Mind and Destiny

“I make no pretension to patriotism. So long as my voice can be heard ... I will hold up America to the lightning scorn of moral indignation. In doing this, I shall feel myself discharging the duty of a true patriot; for he is a lover of his country who rebukes and does not excuse its sins. It is righteousness that exalteth a nation while sin is a reproach to any people.”- Frederick Douglass

Name:
Location: Delhi, N.Y., United States

The author and his webmaster, summer of 1965.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Increased Opportunity


Even before the Great Recession hit, our country experienced massive shifts in technology and global competition, that had eliminated a lot of good, middle-class jobs, and weakened the economic foundations that families depend on.
Today, after four years of economic growth, corporate profits and stock prices have rarely been higher, and those in the top income bracket have done extremely well.  However, according to the U.S. Census Bureau average wages for the middle-class have barely budged.  The fact is that even in the midst of this recovery, too many Americans are working more than ever just to get by; let alone to get ahead.  And too many still aren't working at all.
In his State of the Union Address, President Obama proposed a set of concrete, practical ideas to speed up growth, strengthen the middle class and build new ladders of opportunity for the middle class.  Most of his proposals require congressional action.  But, our president has promised to take action wherever and whenever be can move our country forward without legislation to expand opportunity for more American families. 
The White House has organized a College Opportunity Summit, where 150 universities, businesses, and nonprofit organizations have already made concrete commitments to reduce inequality in access to higher education and to help every hardworking student go to college and succeed when they get to campus.
Across this country the Obama administration has begun partnering with mayors, governors and state legislatures on issues from homelessness to marriage equality.
Fortunately, there are millions of Americans outside Washington who are tired of stale political arguments and are moving this country forward.  They and President Obama believe, that here in America, our success should depend not on accident of birth but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. 

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Year of Action


Today, our country, has the lowest unemployment rate in over five years; a rebounding housing market; a manufacturing sector that's adding jobs for the first time since the 1990; we’ve seen more oil produced at home than we buy from the rest of the world, for the first time in nearly twenty years; our deficits have been cut by more than half; and for the first time in over a decade business leaders around the world have declared that China is no longer the world's number one place to invest; America is.
Those are some of the reasons, that President Obama believes, that America is better-positioned for the 21st century than any other nation on Earth.
The question for Congress is whether they’re going to help or hinder this progress.  Our nations capital has been consumed by the argument over the proper size of the federal government.  That's a debate that dates back to our very founding.  But when that debate prevents our government from carrying out even the most basic functions of our democracy, and when political differences result in the shut down of our government or threaten the full faith and credit of our nation, then we are not doing right by the American people.
Obama is committed to making Washington work better, and to rebuilding the trust of the voters who elected them.
Last month, the work of both Democrats and Republicans resulted in Congress finally producing a budget that eliminates some of last year's severe cuts to priorities like education.  Neither side got everything they wanted, and Congress still needs to do more to invest in our country's future while bringing down our deficit in a balanced way.  The recent budget compromise was expected to enable Congress to focus on creating new jobs, not creating new crises.
In the State of the Union Address, President Obama asked congressional Republicans: “let's see where else we can make progress together.  Let's make this a year of action.  That's what most Americans want, for all of us in this chamber to focus on their lives, their hopes, their aspirations.  And what I believe unites the people of this nation, regardless of race or region or party, young or old, rich or poor, is the simple, profound belief in opportunity for all, the notion that if you work hard and take responsibility, you can get ahead in America.” 

Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Executive Powers


President Obama has made economic inequality a central theme of his second term in office.  At his first public event of 2014, he called for an extension of emergency unemployment benefits.
Obama insisted: “America is getting stronger, and we've made progress.  And the economy is growing, and we've got to do more to make sure that all Americans share in that growth.  We've got to help our businesses create more jobs.  We've got to make sure those jobs offer the wages and benefits that let families rebuild a little security.”
Last year, Obama called for legislation to increase in the minimum wage, but his attempts were obstructed in Congress.  Last night, in his fifth State of the Union address, he announced plans to use a president’s executive powers to address part of this problem.  He’ll issue an executive order to increase the minimum wage for new federal contract workers.
That order will cover all workers employed under future government contracts to ensure that none of those workers are paid less than $10.10 an hour.  The occupations that will be helped include kitchen and laundry workers on military bases, as well as janitors at federal buildings and construction workers at government building sites.
An administration official confirmed the executive order will only apply to new contracts, and the White House believes contractors will have time to factor the new wage requirements into future bids.
Obama called on Congress to pass an increase in the minimum wage nationwide and  he endorsed a proposal put forward by two Democratic members of Congress, Sen. Tom Harkin of Iowa and Rep. George Miller of California.  Their proposal would raise the minimum wage for all workers in stages, and ultimately reach $10.10 an hour, while also indexing the wage floor to inflation going forward.

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Matt Krzyston


Matt Krzyston, who is a member of the Delhi Town Council had the following letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star.
“A number of recent articles in The Daily Star and U.S. News & World Report translate into a single message — Delhi’s schools are among our nation’s best. Delaware Academy has steadily climbed the national rankings over the past three years and now ranks in the top 7 percent of American high schools.
“Reflecting this elite status, DA has been selected to host the 2014 State Finals for speech and debate, which is expected to bring up to 1,000 of New York’s brightest students to compete in Delhi this April. 
“Across the valley from Delaware Academy, U.S. News awarded State University College of Technology at Delhi the nation’s No. 1 ranking for online bachelor’s program. SUNY Delhi is also adding its first post-graduate degree, which will directly address our nation’s dramatic shortage of nurse educators.‘Reflecting these achievements, Albany has appointed SUNY Delhi to spearhead a new academic initiative, Open SUNY, making higher education much more accessible to people of all ages throughout New York. Delhi’s academic institutions and the people who work there have found an exciting new way to put our region in the national spotlight and I am encouraged by their success. It truly is a great time to be a Delhi Bulldog or a SUNY Delhi Bronco!

Monday, January 27, 2014

Growing Income Gap


Since Ronald Reagan’s trickled down tax breaks took effect to the early 1980s, income for about 1 percent of Americans have sky rocketed, while middle-class wages have remained flat.  The depression of wages in America, and the growing income gap is finally getting the attention it deserves.

