Category Archives: Non Profit

My Letter to Senators Durbin & Duckworth & Rep Quigley

Please speak out in support of public service loan forgiveness which is now threatened by the proposed budget and by the ill-advised agenda of Betsy DeVos. The people who will be eligible for forgiveness will dedicate a minimum of ten years to a public service career, making sacrifices in income and retirement savings in order to serve and improve our communities. Loan forgiveness not only compensates them for the work on our behalf, but also demonstrates that our society values the commitment they make to our communities. PSLF also says to the teachers, public defenders, social workers and other public interest professionals working in chronically underfunded and overburdened–but essential–services that we, as a society, value their work and demonstrates that can support our communities by supporting their work.

Gutting PSLF and income-based/income-driven repayment programs will drain talent and skilled professionals out of civic and community institutions, particularly in cities with a high concentration nonprofits and high cost of living. This will diminish the quality of these institutions and harm our communities. Investment in public and public interest organization–through support of their skilled professionals–pays off by strengthening our communities.

I work at a four-person 501(c)(3) court reform organization, as an attorney. The organization cannot offer a retirement plan. Even with the ACA, it is unable to afford platinum health insurance plans and no dental or vision plans. PSLF and income-based repayment are the only reason I am able to save for retirement on my own. I have invested in myself and relied upon the promise of loan forgiveness in choosing a career that allows me to invest in my city. Please tell me you will stand up for me and others who have done the same.

This administration and the GOP generally. is pounding a steady drumbeat of attacks against our public institutions and our social safety net and our community duty to another. It is up to you to push back.

I will be forwarding it to: Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions: Chair: Lamar Alexander (R-TN); Senate Ranking Member Patty Murray ([[D]]-WASHINGTON)
 and House committee on Education & Workforce Chair: Rep. Virginia Foxx (R-NC); Ranking Member Rep. Robert C. “Bobby” Scott ([[D]]-VA)

If you have ever benefited from a public school, or a doctor in a rural clinic, or appreciate having social workers or public defenders or prosecutors, please consider calling, emailing or writing in defense of public service loan forgiveness and the attendant income-based or income-dependent repayment plans.

As an acquaintance noted: These programs are explicitly not need-based, they are income-based. Someone earning $40K in San Francisco is not in the same situation as someone earning $40K in Des Moines. There are many differences in how much access people making the same salary have to parental funds or property. These situational differences are also ignored by the income-based repayment programs, because the primary purpose of these programs is not to meet financial needs. Their purpose is to incentivize qualified people to take socially-useful but low-paying jobs. This incentive applies just as much to someone with a wealthy spouse or parents as to someone who is solely dependent on their individual salary.

As I have now said across many platforms: Increasingly, it feels this administration simply *will not rest* until anything and everything that might help a human being, affirm the value of a human being, or even vaguely acknowledge the worth of any given human being is wiped from all consideration in governance and public policy. That is not the world I want to live in; that is not a good society to leave behind us.

Is There a Point to this Cruelty? by Charles P. Pierce in Esquire.

Betsy DeVos wants to Kill a Major Student Loan Forgiveness Program by Jordan Weissman at Slate

Billionaire Betsy DeVos wants to scrap student debt forgiveness. Surprised? by Jamie Peck at the Guardian

Trump May End Public Service Student Loan Forgiveness by Zack Friedman at Forbes

Quoting the Washington Post Opinion Page

There’s certainly a process critique one can make about this bill. We might focus on the fact that Republicans are rushing to pass it without having held a single hearing on it, without a score from the Congressional Budget Office that would tell us exactly what the effects would be, and before nearly anyone has had a chance to even look at the bill’s actual text — all this despite the fact that they are remaking one-sixth of the American economy and affecting all of our lives (and despite their long and ridiculous claims that the Affordable Care Act was “rammed through” Congress, when in fact it was debated for an entire year and was the subject of dozens of hearings and endless public discussion). We might talk about how every major stakeholder group — the American Medical Association, the American Hospital Association, the AARP, the American Cancer Society Cancer Action Network, the American Heart Association, and on and on — all oppose the bill.

All that matters. But the real problem is what’s in the bill itself. . . .

It is no exaggeration to say that if it were to become law, this bill would kill significant numbers of Americans. People who lose their Medicaid, don’t go to the doctor, and wind up finding out too late that they’re sick. People whose serious conditions put them up against lifetime limits or render them unable to afford what’s on offer in the high-risk pools, and are suddenly unable to get treatment.

Those deaths are not abstractions, and those who vote to bring them about must be held to account. This can and should be a career-defining vote for every member of the House. No one who votes for something this vicious should be allowed to forget it — ever. They should be challenged about it at every town hall meeting, at every campaign debate, in every election and every day as the letters and phone calls from angry and betrayed constituents make clear the intensity of their revulsion at what their representatives have done.

