Romney was concerned that blacks might not be receptive to him, so he reportedly brought his own blacks to the NAACP speech. Or worse, he planned the entire thing so he could tell Fox that he spoke with a lot of blacks who weren't going to vote for Obama, without acknowledging that they were ringers. From the Atlanta Black Star:An official with the NAACP suggested that Republican...
It's with some pride that I note the current strategy from Senate Democrats to let the Bush tax cuts expire and then, if necessary, come back with a more progressive tax cut later. I was calling for this in 2010, and pretty much nobody agreed, save for[...]
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Congress is considering legislation that would permit states to impose a tax on internet retailers based out of state, closing the so-called ?Amazon Loophole,? which allows online stores like Amazon to avoid collecting sales tax from their customers, giving them an unfair advantage over brick-and-mortar shops. Currently, states cannot require online retailers to collect sales taxes unless the companies have a physical presence in the state.
More than a dozen Republican governors and Congressional lawmakers support the measure, including Govs. Chris Christie (NJ) and Mitch Daniels (IN). But one prominent Tea Party senator is raising concerns, arguing that the bill could lead to federal control of the Internet. During an interview with WMAL Wednesday morning, Sen. Jim DeMint (R-SC) warned that supporters of the tax proposal are naive in not seeing the looming takeover:
DeMINT: To involve the federal government, particularly in something that’s working as well as the Internet and particularly when it involves the collection of taxes and telling one state what it has to do for another. I just think given what’s happening here at the federal level now — the takeover of health care, the banking business. People would be very naive to not think that we would end up in a few years with the federal government running the Internet.
The bill would impose a sales tax of five-to-ten percent and could raise as much as $23 billion in additional revenue for cash-strapped states.
Because it’s The Dark Knight Rises week, I wanted to flag this post by Jim Emerson on the facileness of “Good v. Evil” as a superhero movie theme. He writes:
What I really want to talk about here are how some superhero movies develop their themes. “The Amazing Spider-Man” touches on the issue of vigilantism, but only superficially — certainly not as seriously as in either Tim Burton’s or Christopher Nolan’s Batman movies. The psychology of the (anti-)hero is usually interesting — and Peter finds himself repeating patterns of denial and abandonment he’s suffered at the hands of his own father and Dr. Connors. What drives someone to put on a unitard and try to catch criminals? That’s always an underlying question. Tony Stark puts on a whole metal suit in an effort to atone for his military-industrial sins.
What’s not a theme is a simplistic formulation of “good vs. evil,” although I see critics, fans, pundits and filmmakers announcing it as if it were supposed to mean something all the time. It might be a simple math problem, or a wrestling match (ask Rev. Harry Powell about Love vs. Hate), but it’s not a theme. Good and evil exist only in the human heart and mind and cannot be artificially separated — one always contains the seeds of the other. I’d argue that the idea that the world can be broken into such categories is, perhaps, essential to the very definition of evil itself, which is at least more provocative than pretending that it’s so easy to tell one from the other. It’s not always so clear-cut. And it makes for lame drama, because if the choice is clear, nothing is at stake. The Big Lie about the Holocaust, to use the most extreme popular example of the 20th century, is that it was perpetrated by people whose only motivation was to “do evil.” I see that as a form of Holocaust denial, an abdication of responsibility and a refusal to deal with the realities of human nature.
I think this is exactly right and deeply important, and it gets at one of the things that frustrates me so much about so many superhero movies. Cheering for someone who we are told is a hero, even if we have no idea what they stand for and what they stand against, feels good, but it’s ultimately a distraction, an experience that produces the feeling that we stand together with the people cheering alongside us in the theater even if we understand ourselves to be championing totally different things. What does Spider-Man, in his latest iteration, stand for? The idea that the police are an institution limited by both resources and perspective whose work should by the work of vigilantes, even if their agendas compete? What do The Avengers stand for? The idea that the world should not be blown up by fanatics and also that Nick Fury is better-equipped to make decisions than the council that oversees him, which has total screen-time amounting to less than the shortest fight scene in the movie? Good v. evil is a convenient distraction from having to talk about actual issues, like civilian control of superpowers as a stand-in for the military, or the impact of corporate influence on the scientific process, on which people in the audience might actually disagree. If the thing on which we can reach consensus is that it would be better not to be involuntarily turned into giant lizard-beasts and/or devoured and conquered by them, that is a pretty low baseline from which to start.