The Economic Policy Institute claims that 20% of the growth in the wage gap between high school educated and college educated men can be attributed to de-unionization.  Not only did unions protect lower and middle-class workers from unfair wages, they also established practices that were then adopted by non-union employers.  Two prime examples are employee pensions and healthcare. 
Incomes for the top 1% have increased dramatically.  Between 1979 and 2007, the average incomes of the top 1% increased 241%.  Compare that to the 11% for the bottom fifth of middle-class Americans.  In 1980, the average American CEO earned forty-two times as much as his average worker.  In 2001, he earned 531 times as much.
Members of Congress are, for the first time in history, mostly millionaires.  Financial disclosure information on the 534 members of Congress reveal that over half of them have a net worth of $1 million or more.  It’s not unfair to assume that wealthier donors, lobbyists and special interest groups enjoy greater access to our lawmakers than the average American.
President Obama’s State of the Union Address will focus on income inequality.  Key issues like raising the minimum wage, extending unemployment benefits and college affordability are just the first  step in addressing income inequality in this country.

Republicans have done nothing but block this president’s agenda for the last five years and nothing is likely to change.  However, Obama will go on a road trip to explain his new agenda to the voters.   


Sunday, January 26, 2014

Undecided Women


At the RNC’s winter meeting, former Governor Mike Huckabee said: “Women I know are smart, educated, intelligent, and capable of doing anything anyone else can do.  Our party stands for the recognition of the quality of women and capacity of women.  It’s not a war on them.  It’s a war for them.”

The Republican Party’s troubled with women is about, their trying to restrict a women’s access to birth control and abortion.  Huckabee has again remind everyone why the Republican Party is having such a hard time with the ladies.

Smart, educated, intelligent and capable women have already heard Republican male politicians claim: “Even when life begins in that horrible situation that it is something that God intended to happen.”  And: “If it’s a legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut that whole thing down.”

Huckabee said: “And if the Democrats want to insult the women of America by making them believe that they are helpless without providing for them a prescription each month for birth control, because they cannot control their libido or their reproductive system without the help of the government, then so be it."

Republicans are attempting to criminalize abortion, restrict access to birth control and limit women’s access to basic health care services.  

By their own admission, male Republicans must become more receptive to sensitivity training on how to talk to women.  In every election, there are many undecided female voters, and to suggest they use contraceptives simply because they’re unable to control their libido is unwise.  Women might even feel, that male Republican politicians consider them to be a slut.

What Republicans fail to understand is that their problem isn’t just about birth control and abortion.  It’s also about paid maternity leave, child care and minimum wage.  It’s about economic issues.

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Talking Candidly


President Obama has given us a fascinating insight into how he thinks and feels about race.

For example, when asked about the thirty-six states led by Republican legislatures, who have made it more difficult for minority people to vote, Obama responded: “Our biggest problem right now is not the misguided efforts of some of these state legislators.  Our bigger problem is people’s skepticism that government in fact can make a difference.

"Even in the best of years, we still only have about 40 percent of the population who is eligible to vote, that chooses to opt out.  They’re not being turned away at the polls.  They’re turning themselves away from the polls.”

Recently, Obama was criticized for saying: “There is no doubt that there’s some folks who just really dislike me because they don’t like the idea of a black president.  Now, the flip side of it is that there are some black folks and maybe some white folks who really like me and give me the benefit of the doubt precisely because I’m a black president.”

This president comes from a mixed background of a white mother, and white grandparents, who were very active in his upbringing, because his African father was missing.  Obama has the benefit of seeing things from different perspectives.

Karen Finney, who also come from the same racially mixed background agrees, that stifling a conversation about race is dangerous, and gives Obama a lot of credit for talking so candidly about the subject.  

Finney insists: “And so for the president to put it on the table I think is very important.  And I do think it gives you a different perspective from both sides of the color line in terms of how people view both within your culture and sort of the other culture.”

Obama has very carefully avoided trying to exploit race.  He doesn’t even bring up the topic, until somebody else brings it up.  Playing the race card has become a conservative talking point, that suggests Barack Obama is merely another Louis Farrakhan.  

The fact that we have an African-American president means, that we should be acknowledging the reality, that this year 70% of California kindergardeners were non-white.  

Obama has had a different set of experiences that is more in line with our becoming a “majority minority” country.  That’s a conversation we cannot be afraid to have in this country.

Friday, January 24, 2014

Dorey Munch


On 1/22/14, Dorey Munch had the following letter published in the Oneonta Daily Star.
“In a front-page story on the pope (Daily Star, Dec. 18), a priest from Cooperstown, after touting Catholicism as the largest religious denomination in the country, directs attention to the enormous numbers of what he calls ‘non-practicing Catholics.’
“Here’s a reality check for this priest and the church he represents.  I and the millions like me who have departed this church are not ‘non-practicing Catholics.’  We are NON-Catholics.
“We are millions of intelligent, capable adults (certainly not sheep in need of a ‘shepherd’) who reject the medieval notion that by virtue of having been baptized into the church as unwitting infants and ‘confirmed’ as clueless adolescents, we are therefore bound to it for life.
“It is unconscionable that the Catholic Church — an institution in undeniable decline in this country — continues as a matter of policy to inflate its numbers by including the millions who have made clear their disaffection by voting with their feet.
“How can this church, which complains incessantly about violations of its religious rights, claim moral standing when it daily violates the rights of millions by shamelessly impressing them into its service.
“Yes, priest, we have left, and we are not coming back.  We have left your archaic and alienating male power structure, your centuries-old asexual/homosexual culture that presumes to instruct women in their reproductive duties, your snake pit of pedophilia — the hundreds — hundreds! — of documented predators still to this day being shielded from prosecution by complicit bishops.
“We have turned away from your Vatican palaces, your bloated cardinals wining and dining amid the plunder of millennia, your celebrated Pope Francis offering midnight Mass in sumptuous garments surrounded by accoutrements of solid gold while his ‘beloved poor’ continue to starve.
“Why would any person of conscience come back?”

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Under Oath


Dawn Zimmer, the Democratic mayor of Hoboken stated: “The fact is that, you know, lieutenant governor came to Hoboken, she pulled me aside in the parking lot and she said, ‘I know it’s not right, I know these things should not be connected, but they are and if you tell anyone I’ll deny it.”

The lieutenant governor of New Jersey, Kim Guadagno responded: “And I deny wholeheartedly those allegations.”

Critics insisted, that it’s odd that Mayor Zimmer waited eight months to come out and tell her story.  

Her response to those critics was: “I had to, you know, basically almost set aside what she said to me because I, you know, it is unbelievable but it’s true, it’s true and I’m coming forward and, you know, I just didn’t feel that we were going to be able to get the funding, I was concerned that people weren’t going to believe me.  I mean it’s stunning, it’s outrageous, but it’s true and I stand by my word and like I said, I’m willing to testify under oath.”

