Category Archives: Politics

The Duty of Care

Today we remember Dr. George Tiller, murdered 8 years ago, who never wavered in his conviction that safe abortions must be available for all.

In his memory, I give quarterly donations to Medical Students for Choice. Although abortion services are a routine medical need any time a pregnancy goes wrong, although abortions are legal in the United States, although abortion is a safe medical procedure, it is not a regular part of the medical school curriculum. When women need late term abortions because something has gone catastrophically wrong with their pregnancy, or when women need emergency D&E s because a pregnancy has miscarried, they deserve skill– or at least competent–care from doctors who were taught how to treat them in medical school. There are fewer and fewer of those doctors available.

And now the GOP wants to make it more expensive and harder for women to get contraception. So the need for abortions, and the need for doctors who can competently treat women who have accessed back-alley abortions, will keep growing.

The USA in 2017 is a cruel and despicable place. I throw my tiny handfuls of small bills toward the people trying to make it less cruel and less despicable.

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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.

Reprinted Word for Word

This N.J. Republican just lost any claim of being a moderate

If you are searching for solace after the brutal vote by the House on Thursday, let it be this: The battle lines are now clearly drawn for the 2018 mid-term elections.

Republicans, including two from New Jersey, just voted to throw roughly 24 million Americans out in the cold with no health coverage. With the savings, they are offering a fresh round of enormous tax breaks for the very rich. And for added insult, they voted to exempt themselves from any of the pain.

One of the two from New Jersey is Rep. Rodney Frelinghuysen, product of a line of American aristocrats extending to days of British rule, and a man whose arrogance knows no match.

He still won’t hold a town hall meeting on this, despite a flood of protests, all of them respectful and polite. Yesterday, many of them said they were blocked from leaving messages at his offices. If Sir Rodney survives the 2018 election, it is because of gerrymandering alone.

The other was Rep. Tom MacArthur, who played an even more important role. He is the man who resurrected this repeal from the dead by drafting a compromise designed to entice the hard-right Freedom Caucus. The changes made the bill even more brutal, putting those with pre-existing conditions at risk.

In the spirit of full disclosure, I confess to feeling a profound personal bond with MacArthur (R-3rd).

He started out as a hero in this fight, one of just nine Republicans to defy party leaders in January by voting against a plan to fast-track the Obamacare repeal. It was a big moment, so I hopped on a train to Washington to talk it over with him.

“No American should lack insurance,” he told me. “And I’m not talking about access – I’m talking about insurance.”

Then he got personal. He told me about losing his daughter at age 11, with her medical bills reaching $1 million, a sum he knows an uninsured family could never handle.

The interview stopped there, on a dime. I lost a son to cancer, and as anyone in this circle of hell knows, it is a brotherhood that goes far deeper than politics. MacArthur told his staffers to leave us, and we talked alone about the horror of it.

Later, he told me his mother died of cancer when he was four, and his father had no insurance. His dad worked three jobs for two decades trying to pay those bills, and still, needed help in the end.

This is a man, I thought, who would never be caught in the stale ideological debate about health care. Republican or not, I felt certain he would be no part of a plan to strip coverage from millions of families.

And then he voted for the first repeal.

And when that flopped, he did something worse: He saved it by making it more harsh, allowing states to opt out of the key protections for those with pre-existing conditions. He was the supposed moderate leader, reaching out to the right.

With this move, MacArthur loses any claim to being a moderate. But he has new status in the party, new friends on the right. He swears that’s not why he did this. But the puny concessions he won do little to mitigate the damage of this bill.

* * *

Mark the moment. Because this is really the starting gun of the Bully Era. This isn’t just an insulting tweet, a money grab by Bully or his family, or even an executive order to keep dirty coal alive.

This is the real thing. People without insurance die before their time. They go bankrupt and delay care for their children. When their sickness is too much to ignore, a moment that comes for us all, they get care in hospital ERs, driving up costs for everyone.

They made this move in haste, before the Congressional Budget Office had time to even count the casualties. Ask yourself this: Why would they do that if they really believe the hogwash they were spewing yesterday?

Mark this, too, as the moment when Republicans sounded a retreat in the fight against the opioid epidemic. Because the money behind that fight comes mostly from Medicaid, which this bill eviscerates. In New Jersey, only 10 percent of those in treatment for heroin addiction have private insurance.

The CBO estimated that of the 24 million who would lose coverage under the first repeal, 14 million would come from the Medicaid cuts. MacArthur’s “compromise” leaves those cuts in place.

Note, too, that Gov. Chris Christie isn’t making a peep about that. His priority, it seems, is to offer tearful testimony, over and over, that makes him look like a hero in the fight. The hypocrisy is nauseating.

