In October 1991, the phrase “sexual harassment” and the menacing environment it created for women in the workplace exploded onto the national consciousness. Like the rest of the nation, I sat in front of my television riveted as I listened to the reluctant testimony of Anita Hill during the confirmation hearings of then-Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. Despite Hill’s stunning allegations, Thomas was confirmed. But what she said changed the dialogue in this country.
Hill gave voice to the silent indignities endured by women, professional women in particular, at the hands of men who subjected them to lewd comments, propositioned them wherever and whenever, or chased them around a desk or office sofa. And usually a combination of some or all of those tactics. The nation was forced to acknowledge that sexual harassment was pervasive in the workplace and that it could no longer be tolerated.
And then came Harvey Weinstein.
Nearly 26 years to the day of the Anita Hill hearings, the New York Times and Ronan Farrow writing for the New Yorker revealed that movie mogul Weinstein allegedly harassed and assaulted actresses for years. The number of accusers is now more than 50. Ever since, a tsunami of women have come forward against other men in other industries, alleging actions that make what Hill accused Thomas of doing look chaste by comparison.
Veteran journalist Mark Halperin is the latest addition to the dishonor roll. CNN reports that five women accused the former NBC News political analyst of sexual harassment in the 1990s through the mid-2000s when he worked at ABC News.
What another woman — Emily Miller, who is not a part of the CNN story — posted on Twitter is very telling.
She wrote, “To be clear, I was NOT one of the victims in this story about Mark Halperin. I was ANOTHER junior ABC employee he attacked.”
She added, “I did not report Halperin to ABC because I thought I was the only one, and I blamed myself, and I was embarrassed and I was scared of him.”
What Miller said she did hearkens back to the days of silence about sexual harassment that Hill’s testimony exposed. It also showed that the potency of the power dynamic that allows such abuse to occur and go unreported. But Miller’s tweet and the punitive actions that have taken place in the aftermath of Weinstein represent something new.
Hill’s testimony ushered in an era of recognition of a problem. What we are witnessing now is empowerment to say something and do something about it.
“Abused women feel liberated to bring down powerful men in government, media, tech, politics, business and pop culture,” Mike Allen of Axios wrote Thursday. “It’s spreading by the day.”
If I may put an even finer point on it: They have found the courage to hold their tormentors accountable. And those men are being held accountable.
The following editorial appears on Bloomberg View:
If there is anything to be gained from President Donald Trump’s disgraceful attack on the credibility of the widow of a U.S. Special Forces soldier killed in Niger, it’s that Americans are finally becoming aware of the expanding U.S. mission against extremist violence now spreading across the Sahel region of Africa.
As Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Joseph Dunford explained Monday, the role of the U.S. military over the last decade has been critical: helping local nations defeat a variety of armed threats.
These include affiliates of al-Qaida and Islamic State, local extremist groups such as Boko Haram, traffickers in migrants and arms, criminal syndicates, and tribal rebels. These groups have different aims but often work together.
Their impact extends beyond Africa, to the wars of the Middle East and the immigration politics of Europe. And with the Islamic State nearly wiped out in Iraq and Syria, it will likely shift much of its focus to Africa.
The good news is that, aside from this month’s tragic ambush, in which five Nigerien troops were also killed, the strategy has shown promising results. The U.S. mission, involving several hundred special forces, has been successfully training troops from Burkina Faso, Mali, Niger, Nigeria and other states. The key has been a bottom-up approach, working with local rather than central governments. Moreover, most of the heavy lifting is being done by the French, who have 4,000 troops in the region, and an alliance of African countries known as the G5 Sahel Force.
Inexplicably, Washington is balking at fully funding the G5 through the United Nations.
This would be a mistake, not only because the current approach is working but also because it saves the Pentagon money — tens of millions a year on support for the special operations forces in the Sahel.
The U.S.’s short-sightedness is also evident in its tendency to view Africa through the lens of individual states.