Mayor Zimmer met with federal prosecutors and provided a full account of what happened along with her journal and other documents.  If Zimmer made false statements to prosecutors, she’d face criminal charges.  These accusations could end up being much more damaging to the Christie administration, than Bridgegate.

Dawn Zimmer insists that she’ll take a lie detector test, and testify under oath, but so far nobody in the Christie administration is will to do that.

What could Mayor Zimmer possibly have to gain by putting herself in front of federal prosecutors?  What would motivate her to inject herself into the legal system and jeopardize her future by making false statements?

This is about spending federal taxpayer’s dollars.  Therefore, the facts needs to be clearly established.  

Wednesday, January 22, 2014

American Inequality


The following excerpts are from an article entitled: “8 Facts About American Inequality” by Pierce Nahigyan, who is a staff writer for Nation of Change.

“1) 400 Americans have more wealth than half of all Americans combined. To put that into context, as of 2013 there are an estimated 316,128,839 people living in the United States, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.  Just 400 Americans have more money than over 158 million of their fellow citizens.  Their net worth is over $2 trillion, which is approximate to the Gross Domestic Product of Russia.”

“2) America has the second-highest level of income inequality, after Chile.  The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development studies thirty-four developed countries and ranks them both before and after taxes and government transfers take effect (government transfers include Social Security, income tax credit and unemployment insurance).  Before taxes and government transfers, America ranks tenth in income inequality.  After taxes and transfers, it ranks second.  Whereas its developed peers reduce inequality through government programs, the United States’ government exacerbates it.” 

“3) The current state of inequality can be traced back to 1979.  After the Stock Market Crash of 1929, the gap between the rich and the poor began to narrow.  For fifty years, wages still differed greatly between the upper- and working-classes, but a robust middle-class took shape, as well as the opportunity for working-class individuals to ascend... This gap was influenced by the following factors: the failure of American schools to prepare students for new technology; poor immigration policies that favor unskilled workers and drive down the price of already low-income labor; federally-mandated minimum wage that has failed to keep pace with inflation; and the decline of labor unions.”

“4) Non-union wages are also affected by the decline of unions.  The Economic Policy Institute claims that 20% of the growth in the wage gap between high-school educated and college educated men can be attributed to deunionization.  Between 1978 and 2011, union representation for blue-collar and high-school educated workers declined by more than half... Not only did unions protect lower- and middle-class workers from unfair wages, they also established norms and practices that were then adopted by non-union employers.  Two prime examples are employee pensions and healthcare.  Today about 13% of workers belong to unions, which has reduced their bargaining power and influence.”

5) There is less opportunity for intergenerational mobility.  In December 2011, President Obama spoke at Osawatomie High School in Kansas.  He was very clear about the prospects of the poor in today’s United States:  “Over the last few decades, the rungs on the ladder of opportunity have grown farther and farther apart, and the middle class has shrunk.  You know, a few years after World War II, a child who was born into poverty had a slightly better than 50-50 chance of becoming middle class as an adult. By 1980, that chance had fallen to around 40 percent. And if the trend of rising inequality over the last few decades continues, it’s estimated that a child born today will only have a one-in-three chance of making it to the middle class - 33 percent.’”

“6) Tax cuts to the wealthiest have not improved the economy or created more jobs... Tax rates for the top income earners in America peaked in 1945 at 66.4 percent.  Following decades of gradual reductions, they have since been cut in half.  During the same time, the payroll tax has increased since the 1950s and individual income tax has bounced between 40-50% through the present day.  Conversely, corporate tax declined from above 30% in the 1950s to under 10% in 2011.  All of these tax cuts are made ostensibly to improve the economy and create jobs.  However, the National Bureau of Economic Research has concluded that it is young companies, “regardless of their size,” that a the real job creators in America.  Tax cuts to the wealthiest do not create jobs.”

“7) Incomes for the top 1% have increased (but the top 0.01% make even more).  Between 1979 and 2007, the average incomes of the 1% increased 241%.  Compare that to 19% growth for the middle fifth of America and 11% for the bottom fifth.  Put another way, in 1980 the average American CEO earned forty-two times as much as his average worker. In 2001, he earned 531 times as much... Yet both still pale beside the $23 million average income of the top 0.01%.

“8) The majority of Congress does not feel your pain.  Empowered by the Constitution  to represent their constituents, United States Congress members are, for the first time in history, mostly millionaires.  The 2012 financial disclosure information of the 534 current Congress men and women reveals that over half of them have a net worth of $1 million or more.  After the past seven facts it is difficult to read this last one and believe that these 268 legislators have the best interests of the remaining 99% at heart.  But if that is too presumptuous a leap, it is not too bold to say that wealthier donors, lobbyists and special interest groups enjoy greater access to these lawmakers than the average American.” 

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Hoboken


Hoboken Mayor Dawn Zimmer claims that New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie ordered the withholding of Superstorm Sandy recovery funds unless she backed a redevelopment plan, that he favored.

On national T.V. Mayor Zimmer, a Democrat, who had previously supported Christie, insisted, that she was told by Lt. Gov. Kim Guadagnoa  that Sandy relief funds hinged on her support for a real estate development project in Hoboken.  She said, that Lt. Governor approached her in a parking lot in May to deliver “a direct message from the Governor.”

Mayor Zimmer also released a statement saying that at the request of the U.S. Attorney's Office, she had met with them for several hours and provided the office with her journal and other documents.

Dawn Zimmer promised: "As they pursue this investigation, I will provide any requested information and testify under oath about the facts of what happened when the Lieutenant Governor came to Hoboken and told me that Sandy aid would be contingent on moving forward with a private development project," 

Zimmer said the Christie administration wanted her to approve a project by The Rockefeller Group, a real estate developer with ties to Christie's administration.  

Governor Christie has seen his 2016 GOP presidential prospects threatened by a growing scandal over allegations aides engineered a traffic tie-up on the George Washington Bridge to settle a score with the Democratic mayor of Fort Lee.

These new allegations come as other controversies revolve around Christie's administration.  Evidence is showing that Christie aides were involved in tying traffic for 4 days at the foot of the George Washington Bridge in what may have been an act of political retribution. 

Another allegation is that the Christie administration hired a firm for post-Sandy tourism ads that cost nearly twice as much as the next highest proposal.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Elk River


West Virginia’s Department of Environmental Protection started getting complaints from local residents regarding a strong smell coming from the Freedom Industries facility along the Elk River.

