Jim Banks And The GOP War On Education…

In case you think I’ve been exaggerating about the Republicans making war on education…more evidence has emerged.

According to a report from CNBC, House Republicans have a long-term plan to strip so-called “elite” universities of government funding and federal student loan dollars.

The plan was communicated to a group of business leaders during a private Zoom call last Friday with Indiana’s MAGA Republican Congressman, Jim Banks.

“The hearing was the first step,” said Banks. “The second step is the investigation, the subpoenas, gathering all of the documents and the records,” he said. “Third, that’s when we defund these universities.”

A recording of the call was provided to CNBC by an attendee who requested anonymity in order to share a private conversation.

Banks’ frank description of lawmakers’ plans offers a previously unreported window into at least some members of Congress’ long-term goals with regards to at least two Ivy League universities and MIT, another elite college. House Education Committee chair, Rep. Virginia Foxx, R-N.C., said in an interview on NewsNation that the committee is also looking at Columbia and Cornell University.

Banks has also embraced the idea of taxing college endowments; he has endorsed a bill introduced by Senator J.D. Vance of Ohio that would impose a tax of 35% on college endowments worth over $10 billion.

The legislation has little chance of passing the current Democratic majority Senate, or of being signed into law by President Joe Biden. But if there is a Republican in the White House and a GOP-controlled Senate in 2025, the calculus could be very different.

As the article notes, the fallout from a bill like Vance’s wouldn’t be limited to Harvard, Penn and MIT. Yale, the University of Notre Dame, Columbia University, the University of Chicago and Duke University all have endowments worth more than $10 billion, and they use earnings from those endowment dollars to subsidize tuition and fees for students who otherwise could not afford to attend.

Furthermore, all universities–not just the elite ones– rely on significant federal funding,  because so many students pay their tuition via federal financial aid. That aid accounts for the lion’s share of federal dollars that go to colleges and universities.

In 2018, 65% of the $149 billion total in federal funds received by institutions of higher education went toward federal student aid. This covers scholarships, work-study and loans given to students for their educational expenses, according to USAFacts, a nonprofit site that collects government data.

Jim Banks–aka “Focus on the Family’s Man in Washington“–wants to be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana. During his tenure in the House, he has made most of his agenda very, very clear: a federal ban on abortion with no exceptions; no recognition of, or help for, trans children; no restrictions on gun ownership; no affirmative action or other recognition of the effects of racial disparities (he wants to ban DEI programs); no funding for Ukraine, and–as this last bit of news confirms– a constant war on education.

Jim Banks is a theocrat’s wet dream. A Hoosier version of Marjorie Taylor Greene. No wonder Donald Trump has endorsed him.

The voters of Indiana absolutely cannot send this specimen of Christian Nationalism to the Senate.

I have posted before about Marc Carmichael, who will be the Democratic nominee. Marc is the absolute antithesis of Jim Banks–a thoroughly nice person who actually wants to do the job and who supports policies that used to be considered mainstream: a woman’s right to control her own reproduction; sensible gun safety laws; rational immigration reform; support for public education; and many others. (You can check out his twelve priorities on his website.)

Even in Red Indiana, if voters know both candidates–if they know who they both are and what they both stand for, Marc Carmichael will be the next U.S. Senator from Indiana. The only impediment to getting that information out to the voters would be inadequate funding.  So once you’ve confirmed the accuracy of my descriptions of these candidates–please send Marc a contribution! (And tell all your friends and families.)

Progressive voters in Indiana have complained for years that the Democrats haven’t produced strong candidates willing and able to take on the GOP culture warriors. This year, they have nothing to complain about–Jennifer McCormick, running for Governor, is first-rate, and Destiny Wells, running against our embarrassing, ethically-challenged Attorney General Todd Rokita is equally excellent. The candidates they will face–no matter who emerges from the current GOP gubernatorial mudslinging contest–are all MAGA enthusiasts, and worse than substandard.

The time has come to overcome progressive defeatism, and prove that there really is more than corn in Indiana!


Oh, Indiana…

I recently read that Indiana’s legislative overlords are taking time out from their attacks on women and trans children, and deigning to address an actual issue–the health of Hoosier citizens.

I haven’t been following those health measures, and to be honest, I lack the background to properly evaluate them in any case, so I thought I’d pose a question to my new research assistant, otherwise known as ChatGPT.

Here’s what I asked:

Please locate Indiana’s relative performance in health related areas, especially drug and alcohol abuse rates, infant mortality, smoking statistics, suicides, life expectancy, and other wellness markers like mental health.

Here’s what I got:

 Sure, here is some information on Indiana’s relative performance in health-related areas:

Drug and alcohol abuse rates: According to data from the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), Indiana has higher than average rates of substance abuse, particularly with regard to prescription pain relievers and synthetic opioids. In 2019, Indiana had the 9th highest rate of drug overdose deaths in the United States, with a rate of 27.5 deaths per 100,000 population.

