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Mai Shiozaki, 202-628-8669, ext. 116; cell 202-641-1906
Judge Sonia Sotomayor. Governor Sarah Palin. SpongeBob SquarePants.
What could these three possibly have in common? The fact is, while
their names frequently turn up in the media, the context isn't always
so nice. Sotomayor's intelligence and temperament are questioned based
on gender and ethnic stereotypes. Palin and her daughter are the butt
of sexist jokes. And the cartoon SpongeBob is used in a commercial that
exploits women in order to sell burgers to kids.
For these reasons and many more, the National Organization for Women is re-launching its popular online Media Hall of Shame.
With the help of NOW members and other website visitors, we will be on
the look-out in the mainstream media for instances of sexism, racism,
sexual exploitation, violence against women and other offenses.
Frequent posts will highlight the latest offenses, giving people a
chance to rate them and urging activists to write to the media outlets
to express their outrage.
The first version of NOW's Media Hall of Shame was born during the
2008 presidential elections, when media misogyny reached toxic levels.
During the primaries, Hillary Clinton was a target of some of the most
extraordinarily sexist attacks NOW witnessed in a long time, and then
the media moved on to Michelle Obama and Sarah Palin.
The popularity of the "Election Edition" of the Media Hall of Shame
led NOW to create its new 2.0 version. This time NOW is featuring
offenses that take place both within and beyond politically-focused
news media. The site will cover content from primetime television,
movies, music, advertising, the Internet, kids TV, video games and
"It's important that we call out these offenders, because their
media platforms give them great influence and power, and their insults
demean and stereotype all women and girls," said NOW President Kim
Gandy. "We expect there to be no shortage of material to analyze, and
there will be no shortage of pundits, hosts, advertisers, and content
developers to dis-honor."
Beginning in 1966, NOW's founders noted the impact that media have
on women's lives and our quest for equality. The organization has
continued to address a wide range of media issues over the past four
decades. Says Gandy: "Women will not be truly equal until they have
full and fair representation in the media. The Media Hall of Shame is
one tactic in our ongoing campaign for media justice for women."
The National Organization for Women (NOW) is the largest organization of feminist activists in the United States. NOW has 500,000 contributing members and 550 chapters in all 50 states and the District of Columbia.
"We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points," said the civil liberties group.
The ACLU and other civil liberties groups accused the Montana GOP of running roughshod over free expression after Republican Gov. Greg Gianforte signed a bill completely banning TikTok in the state and prohibiting private companies from allowing Montanans to download the popular social media app.
Gianforte's move made Montana the first state in the U.S. to ban TikTok as congressional Republicans—and some Democrats—push for a federal ban or heavy restrictions, casting the short-form video platform as a national security threat with little to no supporting evidence.
TikTok is a subsidiary of the Chinese tech firm ByteDance. Gianforte echoed the typical GOP line on TikTok in a statement Wednesday, saying the new ban is aimed at protecting "Montanans' private data and sensitive personal information from being harvested by the Chinese Communist Party."
But the ACLU of Montana said in response that "there's no public evidence of harm that would meet the high bar set by the U.S. and Montana Constitutions" to justify a total ban on a widely used communication platform.
"With this ban, Governor Gianforte and the Montana legislature have trampled on the free speech of hundreds of thousands of Montanans who use the app to express themselves, gather information, and run their small business in the name of anti-Chinese sentiment," said Keegan Medrano, the ACLU of Montana's policy director. "We will never trade our First Amendment rights for cheap political points."
Montana's new ban, which is set to take effect on January 1, 2024, sets financial penalties of up to $10,000 a day for companies—including TikTok itself—that continue to make the app available for Montanans to download.
"This unconstitutional ban undermines the free speech and association of Montana TikTok users and intrudes on TikTok's interest in disseminating its users' videos," the Electronic Frontier Foundation wrote on Twitter. "It is a blatant violation of the First Amendment, whether it's done by Congress or Montana."
\u201cThe state of Montana just banned TikTok. \n\nHave questions about circumventing network censorship? Here's our guide: https://t.co/xI9mJLQXhc\u201d— EFF (@EFF) 1684363997
More than 150 million Americans use TikTok, according to the company's own figures.
Earlier this year, the Biden administration launched a fresh effort to force ByteDance to sell TikTok, reprising a failed pressure campaign first launched by the Trump White House. Late last year, President Joe Biden signed into law a spending bill containing a provision barring the TikTok app from devices issued by the federal government.
Congressional Republicans, including Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), have demanded legislative action to prohibit TikTok nationwide, drawing pushback from progressive lawmakers who say the push is fueled by dangerous anti-China sentiment and unfounded national security fears.