After state investigators arrived at the scene and they discovered that a chemical was leaking from a storage tank at the facility.  The company hadn’t reported the chemical leak.  That chemical is commonly used in the processing of coal, and the faulty storage tank was leaking the chemical right into the Elk River, which serves as the main water supply for much of West Virginia.  

The leaking storage tank ended up contaminating the drinking water for about 300,000 residents in nine different counties, and more than 15 percent of the population of West Virginia was affected.  Residents were instructed not to use tap water for anything other than flushing toilets or putting out fires.  Local officials set up water distribution centers around the area to get clean water to residents using the National Guard and their water tank distribution systems.

After a day and a half of silence, the president of the Freedom Industries facility, Gary Southern faced local reporters.  He said: “Hey, guys, it has been an extremely long day.  I’m having trouble talking at the moment.  I would appreciate it if we could wrap this thing up.

A reporter asked: “We actually have a lot of questions.  It’s been a long day for a lot of people who don’t have water.  Are there no systems in place to alert you of a leak at your facility other than a smell?”

Mr. Southern replied: “At this moment in time, I think that’s all we have time for.  So thanks for coming.  Thanks for your time.”

The next thing, we learned was that Freedom Industries filed for bankruptcy protection to cope with any lawsuits.

Sunday, January 19, 2014

Fear


Robert Reich believes: “Fear Is Why Workers in Red States Vote Against Their Economic Self-Interest.”
“Last week's massive spill of the toxic chemical MCHM into West Virginia's Elk River illustrates another benefit to the business class of high unemployment, economic insecurity, and a safety-net shot through with holes.  Not only are employees eager to accept whatever job they can get.  They are also unwilling to demand healthy and safe environments.
“The spill was the region's third major chemical accident in five years, coming after two investigations by the federal Chemical Safety Board in the Kanawha Valley, also known as "Chemical Valley," and repeated recommendations from federal regulators and environmental advocates that the state embrace tougher rules to better safeguard chemicals.
“No action was ever taken.  State and local officials turned a deaf ear.  The storage tank that leaked, owned by Freedom Industries, hadn't been inspected for decades.  
“But nobody complained.
“Not even now, with the toxins moving down river toward Cincinnati, can the residents of Charleston and the surrounding area be sure their drinking water is safe -- partly because the government's calculation for safe levels is based on a single study by the manufacturer of the toxic chemical, which was never published, and partly because the West Virginia American Water Company, which supplies the drinking water, is a for-profit corporation that may not want to highlight any lingering danger.
“So why wasn't more done to prevent this, and why isn't there more of any outcry even now?
“The answer isn't hard to find.  As Maya Nye, president of People Concerned About Chemical Safety, a citizen's group formed after a 2008 explosion and fire killed workers at West Virginia's Bayer Crop Science plant in the state, explained to the New York Times: "We are so desperate for jobs in West Virginia we don't want to do anything that pushes industry out."
“Exactly.
“I often heard the same refrain when I headed the U.S. Department of Labor.  When we sought to impose a large fine on the Bridgestone-Firestone Tire Company for flagrantly disregarding workplace safety rules and causing workers at one of its plants in Oklahoma to be maimed and killed, for example, the community was solidly behind us -- that is, until Bridgestone-Firestone threatened to close the plant if we didn't back down.
“The threat was enough to ignite a storm of opposition to the proposed penalty from the very workers and families we were trying to protect.  (We didn't back down and Bridgestone-Firestone didn't carry out its threat, but the political fallout was intense.)
“For years political scientists have wondered why so many working class and poor citizens of so-called "red" states vote against their economic self-interest.  The usual explanation is that, for these voters, economic issues are trumped by social and cultural issues like guns, abortion, and race.
“I'm not so sure.  The wages of production workers have been dropping for thirty years, adjusted for inflation, and their economic security has disappeared.  Companies can and do shut down, sometimes literally overnight.  A smaller share of working-age Americans hold jobs today than at any time in more than three decades.
“People are so desperate for jobs they don't want to rock the boat.  They don't want rules and regulations enforced that might cost them their livelihoods.  For them, a job is precious -- sometimes even more precious than a safe workplace or safe drinking water.
“This is especially true in poorer regions of the country like West Virginia and through much of the South and rural America -- so-called "red" states where the old working class has been voting Republican.  Guns, abortion, and race are part of the explanation.  But don't overlook economic anxieties that translate into a willingness to vote for whatever it is that industry wants.
“This may explain why Republican officials who have been casting their votes against unions, against expanding Medicaid, against raising the minimum wage, against extended unemployment insurance, and against jobs bills that would put people to work, continue to be elected and re-elected.  They obviously have the support of corporate patrons who want to keep unemployment high and workers insecure because a pliant working class helps their bottom lines.  But they also, paradoxically, get the votes of many workers who are clinging so desperately to their jobs that they're afraid of change and too cowed to make a ruckus.
“The best bulwark against corporate irresponsibility is a strong and growing middle class.  But in order to summon the political will to achieve it, we have to overcome the timidity that flows from economic desperation.  It's a diabolical chicken-and-egg conundrum at a the core of American politics today.”

Saturday, January 18, 2014

Pockets of Poverty


The following excerpt is from a speech President Obama made on Jan. 8, 2014.
“In a speech 50 years ago, President Johnson talked about communities ‘on the outskirts of hope where opportunity was hard to come by.’  Well, today’s economic challenges are different but they’ve still resulted in communities where in recent decades wrenching economic change has made opportunity harder and harder to come by.  There are communities where for too many young people it feels like their future only extends to the next street corner or the outskirts of town, too many communities where no matter how hard you work, your destiny feels like it’s already been determined for you before you took that first step.
“I’m not just talking about pockets of poverty in our inner cities.  That's the stereotype.  I’m talking about suburban neighborhoods that have been hammered by the housing crisis.  I'm talking about manufacturing towns that still haven't recovered after the local plant shut down and jobs dried up.  There are islands of rural America where jobs are scarce -- they were scarce even before the recession hit -- so that young people feel like if they want to actually succeed, they've got to leave town, they've got to leave their communities. 
“And I've seen this personally even before I got into politics.  In fact, this is what drove me into politics.  I was just two years out of college when I first moved to the South Side of Chicago.  I was hired by a group of churches to help organize a community that had been devastated when the local steel plants closed their doors.  And I'd walk through neighborhoods filled up with boarded-up houses and crumbling schools, and single parents and dads who had nothing to do with their kids, and kids who were hanging out on the street corners without any hope or prospects for the future. 
“But these churches came together.  And then they started working with other non-profits and local businesses.  And the government -- local, state and federal -- participated.  And we started getting some things done that gave people hope.  And that experience taught me that government does not have all the answers -- no amount of money can take the place of a loving parent in a child’s life.  But I did learn that when communities and governments and businesses and not-for-profits work together, we can make a difference.
“For the last 17 years, the Harlem Children’s Zone -- the brainchild of Geoffrey Canada, who’s here today -- has proven we can make a difference.  And it operated on a basic premise that each child will do better if all the children around them are doing better.  So in Harlem, staff members go door to door and they recruit soon-to-be parents for “Baby College,” preparing them for those crucial first few months of life; making sure that they understand how to talk to their child and read to their child, and sometimes working with parents to teach them how to read so they can read to their child and give them the healthy start that they need.”
 

