Reports in Review

The Public Eye Magazine - Spring 2006
Report of the Month

Downsizing Cities

Target San Diego: The Right Wing Assault on Urban Democracy and Smart Government
by Lee Cokorinos, Center for Policy Initiatives, November 2005.

This report shows how national organizations like the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC, founded in 1973 by Paul Weyrich) connect conservative state legislators with each other and with corporations and industry associations, creating “a pipeline of ideas and proposals that directly impact how urban policy is framed across a wide range of issues.” ALEC generates the ideas and circulates policies while the State Policy Network supports the growth and capacity of state-level think tanks like the San Francisco-based Pacific Research Institute.

The national initiatives then allow “the conservative movement to drive its infrastructure down into America’s major metropolitan areas,” as the report shows through its case study of San Diego, a key battleground city.

The Pacific Research Institute’s Web “activity log,” which Cokorinos analyzes, shows a busy schedule of staff meetings with other conservative think tanks, Wall Street Journal editorial page writers, federal officials, Assemblymen and city supervisors, and corporate attorneys and public affairs directors. Cokorinos also profiles the libertarian Reason Foundation, which “focuses intensely on producing nuts-and-bolts strategies and ‘how to’ guides for downsizing state and local government in California.” These are distributed to the media, corporations and lawmakers through an extensive communications apparatus. Lurking behind their privatization proposals, says Cokorinos, “is the potential for major contractors and developments to make a killing”—a fact that explains the fundraising success of Reason and similar think tanks.

When Cokorinos finally reaches San Diego and its local think tank, the Performance Institute (on p. 39 of the 55-page report), the reader has a good sense of the context that allows the Performance Institute to survive and thrive. The Performance Institute relies on national think tanks and organizations like ALEC to provide privatization and downsizing campaign models, then applies the same formula on an issue-by-issue basis: “first issuing slick research reports setting out the nature of the problem, followed by well funded communications campaigns to move specific proposals, then involvement in setting policy priorities for the new administration during the transition phase, and finally involvement in restructuring policies within government agencies themselves.”

In the report’s conclusion, Cokorinos declares “this longterm confrontation” to be “winnable.” He calls for defending progressive institutional power against right-wing assaults while overcoming the narrowness of single-issue politics and the disconnection of the base from a national progressive superstructure.

-- Jeremy Smith

Other Reports in Review

Denying Women Emergency Contraception

Complying with the Law?: How Catholic Hospitals Respond to State Laws Mandating the Provision of Emergency Contraception to Sexual Assault Patients
Catholics for Free Choice and Ibis Reproductive Health; Washington, DC , January 2006.
Link.

Although the Hyde Amendment created a furor when it prohibited federal funding of most abortions in 1977, many barriers to reproductive services are less obvious. Women who have been sexually assaulted, for instance, deserve immediate medical attention, including medication to prevent an unwanted pregnancy. But many Catholic hospitals, which handle 15% of all emergency room visits in the United States, deny women emergency contraception, or EC. “EC in the ER” laws exist in a few states to counteract this situation, but it is not always clear how well they protect women’s access to emergency contraception.

Catholics for a Free Choice enlisted Ibis Reproductive Health to research the compliance Catholic hospitals with these laws. The resulting study is a welcome, if somber, illustration of covert barriers to reproductive justice.

The good news is that in states with “EC in the ER” laws, most Catholic hospitals provide sexual assault victims with emergency contraception-related services. But about one-third of Catholic hospitals in these states do not. Even worse, most of their referrals for emergency contraception are inaccurate or nonexistent. One way Catholic hospitals circumvent the law is by refusing to treat sexual assault patients in the first place.

Residents of California, New Mexico, New York, Washington and South Carolina —all with EC in the ER laws—will find specific information about their states. Recommended tactics for advocates include lobbying for EC in the ER laws in more states, encouraging hospitals to improve how they implement their EC provisions and pharmacy referrals, and working with policymakers to help them understand the value of this public policy protection.

–- Pam Chamberlain

Why Open and Affirming Churches Need Secular Support

David v. Goliath: A Report on Faith Groups Working for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Equality (and what they’re up against)
Richard A. Lindsay and Jessica Stern, National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, Washington, DC, 2005.

Here is some interesting data for those wondering how to counteract the enormous opposition to LGBT equality from religious conservatives, building on some of the “most underused resources in the progressive movement.”

These are the American faith communities that work to support LGBT issues, compiled in this report for the first time. You will find LGBT-identified denominations such as the Metropolitan Community Church or Unity Fellowship Church; denominational support groups inside mainline denominations such as the United Church of Christ Coalition for LGBT Concerns or Lutherans Concerned of North America; and “bridge builders,” the organizations working on bridging faith, LGBT, and race or gender issues, such as Queer Asian Spirit or Centro Cristiano.