"I am opposed to efforts by some Republicans and Democrats to unilaterally ban an entire social media platform," Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) said in a statement in late March, echoing Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-N.Y.), Jamaal Bowman (D-N.Y.), and others.
"I don't like censorship," Omar added.
"Nothing but the power of corporate leaders to rig rules in their favor can explain this double standard."
Millions of people in the United States have little to nothing in retirement savings, a consequence of low-wage jobs that give workers minimal room to stash money away.
Meanwhile, at the end of 2021, the nation's top CEOs held an estimated $9 billion in rapidly growing special retirement accounts that aren't available to their employees—a double standard established by the U.S. tax code.
That double standard is the subject of A Tale of Two Retirements, a new report published Thursday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Jobs With Justice. The report says that while "ordinary employees with access to 401(k) plans face strict limits on the amounts they can set aside, tax-free, for their golden years," highly paid executives of major corporations "have unlimited tax-deferred compensation accounts" known as top hat plans.
"The sections of the U.S. tax code related to employer-provided, tax-deferred retirement accounts impose one set of strict rules on ordinary workers and another set of far more flexible rules for corporate top brass," the report notes. "Employees with 401(k) plans face hard caps on the amounts they can set aside in these accounts every year. By contrast, Section 409A of the tax code allows top corporate executives to place unlimited amounts in special 'non-qualified tax-deferred compensation' accounts."
The funds in such plans are only taxed when they are withdrawn, allowing executives to reap the benefits of years of investment returns tax-free.
The new analysis shows that "at more than 20 low-wage employers, executives have sufficient deferred compensation funds to generate monthly retirement checks larger than their workers' median annual pay," pointing specifically to Walmart CEO Doug McMillon (who held over $169 million in his deferred compensation account at the end of last year) and former Home Depot CEO and current board chair Craig Menear (who has nearly $15 million in a deferred compensation account).
Home Depot employees aren't nearly as well-positioned for retirement. According to the researchers behind the new report, 53% of those eligible to participate in Home Depot's 401(k) plan have zero balances. Menear's top hat account balance is "enough to generate a monthly retirement check three times larger than the company’s median worker pay of just $30,100," the report notes.
The executive with the largest top hat account among S&P 500 company heads is Paul Saville, CEO of the homebuilding giant NVR, Inc. At the end of 2022, Saville held $488 million in his deferred compensation account—which could yield $3 million a month in retirement checks for the rest of his life.
"That's 1,513 times as much as a typical American retiree could expect to receive in monthly Social Security and 401(k) benefits," IPS and Jobs With Justice note.
Sarah Anderson, global economy director at IPS and a co-author of the new report, said that "there's no rational argument for allowing wealthy executives to shelter unlimited amounts of compensation from taxes while ordinary workers have strict limits on their annual 401(k) contributions."
"Nothing but the power of corporate leaders to rig rules in their favor can explain this double standard," Anderson argued.
"Perhaps most importantly, we need to expand Social Security, the key pillar for retirement security for most Americans, particularly low- and moderate-income families who receive little to no tax benefits."
For workers under the age of 50, the annual 401(k) contribution limit is $22,500 in 2023—a ceiling that the overwhelming majority of workers with access to a 401(k) won't hit.
"Nationwide, just 35% of working-age adults have tax-deferred 401(k)-type defined contribution plans through their employer and another 13% have defined benefit or cash balance plans. Some 42% of Americans age 56-64 have zero retirement account savings, according to the U.S. Census Bureau," the new report observes. "Americans who are unable to save for retirement need to rely on Social Security, which pays an average monthly benefit of $1,784, as of March 2023."
The report adds that while companies "often match a portion of employee 401(k) contributions," that benefit is "meaningless for the many low-wage workers who cannot afford to set aside any of their wages."
Furthermore, roughly half of U.S. workers in the private sector have no access to an employer-provided retirement plan.
"For decades now, large U.S. corporations have been making workers' retirement futures less secure by abandoning traditional pensions in favor of 401(k) plans," the report points out. "In 1984, more than 30 million Americans had defined benefit pensions through which employers bore the financial risks for their workers' retirement security. By 2020, that number had declined to just 12 million, and private sector workers were approximately 3.5 times as likely to have a defined contribution plan as a traditional pension."
IPS and Jobs With Justice highlight a number of potential policy changes that could help combat the stark and worsening retirement divide between ordinary workers—who are facing a full-fledged retirement income crisis—and executives, including changes to the tax provisions that let rich executives shelter their compensation.