A ThinkProgress study of the the Drudge Report reveals the popular internet aggregator has linked 184 times to InfoWars and World Net Daily, two sites that promote the internet’s worst conspiracy theories, since June 2011. By directing millions of visitors to these websites, Drudge is providing critical financial and reputational support to publications that argue 9/11 was an inside job, FEMA is building concentration camps and President Obama was not born in the United States.
Despite his support for paranoid conspiracy theorists, Drudge has received frequent praise from the media and political right. Mark Halperin, senior political analyst for Time Magazine and MSNBC, has called Drudge “the Walter Cronkite of his era,” advising “you can’t refresh Drudge too often.” Politico co-founder John Harris recently called Drudge Report’s influence on the political debate “a real achievement.” During this year’s campaign, Mitt Romney singled out Drudge as one of his favorite websites, and posted an online video of himself reading the Drudge Report on his iPad.
Drudge can provide 10% or more of total traffic to large media sites like NYPost.com, Boston.com and FoxNews.com, creating a powerful incentive for the mainstream media to overlook the unsavory side of his operation.
According to media sources regularly linked to by Drudge, a single link on the Drudge Report can easily drive 200,000 — and sometimes as many as 500,000 — pageviews to an article. Conservatively, Drudge drove over 30 million page views to World Net Daily and InfoWars in the last year. Since these sites derive their income from displaying advertisements and selling products to website visitors, Drudge is certainly an important, if not essential, source of income for conspiracy websites.
ThinkProgress conducted a detailed study of the Drudge Report over the last year. We found that, throughout the year, Drudge frequently and consistently linked to conspiracy sites:
The final count does not include Drudge’s 7 permanent links to WND columnists and 2 permanent links to Infowars.†Here are brief summaries of just 5 of the stories Drudge linked to directly on conspiracy websites over the past year:
1. Obama secretly worked for the CIA in Pakistan. “Database reports from the National Student Clearinghouse have contradicted President Obama?s claim he attended Columbia University for two years…Swirling amid the black hole of information are a host of theories about Obama?s whereabouts ? particularly during the 1981-1982 school year ? including speculation he was working for the CIA in Pakistan.” [WND, 7/8/12]
2. Andrew Breitbart assassinated to prevent release of damaging information about Obama. “In a stunning coincidence, It appears Andrew Breitbart suffered his untimely death just hours before he was set to release damning video footage that could have sunk Barack Obama?s 2012 re-election campaign.” [InfoWars, 3/2/12; WND 3/1/12]
3. Conservative journalists will be ‘hunted down like dogs’ in an Obama second term. “World Net Daily editor and prominent Obama administration critic Joseph Farah revealed how his secluded property was buzzed by a spy drone ? part of what Farah fears is a ‘war’ being waged by the administration against its political adversaries…’ Look ? this is the first term ? if he?s re-elected it?s going to be war ? they will be at war ? we will be hunted down like dogs, keep that in mind, that?s what the stakes are,’ said Farah.” [InfoWars, 7/6/12]
4. Angelina Jolie should be arrested for war crimes. “The United Nations? history of war crimes and massacres is legendary, and just as Joseph Goebbels operated as a propaganda minister for the Nazis, Jolie, who is officially employed by the UN, is their mouthpiece.” [InfoWars, 3/11/12]
5. Bill Ayers’ family paid for Obama to attend school as a foriegn student. “Did former Weather Underground terrorist Bill Ayers help finance Barack Obama?s Harvard education? Did Ayers? mother believe Obama was a foreign student?” [WND, 3/19/12]
The impact of Drudge’s support is reflected in public data from Quantcast measuring WND’s traffic. Typically, WND attracts around 100,000 people per day. Support from Drudge can spike traffic by a factor of 8 or more. WND’s heaviest traffic in 2012 came on March 1, when Drudge linked to three of their stories, including a screed entitled “Sheriff Joe’s posse: ‘Probable cause’ Obama certificate a fraud.”
Steven Perlberg and Angela Guo contributed reporting.
In House Republicans’ latest attack on women, Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT) released a labor, health, and education spending bill on Tuesday that would allow employers to deny contraception coverage for “moral reasons.”
