The Daily-Ish: Bundy Ranch, Republicans Kill the Paycheck Fairness Act, and the Political Layer Cake

bundy-ranchBundy Ranch. Seriously, how did this become such a big news story when the entire thing is utterly ridiculous? I’m not much of a gambler, but if I was, I’d put a hundred bucks on this not even making regional news (let alone national news) if a Republican were president. Now to be completely fair (I try), I have encountered some people who support Bundy and are able to make a somewhat cogent argument to back up their stance – albeit one I personally disagree with. However, a lot of the people who are “up in arms” (pun fully intended) over this issue would literally get killed to protect this guy, despite his 10+ year long mooching period; so I have a hard time giving their rantings any credence.

That’s right – Mr. Bundy has gotten 1 million+ dollars of free welfare from the taxpayers. So as far as I’m concerned he needs to pay up just like every other cattle rancher who grazes their cows on federal land, or he needs to get off federal land that doesn’t belong to him. Those lands are owned by the citizens of this country because we pay for them. They don’t belong to Bundy – they belong to all of us. Furthermore, if he’s mad about the taxes, then he can thank President Saint Reagan who signed the law making it such that you needed to pay a price to graze your cattle on land that belongs to federal government.

Bundy owes the federal government (and technically you and I – the taxpayers) over one million dollars for using land that doesn’t belong to him. Bundy admitted on video he owes the money and admitted the lands aren’t his. That is all the information I need to formulate my opinion, it came from the horse’s mouth. He isn’t above the law. If he wants to use land that belongs to us he needs to pay up.

Furthermore, federal lands cannot be sold without approval by both houses of Congress and the president’s signature. One senator cannot unilaterally approve the sale of land. This isn’t about cows and tortoises, it’s about the one million dollars that Bundy stole from the taxpayers. Let’s break it down…

In the 1980s Reagan signed a law saying that people who want to graze their cattle on federal lands have to pay a fee. Other ranchers pay their fees, but Mr. Bundy openly flaunts the law and refuses to pay. The feds show up to take the land pursuant to a court order, because it doesn’t belong to him and he hasn’t paid. It’s very simple. You don’t need a report from the government or the media to figure it out. All you need is the video of Bundy admitting he is breaking the law. Everything else is bread and circuses to keep the anti-government crowd entertained.

Moreover, while I’m not in favor of ranchers having their land “stolen” (via eminent domain) unless there is an extremely urgent and pressing reason for it, that isn’t what is going on here. The federal government cannot steal land from a rancher that the federal government owns. If the rancher owns the land, it is their property and the federal government should leave it alone. If the federal government owns the land – and you are a rancher grazing your cattle on that land – then you have an obligation to pay for your use. That’s my take. Honestly though, if these militiamen and women want to martyr themselves for Mr. Bundy the welfare king, so be it; but the irony is astounding.

Speaking of astounding, last week every single Republican in Congress voted against the Paycheck Fairness Act. For a party in transition that is currently looking to expand their voting block, they aren’t doing a very good job of courting women.

First, some background. Last Tuesday was, “Equal Pay Day.” Equal Pay Day is essentially the day that women, on average, have to work until in this fiscal year, to make (on average) the same amount of money that men made in the last fiscal year. Furthermore, statistics show that generally speaking, women make about 77 cents for every dollar a man earns. Now, there are statistics which show that the disparity occurs because generally women take jobs that pay less. There is also information which shows that when women and men are doing the same exact job, they do get paid the same amount – which goes back to a 1963 law that guaranteed pay equity to women and men who do the same amount of work, at the same level of productivity, in the same job. However, just because the law says that is supposed to happen, doesn’t mean it that actually happens.

The Paycheck Fairness Act would require employers to disclose payment information to the EEOC, would prevent employees from being punished for sharing pay information with their co-workers, and would give women the further ability to bring a civil lawsuit where pay discrimination is alleged. In sum, the Act solves the problem of male workers keeping women in the dark about how much they get paid for the purpose of protecting their own jobs, because it would make it illegal for an employer to fire someone for sharing their pay information.

Republicans of course say that this law will increase litigation. And you know what? To a certain extent they are right. However, sometimes an increase in litigation isn’t a bad thing. Why shouldn’t women be able bring these lawsuits? Furthermore, this doesn’t just apply to women. If roles are reversed, and a man finds out that he’s getting paid less than his female counterparts, then this law allows him to bring a suit also. So it works both ways. It’s not just about women, it’s about equity.