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I’m including “Donate to Defeat Them in the Midterms” links. Whatever you can spare will help. These men are not simply morally bankrupt, they are incompetent. They passed a Bill they had not read, which had not been scored by the Congressional Budget Office and which every major stakeholder from hospitals to the American Medical Association, American Academy of Neurology,  (emergency room doctors!) to patient or research advocacy groups for a variety of diseases (MS, American Cancer Society, American Lung Association, ) to the AARP, to Consumer Reports (because of the decline in medical bankruptcy under the existing ACA), Planned Parenthood, NAADAC, National Council on Independent Living, American College of Nurse Midwives, everybody.

ACTBlue: Targeting all the Yes Votes

SwingLeft Aimed generally at taking back Republican seats in the mid-terms.
Clicking on individual districts on the map allows you to sign up to to assist with phone banking, canvassing, and other tasks, even if you don’t live in or can’t travel to the District.
Additionally, Indivisible is working hard on this and other issues. You can donate but they prefer your time and effort to your money.
OFA is working hard on this and offers really great resources for making your voice heard. Donate your money or your time.
Usually, when I am advocating that you donate your money or your time, I’m talking about direct service or philanthropy. This time is a little different.

Giving Tuesday

giving_tuesday_logostacked1It’s Giving Tuesday.

2016 has been a long, hard, strange year. It’s been stressful and very disheartening for those of us who work for social reform agencies because so many people seem angry or resistant to inevitable changes in culture or community priorities. We’re losing ground, even when we move forward.

The stress has gotten to a lot of us.

On the other hand, when I start to feel hopeless, I remember I have had nearly daily reminders of generous and civic-minded my friends are. Aside from the ones who work at nonprofits, they volunteer at the Ronald McDonald House every other month, they lead Girl Scout troups, put in time at legal aid agencies, give volunteer hours at their neighborhood public schools (let that one sink in there, why don’t you?) local cultural institutions and the birthday party project. One lovely woman I know donated $1 for every “Happy Birthday” she got on social media, a nontrivial number. I am humbled by their generosity because I don’t match it (though I’m getting better) and because I’m a little amazed to know such wonderful people.

It’s Giving Tuesday; I hope you’ll join me in affirming the generous people you know by supporting a charitable organization near and dear to one of them. Thank them for putting in their time at food banks, hotlines, park clean ups. And join them, next time, won’t you?

Some NPOs and charities supported by me and my friends, in no particular order:

I’m Still With Her

Hillary’s admirers think she doesn’t get credit for her relentlessness, that she gets overshadowed by politicians who can give a better speech but don’t know how to get anything done, that she gets dinged by a press corps that loves to talk about optics but isn’t particularly interested in how policy gets made.

Some of this is fair; some of it isn’t. But the reason it’s important is that relentlessness is core to Clinton’s theory of change. If you want to know her plan for being a good president, it’s actually pretty simple: Read everything, learn everything, work with everybody, and never stop trying to push the ball forward. That may sound obvious, but it’s actually a sharp change from recent presidents and current candidates whose theory of change relied on the power of oratory to mobilize citizens to demand new policies.

Bill Clinton explained Hillary’s political style perfectly — but disguised it as a love story

I’ve had this conversation with a lot of people about Hillary Clinton for two reasons: 1) I believe it’s true of her and 2) I work in the slow, deadly details of social change (well, court reform, but they overlap quite a bit).

When I talk to my friends about being burned out at work (which happens, unfortunately) or when I talk to my colleagues about the next steps in a policy change or when I try to get my donors excited about some marginal improvement we’ve made somewhere, this is the context of what I’m saying. Policy is hard and it’s so slow, most of the time, people don’t see the change.

Then, suddenly, a bunch of people jump on the bandwagon and something, which has taken you years or decades to research, design, and advocate for, just seems to happen. But that is not true at all.

It’s not fair and it’s cold comfort, indeed, to people suffering injustice at this minute. But it’s a critical understanding for someone in charge to have.

Fear of a Presidential Election

A friend posted a link to Black in the Time of Smith (For people of color, Smith is as ‘fascinating’ as being punched in the stomach) by and commented that “why this election matters, and why I might hold my nose and vote for a candidate I dislike.”

“It is not about thumbing your nose at the establishment.” he added, “It’s about protecting the little progress we’ve made.” And I replied: Change is hard; it’s slow and it’s so fragile.


Before I start talking about myself, let me note: Ms. Oluo’s commentary is about something far more urgent than the slow pace of progress and about something more urgent than my personal relationship to social progress. Her acute observation that: We always suspected that the vaguely racist white man would turn violent when his ability to casually oppress was threatened. When his ability to at least see himself as above us was taken away. is painful and critical. Those are the stakes and anyone principled must stand in the way of–must act to prevent–those voices taking power.