And the bill goes further. It would stop Planned Parenthood clinics from receiving federal funding until the health organization certifies that it no longer offers abortions, despite the fact that Planned Parenthood does not use federal funds on abortion services, and it attempts to halt Obamacare funding:
The legislation also states that none of its funds can be used to carry out the Title X family planning program or be used to “implement, administer, enforce, or further the provisions” of the Affordable Care Act.
The bill scraps the provision in Obamacare that requires insurance plans to cover birth control and other preventative health services, allowing any issuer or sponsor of a group health insurance plan to refuse to cover any health care service “on the basis of religious beliefs or moral convictions.” It also increases restrictions on educating abortion physicians beyond current law and allocates $20 million for “competitive grants to provide abstinence education to adolescents.”
House Appropriations Chairman Hal Rogers (R-KY) said the bill “reflects our strong commitment to reduce over-regulation and unnecessary, ineffective spending that feeds the nation?s deficits and hampers economic growth.” It is scheduled to be marked up in Appropriations Subcommittee on Labor and Health this morning, but it is unlikely to become law. House Democratic aides told the Huffington Post that Republicans will likely use the massive cuts to women’s health programs as a starting point in budget negotiations.
But as Planned Parenthood President Cecile Richards put it, the Republican-backed budget proposal is “badly out of touch with the needs of American women and families” because it eliminates a vital family planning program and would harm women’s health services.
House Republicans have already pushed a controversial ban on sex-selective abortions, and the Senate stopped Republican Sen. Roy Blunt’s (MO) amendment that would have empowered employers to deny coverage of health services to their employees on the basis of personal moral objections. And at the state level, Republican-dominated states have enacted 39 abortion restrictions so far this year. Rehberg’s budget proposal is only the continuation in an ongoing war on reproductive health.
Yesterday’s announcement by the Boy Scouts of America that it has already rejected a proposal to end its longstanding policy of discrimination against LGBT scouts and leaders claimed that “BSA leadership agrees this is the best policy for the organization and supports it for the BSA.” But rather than using its in-house communications team to distribute the anti-equality announcement, the BSA relied on its outside public affairs firm, Fleishman-Hillard.
Unlike BSA, which continues to cling to an exclusionary policy that that drives its membership down and flies in the face of its own core tenets, Fleishman-Hillard recognizes that anti-LGBT discrimination is bad social policy and bad business.
Fleishman-Hillard, on the LGBT section of its website notes:
Gays and lesbians rank among the most powerful, loyal ? and largely untapped ? consumer markets across the globe. We understand how to reach this community because we?re a part of it.
In highlighting the positive “social — and financial — impact of LGBT-friendly policies,” the firm notes that LGBT-inclusion is an “invaluable recruitment tool” for great talent. And on its Out Front blog, Fleischman-Hillard emphasizes “the agency?s tradition as a communications pioneer within the gay and lesbian community.”
A Fleischman-Hillard spokeswoman told ThinkProgress:
Fleishman-Hillard is an inclusive company that values and encourages diversity and treats all of our employees equally without regard to sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression.
We work with a wide variety of organizations that have differing views on societal issues. We provide each of them with our best communications counsel. We do not agree with every client on every issue, and we do not expect them to agree with us on every issue.
While our policies and perspectives differ on this subject, we support the Boy Scouts of America?s vision of preparing American youth to become responsible citizens and leaders, and we work with them on communications programs to support this vision.
Unfortunately, BSA’s vision is only to prepare some youth to become responsible citizens and leaders. Worse still, the group is teaching those youth that discrimination is acceptable — a message that even its own public relations team knows is both morally wrong and a waste of top talent.
Our guest blogger is Billy Corriher, associate director of research for Legal Progress.
Now that the Supreme Court has upheld the health insurance mandate in the Affordable Care Act (ACA), two conservative scholars have come up with another legal argument for attacking health care reform. In a paper released Monday, Jonathan Adler and Michael Cannon argue that an IRS regulation implementing the ACA?s tax credits and cost-sharing subsidies is ?illegal.?
The IRS rule provides credits and subsidies to those enrolled in new health insurance exchanges operated by the states or the federal government, but the scholars claim the ACA limits tax credits to those enrolled in state exchanges. Adler and Cannon argue that middle-class Americans enrolled in federal exchanges should not receive tax credits to help them afford health insurance.