What makes this report so useful is its method of organization. Coupled with examples of each category of these progressive faith groups are descriptions of organizations within the same traditions that oppose LGBT equality, such as the American Anglican Council (anti-gay Episcopalian) or Good News Forum for Scriptural Christianity (anti-gay Methodist) as well as the reach of the denomination- spanning Institute on Religion and Democracy. [see related article on p.10] These anti-gay faith groups outspend their LGBTsupportive counterparts by a ration of 8:1, according to the report.

“David v. Goliath” describes anti-gay groups in an even-handed, nondemonizing tone. The recommendations are clearly aimed at secular progressive groups that have much to gain and a lot to learn from new collaborations with LGBT-supportive faith groups. As a whole, the information provides a gentle nudge to groups more comfortable working only with their own kind about the potential for change.

-- Pam Chamberlain

Faith-Based Funding Framed

Getting a Piece of the Pie: Federal Grants to Faith-Based Social Service Organizations
By Lisa M. Monteil and David J. Wright, Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare, Rockefeller Institute on Government, State University of New York, Albany, NY, February 2006.

Conservatives can’t seem to agree on whether this new report by the Roundtable on Religion and Social Welfare Policy is good news or bad news. While the researchers found that the number of grants awarded to faithbased organizations is up, they also found that the amount of money being awarded is down. In other words, less money is being spread among more FBO’s. The White House disputes the findings, saying federal funding is up for religious groups. On the other hand, Stanley Carlson-Thies, director of social policy studies at the Center for Public Justice, seemed to accept the report, saying it “gives the lie to the alarmists” and shows that Bush isn’t trying to turn the government into a “religious apparatus.”

The Roundtable looked at all ten government agencies which established centers for faith-based and community initiatives after the Bush Administration issued its executive order setting them up in 2001. They warned, however, that this research does not tackle the difficult-to-track flows channeled through the states.

Of over 28,000 federal grants awarded under the order, 3,526 went to 1,146 organizations identified as faith-based (see below for a description). In 2002 11.6% of the grants went to these groups, while 17.8% of the money did; in 2003 12.2% of the grants and 17.1% of the money; and in 2004, 12.8% of the grants and 17.8% of the money. Percentages don’t tell all, since while the percentage of money distributed to faith based groups might be the same from 2002 to 2004, the total money distributed dropped in that period.

Lacking a standard definition of a “faithbased organization,” the researchers looked at whether: 1. the organization uses religious words or symbols in its name, logo, etc., and refers to itself as a faith-based, religious, or faith-affiliated organization; 2. the organization’s mission or value statement specifically refers to God, Christ, etc.; 3.there were spiritual or religious elements in the organization’s history; 4. the group had an explicit religious affiliation (Catholic, Baptist, Methodist, etc.); and 5. the organization integrated religious activities in the content of its services (Bible study, prayer, etc.). Over half of the organizations identified by the researchers met four or five of these variables.

It found that the Agency for International Development funds a higher percentage of faith-based organizations than most other agencies in the study —over one-quarter of th awards; the Department of Labor’s “Combating Exploitative Child Labor Through Education” gave the highest percentage of individual grants; and HUD’s “Assisted Living Conversion Program for Eligible Multifamily Housing Projects” showed the largest net increases in FBO funding. California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and Texas made the top ten for most amount of funding in all three years of the study.

-- Cindy King

Wal-Mart’s Busted Dream

Wal-Mart: Rolling Back Wages, Workers’ Rights, and the American Dream
By Erin Johannson, American Rights at Work, November 2005.
Link

The most cutting part of this report is a table at the end, borrowed from a 2004 BusinessWeek article, that compares union-friendly Costco with the evil Wal-Mart’s Sam’s Club. Despite its union-busting, discrimination, exploitation of undocumented immigrants, and assorted other crimes and misdemeanors exposed in class action lawsuits and the courts, Wal-Mart cannot make Sam’s Club as profitable per worker as Costco.

The Teamsters represent only 16% of Costco’s workers, but the corporation extends its wage agreement to all workers, who receive an average of $15.97/hour. That is in contrast to the Sam’s Club average of $12.52. Eightyseven percent are covered by a health plan, compared to 47% at Sam’s Club. Turnover is lower – only 9% a year compared to 21% at Sam’s Club. Even with these benefits, Costco’s labor costs as a percentage of sales are lower than Sam’s Club.

–- Abby Scher

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