Friday, January 17, 2014

The Right Thing


Senator Bernie Sanders pointed out: “Government in a civilized democratic society has a responsibility.  We are the only country in the industrialized world that doesn’t have a national healthcare program, guaranteed health care to all.”

When George W. Bush was president, Republicans voted to extend emergency unemployment benefits five times without any offsets.

Since Obama became president, congressional Republicans pretend to be concerned about the 1.5 million workers, who have seen their benefits expire.  But, they seek to cut the Affordable Care Act, food stamps, social security, Medicare and Medicaid.  They’d like to cut all those programs which benefit our working families, and that is what they’ve always wanted to do.

One out of four corporations in this country, and some are very profitable, don’t pay a nickel in federal income taxes.  You would think that Congress would raise some revenue there, but we continue to lose $100 billion every year, because Corporate America is stashing profits in the Cayman Islands.

Many Republicans, who are demanding offsets, also support the repeal of the estate tax to prevent hundreds of billions of dollars from being collected by our government.  That estate tax only affects the top three tenths of 1 percent of American billionaires and millionaires.  Estate taxes refer to inherited wealth, that isn’t earned, and helps concentrate wealth at the very top.

Apparently, Democrats are not going to get any corporate tax reform, and those 1.5 million people could eventually fall by the wayside.  Since, those 1.5 million unemployed people won’t have any money to spend, and that means that collectively we’re going to be losing about 200,000 jobs a year.  Extending unemployment benefits is both the moral thing to do, and good economics.  The American people have got to insist that congressional Republicans to do the right thing.

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Paid Family Medical Leave


On 1/13/14, New York Senator Kirsten Gillibrand made the following comments regarding paid family medical leave:

“First, we have to create workplace rules that actually reflect who’s in the workplace.  Almost half our workers today are women.  Women are earning more than half the college degrees, more than half the advanced degrees in this country.  So if we’re ever going to reach the full potential of this country, we really have to tap into the full potential of women.

“So something as simple as paid family medical leave.  More often than not when there’s a new baby in the family, a new infant, or an ill parent or a dying family member, it’s the women who have to side track off their careers to take care of the loved ones.  We need to have paid family medical leave.  We need equal pay for equal work. We need to make sure we raise the minimum wage, 2/3 of minimum wage earners are women, something as simple as affordable day care or universal pre-k.  You could make sure that women can stay in the workplace longer, can actually reach their full earning potential.  Put more money back into the economy and help the economy grow.

“I think paid leave is something that really resonates with all Americans because most of our families, today, are dual income families.  If you had a block of ten families today, five out of ten would have two parents working.  Three out of ten would be single moms and only two would be a mom staying home and a dad going to work.  So most American families know that they need flexibility.

“They need that flexibility to care for their families, to be able tobe at home with an ill or dying parents, to be able to be at home when they have the blessing of a new baby, if the women in their lives aren’t earning the full potential, it’s going to be less money for share kids and less money in the economy.

“The first time we had family medical leave, it was a bipartisan solution, and today we just want to make sure it’s paid leave.  Because first of all, not that many workers are even eligible for family medical leave.  And also, most people can’t afford to take it.  If you say you’re not going to be paid during that time off, most people have to pay their mortgage.  They have to pay their rent.  They have a car payment.  They can`t be unpaid.

“So I think we can draw more members of Congress, Democrats and Republicans, around this shared common value that we want our families to be happy and healthy and well looked after.  But we also want to make sure the economy is growing.  It’s better for businesses, too, if you could have paid family medical leave because you invested in the employee.  If a woman needs time off and she can’t be accommodated because it’s not paid, well, she may have to quit her job and that means you have to hire and train someone new.  It’s a wasted opportunity for that company not to retain that original employee.”

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Essentials

The clock is ticking for 1.3 million Americans, who stopped receiving their unemployment benefits after Christmas.  Actually, every week, 72,000 more people join those ranks, and now it’s closer to 1.5 million and growing.

Their bills are piling up.  Roughly, 35 percent of Americans in this country rent.  The unemployed pay rent, electric, heating bills, and they might have a car, and car insurance payment.  They should keep their cellphone active, because someone might call with a job after they’ve applied.  And by way, those 1.5 million Americans who stopped receiving unemployment benefits and their families need to eat.

Everything listed above is absolutely necessary to find another job, and without those essentials, job hunting is almost impossible.

Presently, the average unemployment benefit is roughly $1200 a month.  People skip meals, and go without communications, or wear hats, gloves and coats in the house to save money.

If you can’t pay the rent for 60 days, you’re going to start getting eviction notices.  After, you get evicted, or your car is repossess, your credit ruined.

For the first time in history, more than half of the members of Congress are millionaires.  Those millionaires don’t have to worry about any of those essentials.  They’re rolling in cash.

Before the Christmas break, Republicans wanted offsets.  Closing tax loopholes are off the table as far as Republicans are concerned.  Now, Speaker John Boehner wants more, and the keystone XL pipeline could become part of the unemployment extension benefits deal. 

Harry Reid pointed out: “The American people want to know where we stand.  Are we going to extend unemployment benefits to people, who have been out work for a long time?  

“That’s the issue before this body.  We’ve bent over backwards, even through Jack Reed came up a proposal to pay for this.”

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Congressional Deadlock


Since President Obama took office, Republicans embarked on an unprecedented obstruction campaign against Obama’s agenda, particularly against his executive and judicial nominees.
They’ve used the filibuster an average of 14.4 times per year to block his nominations.  That is 14 times higher than during the administration of President George W. Bush.  Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid noted, that in the history of the United States, presidential nominations of federal district court judges have been filibustered a total of 23 times. Twenty of those 23 filibusters have been by Republicans during Obama’s presidency
Senate Republicans blocked all three of Obama’s most recent judicial nominations.  They dared Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to act, so he did.