Infant mortality: Indiana has one of the highest rates of infant mortality in the country, with a rate of 6.8 deaths per 1,000 live births in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 5.6 deaths per 1,000 live births.

Smoking statistics: Indiana has one of the highest rates of smoking in the United States, with an adult smoking rate of 21.1% in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 14.0%.

Suicides: Indiana has an above-average rate of suicide, with a rate of 16.9 deaths per 100,000 population in 2019. This is higher than the national average of 13.9 deaths per 100,000 population.

Life expectancy: Indiana’s life expectancy is slightly lower than the national average, at 76.7 years in 2019 compared to the national average of 77.3 years.

Mental health: Indiana has lower than average rates of mental health care access and high rates of mental illness. According to Mental Health America’s 2021 report, Indiana ranks 45th out of all states and the District of Columbia in terms of overall access to mental health care. Additionally, Indiana has the 5th highest rate of adult mental illness in the United States.

It’s worth noting that these rankings and statistics are subject to change over time and may vary depending on the specific sources and data used.

You might think that–given the sad state of Hoosiers’ health–healthcare might take priority over efforts to stymie DEI investing and destroy the state’s public schools–but of course, this is Indiana….Even a superficial look at General Assembly priorities is enough to demonstrate lawmakers’ utter disregard for public health.

In the wake of Dobbs, Indiana lawmakers couldn’t wait to ban abortion–despite overwhelming evidence that reproductive care–including abortion–is an essential element of women’s healthcare.

Then, of course, there’s the legislature’s ongoing love affair with guns, despite polling showing that a majority of Hoosiers (including a majority of NRA members) support additional regulation.

Perhaps the most direct evidence of our legislature’s lack of concern for the health of their constituents was this session’s mean-spirited denial of appropriate health care to trans children. I went back to ChatGPT for an explanation of the health consequences involved.

Denying appropriate medical care to transgender young people can have serious medical and emotional consequences. Here are some of the potential outcomes:

Delayed or absent puberty: Transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care may not undergo puberty at the same time as their peers, or may not undergo puberty at all. This can lead to social isolation, low self-esteem, and feelings of dysphoria.

Increased risk of mental health problems: Transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care may experience depression, anxiety, and other mental health problems as a result of the distress caused by their physical dysphoria.

Increased risk of suicide: Studies have shown that transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care have a higher risk of suicidal ideation and suicide attempts.

Increased risk of physical health problems: Transgender young people who are denied appropriate medical care may be at increased risk of physical health problems related to their gender dysphoria, such as urinary tract infections or other complications from avoiding the use of restrooms that do not match their gender identity.

Reduced life expectancy: Transgender people who are denied appropriate medical care may have reduced life expectancy due to the physical and mental health problems they experience as a result of their gender dysphoria.

Overall, denying appropriate medical care to transgender young people can have serious and potentially life-threatening consequences. It is important for healthcare providers and society as a whole to recognize and respect the healthcare needs of transgender youth, and to provide them with the necessary medical care and support to live healthy and fulfilling lives.

Our legislative culture warriors don’t care.


A Good Teacher With A Gun….

Jennifer Rubin published a recent column that zeroed in on two aspects of American fatuousness: the Republican office-holders who, with a straight face, are advocating arming teachers, and the “journalists” (note quotation marks) who fail to ask them the follow-up questions that would immediately show how utterly stupid and dishonest that suggestion really is.

Rubin quoted the Secretary of Education, who enumerated several of those questions.

Those are some of the stupidest proposals I’ve heard in all my time as an educator,” he said on “The View” on Thursday. “Listen, we need to make sure we’re doing sensible legislation, making sure our schoolhouses are safe as much as possible.” He then mused about how arming grade-school teachers would work in practice. “What happens when a teacher goes out on maternity leave? Are we going to give the substitute of the day a gun?” Hmm.

Sort of like those proposals to lock all the doors–in violation of fire regulations. I guess it’s okay for the kids to burn to death if you are protecting them from gunslingers…

In fact, a lot of questions come with such a plan. For example: Should teachers sport their AR-15s when they have bus duty or lunchtime duty? Where do they store these weapons of war? In a locked case? Should the gun be loaded and ready to fire?
How could a civilian teacher access a secured gun quickly enough to take down an armed murderer? If you are going to arm teachers, should we outlaw the body armor that many shooters wear? Since 18-years-olds should be able to buy AR-15s, according to Republican lawmakers, why shouldn’t they be armed in high schools?

We can all think of others. And as Rubin notes, it is highly unlikely that Republicans actually want to arm the same teachers who they insist are indoctrinating kids into critical race theory and “grooming” them for homosexuality.