I was not responding to Ms. Oluo’s commentary–her commentary does not need my analysis; it needs my listening and I owe it my sharing; I was responding to my friend’s belief that we have a duty to oppose Smith, in order to preserve the incremental progress we’ve made, while we continue to fight for more.


So, at Facebook, a college friend shared an article and commented that this election “is not about thumbing your nose at the establishment. It’s about protecting the little progress we’ve made.” And I replied: Change is hard; it’s slow and it’s so fragile.

Actually, I had typed many many words in reply but decided I was talking too much on someone else’s wall at Facebook and deleted them in favor of the incomplete thought shared above. Now I’m going to try to recreate my original response.

I work for a small court reform organization which aims to improve access to justice in both the civil and criminal courts. When I say “small”, I mean three full time staff and an annual budget below the operating budget necessary to win grants from most major funders. We are successful; in part because we’re focused on relationships, but also because we are not afraid of small progress. We don’t set out to take baby steps; our reform plans are usually sweeping and as inclusive as we can make them.

But institutions, like battleships, don’t turn swiftly or sharply. And culture–whether that’s your domestic relations court division, your neighborhood or your country–does not shift rapidly in the absence of cataclysm. Institutions, and people, need to develop comfort with small change first before embracing large change or, sometimes, even before taking the next small step forward.

That’s what at stake all the time. It’s exhausting.

 

 

Giving Tuesday

Profile-ImageIt’s Giving Tuesday.

Research into individual charitable giving shows that giving is fundamentally a social act. A 2004 paper by a Robert Wood Johnson scholar at Harvard showed that the impulse to give is stronger when we see our friends or people we admire donate. A Red Cross survey last year found that we give when our friends do.

So many of my friends work for nonprofits, my friends volunteer at the Ronald MacDonald House every eight weeks, some lead Girl Scout troups, others at legal aid agencies, others as fundraisers for their neighborhood public schools (let that one sink in there, why don’t you?), local cultural institutions. I am humbled by their generosity because I can’t match it although I try.

It’s Giving Tuesday; I hope you’ll join me in supporting one of the groups trying to make the world better.

NPOs and Charities of me and my friends, in no particular order:

PSLF, IBR, GULC, CAFFJ & Justice is the End

dc1109tagalxx_lgAs I’ve said before: As long as each of us lives within society, each of us is required to give to it from whatever personal abundance you have. I also recently tweeted that Public Service Loan Forgiveness is my retirement account.

A reporter saw my tweet and asked me if I would talk to her a little about my experiences and opinions of the income-based repayment system and the public service loan forgiveness program. She said it’s clear that student loan debt remains out of control, but she’s trying to figure out how these programs change the landscape. I am happy to talk about it because these programs are life-changing and I am afraid they will be ripped out from under those of us who are depending on their rewards, who are basing career choices on their promise. I need these programs to stay above water and without them, I can never retire.

I told her that PSLF was necessary not simply because it lets me afford my job financially but also because it helps me afford my job emotionally. I chose this work–I always wanted to do public interest lawyering. But this work is hard. It’s tiring, it’s thankless and it’s exhausting. We can’t always show immediate or obvious benefits from our work, either–especially people like me, who work in systemic reform rather than direct services.

It’s also unstable work–funding is always at risk. We’re constantly begging for money from colleagues, friends and people whose annual bonuses are the size of our salaries. That’s depressing. It marginalizes your work and marginalizes you and your colleagues who do the same work.

So loan forgiveness as a reward for public interest work is huge. Receiving a tangible benefit from dedicating a good chunk (10 years) of your career to service changes everything. Having this tiny acknowledgement from the government shows that the work we do is valuable and meaningful. Having this small validation that I am important for the good of my community truly matters. Investment from society in public service careers makes me feel that my investment in society is mirrored.

The law library at the alma says “Law is but the means; Justice is the end”. I was moved by the concept then and I still believe in both, all evidence to the contrary. But we don’t get to justice without investment. Investment in society requires more than the personal effort, emotional or financial sacrifice of motivated professionals and the generosity of small (or large) donors. It requires government participation.

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Tangentially, the Marshall Project (which is excellent modern reporting) has a feature on a lawyer in Missouri who defends people in capital cases and who keeps seeing her clients executed. This system is brutalizing this woman, in addition to brutalizing defendants.

The people I know who are most passionate about capital defense and individual justice have this ungodly mixture of optimism, deep cynicism, lethargy and passion. Their coping mechanisms are all specifically very different but often seem to take on magical thinking components, especially those with very hopeless tasks at hand. We owe a duty to defense attorneys to fund them adequately and support them systemically.