Republicans promised a new law that will subject Congress to the same changes they just imposed on those in the Obamacare markets. What else could they do once that stunt was exposed?

But MacArthur defended his role on Thursday, sending out an e-mail blast that mentioned his daughter’s passing, and his mother’s cancer. He seems to think it offers some inoculation against charges that he’s a heartless guy who has never known hardship.

To me, the mystery is how he, of all people, could pull this trigger. Jimmy Kimmel just had a terrifying scare with his newborn, and he drew the reasonable conclusion: Everyone should have health care. Period.

I can’t gin up any real hostility towards MacArthur. He is in my sad club, the worst one on earth. But if I lived in his district, he most definitely would not get my vote in 2018.

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The Star Ledger included contact your Rep. links. 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.

#IdesofTrump

I have mailed my #IdesofBully postcards; I wrote 30 of them. Apparently, this is in contravention to the intent of the campaign, but I did not look at any of the campaign materials until today, after putting my cards in the mail.

I only looked today because  I needed a link for the post. The first call to action I saw was back in February and it was actually pretty distasteful to me. It used childish and hateful language to call upon people to send nastygrams to the White House on March 15th. It struck me as great idea, poorly executed. So I guess it’s too bad that I did not look at the website sooner.

Still I liked the general idea of flooding the White House with expressions of opposition; I wanted to participate in a coordinated statement from people who do not support the policies, actions and values demonstrated by this administration. So I started writing postcards, not simply saying “I do not support you” but also expressing what I want from my government. My intent was not just to send the White House a symbol of my opposition, but also send my members of Congress and Governor statements of what I see as their duty to us.

In the process of writing the postcards, I sent spares to Paul Ryan, opposing his crusade against the ACA. I sent spares to some Republicans who had expressed dismay by how unpopular the push to repeal the ACA is. I came up with ambitious plans for postcard campaigns for myself for the next several years.

At any rate, these are my postcards:

  1. I want my government to investigate climate change and fund research for alternative fuels. I want my government to clear our air and water. I want society to reduce use of fossil fuels. I do not support your policies.
  1. I want my government to support and fund science. The CDC should be allowed to collect and share data on gun violence and gun suicide in the U.S. The government should fund and promote vaccination as necessary to a healthy society. You do not represent me.
  1. I support the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. I support regulation of financial markets and taxation of businesses and inheritance. You do not represent me.
  1. Public Service Loan Forgiveness creates the public good. PSLF acknowledges the value public service professionals, teachers and civil servants create in our society. PSLF shows we know what makes America great. I support Public Service Loan Forgiveness. I do not support you.
  1. I want my government to provide universal health care which offers zero coat contraception, coverage for abortion services, pre-natal care, vaccines and which does not exclude chronic illness, mental health coverage nor cap lifetime benefits. I do not approve of the administration moving backward on this.
  1. I want my government to provide: housing, universal health care, strong public education and food for everyone. Use my taxes for that, not for drug wars, prisons, occupying forces, tax breaks for business and billionaires. Use them for infrastructure, not the Department of Homeland Security.
  1. Planned Parenthood provides critical healthcare to persons who cannot otherwise get care. Medicaid and Medicare provide critical healthcare to persons who cannot otherwise get care. Fund services; expand health care for all.
  1. The U.S. needs to invest in public transportation, public housing, public schools and public health is we are to be truly great. Your policies harm the public good and diminish the nation. I do not support you. You do not represent me.
  1. Abolish the death penalty. Do not privatize prisons. Obstruct the school-to-prison pipeline. De-militarize the police. Repeal the 2nd Your policies create harm I do not support you. You are moving the nation backwards.
  1. There is no evidence of significant voter fraud in the U.S. There is evidence of voter suppression. Government needs to make it easier for eligible voters to register, learn about the candidates and cast their votes.
  1. Women’s rights are human rights. The administration has a disgusting attitude toward the rights and dignity of women, as does the Republican party. I do not support you. You do not represent me.
  1. Systemic sexism exists. Women’s rights are human rights. Women deserve a government working for their rights. We deserve a president who respected women. You do not represent me—I do not support your presidency.
  1. I support universal coverage for: contraception, abortion services, prenatal care. I support mandated paid maternity and paternity leave. The single most important factor in women’s wealth is person control of their fertility. I do not support you; I do not support your agenda.
  1. We must protect the dignity and rights of all people. Trans men, trans women and trans children deserve the full protections of law and society. I oppose the administration’s moves to curtail their rights.
  1. Black Lives Matter. I am horrified that this administration allies with, employs and appoints racists. It is unconscionable. I do not support this.
  1. Systemic racism exists. It is a blight on the U.S. Black lives matter and African-Americans deserve a government working to protect their rights. Jeff Sessions does not deserve the honor of leading the DOJ. He does not represent the best of us.
  1. I believe the U.S. must acknowledge the genocide against Native Americans in our history. We must acknowledge the impact of racism on our communities. These systemic inequities need redress. You do not represent me or my values.
  1. No ban. No wall. Immigration makes the U.S. stronger. I support a path to citizenship. I believe in accepting refugees. I believe your policies weaken this nation and its economy.
  1. A path to citizenship is the best way to ensure that all immigrants are a productive part of our communities. I support this. I do not support you; you do not represent me.
  1. White male Christian terrorists have killed more people in the U.S than radical Muslims. We must have better protections against gun violence. I do not support your agenda.
  1. De-escalate the drug war. Put public funding into mental health treatment and addition services. Put public funding into rehabilitation and re-entry services. Put public funding into housing, food benefits, and veterans’ services. You do not represent my values and priorities. I do not support you.
  1. I want government to focus on: → Demilitarizing the police → De-escalating the drug war → Desegregating out communities. I do not support your administration and believe your policies are wrong and dangerous.
  1. I strongly value the separation of Church and State. Religion has no place in my government. My government has no right and no privilege to treat people differently based upon their religion. I do not support you.
  1. Anti-Semitism is indefensible. Vandalism, threats and violence against Jewish cemeteries, community centers and people are to be condemned. You have not done so and I do not support you.
  1. Hold confirmation hearings on Merrick Garland. Support for the rules of law and respect for courts makes us strong. You do not represent me.
  1. Authority derives from the consent of the governed.. I do not consent to governance by racist, sexist xenophobes.
  1. The best presidents treat everyone with dignity and respect. I do not support you. You do not represent the best of my nation.
  1. I do not believe the President has properly divested himself from businesses and other interests that create conflicts of interest. I do not support you.
  1. A good president is one who listens to voices other than his own, to voices which do not agrees with him. A good president puts the good of the people and the will of the people first, before the interests of friends, donors and ego. You do not represent me. I do not support you.
  1. The GOP is bad for American. I do not support their agenda. It does not represent me.