The borders on the map are irrelevant on the ground in the Sahel and elsewhere, which means solutions have to be regional.
And it’s not just a military problem: Lasting progress depends on Western nations and global nongovernmental groups helping these impoverished countries improve governance and development.
The National Security Council should rethink its Africa policy more along transnational lines.
The State Department needs to improve coordination and information-sharing among its embassies in the Sahel.
The military, meanwhile, needs more funding to support effective security and public services along in sparsely populated areas of Mali and Chad. But sending a lot more troops and advanced equipment that the local forces are unable to operate would be a mistake — a slippery slope toward the U.S. owning a mission that the locals must fight themselves.
Last, Congress can do its part by passing a new war authorization to avoid mission creep and give a strong legal basis for counterterrorism operations far away from the original battlefields in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Eventually the facts on the ill-fated Niger mission will come out, just as Trump will eventually lose interest in his feud with Sgt. La David Johnson’s widow. Ideally, both the Pentagon and the president will incorporate what they’ve learned into better strategies.
But there’s no need to wait to address the danger of increasing extremism in Africa.
Federal income tax was first introduced under the Revenue Act of 1861 to help defray war costs. Congress repealed the tax in 1871 when the need for government revenue declined, only to restore it in 1894 as part of the Wilson-Gorman Tariff Act. The public policy debate surrounding the constitutionality of income tax has been going on ever since.
Given the government’s inventive ways of taking our money and spending it irresponsibly, Congress and enough states took care of the unconstitutional part in 1913 with the passage of the 16th Amendment.
The federal government has since raised more money than any government has likely ever raised while spending more money than any government has ever spent. But the money exits the treasury door just as fast as it comes in.
Congress does not need more of our money. It needs to control spending.
As I have argued in previous columns, the current debate over tax legislation starts at the wrong end.
Politicians want us to accept that some people aren’t paying “enough.” This keeps the debate focused on those who work to earn the money, rather than on politicians who cynically misspend it, in large part to keep themselves in office.
It is spending, not taxes, that needs to be reformed, but few want to give up their government “benefits.” Ever try getting information from a government office? And yet people continue to turn to government, even though it does few things well.
In the debate over tax cuts, President Trump seems to be yielding to the class warfare crowd, which believes “the rich” ought to pay more and the bottom 50 percent should pay even less.
A better idea would be to require every American to pay something. Even street panhandlers, some of whom receive tax-free money through welfare benefits, should have some skin in the game.
For any real tax reform to occur, the philosophy behind wealth and income must change. A rich person doesn’t deprive me of money or the opportunity to improve my financial circumstances. There is not one pot of money from which all must draw. We used to teach people how to create their own “pots,” but now we teach envy, greed and entitlement, an unholy financial and ideological “hat trick” that improves no one’s life.
If you are middle class or poor, how does taxing rich people benefit you? Does envying the wealthy improve your economic status?
I have never envied the rich. As a college student I wanted to know how people became rich, or at least independent of government.
Politicians, egged-on by people like Warren Buffet and Bill Gates, make public statements about their wealth that sound like apologies. Their success should instead teach others.
In my grandparents’ day, one was expected to live within one’s means, work hard, save and invest wisely, avoid debt and not covet what your neighbor has (see the Tenth Commandment).
This was not only good economic advice, but a reflection of one’s moral character. During World War II, neighbors would never think of borrowing more than a cup of sugar or a few ration stamps for fear people would believe them irresponsible.
Neighbors and religious institutions were expected to help the truly needy, not government.
Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL) was on to something when he said: “We don’t need new taxes. We need new taxpayers, people that are gainfully employed, making money and paying into the tax system. And then we need a government that has the discipline to take that additional revenue and use it to pay down the debt and never grow it again.”
I would start with the second part of his proposal.
If followed, the government would not only not need more of our money it might be forced by voters to give some of it back.