"Perhaps most importantly, we need to expand Social Security, the key pillar for retirement security for most Americans, particularly low- and moderate-income families who receive little to no tax benefits," the report states. "Funding for expansion could come from lifting the wage cap on payroll taxes so that CEOs and other high earners pay roughly the same share of their total income into the Social Security fund as ordinary workers."
Scott Klinger, report co-author and senior equitable development specialist at Jobs With Justice, said that "rather than giving corporate CEOs unfair special retirement tax benefits not available to those they employ, Congress should eliminate the cap on payroll taxes paid by corporate executives so that Social Security benefits can be strengthened, especially for the 40% of American workers for whom Social Security is their sole retirement income."
"The American people expect their elected representatives to hold their colleagues to a higher ethical standard and punish those who violate the public's trust," said Stand Up America's Brett Edkins.
"House Republicans have once again demonstrated their moral bankruptcy by shielding a deceitful and indicted fraudster in their ranks," declared Stand Up America managing director of policy and political affairs Brett Edkins.
"George Santos' seemingly endless lies and criminal behavior have disgraced the GOP and left voters in New York's 3rd Congressional District without real representation," he argued. "Still, today, House Republicans voted to put political expediency over common decency."
Edkins added that "the American people expect their elected representatives to hold their colleagues to a higher ethical standard and punish those who violate the public's trust. It's time for House Republicans to grow a backbone and fulfill their obligation to their constituents."
Rather than immediately ousting Santos—who faces charges including wire fraud, money laundering, and theft of public funds—Republicans referred the expulsion resolution led by Democratic Reps. Robert Garcia (Calif.), Becca Balint (Vt.), and Eric Sorenson (Ill.) to the House Committee on Ethics.
Introduced Tuesday, the trio's privileged resolution cites a clause in the U.S. Constitution that states the House and Senate can determine how their members are disciplined, including by expulsion with a two-thirds majority.
Wednesday's 221-204 vote was along party lines, though the ethics panel's five Democrats—Susan Wild (Pa.), Glenn Ivey (Md.), Veronica Escobar (Texas), Deborah Ross (N.C.), and Mark DeSaulnier (Calif.)—plus Democratic Reps. Chrissy Houlahan (Pa.) and Marie Gluesenkamp Perez (Wash.) abstained.
\u201cJust now 100% of House republicans voted to block expelling con artist and indicted fraudster george santos and then cowardly buried the matter in committee to keep him in Congress.\u201d— Bill Pascrell, Jr. \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6 (@Bill Pascrell, Jr. \ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\uddf8\ud83c\uddfa\ud83c\udde6) 1684359610
After the vote, Garcia—who has called for Santos' expulsion for months—took aim at House Speaker Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who had said Tuesday that the House Ethics Committee should investigate the embattled freshman Republican.
"George Santos is a fraud, and Kevin McCarthy's efforts to protect him with this vote will fail. We will continue to hold him and those who protect him accountable for his fraud and lies," Garcia tweeted Wednesday, adding that "the House Republicans are now officially the SAVE SANTOS CAUCUS."
According toThe Washington Post:
Santos said that if the Ethics Committee finds a reason to remove him, "that is the process."
In March, the Ethics Committee voted to create a bipartisan subcommittee to investigate claims about Santos.
In its March statement, the ethics panel said it is working to determine whether Santos, 34, may have "engaged in unlawful activity with respect to his 2022 congressional campaign; failed to properly disclose required information on statements filed with the House; violated federal conflict of interest laws in connection with his role in a firm providing fiduciary services; and/or engaged in sexual misconduct towards an individual seeking employment in his congressional office."
released on $500,000 bond last week after being charged on Long Island. He has pleaded not guilty and told reporters outside the courthouse that he plans to fight "the witch hunt" against him.
Prosecutors allege Santos convinced supporters of his congressional campaign to donate to a company but then used the money for exorbitant personal expenses. They have also accused him of lying on federal disclosure forms and receiving unemployment benefits when he was employed at an investment firm.
Balint warned Tuesday that if the Republicans continue to accept Santos' alleged criminal activity, it will be "a sign of the deteriorating health of our government."
"Democracies don't die overnight; they erode slowly as we degrade our ethical standards and turn away from our values," she said. "Americans want to have faith in our democracy, but with trust in government at an all-time low it's critical we take action to restore that trust."
Separately from the criminal charges, Santos has admitted to lying about his educational and professional background and his connection to survivors of the Holocaust. A New York Times investigation found that he also lied about his employees having been killed in the 2016 Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando, Florida.