If their argument was accepted by a court, governors would have the power to drastically undercut the ACA?s reforms. Some Republican governors have thus far refused to set up exchanges for their states. The federal government will step in to create exchanges in these states, but without subsidies and credits, the federal exchanges could be unworkable. The ACA?s preexisting condition rules and limits on setting premiums could lead to a rise in premiums, so the tax credits and subsidies are essential.
As it is, the Republican governors? intransigence amounts to nothing but grandstanding, but if this new argument prevails, the refusal to create state exchanges could leave citizens in those states without any affordable health insurance option. Some of the harshest critics of the ACA are Republican governors who preside over states with alarmingly high percentages of uninsured persons. As with the ACA?s Medicaid expansion, Republican governors seem to think they might score political points by passing up money from the federal government to help them expand health coverage.
If Republicans thwart the operation of health insurance exchanges, their constituents will pay the price. For example, 25 percent of citizens in Texas are uninsured, but Governor Rick Perry is leading the charge to resist Obamacare. If the argument from Adler and Cannon gains traction, Perry?s recalcitrance could mean that Texans, unlike citizens in states that set up exchanges, would not receive tax credits to help them pay for health insurance.
Adler and Cannon point out that the ACA only mentions state exchanges in the subsidies/credits provision of the bill. They argue this was an intentional choice — an attempt by the laws drafters to offer incentives for states to create their own exchanges — to provide subsidies/credits only for state and not federally managed exchanges. They acknowledge, however, that this argument would face high hurdles in a courtroom. It may be difficult to find a party with standing to bring a suit, and courts afford great deference to an agency?s interpretation of a statute that it implements.
The IRS said its rule is ?consistent with the language, purpose, and structure? of the ACA. The Obama administration agrees and notes that another provision of the bill requires both state and federal exchanges to report information on tax credits. When a statute is open to more than one interpretation, the Supreme Court instructs judges to defer to the agency?s interpretation, as long as it is plausible.
The omission of federal exchanges from the ACA?s credits/subsidies provision may have been an oversight. As Professor Abbe Gluck notes, ?This is a 2,000-page bill that was put together in extraordinarily messy circumstances.? The drafters of the ACA may have assumed that, given the generous financial incentives to do so, all states would set up their own exchanges. Those who drafted the bill could not have imagined the lengths to which Republicans would go to vilify health care reform. They did not foresee that states would drag their feet on exchanges, even though the ACA offers ?unlimited start-up funds.?
The Republican Party has taken its anti-regulation frenzy to stunning new levels.
In a draft 2013 budget released by the House Appropriations Committee, House Republicans have added language that would prevent the Mine Safety and Health Administration (MSHA) from implementing new limits on coal dust — a pollutant contributing to a steep rise in cases of black lung among U.S. coal miners.
According to an investigation released earlier this month by National Public Radio and the Center for Public Integrity, cases of black lung have doubled in the last decade. Since 1995, more than 10,000 coal miners have died from black lung across the country, according to an analysis of government data from NPR and CPI.
The reason, say public health experts: poor coal dust regulations.
?From the patterns and from the severity, from the prevalence of the disease, this must be a situation in which the dust in many, many mines is simply not adequately controlled. There?s nothing else that could possibly cause this,” said Edward Petsonk, a pulmonologist at West Virginia University, speaking to NPR in a report on the black lung investigation.
In spite of this growing public health epidemic, House Republicans have included language in a draft budget for the Labor Department that would explicitly prevent funding for any new coal dust rules that would limit miners’ exposure:
None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to continue the development of or otherwise implement the Lowering Miners? Exposure to Coal Mine Dust, Including 20 Continuous Personal Dust Monitors regulation being developed by the Mine Safety and Health Administration of the Department of Labor.
The coal union, the United Mine Workers of America, reacted with swift condemnation. Ken Ward, Jr. of the Charleston Gazette reported on the bill:
If approved, the language would forbid MSHA from using any funds from its budget to finalize its October 2010 proposal to tighten legal coal-dust limits and improve other protections for miners.
“House Republicans’ proposal to stop modern protections against black lung disease for our nation’s miners is outrageous and should be defeated,” said Rep. George Miller, D-Calif., and ranking minority member of the House Committee on Education and the Workforce.