Republican Speaker Dennis Hastert instituted the “Hastert Rule,” a policy which stipulates that no legislation will be allowed to come to a vote in the House unless it is supported by a majority of the majority party.
The current speaker, John Boehner, paid a price for setting aside the Hastert Rule to vote on things like Hurricane Sandy relief and the Violence Against Women Act.  
Now, Republican conservatives are attempting to write the “Hastert Rule” into the bylaws of the House Republican Conference.  The Hastert rule has only one purpose, and that is to prevent the majority party from ever having to compromise on anything.
The Democratic majority in the Senate could change their rules, and completely  eliminate the filibuster.  However, that most likely would result in the Republican controlled House refusing to allow any of the legislation passed by the Senate with a simple majority vote, to come up for a vote.
In 1787, compromise gave us the Constitution, and the Constitution provides for a government where compromise is the only way to get things done, the only other option is complete legislative paralysis.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Make a Ruckus


This article was originally posted on Robert Reich's Blog.
“The U.S. economy created a measly 75,000 new jobs in December, and a smaller percentage of working-age Americans is now employed than at any time in the last three decades (before women surged into the workforce).
“What does this have to do with the fact that median household incomes continue to drop (adjusted for inflation) and that 95 percent of all the economic gains since the recovery started have gone to the top 1 percent? 
“Plenty.  Businesses won’t create new jobs without enough customers.  But most Americans no longer have enough purchasing power to fuel that job growth. 
“That’s why it’s so important to (1) raise the minimum wage at least to its inflation-adjusted value 40 years ago — which would be well over $10 an hour, (2) extend unemployment benefits to the jobless, (3) launch a major jobs program to rebuild the nation’s crumbling infrastructure, (4) expand Medicaid to the near-poor, (5) enable low-wage workers to unionize, (6) rehire all the teachers, social workers, police, and other public service employees who were laid off in the recession, (7) exempt the first $20,000 of income from Social Security payroll taxes and make up the difference by removing the cap on income subject to the tax.
“And because the rich spend a far smaller proportion of their earnings than the middle class and poor, pay for much of this by (8) closing tax loopholes that benefit the rich such as the “carried interest” tax benefit for hedge-fund and private-equity managers, (9) raise the highest marginal tax rate, and (10) impose a small tax on all financial transactions. 
“One of the major political parties adamantly refuses to do any of this, and the other doesn’t have the strength or backbone to make them.
“Make a ruckus.”


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Too Much To Ask?


At a time when lawmakers are debating issues like unemployment benefits, food stamps and the minimum wage, which affect people with limited financial resources, the non-profit Center for Responsive Politics, reports that among the 534 current members of Congress, at least 268 had an average net worth of $1 million or more in 2012.

Congress went home for Christmas and allowed unemployment insurance to expire for 1.3 million Americans.  These folks, who lost their jobs have been working every day trying to find a new job.  If, the job market continues to improve more of these people will eventually find work.

Rhode Island, Democratic Senator Reed, and a conservative Republican from Nevada, Senator Heller set aside their political differences, and worked together on a plan to extend unemployment insurance for three months, while the Senate and House figured out a long term solution.

Congress should have pass that bipartisan plan immediately, and President Obama had agreed to sign it.  Unfortunately, the bipartisan legislation has been delayed in the Senate, and will face a more difficult test in the House.

Obama has announced: “I’ll be willing to work with them every step of the way -- action to help our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle class requires; action to restore economic mobility and reduce inequality; action to open more doors of opportunity for everybody who is willing to work hard and walk through those doors.”

The unemployed aren’t looking for pity, they just want to feel part of a community, where if misfortune strikes, all the things that they've done in the past, the hard work, raising children and paying taxes aren’t forgotten, or dismiss as being unimportant.

Are congressional millionaires going to rally behind them, or is that too much to ask?

Saturday, January 11, 2014

A Typical Republican


Governor Chris Christie is a typical Republican. He hurt New Jersey’s working families, by cutting the Earned Income Tax Credits, but also gave New Jersey’s largest corporations a tax cut of $1.5 billion.  

He has relentlessly attacked New Jersey’s teachers, by firing 6,000 employees in the educational system.  He cut funding for community colleges, and cut teacher tenure.  He has made a career out of opposing New Jersey Teacher’s Union. Christie cut $7.5 million from Women’s Health Programs, and cut services for New Jersey’s senior citizens by $21 million.

Should this man ever become president, he would never fight for the unemployed, or for those, who depend on food stamps to feed their family.  He certainly doesn’t care about those folks, who have been helped by Obamacare.
The problem is that, Christie is a New York media darling, because he very rarely turns down an interview, and enjoys going on the late night shows.

Governor Christie went to Fort Lee to apologize to the people of New Jersey, and members of the state legislature to say: “I am embarrassed and humiliated by the conduct of some of the people on my team.”

Christie fired his trusted aid, Bridget Anne Kelly, who allegedly was responsible for closing the 4 lane leading onto the George Washington Bridge.  At the press conference, Christie claimed: “I have not had any conversation with Bridget Kelly since the e- mail came out.  And so she was not given the opportunity to explain to me why she lied because it was so obvious that she had.  And I’m quite frankly, not interested in the explanation at the moment.”

It’s very strange, that Christie, who enjoys going on the late night talk shows, wouldn’t talk to a member of his team, that he was firing.

Friday, January 10, 2014

Still Struggling


Five years ago our economy was loosing 800,000 jobs a month.  Since then, private sector businesses have created more than 8 million new jobs.  The housing market, and the auto industry have rebounded.  Stock markets are restoring retirement accounts.  Health care costs have grown at the slowest rate on record.  And, since President Obama took office our deficits have been cut by more than half.
Our economy is continuing to grow, but we have to do more to ensue, that all Americans share in that growth.  We need to help our businesses create more jobs, while making sure those jobs offer the wages and benefits that enable families rebuild some security. 
Although the economy has been growing and new jobs have been added, the financial crisis of 2008 was so devastating that there's still many people struggling.  And, if Congress doesn't provide unemployment insurance it becomes harder for them to find a job.  The unemployed aren't sitting back waiting for things to happen.  They desperately want a job, and are actively looking for work. 
Some states have a 2.5 unemployment rate, but in other places the rate could still be at 9 percent.  The unemployed living in those states will obviously find it much harder to find a job.
In some cases, the are skills mismatch issues.  A person may have been doing a certain job for 20 years, and suddenly lose that job.  Older worker, may have to get retrained, and sometimes employers will discriminate if the person had been out of work for many months; they’ll often decide, they’d rather hire somebody who's still working.
Unemployment insurance ensures, that the unemployed can pay their phone bills so that if somebody calls them back for an interview, they can answer it, or buy gas to go to that interview.
  

