Today’s Indivisible Action is on my Hobby Horse

I’ve been concerned about Public Service Loan Forgiveness for a while. Since October 2017 when the first folks became eligible for forgiveness but 1 in 3 applications were denied, partly because the guidelines were unclear and there was no way to check ahead of time if you were doing things right to qualify.

You must do at least three things right: have the right sort of Federal student loans; be in the right sort of income-driven repayment plan; be in qualifying employment before you start making your on-time payments for ten years. I have my vested interest in this. I’ve been working in the public interest, with my loans in an income-based repayment plan, making my monthly payment on time, for about six years. I’m a little over halfway there. Spouse and I will still both be middle-aged, just in our 50’s, though a bit older than someone who graduated law school in their 20’s when the program already existed.

Public service loan forgiveness is not an unearned benefit. It’s not a gift. Public service loan forgiveness is an investment in our communities. When a person spends years and tens of thousands of dollars on their own education in order to work in the public interest–as a nurse, a teacher, a public defender, a civil servant, a fireman–they have incurred debt and restricted their family’s income potential in order to serve all of us, in order to make our cities, our towns, our neighborhoods healthy and functional for everyone.

As a society, we owe it to our public service professionals to support their investment in us. Please take a few minutes to call your member of the House of Representatives and tell them you hope they’ll protect Public Service Loan Forgiveness, a George Bush era reform which passed with over-whelming bi-partisan support (The House of Representatives approved the law 292 to 97; the Senate vote was 79 to 12).

Action 2: Tell Your Rep. to Protect Federal Financial Aid and Education Oversight

Late last year, while reauthorizing the Higher Education Act, Republicans on the House Committee on Education and the Workforce approved the PROSPER Act (H.R.4508). This harmful bill decreases federal financial aid and rolls back regulations that protect students from predatory for-profit colleges and trade schools.

The PROSPER Act ends three important financial aid programs:

  1. The Public Service Loan Forgiveness program
  2. Subsidized student loans that allow low income students to avoid interest payments while in school
  3. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant

It also increases minimum loan repayments, eliminates debt forgiveness horizons, and requires a minimum monthly payment even for borrowers near and below the poverty line. Modeling by the Center for American Progress shows that these changes may raise loan repayments for low income students by tens of thousands of dollars and increase the time they are repaying loans by decades. In addition, the PROSPER Act eliminates key safeguards that protect students, including the “90/10 rule” (which bars for-profit colleges from getting more than 90% of their revenue from federal aid), as well as the gainful employment regulation (which prevents career training programs with poor educational outcomes from receiving federal money). The bill also weakens regulatory power by removing states’ power to oversee online schools, and it hinders state efforts to hold student loan providers accountable.

By making it harder for students to afford higher education, the PROSPER Act prioritizes private industry interests while increasing the burden on Americans.

Script: Hello, my name is [NAME] and I’m a constituent from {ZIP CODE} and member of Indivisible Chicago.

I am calling to ask {PERSON} to oppose the PROSPER Act (H.R. 4508) because this bill makes it harder for students to afford higher education and eliminates regulations that protect students from predatory for-profit schools.

Thank you for your hard work answering the phones.

[NOTE: If leaving a voicemail please leave your full street address to ensure you call is tallied.]

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#TeamBiss

Daniel Biss

  • Because he has called for Madigan to step down as chair.
  • Because he has pledged a 50% woman cabinet.
  • Because when he talks about marijuana legalization he talks about commuting sentences and the racial bias in the justice system.
  • Because he has an excellent voting record on LGBTQ issues.
  • Because I’ve heard him answer <questions one on one with constituents and I believe he’s thoughtful, sincere, smart and dedicated.

Because Daniel Biss is progressive.

Still I am Grateful

I know that the African-American women and men who won this election did not do it for me or my angst about the morality of my nation. I know that did not do it for Mr. Jones. That even if they considered a larger political strategy, the pressing concern was personal and local. It was an act of self-preservation. It was a hope for marginalized communities.

