POSTED BY: TOM CAHILL MAY 12, 2017
While we were obsessed with the firing of James Comey, Republicans across the country did several horrifying things that went largely underreported.
While it may or may not have been Trump’s intention to keep us distracted from significant stories that will impact millions of Americans that didn’t get the attention they deserved, we’ve included a few of those stories below.
1. Wisconsin Republicans bring back child labor
For all intents and purposes, children between the ages of 16 and 17 are now members of the workforce in Wisconsin, after the Republican-dominated legislature passed a business-backed bill loosening regulations on employing teenagers. The bill passed the state assembly, and most recently the state senate, on a party line vote of 20 for and 12 against.
The Wisconsin Democracy Campaign reported that if Gov. Scott Walker signs the bill as expected, children as young as 16 years old will no longer need a parent or guardian to sign off on their employment, leaving businesses free to openly recruit high school students to work for them.
2. Trump-supporting media conglomerate to own news stations watched by 70 percent of American homes
Earlier this week, Sinclair Broadcast Group (SBG) bought Tribune Media for $4 billion. SBG already owns a significant market share of local TV news stations, but the Tribune acquisition means that they would own enough stations to have direct control of channels watched by 7 out of every 10 Americans. Their open support for President Trump means that pro-Trump messaging will likely inserted into newscasts piped into nearly every American household on a nightly basis.
In New York Magazine’s article on the acquisition, reporter Eric Levitz detailed how Jared Kushner — husband of First Daughter Ivanka Trump — promised Sinclair “exclusive” access to Donald Trump in the final three months of the campaign, when the billionaire real estate mogul was making his rounds across the most pivotal swing states like Florida, Pennsylvania, and Ohio, in exchange for “fair” coverage. Sinclair landed 11 exclusive interviews with Trump, and interviewed his rival, Hillary Clinton, exactly zero times. SBG executives also ran anti-Clinton content and told local producers that they were mandated to broadcast it:
A “must-run” email from Washington managers to stations on Sept. 13 read this way: “DESCRIPTION: Why did Hillary Clinton struggle with disclosing her medical diagnosis? She has been repeatedly faced with previous questions of trust. Can a president lead with so many questions of transparency and trust?…There were no equivalent “must-run” stories examining Trump’s refusal to release his medical or tax records or about questions surrounding his charitable foundation.
While current FCC rules stipulate that no media company can own more than 39 percent of the television market share, FCC chairman Ajit Pai has stated he’s open to changing those rules. The FCC has not yet signed off on the acquisition as of this writing.
3. Trump puts vote suppressor Kris Kobach on “election integrity” commission
One executive order Trump signed this week that got little fanfare was one that authorized the creation of a bipartisan commission to examine current voting laws in all 50 states, and make recommendations as needed under the guise of election integrity.
However innocuous the commission may sound on its face, Trump’s decision to appoint Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach to the commission virtually guarantees that any new recommendations from the commission will be even stricter voter ID laws that are overly burdensome to traditionally Democratic-leaning constituencies, like students, the elderly, and people of color. Kobach, who is the vice chair of the commission, has been successfully sued four times for suppressing legitimate votes.
Despite Kobach crusading nonstop against the specter of “voter fraud,” his own office only found nine individual cases of potential voter fraud out of 1.8 million voters in Kansas. That’s a rate of 0.0005, or five ten-thousandths of one percent, for those of you keeping track.
4. North Carolina has 99 percent of disaster relief denied
While it remains unclear if President Trump didn’t want to approve the funding needed for North Carolina to recover from a recent hurricane because the state has a Democratic governor, or just simply because he felt like it, the state is only receiving $6 million in disaster relief funds despite Governor Roy Cooper requesting $929 million. Cooper said the funding was necessary to “help communities and families fix homes, repair businesses and recover from the historic flooding.”
According to the Washington Post, Hurricane Matthew devastated a large portion of the state, with 50 of 100 counties in a state of emergency, and an estimated $2.8 billion in damage, on top of an additional $2 billion in damage to the state’s economy. Gov. Cooper has invited President Trump to take a tour of the state with him, but as of this writing, Trump has not yet responded.
5. Oklahoma Republican suggests handing over non-English speaking-children to ICE
Because Republicans are completely opposed to raising taxes, and because Oklahoma has a $900 million budget deficit as a result of not enough tax revenue, one Oklahoma Republican state representative Mike Ritze on Friday raised a particularly horrific proposal — turning over 82,000 vulnerable children to federal authorities.
“Identify them and then turn them over to ICE to see if they truly are citizens,” Ritze suggested. “Do we really have to educate noncitizens?”
Ritze’s proposal to round up non-English speakers as a means of saving money for state education would likely not pass judicial muster, since, as the Washington Post pointed out, a 1982 Supreme Court decision (Plyler v. Doe) ruled that states did not have the authority to deny public education to the children of undocumented immigrants.
6. Texas state senate licenses “baby jails” as child care facilities
In Texas, a bill written by for-profit, private prison corporation GEO Group looks like it may become law if Republicans have their way. Earlier this week, SB 1018 passed the Texas state senate on a party line vote, which would allow immigrant family detention centers, which are colloquially referred to as “baby jails,” as child care facilities officially recognized by the state of Texas. It would most likely ensure a steady stream of revenue for Texas’ two immigrant detention centers for children, which can collectively house more than 3,200 people.