Thursday, January 09, 2014

Blatant Obstruction


Recently, President Obama met with a group of unemployed Americans at the White House to set the record straight on unemployment insurance.

He pointed out: “Unemployment insurance has been a vital economic life line.  For a lot of people, it’s the only source of income they’ve got to support their families while they look for a new job.  These aren’t folks who are just sitting back, waiting for things to happen.  They’re out there actively looking for work.  If we don’t provide the unemployment insurance, it makes it harder for them to find a job.

Our president also stressed the importance of an extension on our economic recovery: “Independent economist have shown that extending emergency unemployment insurance actually helps the economy, actually creates new jobs when folks have a little more to spend to turn up the heat or buy a few extra groceries.  That means more spending with businesses in our local community.”

Prior to the Republicans Party initiating their policy of blatant obstruction in 2009, extending unemployment benefits had been a bipartisan issue.

Obama reminded them that: “In the past, both parties have repeatedly put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job seekers with no strings attached.

“It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans were in the White House.  It’s been done regardless of whether Democrats or Republicans controls Congress.  And by the way, it’s been done multiple times when the unemployment rate was significantly lower than it is today.”

On Fox News, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky claimed: “I do support unemployment benefits for the 26 weeks that they're paid for.  If you extend it beyond that, you do a disservice to these workers.”  
President Obama responded: “I’ve heard the argument that says extending unemployment insurance will somehow hurt the unemployed because it saps their motivation to get a new job.

“I want to go after this for a second.  You know, I can’t name a time where I met an American who would rather have an unemployment check than the pride of having a job.  The long term unemployed are not lazy.  They’re not lacking in motivation.  They’re coping with the aftermath of the worst economic crisis in generations.”

Senator Paul insisted that studies prove an extension of long term unemployment benefits is a disincentive to get a job, but there isn’t a single piece of research to support his claim. 

Wednesday, January 08, 2014

Unemployment Benefits


President Obama urged both parties to pass the bipartisan three-month extension under consideration in the Senate, that would extend emergency unemployment insurance for more than 1.3 million Americans, who have been looking for a job. 
The Senate voted to advance that legislation to extend expired unemployment benefits will initiate negotiations to secure final passage.
The plan to consider a three-month extension of benefits passed by a vote of 60 to 37.  However, some of the six Republicans who voted yes made clear that they wanted the $6.4 billion cost to be paid for through cuts elsewhere.
Rhode Island Senator Jack Reed, a co-author of the unemployment bill, with Republican Senator Dean Heller points out: “We’ll only know that after long discussions without preordained outcomes, and sometimes you only know when you call the vote.”
Nevertheless, getting the Senate to advance this legislation was a small victory for President Obama and Democratic leaders, who have tried for weeks to steer away from budget wrangling. 
Republicans, who opposed to the extension will begin offering alternatives today.  Senator Marco Rubio will speak about poverty and unveil proposals that he says will help the chronically poor without consigning them to a lifetime of government assistance.
Senator Rand Paul makes unemployment sound like it’s a free ride and that the unemployed had never paid into it before becoming unemployed.  In order to receive unemployment benefits a person must be actively seeking work and prove it to the government.   
A recent poll shows that 55 percent of Americans support extending unemployment insurance, and only 34 percent oppose it.

House Speaker, John Boehner will be a key player.  Perhaps, Speaker Boehner will started listening to his constituents, since in his home district, 63 percent of voters thinks that there should be an extension. 

Tuesday, January 07, 2014

Income Inequality


Liberal Democrats must concentrate on issues like worker’s rights, voting rights, women’s rights and protecting the middle class, but the central theme remains income inequality.  Income inequality will be the central theme in the 2014 mid-term elections. 

Since the early 1980s, the income of the top 1 percent has gone through the roof, while worker’s wages have flat lined.  However, the leader of the Catholic Church, Pope Francis has become a central figure in the fight against income inequality.  He has recently denounced trickled down economics and warned of a new tyranny caused by the idolatry of money.

On Fox News, Stuart Varney argued: “I personally do not want my spiritual life mixed up with my political life.  I’ve got a church to save my soul.  It’s got nothing to do with my vote.  Pope Francis has linked the two.  He’s offered direct criticism of a specific political system.  He has characterized negatively that system.  I think he wants to influence my politics.”

On CNBC, Home Depot Founder, Ken Langone, who is worth $2.1 billion said, that the Catholic Church is in danger of losing donations from its wealthiest donors.  As a devout Catholic, Langone shared his concerns with Cardinal Timothy Dolan, by reasoning: "You know, you come to us who have been blessed, who are wealthy and yet we sense that perhaps the pope is less than enthusiastic about us." 

Compassion for the poor often dictates, whether the very wealthy among us are going to give or not, or perhaps it is merely a tax incentive?

The Pope isn’t attacking free markets, and he’s not telling anybody how to run their business.  Instead, he’s attacking “greed,” because he wants the very wealthy people our planet, who are profiting of a capitalistic system to pay their fair share.

Monday, January 06, 2014

Immigration Reform

Senator Schumer is part of a bipartisan “Gang of Eight,” that has introduced a bill to fix our broken immigration system.

Schumer’s plan requires higher wages for temporary foreign workers to ensure American workers are not undercut.  It incentivizing foreign entrepreneurs with "start-up visas" so they invest in America and build their companies here; secures our border by strengthening surveillance along high-risk areas; and helps American companies find workers for hard-to-fill positions, like elder care-giving.

There are 11 million people living in the shadows, and too many employers have been gaming the system by hiring undocumented workers.  Obama wants to cracks down on employers who hire undocumented immigrants. 

The President’s plan is designed to stop businesses from exploiting a system, that presently allows them to employ undocumented workers.  It holds these companies accountable, and gives employers who want to play by the rules a reliable way to verify that their employees are here legally.

His plan would require anyone who’s undocumented to pay their taxes and a penalty, learn English, and undergo background checks before they can be eligible to earn citizenship.  He would require every business and worker to play by the same set of rules.

Obama favors legislation that would provide ways for undocumented immigrants to apply for citizenship, keep families together, and protects American workers.  His plan would put employed young people eligible for the DREAM Act on a fast-tracked path to citizenship, and allow otherwise law-abiding undocumented immigrants to apply for a legal provisional status, to eliminate the immigration backlog.

Obama’s proposal also provides for visas to foreign entrepreneurs looking to start businesses here, helps the most promising foreign graduate students in science and math stay in this country after graduation, and reunites families in a humane manner.