United Mine Workers President Cecil Roberts said the budget measure “amounts to nothing more than a potential death sentence for thousands of American miners.”
“Preventing black lung isn’t a matter of overregulation,” Roberts said. “It’s a matter of life and death.”
The GOP’s response? A return to their robotic anti-regulation refrain.
?It is the chairman?s position and the position of the subcommittee that that particular regulation is harmful and costly to the industry and to the economy in general,? said Jennifer Hing, a spokeswoman for House Appropriations Committee Republican, according to a report in The Hill.
Again, over 10,000 miners have died from black lung since 1995, in large part due to poor regulations. As those rates increase, public health officials at the National Institute for Occupational Safety and Health are calling the problem “clearly a public health epidemic…that should not be occurring.”
And the GOP’s only response is that these life-saving rules are bad for the economy. Seriously.
Oh, and it gets worse. Some are blaming the miners. From the Charleston Gazette story:
Industry officials argue that recent increases in black lung rates are a regional problem and don’t require a new nationwide rule. Industry supporters in Congress have claimed that black lung rates have not increased and have blamed miners for not protecting themselves from excess dust.
This isn’t the first time that regulations on coal dust have been blocked. The saga over these rules has been ongoing since the early 1990′s, when House Republicans attempted to eliminate the agency that regulates mines. Ken Ward Jr. had a companion piece to the NPR/CPI investigation in the Charleston Gazette on the surge in black lung:
Over and over, that?s been the story of government efforts to improve the system intended to protect miners and end black lung. One proposal or another has died, been dropped or thrown out in court after one side or the other wasn?t satisfied with the details.
?At the same time, efforts by then-MSHA chief Davitt McAteer to focus on black lung ? and many other issues ? were diverted.
When Newt Gingrich and the Republicans took over the House of Representatives, among their government streamlining proposals was to eliminate MSHA [The Mine Safety and Health Administration]. Mine safety duties would be given instead to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, weakening the greater protections federal law gives to miners. McAteer and other top Labor Department officials spent years fighting the change. They eventually won, but the damage to their agenda ? including black lung reforms ? was significant.
?It was dramatic,? McAteer recalled. ?You spent your time not at the task of improving mine safety and health, but defending yourself against what they were trying to do.?
Meanwhile, more than 10,000 American miners have died from black lung since then.
For several years, sociologists and demographers have been discussing a new socioeconomic division in this country: the widening family divide between the highly educated and everyone else. On one side are those who get at least a bachelor's degree?or wait even longer?before they marry and have children. On the other side are those without a college education who have children?early and often?and have a series of partners (with or without marriage) who may or may not be related to their children. In the second group, an unexpected pregnancy may interrupt the woman's education; sometimes she wasn't going on anyway.†
The first set of families?call them "blue" families, because they cluster in those states?tend to be stable, maritally and financially, which is extremely helpful for the children's well-being. The "red"†families are far more chaotic, emotionally and financially. The children's family configurations shift around them, with parental figures coming and going; the parents don't have much education, and therefore not much income; they slip periodically into poverty when a parent disappears or their now-and-again single mother's income isn't enough to feed and house them securely, in part because women's income, even more than men's, bounces along at poverty's floor.†
So, for instance, highly educated Massachusetts has the lowest divorce rate in the country, while Arkansas, which has one of the nation's lowest college-graduation rates, also has the highest divorce rate in the country. And guess which families' children are most likely to ascend to and remain firmly in the middle class? †
Over the weekend, Jason deParle at The New York Times illustrated this newly developing class and family divide by profiling the lives of two women and their families in a thoughtful and in-depth article, "Two Classes, Divided by 'I Do.'"†Without judgment, he shows the results of the different choices and situations each woman finds herself presented with. One woman, Chris Faulkner, finishes college before she marries, and then has children; those children are financially stable and involved in a wide range of enriching activities. The other woman, Jessica Schairer, gets pregnant in college, drops out, tries to make a go of it with her loser boyfriend, and ends up a single mother of three children by the age of 30. The two women work together in a childcare center, but of course, the married woman's children have the benefit of a man's wages, while the single woman's children have to get by on a service-industry job's bottom-scraping hourly wage.†
There's been a lot of criticism of the way deParle frames the article: Is marriage really†the key divide here?†Katha Pollitt is, as usual, wickedly pointed in her critique, asking, "Do we really need a front-page story in the Sunday†New York Times†to tell us that a woman with a college degree and a good solid marriage is better off than a college dropout raising three kids alone?" She goes on to slice apart the idea that Chris Faulkner was smart to make her man shape up and turn into a good father while Jessica Schairer was foolish to stick around waiting to see if her man would do the same:†
Well, if only we could ... put great big Good Guy and Bad Guy signs on young men so that naÔve college girls could tell which slacker boys are exploitive louts and which ones just need a nudge to become prime husband material.