I know that Alabama–no, the marginalized voters of Alabama–was hard hit by Shelby County, the 2013 SCOTUS decision on the Voting Rights Act. I’ve done day-of-election protection, where you witness and report where voters are lied to about their rights or about their polling place, and I know that VRA or no VRA, white people in this country are trying very hard to keep black people from voting.

I know that a lot of people have trouble leaving their workplace on voting day (I have no trouble leaving my workplace on any day). I know that a lot of people have to do a lot more than cross the street to get to their polling place. I know that a lot of people have to coordinate their child care with voting. I know that all these difficulties increase as one’s privilege decreases.

I know that for all it’s a right, voting is not simple for the many citizens threatened by men like Roy Moore. I am ashamed of and sorry for the white women who don’t know these things, don’t care about these things, or are so racist they remain unmoved by these things.

I know that the African-American women and men who swayed and saved this election did it despite the white voters who have long voted against their interests, white voters who have accepted without protest violence against African-American communities, white voters who sustain institutions designed to shut out or oppress non-whites. We owe them more than relief and gratitude.

Yet I am grateful for those who voted for Doug Jones. I am grateful for those who drove voters to the polls. Grateful for those who organized door-knocking, postcard-writing, phone-banking campaigns. And for those who participated in those campaigns. Grateful for the attorneys who still pursue voting rights litigation, who volunteer with election protection activities, who are working with states to correct extreme gerrymandering.

I am not yet hopeful myself, but I am grateful for the hope and strength of others.

CWTA Press Release

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
December 12, 2017

WOMEN’S FORUM STATS REFLECT DIVIDED ELECTORATE

Participation/Viewership Reflects Women as Growing Political Force

Chicago…A room filled to capacity, thousands more watching on cable television or on-line, underscore the oft-mentioned fact that this year women are attuned to politics and judging candidates on the basis of their answer to questions on issues important to women. The December 9th Women’s Gubernatorial Forum, sponsored by the Chicago Women Take Action (CWTA) Alliance, an alliance of 44 of Chicago’s leading women’s organizations, garnered more than 800 attendees, 6,000 viewers on CWTA’s and Indivisible’s Facebook livestreams and reached more than 21,000 through those channels, CAN TV and other sites. The forum participants were Biss, Pritzker, Kennedy and Hardiman. Gov. Bruce Rauner and State Rep. Jeanne Ives declined invitations.

At the forum, which was moderated by WNBC’s Mary Ann Ahern and Jacqui Algee of Chicago Women Take Action, the candidates were asked their stands on issues important to women, from sexual harassment to health care to economic issues. The conversation also touched on property taxes and the role of House Speaker Michael Madigan.

During and for an hour after the conclusion of the event, a non-scientific straw poll was conducted to determine whom, after hearing the candidates, attendees and others would vote for if the election were held that day.. They were asked to choose among the four candidates at the forum, though they could also select “none of the above” (that option received .4 per cent of the vote).

The straw poll taken between 2:00 and 5:00 p.m. on Saturday garnered 554 votes, with Daniel Biss receiving 256 votes or 46%; JB Pritzker receiving 161 votes or 29 %; Chris Kennedy receiving 129 or 23% of the vote and Tio Hardiman trailing with 4 votes or .7 percent. Four people chose ‘none of the above’.

In addition, 139 votes were cast before the event and therefore not counted in the official tally as the respondents had not yet heard the candidates.  Of those votes, 75 votes were cast for Pritzker and 62 for Biss.  Kennedy and ‘none of the above” each received one vote.

“For us in the Alliance, the Forum was everything we wanted it to be.  The reach and audience were great.  The candidates were thoughtful and respectful.  And through our partnership the 44 groups have established a firm bond with which to tackle the issues and elections ahead,”  says CWTA convener Marilyn Katz.  “For us now, it’s on to January 20th – the next Chicago Women’s March, then onto the elections of March and November.”

