This week Mike Konczal of the Roosevelt Institute and Joan Entmacher and Kate Gallagher Robbins of the National Women’s Law Center joined Nation blogger Bryce Covert for a live chat with readers. You can read the entire chat in the comments section of her post “The Fast Pace of Change for Women Workers Can’t Distract From the Work Left to Do.” We included some highlights from the conversation along with the rest of our comments of the week.

As usual, let us know what you think—in the comments!

Dawn: Republicans don’t seem to understand that public workers use the goods and services of the private sector. You get an area that has a lot of public workers that live there and a lot of them loose their jobs, local businesses that are private are going to suffer. There is no magic private sector unicorn that comes around and gives ex-government workers that have been laid off in droves, jobs. Sure mass government layoffs means smaller government but it also means that you are taking a lot of money out of the economy for who knows how long.
In response to Mike Konczel and Bryce Covert’s “Red States See Massive Public Sector Job Losses.” March 27, 2012

sonofkenny: Were I convinced this was possible I would be all for striking the current law. I wasn’t a fan of it when it passed. However, given our outmoded form of government, institutions under the hammerlock control of an ideologically driven oligarchy, and with the aid of a complicit media more interested in profit than challenging the powerful, I would argue if this law is struck down we wouldn’t see a serious move to expansion of health care for 50 years, short of some major triggering disaster. More likely we will see the rolling back of the social safety net, social security, environmental regulations etc by an increasingly activist judiciary more intent imposing an outmoded view of the constitution than on later precedent.
In response to George Zornick’s “If the Mandate Fails, Single Payer Awaits.” March 27, 2012

Keith Tyler: "Re-instituting the individual mandate would be unconstitutional"

Not necessarily! The SCOTUS is being very specific in its questioning of the mechanism of the mandate. Saying the mechanism is unconstitutional does not preclude other mechanisms.

Take the minimum age of 21 for alcohol. No state is forced to abide by this limit. But if they don’t, they receive significantly less federal money for highway funds. (See National Minimum Drinking Age Act of 1984.) So, every state does it, because no one wants to give up the funds. Is this coercion? In fact, no: it’s incentive. No state is forced to do it. Yet they all do. Even the reddest, Tea Party-est, states’ rights, personal responsibility, gub’mint-hatin’ states.

I see no reason why, if SCOTUS determines that the federal-penalty model is unconstitutional, that Congress could not (theoretically) replace it with a similar arrangement with the states: we’ll give you more funding for, say, Medicare, if you implement an insurance mandate in your state.

The question of whether the federal government can or cannot impose such a mandate does NOT reflect on whether the states themselves can. Massachusetts’ Romneycare already implements an insurance mandate, and no one has challenged its constitutionality, because states have a number of sovereign rights that the federal government does not.

The Commerce Clause, which is used by the government to defend this, as well as many other Congressional acts, gives Congress the power specifically to regulate INTER-state commerce. But it does not have the power to directly regulate commerce that is entirely WITHIN a state. THAT power belongs to that state alone. This is why Romneycare has firmer grounds than Obamacare when it comes to the mandate question.
In response to George Zornick’s “If the Mandate Fails, Single Payer Awaits.” March 27, 2012

scubaguy: Katrina’s piece is at once an accurate assessment of the consequences of conservative policies but, more importantly, an example of why progressives consistently struggle to advance their agenda by failing to articulate a clear, consistent message about their own value set. While Republicans and conservative pundits have learned how to define the debate on virtually every issue around their values, progressives are left largely arguing against the opposing side without realizing that criticizing a position tends to reinforce it on a deep level. Waiting for Republicans to overplay their hand or criticizing the downside of their policies doesn’t do enough to advance a positive alternative in the minds of anxious voters who are worried about the deterioration of their circumstance and look to strong leadership that can articulate a credible path forward. President Obama periodically sets forth a reasonable vision of progressive values, but it withers from lack of follow up from him and the rest of the Democratic Party apparatus. His recent attempt to position traditional American (progressive) values of "hard work, fair play, shared responsibility, and a fair opportunity" as a guide for tax policy also could inform policies such as equal pay for women and women’s access to healthcare, But instead, we hear more about the need to "stop the war on women" which is a reaction to conservative policies on women’s healthcare issues rather than an articulation of positive progressive values. Whether it’s tax policy or healthcare, progressives need to pay less attention to quibbling about policy details and pointing fingers at reactionary conservatives and seize the opportunity to advance a more clear, consistent vision for the country that draws on the traditional values of cooperation and fairness which resonate with most Americans and informs everything from tax policy to funding public necessities like healthcare, education and infrastructure.
In response to Katrina vanden Heuvel’s “Republicans Are Causing a Moral Crisis in America.” March 28, 2012

Some highlights from our live chat with Bryce Covert:

Mntleo2: When are we going to address traditional "women’s work" as "work?" By this I mean the care giving most women do that has no support? Labor statistics say that women lose on the average of $275,000 in a paid work lifetime because of this work with *no* support. This does not only mean children, it also means elders and then spouses.

As an activist I was stunned while working in transitional housing that a huge majority of these homeless older women were women who had degrees and work history but were thrown aside after giving this care. They were too old to be hired and too young for Social Security.

Joan Entmacher: Re: Social Security credits for care giving—In Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, he proposed giving parents of young children a credit for earnings up to half of the average wage toward their benefit. So both a worker who dropped out of the workforce to care for young children and one who worked part-time earning less than half the average wage would get some benefit.

Bryce Covert: I’d love to see childcare on the national agenda. I find Joan’s explanation about Social Security credits for care work being in Gore’s platform fascinating; I had no idea. It also wasn’t so long ago that women were close to pushing through universal childcare support, but that’s disappeared. I really think it’s at the root of so many problems — women leaving the labor force, the gender pay gap, occupational segregation, etc. It’s not a silver bullet but it’s a really important step.

Finally, in the comments section of Melissa Harris-Perry’s “Trayvon Martin: What It’s Like to Be Problem,” Koritha Mitchell, author of “Living with Lynching: African American Lynching Plays, Performance, and Citizenship, 1890-1930,” responded to some of the right-wing comments regarding Trayvon Martin’s death:

Koritha Mitchell: Blacks have always been critical of other blacks, so proactive measures regarding black-on-black crime are not some anomaly–and they don’t emerge only when whites show us the error of our ways. Just because white audiences don’t care to know what’s happening in black communities does not mean that these things are not being debated and actively addressed. Why would you assume that, until you hear about it, it’s not happening? So, why would you assume that you’re an expert on blacks’ supposed refusal to critique our own? The Trayvon Martin story was important news in black communities for weeks before mainstream media outlets cared to cover it. Just because mainstream media makes room for black voices only in certain ways does not mean that people aren’t committed and working on these issues long before it appears on the mainstream radar.

Seriously, if African Americans appear on your radar only under these circumstances, how could you possibly be an expert judge on the motivations of their work? This "hustler" language is the height of arrogance. People notice that we exist one day and are experts on us the next? Yep, the height of arrogance.