She makes another important point: where are the media interrogators who will ask those questions to the people proposing these dimwitted ideas.

 Interviewers rarely press Republicans to explain their bad-faith arguments. Instead, the media often treat ridiculous ideas respectfully and move on without follow-up questions. Perhaps TV hosts should start inviting these Republicans to discuss their ideas at length.

Until Republicans are forced to confess that their ideas would be impossible to implement, they’ll keep changing the subject and deflecting demands for gun legislation.

It is absolutely impossible to blame America’s continuing and escalating gun violence on anything other than the enormous stockpiles of guns in this country. Every other nation on earth has people who are mentally ill, people who are “bad actors,” people who play video games and people who don’t go to church–the usual scapegoats identified by legislators who don’t want to even consider keeping guns developed for the armed forces out of the hands of 18-year-olds.

What those safer countries don’t have is millions of guns and repeated mass shootings.

A FaceBook friend recently posted one of those inane memes–this one from crazy Clint Eastwood–insisting that the problem is not guns, it’s “hearts without God, homes without discipline, schools without prayer, courts without justice.” My oldest granddaughter, who lives in northern England, nailed it, replying:

Yeah, here in the UK we have plenty of schools without prayer, most people are not religious and owning a gun is very difficult. We have no school shootings. 100% it’s the guns.

What is so maddening is that everyone really knows that. Our sniveling, spineless legislators know it. The American public overwhelmingly knows it. Seventy-four percent of voters support raising the age to buy an assault weapon–and so do 59 percent of Republicans, according to the latest Quinnipiac University poll. Universal background checks are supported by 92 percent of Americans. And this isn’t just some spike in the survey research, triggered by the horrifying, continuing carnage–majorities have supported common sense restrictions like these for years, and the Ted Cruzes and Steve Scaleses of the political world know it.

No one on the “left” (i.e., anyone who wants government to exercise a modicum of control that would make the carnage abate) is proposing to confiscate people’s guns ( with the possible exception of the AR-15). We just want common-sense regulations of the sort that other free and democratic countries have had for years.

We want those sniveling legislators to respect us enough to stop offering pious bromides (“thoughts and prayers”) and moronic proposals (“arm the teachers”). And we want real reporters who will ask these embarrassing excuses for legislators the hard, follow-up questions.


The Long And The Short Of It

Like lots of Americans, I go to the doctor twice a year for check-ups, and I respond to the standard initial questions: have I fallen in the past six months? Have I been depressed? Thought about harming myself?

I have standard responses to those last two standard questions: I’m only depressed when I pay attention to the news. I haven’t wanted to harm myself, but I have definitely wanted to harm some other people I could name….

Actually, I’m pretty sure I have a widely-shared medical condition I’ll call “news sickness.” Its symptoms are lack of focus, feelings of futility, and free-floating anger.

The lack of focus is most maddening. What should I be concentrating on–what news should I be following– at a time when there is a new threat to democracy, to well-being, to sanity every single day? A morning scan of the media highlights the most recent atrocity, in this case, the murder of yet more innocent children and their teachers in a Texas classroom. That followed closely on the White Nationalist massacre in Buffalo, and has prompted media reviews of the unthinkable number of mass shootings in America, along with statistics showing that gun violence is a peculiarly American problem. (Evidently, the mentally-ill in other countries are less murderous…)

These recent events have operated to overshadow other recent and important matters: an unprovoked war in Ukraine that is killing thousands, displacing millions, and threatening to ignite World War III; revelations of traitorous behaviors uncovered almost daily by the January 6th Committee in the course of its investigation into the unprecedented attempt to overthrow a duly elected President; the increasing successes of the retrograde movement to strip women of their right to self-determination, beginning with abortion but sending strong signals that the war on women and gay people won’t end there…

And then there are ongoing debates over COVID measures, and the shameful revelations about Baptist clergy, who–it turns out–are just as prone to sexual misbehavior as Catholic priests (and undoubtedly other “men of the cloth.”).

Hovering over all of these and many other issues is the threat posed by climate change. And hovering over all of it is the adamant refusal of the Republican Party to engage responsibly with any of these issues, and its determination to keep others from doing anything about them either.

Here, for example, is a recent report from the New York Times, detailing an organized GOP effort to punish corporations trying to be responsible stewards of the environment.

In West Virginia, the state treasurer has pulled money from BlackRock, the world’s largest asset manager, because the Wall Street firm has flagged climate change as an economic risk.

In Texas, a new law bars the state’s retirement and investment funds from doing business with companies that the state comptroller says are boycotting fossil fuels. Conservative lawmakers in 15 other states are promoting similar legislation.

And officials in Utah and Idaho have assailed a major ratings agency for considering environmental risks and other factors, in addition to the balance sheet, when assessing states’ creditworthiness.