The Forum will be rebroadcast by CAN TV on December 14th at 8 p.m. (Channel 27)

For further information, call Marilyn Katz 312-822-0505 or 312-953-1225 or email at Mkatz@mkcpr.com.

I am Overwhelmed

I have a handful of draft posts I will likely never finish: on my first protest with the Handmaid Coalition; on a conversation about drag culture, patriarchy, and confronting and perpetuating misogyny; and a whole thing on curated-self celebrities and the manifestation of internalized misogyny. Also a thing on the necessity of visible protest to the collective unconscious and the health and development of our ethos, rather than as a means of change.

I’m having enough trouble writing a basic report for work right now, so working on some personal essays seems impossible. It’s just that there’s a lot going on right now and it’s tiring. I’ve been calling my own members of Congress, phone banking, Postcards to Voters-ing, attending political meetings, trying to find someone to put me to use. Some other volunteering, but never as much as I’d like.

There’s also a lot of social obligations–always, my friends are busy people–but especially at the end of the year. There’s traveling. And fundraisers. And the yoga classes I’m trying to get back to regularly. And I feel like I’m always doing something but that I’ve never managed to do anything at all.

That’s the hard part: feeling like I’m always doing something but that I’ve never managed to do anything at all.

There’s some work needing done both at home and at the rental. So there’s contractors to coordinate, decisions to make, and just chores. So many chores. I’m planning, for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas, to fill one Bag of Things to Leave the House Forever. I was telling someone recently that we don’t have a junk drawer and we don’t but there’s junk slipping into the battery drawer, into the tools drawer, into the swatch drawer.

The corner of the To-Do List on the wall in my sunroom

My to-do list is a long mix of practical tasks, metaphysical chores, things I want to be doing, books I’d planned to read, movies I wanted to watch, habits I keep meaning to set, budget goals I need to set (and examine the budget and do some overdo accounting).

There’s a bunch of sewing room projects, too (not including the living room curtains, which I bought a roll of velveteen fabric for when we moved in, but have never sewn. We have curtain rods, now, as well as some hand-me-down sheers, so I really should do that. Our living room is nice. It deserves curtains).

And the To-Do list itself. It needs updating.

I’m overwhelmed.

And so drained from the sheer weight of the world right now that I feel like I’m always doing something, but that I’ve never managed to do anything at all.

I have some random days off ahead that don’t coincide with holiday travel or holiday meals or holiday parties. Perhaps crossing a few things off the list with help. The trick will be putting those days to use, and not using them to cuddle with my geriatric cat and an excellent video game and maybe some cocoa.

 

Giving Tuesday

EDIT: Sooooo I posted this a whole week early. Giving Tuesday is November 28, not November 21. Adjust your donations accordingly!

It’s Giving Tuesday tomorrow and I’m looking over my 2017 donations–trying to be both more focused and consistent as well as more aware of when and two whom I’m giving. I want to make sure I’m budgeting appropriately and adequately covering the organizations I want to give to. There’s also the odd appeal from a friend who’s doing a fundraiser for an organization I don’t normally support who has a special campaign or sometimes a solicitation directly from an organization will appeal to me–I want to be prepared when that happens, not only with a ready knowledge of how much I can give but whether it will mean not making another donation. Whether I’ve supported that place in the past.

My monthly giving goes to:

My structured annual giving (often in the form of memberships or Christmas presents) goes to:

My scattershot donations usually include (among others):

I also give to a breast cancer walk a friend does every year, and usually to one or more suicide helplines, some political organizations, and a bunch of places I’m probably not remembering because it’s random. Which is the reason I decided to look at things this year. Already, in pulling together the monthly or annual gifts, I see that I’m not reaching my philanthropy goal and I see some gaps. But I never see any gift I regret, even when I see gifts I never repeat.

