. Sign up the girl in your life for Girl Scouts. And donate your time, talents or treasures.

Share your own Girl Scout story using the hashtag #becauseofGirlScouts.

The world needs more leaders. The world needs more Girl Scouts. Girls deserve your support.