Nevertheless, She Persisted

So, while you’re making a million calls, consider registering your support for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Short reason: it’s Elizabeth Warren’s brainchild and it’s effective.

1in5detailLonger reason: Consumer Financial Protection Bureau 101: Why We Need a Consumer Watchdog

Here are some other reasons why you should consider making a call in support of it:

Ten Reasons We Need the CFPB

Feds sue the biggest student loan company in the US alleging ‘shortcuts and deception’ against borrowers.

Attorneys general from 16 states and the District of Columbia move to defend consumer watchdog.

Here are two articles on the threat to it and possible consequences of weakening the CFPB: Washington Post and the Chicago Tribune

Everything is a fight right now. Thank you for caring.

And Health Care for All

Everyone I know with asthma, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease, HPV, HIV, migraines, MS, PCOS, or, you know, any chronic illness or health condition ought to be calling their own senators, their representatives, Senate Majority Leader, Senate Minority Leader and Paul Ryan.

Before the Affordable Care Act (colloquially called Obamacare), insurance companies could refuse to sell you insurance if you had previously been diagnosed with an illness you might again need treatment for (HHS, WebMD, LATimes. Or those insurance companies could set a dollar amount beyond which–no matter how much you pay in premiums and no matter how diligent you were in paying your premiums–your insurance would simply stop paying for your medical care. (HHS, CBS)

In the middle of the night last night, under the direction of Mitch McConnell, the Senate passed a budget which includes the first steps to gut the ACA and they have done so with no plans to replace it. (They’ve had years to come up with something but they have not). Please note, this process is not the same as actually repealing the ACA; it affects all the provisions differently and it’s really complicated. But what is not complicated is that the ACA helps society and that the GOP has proposed no alternative.

The Department of Health and Human Services estimates that (yes this many) 20 million Americans had health insurance for the first time since the passage of the ACA. The Washington Post reports over 11 million persons have enrolled in the current enrollment period which ends January 31. This means people can have annual check-ups to stop problems early. They don’t have to go to emergency rooms for routine care and hospitals don’t have to write off the costs of the visits.

With repeal of the ACA, we return to allowing health insurance companies to refuse coverage to people with pre-existing conditions, allowing health insurance companies to drop children from their parents’ plans as soon as they turn 18 (whether they have other options or not), and allowing insurance companies to decide you’ve simply spent too much money on health care and your insurance won’t pay for things anymore.

The ACA is not perfect (I am among those who would prefer national health care to requiring health insurance for everyone–health insurance companies do not act in the interests of the insured people but in the interests of their business, after all). But repeal without a replacement plan is bad government.  These men (McConnell, Shumer, Ryan) need to hear that from you.

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