There may not seem a common theme (although I think there is) among the groups on my list, but there is a very common foundation in these choices–they are connected to my friends. They are groups my friends support, or work with, or volunteer with, or which serve (or have served) their needs. And we talk about our philanthropy together; we volunteer together; we ask for donations to celebrate our milestones.

And every year when my friends and family give to the nonprofit where I work, I am really grateful–not just because we get to keep the lights on for another year or expand our court reform programs–but because I know such generous people. I am so impressed with the thoughtfulness of my friends and their willingness to engage with the needs of their community through philanthropy and through volunteering.

Some of the folks I am talking about

And I never mind when I see their fundraising posts. I never mind when we collect donations for a cause at a pub. There is so much need in our community and such a lack of political will to provide for those needs through our government. All sorts of needs: food, shelter, medical care, but also medical research or job services or youth development or arts. All the things that make us whole. I love that my friends–who help keep me whole–step up to meet when these needs when society fails to.

Giving Tuesday is about joining together when we give. It’s about sharing our motivations, our goals, and our community in giving.

 

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This year I’m also trying to figure out where to donate in honor of my Dad at Christmas. Veterans’ charities have terrible reputations on the whole–I have no idea why this is. A friend suggested a couple which his workplace supports: Vets in Tech, Team Rubicon and Operation Homefront; perhaps I’ll chose one of them. But maybe I’ll look for a scholarship fund, though I think he’d also appreciate a lake and river preservation effort.

Regret and Rehabilitation

Does it matter if they stopped? Does it matter if they changed? a person asked in a conversation I was part of, about all these sexual assault and harassment revelations.

I think it does, although I know it’s hard to measure and that it may never matter to the people they harmed. And I certainly don’t know if a particular man has examined his behavior, has recognized it for what it was, regrets it or has changed. I hope that all men accused of prior assault or harassment have stopped harming women but I rarely have information about that. There may be no proof; we have no obligation to trust them ever again, but that does not mean they cannot change.

And no, random good work is not sufficient. People are multi-faceted and examples of generous or “good” behavior does indicate rehabilitation with regard to misogyny or sexism or preying on women. Specific good work to combat the harassment and assault of women and the manipulation of power imbalances between men and women does.

So I do think it matters if individual men change. And I hope we will recognize it when they do, without attempting to erase harm they cause and without demanding that victims behave in any particular way toward men who harmed them. But I believe in rehabilitation or I would not work in court reform; I would not make an effort to change myself or my community.

This is what I think “Of course you’ve all done it. Each of you. Even if it was just laughing at a gross misogynist joke with your mates when you were fourteen, even if it made you feel uncomfortable to laugh and not say ‘dude, that’s not cool.’ What separates the good among you from the unsafe among you is the ability to one day stop going along. To one day recognize that you’re not ‘pushing a boundary’, you’re harming someone. To admit that there was no gray area, you assaulted that person. And stop doing it and start calling other men out when they do it.”

So yes, I believe that it matters if men change, even if just in their own hearts and own actions, but even more in the way they respond to the men around them and the shitty things those men do to women. I believe men need to change, and can change, and I believe they do.

Even recognizing the possibility of sincere regret, of actual person growth and rehabilitation, I know there are boundaries to it. I know that the journey from being an adolescent who kisses a girl against her will at a kegger to a man who always seeks consent is a different journey than that of a man who demands sexual favors at the price of your career. It’s clear some men don’t regret their behavior only that they’ve been caught and that the world seems no longer willing to accept their excuses. In either case,

Most importantly, I know that is irrelevant both to consequences and to the opinion of any given victim. No matter how clear the evidence of either repentance or rehabilitation, a person harmed by sexual assault or sexual harassment owes the perpetrator nothing. Not forgiveness, not understanding, not  belief in his rehabilitation, not assistance in repairing his name. Nothing.

These things can both be true: that men who harass and assault women can be taught to change and that the women they harm owe them nothing if they do. By extension, the rest of us do not owe them trust, even when we believe they are doing the work. If you break trust, it will not be readily available to you in the future.