Across the country, Republican lawmakers and their allies have launched a campaign to try to rein in what they see as activist companies trying to reduce the greenhouse gases that are dangerously heating the planet.

Every single day, we get media reports with the same story: Republicans continue to block even the most modest gun control efforts. State-level Republicans are passing draconian measures aimed at criminalizing abortion and punishing both women and those who might help them obtain one. Republican lawmakers are resisting subpoenas and refusing to testify to the January 6th Committee. Senate Republicans filibustered and defeated the recent anti-terrorism bill.  Senate Republican “leadership” refuses to sanction the party’s (several) “out and proud” congressional White Supremicists. A significant number of Congressional Republicans resist sending help to Ukraine, and to varying degrees, offer justifications for Russia’s invasion.

If you make a list of the most pressing issues facing the United States, it becomes blindingly clear that the federal government and the various governments of America’s Red states are doing virtually nothing to address those issues. It also becomes blindingly clear why that is: today’s Republican Party has morphed into a White Christian Supremicist cult, dismissive of science and evidence and intent upon “returning” the country to a time that never was. Thanks to gerrymandering and several outdated elements of America’s electoral system, that cult wields considerably more power than fair democratic elections would otherwise give it, and it is using its disproportionate and unrepresentative power to thwart passage of desperately-needed legislation.

What’s wrong with America today can be reduced to one simple statement:  the Republican stranglehold on government.


Indiana’s “Pro Life” Liars

Those of you who read this blog with any sort of regularity already know that the Hoosier legislators who wrap themselves in the “pro-life” label are anything but.  They are either pro-birth or anti-woman or focused on pandering to far right constituencies–usually, all three.

Nowhere is the hypocrisy of that label more vivid than in their devotion to instruments of death. I recently received the following email from a university staff member; I am sharing it in its entirety, in the hopes that many of you will take the indicated actions (not that our legislators listen to the broader public, which favors more gun control by massive margins.)

House Bill 1077 passed the house last week despite broad opposition, including from law enforcement. This bill allows for anyone, 18 or older, unless otherwise prohibited, to carry loaded handguns in public without a permit. Senate Bill 14 is similar to House Bill 1077; it allows anyone, 21 or older, unless otherwise prohibited, to carry loaded handguns in public without a permit. Senate Bill 14 will be heard by the Judiciary Committee on January 19th. Indiana has nearly 1,000 gun deaths a year, and gun deaths have increased 30% in the last decade, compared to an 17% increase nationwide. Indianapolis has seen a record number of homicides in 2021— many of which were gun homicides. Repealing the permitting requirement is irresponsible, reckless, has led to increased gun violence, and guts essential permitting standards for carrying handguns in public.

What you can do:
Sign and Share the Petition: https://www.change.org/p/oppose-hb-1077-say-no-to-permitless-carry.
Text INDIANA to 644-33 to tell your lawmaker to vote NO on HB1077/SB14 when it comes up for discussion and a vote before the full Senate chamber.

Senate Bill 143, Self-defense, specifies that “reasonable force” includes the pointing of a loaded or unloaded firearm for purposes of self-defense and arrest statutes. This is a dangerous policy as pointing a firearm does not deescalate a confrontation. This stand your ground expansion will likely disproportionately impact communities of color. When white shooters kill Black victims, the resulting homicides are considered justifiable 5 times more often than when the shooter is Black and the victim is white. Senate Bill 143 has a hearing on January 18th.

What you can do:
If your senator is on the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, tell them to vote NO on SB 143.Corrections and Criminal Law Committee: Sen. Michael Young, Sen. Susan Glick, Sen. Mike Bohacek, Sen. Aaron Freeman, Sen. Eric Koch, Sen. Jack Sandlin, Sen. Kyle Walker, Sen. Rodney Pol, Sen. Greg Taylor
If your senator is not on the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee, tell them to vote NO on SB 143 if it comes up for discussion and a vote before the full Senate chamber.

Senate Bill 228, Acquisition and storage of firearms, prohibits a person from keeping or storing an unsecured firearm on any premises controlled by the person under certain circumstances; it also requires a person wishing to transfer a firearm to another person to transact the transfer through a firearms dealer. Senate Bill 228 has yet to have a hearing scheduled. Unsecured guns in the home pose a substantial risk to children who may find and use them against themselves or others. Estimates suggest that modest increases in the number of American homes safely storing firearms could prevent almost a third of youth gun deaths due to suicide and unintentional firearm injury

What you can do:
Email or Call Senator Young (s35@iga.in.gov | 317-232-9517) and ask him to hear SB 228 in the Corrections and Criminal Law Committee.

Something else you can do, if you live in a district (mis)represented by one of Indiana’s pro-death, pro-gun cowboys, is vote against them at the next election and get your rational neighbors to do the same.

And be sure to let them know why.