Sunday, January 05, 2014

Self-inflicted Wounds


The following excerpt is from remarks made by President Barack Obama, yesterday.
“Just a few days after Christmas, more than one million of our fellow Americans lost a vital economic lifeline – the temporary insurance that helps folks make ends meet while they look for a job.  Republicans in Congress went home for the holidays and let that lifeline expire.  And for many of their constituents who are unemployed through no fault of their own, that decision will leave them with no income at all. 
“We make this promise to one another because it makes a difference to a mother who needs help feeding her kids while she’s looking for work; to a father who needs help paying the rent while learning the skills to get a new and better job.  And denying families that security is just plain cruel.  We’re a better country than that.  We don’t abandon our fellow Americans when times get tough – we keep the faith with them until they start that new job.
“What’s more, it actually slows down the economy for all of us.  If folks can’t pay their bills or buy the basics, like food and clothes, local businesses take a hit and hire fewer workers.  That’s why the independent Congressional Budget Office says that unless Congress restores this insurance, we’ll feel a drag on our economic growth this year.  And after our businesses created more than two million new jobs last year, that’s a self-inflicted wound we don’t need.
“So when Congress comes back to work this week, their first order of business should be making this right.  Right now, a bipartisan group in Congress is working on a three-month extension of unemployment insurance – and if they pass it, I will sign it.  For decades, Republicans and Democrats put partisanship and ideology aside to offer some security for job-seekers, even when the unemployment rate was lower than it is today.  Instead of punishing families who can least afford it, Republicans should make it their New Year’s resolution to do the right thing, and restore this vital economic security for their constituents right now.
“After all, our focus as a country this year shouldn’t be shrinking our economy, but growing it; not narrowing opportunity, but expanding it; not fewer jobs, but doing everything we can to help our businesses create more of the good jobs that a growing middle class requires.” 

Saturday, January 04, 2014

Fighting Poverty


In his 1988 state of the union address, Ronald Reagan claimed: “My friends, some years ago, the federal government declared war on poverty.  And, poverty won.  Federal welfare programs have created a massive social problem, with the best of intentions, government created a poverty trap, that wreaks havoc on the very support system the poor need most to lift themselves out of poverty, the family. Dependency has become the one enduring heirloom passed from generation to the next of too many fragmented families.”

Republicans continue to claim that when government tries to help the poor, when it gives them food, money or shelter it’s only setting a poverty trap that keeps the poor from moving up the economic ladder.

A study by Columbia University showed government programs to aid the poor helped reduce the percentage of American in poverty from 26 percent in 1967, to 16 percent in 2012. 

The New York Times introduced readers to Desani an 11-year-old girl who lives with her parents, seven siblings and hundreds of other children at a New York homeless shelter.  Her home is a place where mold creeps up walls and roaches swarm, or feces and vomit plug commercial toilets, and where sexual predators have roamed, where small children have stood guard for their single mothers outside filthy showers.

The article left many readers lamenting the challenges faced by the poorest residence of America’s richest city. 

On the other hand, the conservative "New York Post" insisted that liberal establishment think it’s the city’s job to create comfortable lives to outrageously irresponsible parents.  That conservative newspaper speculated that if the city was at fault, it might well be for having been being too generous providing so much that neither the father nor the mother seems much inclined to provide for their children. 

Republicans genuinely believe the poor deserve to be in poverty, but most elected leaders are smart enough not to actually say those things, but the perspective of the "New York Post" is the same one that is presently driving Republican leaderships policy.  That’s behind the push for further cuts to food stamp benefits.  It’s what has kept 25 states from expanding Medicaid coverage with federal money.  It’s why congressional Republicans are fighting an extension of unemployment benefits for millions of Americans.  It’s what happens when instead of fighting a war on poverty, you declare a war on the poor.

Friday, January 03, 2014

Health Care Facts


Another 3.9 million people are eligible for coverage through expanded Medicaid and Children's Health Insurance Program.  The Obama administration hopes to enroll 7 million people by March 31, 2014, while also expanding eligibility for Medicaid, the government health care program for the poor.  Up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions no longer have to worry about being denied health coverage or charged higher premiums because of their health status. 

Many previously uninsured Americans have new health insurance options through private health plans in the Marketplace, or Medicaid in those states that have opted to expand it.  Nearly 6 in 10 of those Americans who have been uninsured could pay $100 or less per month for coverage.

Millions of Americans no longer have to worry about having their health benefits cut off after they reach an annual dollar limit on benefits.

Health plans in the individual and small group markets are now required to cover ten categories of essential health benefits – including emergency services, maternity and newborn care, mental health and substance use disorder services, and prescription drug coverage.  As a result of these new protections, approximately 60 million people will gain expanded mental health and substance use disorder benefits.

Consumers have saved $5 billion over the past two years due to a new requirements that insurance companies have to spend at least 80% of premium dollars on care for patients (at least 85% for large group insurers).  If they don’t, they must send consumers a rebate.  Last year, 8.5 million enrollees received rebates averaging $100 per family.

Insurance companies must submit premium increases of 10% or more for review by experts.  Last year, 6.8 million Americans saved an estimated $1.2 billion on health insurance premiums after their insurers cut back on planned increases as a result of this 
process.  

Thursday, January 02, 2014

Signing Up


The Patient Protection and Affordable Health Care Act was fully implemented on January 1, 2014, and more than 2.1 million people have signed up.

Those people finally have the security that comes from quality, affordable health coverage.  Furthermore, those who already had health insurance will have better, more reliable coverage than ever before.  From now on, insured Americans won't be forced to put off a check-up or worry about going broke if they get sick.
Every American will be required to have health coverage or face a fine.  Under the 2010 Affordable Care Act a new era in health insurance has begun where people can not be denied coverage for pre-existing conditions or other discriminatory practices such as charging women more than men for the same coverage.

The Affordable Care Act enrollment figure is below the target of 3 million originally set by the administration for the end of December, which is halfway through an initial six-month sign-up period under the law intended to help millions of previously uninsured Americans get coverage.

There is a lot more work to be done, but today, no family can be denied coverage because of a pre-existing condition like high blood pressure or asthma.  No American will have to worry that losing a job, also means you can't get health coverage.  And small businesses may qualify for more financial help to pay for new affordable coverage options for their employees.
The challenges in our health care system were decades in the making and won't be solved overnight, but now more than 6 million Americans have been enrolled in Marketplace or Medicaid coverage and are getting peace of mind, knowing that they can get the care they need without losing everything they've worked and saved for.