When a woman is doing the same work as a man, there is no reason why she should be getting paid less, and there is no reason why she should not be able to bring a lawsuit if she finds out she is. Republicans always want to say, “oh pay equity, it’s already the law,” and, “Democrats aren’t focusing on jobs, they’re only trying to bring up wedge issues right before the election.” But this is a real issue. Even under the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act, if a woman doesn’t know she is being paid less, she cannot bring a lawsuit. And if we want women to be able to find out that they are being paid less, then they need the ability to talk to their male co-workers and find out what they are making without their male co-workers having to risk their jobs. Lilly Ledbetter only goes so far, if you do not know that a male co-worker is making more than you, then you are not going to know you have grounds for a lawsuit.

Last but not least, let’s discuss the political layer cake. This may seem extremely elementary (it is). But since so many people like to play the government blame game over one issue or another, let’s take a minute to discuss who should be blamed for what. Because when all is said and done, knowing which layer of the political and governmental cake is responsible for the issue you want to kvetch about is pretty important.

Here is a handy, easy to use chart you can share with some RWNJ when they start complaining about how the President is at fault for something that has nothing to do with the federal government. Yes, it’s oversimplified on purpose and some issues don’t lend themselves to the obvious level of government to contact, but it’s useful when encountering someone who clearly missed civics 101.

  • Local issue (village, town, hamlet, etc.) –> contact local government officials or reps/complain about local government.
  • County issue –> contact county government officials or reps/complain about county government.
  • City issue (if and only if you live in a city) –> contact city government officials or reps/complain about city government.
  • State issue –> contact state government officials or reps/complain about state government.
  • Federal issue –> contact federal government officials or reps/complain about federal government.

Yes, it’s a “duh” chart for those of us that have a basic understanding of how government works, but for a good portion of the country this is big news. For example, let’s use the issue of police brutality. Now, most (not all but most) of the police brutality that occurs happens at the state level, not the federal level. Therefore, it has not one thing whatsoever to do with the president. With that being said, when I want to complain about it, I make sure I know which level of government I’m complaining about. I don’t complaint about police brutality in a major city and blame the president. I blame the mayor in that city. I don’t look at bad state law in my state and blame the president. I blame the governor. Point being, if you are going to kvetch, at least blame the appropriate party. This has been a public service announcement.

DISCLAIMER: The information in this article is provided for general informational purposes only and is not intended to be legal advice. The law changes frequently and varies from jurisdiction to jurisdiction. Being general in nature, the information and materials provided may not apply to any specific factual and/or legal set of circumstances. No attorney-client relationship is formed nor should any such relationship be implied.

Ilyssa Fuchs

Ilyssa Fuchs is an attorney, freelance writer, and activist from New York City, who holds both a juris doctor and a political science degree. She is the founder of the popular Facebook page Politically Preposterous and a blog of the same name. Follow Ilyssa on Twitter @IlyssaFuchs, and be sure to check out her archives on Forward Progressives as well!

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  • Pipercat

    One of my favorite arguments that I’ve seen bandied about revolves around how it’s unconstitutional for the government to own land.

  • confusedandwondering

    The very same folks who vilify those who are on welfare are taking to arms to “defend” one who’s hand is out palm up taking money from all of us.

  • Eddie Krebbs

    Cogent Argument – it has already been through the courts multiple times and the courts rule against his arguments.

    However, to me the whole situation backs up the picture that the freedom, liberties, etc of the repub/tea party/libertarian brand are strictly liberties for me to do what I want without regard to the effects on others and their liberties.

  • strayaway

    Two people accomplishing the same thing with the same future potential and other variables should be paid the same. I’m not sure why this isn’t addressed at the state level but putting that aside, this sounds like a good law. I’ve got an idea that might get this bill passed. Too often, in divorce settlements, men are discriminated against. I just watched the documentary “Divorce, Inc.” which makes a big point of how, in Scandinavia, both partners are assumed to be equal under the law and each gets 50% of custody with no child support. Since divorce courts regularly discriminate against fathers, why not amend this law to be the “Paycheck and Parenting Fairness” law. That might swing some male or Republican support to get the Paycheck Fairness part passed. It would also eliminate costly divorce litigation leaving more money available for things like the educations of children of divorcees.