Katha similarly takes her knife to the idea, which she finds implicit in the piece (I didn't), that Jessica lacked good moral values:
[You could see] Jessica as having too many of those values: she rejected abortion, she stuck by her man, she tried too hard to make a family. If we really want women like Jessica to avoid early childbearing and single motherhood, we have to stop promoting outmoded ideas about sex and gender: abstinence-only sex ed, shame that leads to inconsistent use of birth control, stigmatizing abortion, woman?s worth depending on keeping a man, ?fixing? the relationship as woman?s responsibility, motherhood as women?s primary purpose in life.
The first issues that jumped out at me were, rather, the absurd mismatch between women's and men's wages, and between jobs with and without decent benefits. I agree with Shawn Fremstad at CEPR, who†takes on the problem this way:
- Why is OK to pay the mostly female workers who take care of other people's children and of seniors and people with disabilities so little? (Average wages for workers in care occupations are less than half of average wages for workers overall: for child care workers, average annual wages are $21,320 compared with $45,230 for workers overall. And, it's not just about education?nearly half of all child care workers have either some college or a college degree).
- After an operation for cervical cancer, Shairer wasn't able to take the time off recommended by her doctor because it would have been unpaid. Why is it OK to not provide the vast majority of care workers with basic employment benefits like paid sick and disabilty leave? Do you want a worker who is ill caring for your children just because they can't afford to take unpaid leave? (Just†27 percent†of child-care workers have access to paid sick leave. By comparison, among workers in the top quartile of the wage distribution, 90 percent have paid sick leave, and lots of other benefits.)
- Both Mr. Faulkner and Ms. Faulker have 4-year college degrees and, except for their gender difference, appear to be demographically similar. Why does he, a computer programmer, earn more than†twice†as much as she does as a manager/director of a child care center?†
Why, for God's sake, do†half the country's workers have no paid sick days? (Check out Gloria Steinem's campaign for mandatory paid sick days in New York City here.) That's just appalling. No one in the policy-making class faces this issue, because the higher-income jobs all have paid sick leave. Even if Jessica had someone else's income to lean on, the family would still have taken a hit if she had stayed home.†
And how much of this divide is because of the disappearance of good jobs for working-class men? Men who don't have an income are less likely to marry.†
I've seen, close up, how much the chaos of red families can hurt the children. All the studies show that it†is†better for children to have two stable parents in a low-conflict partnership, who together have enough income to support the family and provide some extras. The parents can juggle responsibilities, which means each of them can work harder in their respective jobs and make it further while still attending to the children. They have more money and are less likely to be poor. That doesn't mean a mother should remain with a bad mate; a high-conflict marriage, a violent marriage, a marriage to an alcoholic or drug addict can drag the children into misery and, in the language of the social scientists, lead to "bad outcomes"?more impulsiveness, less success in school, worse health, and all the rest. I don't know that the key divide is marriage; the divide seems to be an impulsive or accidental pregnancy early in a woman's life, which interrupts her education or career progress (and yes, I'm calling childcare and other service-industry work a career) and keeps her stalled at the level she was living in during her poorest and least-stable years.
Since we're not going to turn back the clock on sexually active teenagers, we need more widely available contraception?can you say "over-the-counter Plan B"??and more easily available early-term abortion. That would help those children who do arrive on the planet have a better chance at thriving. "Women's" caregiving jobs need to be paid a family wage, since the reality is that they are supporting families?and since families like mine won't be able to afford childcare or eldercare if those workers are paid more, as a society, we need to underwrite those workers' wages. Finally, we need mandatory paid sick leave laws, and health insurance that travels with you whether or not you have a job.†