Stephanie Mencimer

Stephanie Mencimer

Reporter

Stephanie works in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. A Utah native and graduate of a crappy public university not worth mentioning, she has spent several years hanging out with angry white people who occasionally don tricorne hats and come to lunch meetings heavily armed.

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Stephanie covers legal affairs and domestic policy in Mother Jones' Washington bureau. She is the author of Blocking the Courthouse Door: How the Republican Party and Its Corporate Allies Are Taking Away Your Right to Sue. A contributing editor of the Washington Monthly, a former investigative reporter at the Washington Post, and a senior writer at the Washington City Paper, she was nominated for a National Magazine Award in 2004 for a Washington Monthly article about myths surrounding the medical malpractice system. In 2000, she won the Harry Chapin Media award for reporting on poverty and hunger, and her 2010 story in Mother Jones of the collapse of the welfare system in Georgia and elsewhere won a Casey Medal for Meritorious Journalism.

Joe Wilson Wins Nativist Vote

Rep. Joe Wilson may have apologized for heckling the president during his speech to Congress Wednesday, but plenty of people apparently wish he hadn't, most notably, Rush Limbaugh. But his outburst has earned him support among another fringe of the right-wing: immigration foes, who were thrilled to hear Wilson vocally challenge Obama on his claim that health care reform would not cover illegal immigrants. Today, the Americans for Legal Immigration PAC (ALI-PAC) came to Wilson' defense, urging supporters to speak out online and on talk radio to support the South Carolina Republican.

"It is a real shame that the rest of Congress was not on their feet pointing out the President's lie about illegal aliens in his Health Care plans along with Joe Wilson," said William Gheen, the group's executive director. "Joe Wilson yelled out what millions of Americans were thinking during Obama's speech. We agree with what Joe Wilson said, even if we did not, we would defend his right as an American to speak his mind."

Gheen became a media phenom in 2005 after fighting a North Carolina bill that would have allowed some non-citizens to qualify for in-state tuition at some of North Carolina's public colleges and universities. A talk radio host, he is a prominent promoter of the reconquista conspiracy theory, believing that Mexicans are plotting to seize American territory. He has close ties to the Minutemen and other anti-immigration factions that the Southern Poverty Law Center has deemed hate groups. Wilson may have disgraced his party last night, but for guys like Gheen, Wilson is a bona fide hero.

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New Census Data: More Poor Kids, More Uninsured

The Census Bureau did a big data dump this morning, releasing its findings on poverty, income and health insurance coverage from 2008. The results aren't pretty, but there is some good news: The number of uninsured children has fallen from 8.1 million in 2007 to 7.3 million in 2008. Despite the recession, the number of uninsured children in the U.S. is the lowest it's been since 1987, a success largely attributable to the federal SCHIP program (whose expansion was twice vetoed by President Bush and heavily opposed by Republicans in Congress). But the rest of the report is truly dismal. The highlights:

The number of people without health insurance jumped from 45.7 million to 46.3 million. The number of people who get insurance from employers is still falling, while 87.4 million people got health insurance from the government, up from 83 million in 2007.

The official poverty rate jumped from 12.5 percent in 2007 to 13.2 last year, leaving nearly 40 million people in dire straits. That's the highest it's been since 1997. In a telling sign about the recession, the poverty rate among married-couple families is up significantly, jumping from 4.9 percent to 5.5 percent in 2008, while single parents remained steadily poor. And 19 percent of kids under 18 were living below the poverty line in 2008, up a full point from the previous year.

Finally, real median income tanked, falling 2.6 percent for white households and a whopping 5.6 percent for Hispanic families. People in the South took an especially bad beating, with median incomes there falling nearly 5 percent. No wonder those Southern Republicans are so pissed off.

 

 

Mitch McConnell's SCOTUS Case

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has a big day ahead tomorrow when the U.S. Supreme Court hears oral arguments in Citizens United v. FEC, a case that could result in the death of corporate spending restrictions in federal elections. McConnell, the nation's number one Republican, has been seldom seen during the August health care reform debate (see our new story here), but he's been a relentless foe of campaign finance reform over the years. Represented by the famous First Amendment lawyer Floyd Abrams, McConnell has filed a brief in the case supporting Citizens United, and tomorrow the court will likely discuss a precedent that carries McConnell's name.

In one of his many attempts to derail the McCain-Feingold campaign finance reform bill, McConnell sued the FEC in 2002 arguing that the act was a violation of his First Amendment right to take gobs of corporate money to get elected. McConnell, a prolific Republican fundraiser, lost that case by a narrow margin, but the composition of the court has changed significantly since then, giving him much better odds in his current crusade. While the Republican leader might not lead his party to victory against health care reform, his Supreme Court advocacy may soon usher in a new era of corporate dominance of federal elections—a development that could have significant benefits for his party in the long run.

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