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.

Police Reservists Bring the War Home

| Mon Nov. 19, 2007 11:38 AM EST

The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan have taken an unprecedented number of National Guard reservists and put them into active combat overseas. Many of those reservists were police officers before they were deployed. Now that some of them are finally coming home, they are have a difficult time making the transition from street combat to beat patrols in their old jobs, reports USA Today.

In March, for instance, an Austin, Texas police officer who had recently returned from Iraq fired his gun into the parking lot of a crowded shopping center while chasing an unarmed suspect. A bullet from his gun hit a parked van, narrowly missing two children who were sitting inside. The officer was reportedly suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder that had gone undiagnosed.

The Austin episode was one of a string of close calls police departments have observed among officers recently returning from Iraq. A few big-city police departments are creating "re-entry" programs for returned vets to help prevent such incidents in the future, but most aren't, meaning that some of the cops coming back from the Middle East may be ticking time-bombs. So much for the Iraq war making Americans safer at home...

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Al Gore: Venture Capitalist

| Tue Nov. 13, 2007 3:08 PM EST

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No one really still thinks Al Gore is going to run for president (hair's too long, waistline too expansive). But here's one more signal that he's not running: Gore yesterday announced that he's joining a prestigious venture capital firm in Silicon Valley, where he'll direct investments that help combat global warming.

Despite the green-sounding job description, and promises from the firm that Gore would be an "active" partner, it's hard to imagine Gore will be doing much to save the world there. After all, when would he find the time? He also serves on the board of Apple, he's a senior adviser to Google and has a pretty extensive public speaking schedule. No doubt he'll be out campaigning for a candidate or two this year as well. The new job does, however, offer something his nonprofit climate change group doesn't: stock options, which Gore apparently needs after a lifetime in public service.

Obama Touches the Third Rail, Sort Of.

| Tue Nov. 13, 2007 9:01 AM EST

On "Meet the Press" this weekend, Barack Obama struck out at Hillary Clinton over her refusal to commit to raising the cap on payroll taxes to help keep Social Security solvent. Obama's focus on payroll taxes was refreshing after all the recent focus on the Alternative Minimum Tax (AMT). The AMT is the 1960s measure designed to catch a handful of super-rich tax cheats that now ensnares a lot of ordinary upper-class people and which Congress has pledged to fix.

Payroll taxes, which fund Social Security and Medicare, only apply to the first $94,200 of a worker's wages. Income from investments and other passive earnings that make up a lot of the super-rich's income aren't subject to payroll taxes at all. That's why Obama was suggesting raising the income cap, a reasonable idea given that the number of people in the upper tax bracket has soared under the Bush administration. John Edwards has also said he'd support such a measure. But Clinton is on the fence.

Which is too bad, because payroll taxes are highly regressive. More than half of wage-earning Americans pay more in payroll taxes than they do in income taxes, and they fall heaviest on people earning less than $40,000 a year, eating up more than 15 percent of a minimum-wage workers paycheck. The AMT, though, only hits people who make more than $100,000 a year. If Obama is serious about taking on payroll taxes, he ought to consider giving them a major overhaul, not just to fix Social Security, but to relieve some of the burden on the working poor.

Dear Hillary: Success Trumps Sisterhood Every Time

| Mon Nov. 12, 2007 11:40 AM EST

Conventional wisdom suggests that Hillary Clinton has all but locked up the gender primary. She dominates the female voting bloc, a sign that women are actually energized about her historic candidacy. But there's one group of women that she hasn't yet won over: professional and executive women who make more than $75,000 a year. These women support Clinton far less than their lower-income counterparts, and they are slightly more likely to vote for Giuliani in the presidential election, reports the Wall Street Journal today.

Despite having much in common with Clinton, these women are demonstrating that old adage about how feminism's biggest achievement is allowing women to emulate the worst in men (see the rise in women's smoking and incarceration rates, for instance). Really, it's no surprise that when women achieve power and wealth, they start to care more about capital gains taxes than children's health insurance programs. Apparently, sisterhood is a casualty of climbing the corporate ladder.

HMO Pays Staffers to Drop Sick People

| Mon Nov. 12, 2007 11:10 AM EST

Virtually all the Democrats running for president have endorsed health care proposals that maintain a major role for private insurance companies. Much of their rhetoric suggests that if we could just get everyone health insurance, then all will be well. But the debate continues to ignore the horror stories like the one reported in the L.A. Times Friday.

A private insurer paid $20,000 in bonuses to an underwriter for dropping coverage for sick people, including a hairdresser who was half way through chemo treatments for cancer. She was left with $200,000 in medical bills as a result. Meanwhile, the company, Health Net, saved $35 million by cutting off 1,600 people who had made a major medical claim. Built into the system were performance bonuses for employees who dropped the most and the sickest patients. The widespread practice suggests that Americans need a lot more than an insurance card to guarantee access to medical care when they most need it.

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Tue Sep. 9, 2014 6:30 AM EDT | Updated Tue Dec. 16, 2014 10:10 AM EDT