Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Single payer health insurance coming to Vermont

by Pamela Powers

Republican presidential hopefuls like Mitt Romney are pushing the state-by-state patchwork "solution" to rising healthcare costs, as an alternative to the Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare). I think that's a really dumb idea that is obviously driven by ideology and not common sense or fiscal responsibility. If you live in the United States, you live in the United States. Vermonters shouldn't have universal healthcare while Arizonans have death panels.

Vermont's Governor Peter Shumlin is poised to sign the state's single payer health insurance bill which easily passed their legislature.

From the Daily Kos...

While the silence from most of US mainstream media remains deafening, the print and online news publication for physicians published by the American Medical Association - American Medical News - reported yesterday May 16 that Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin has scheduled a bill-signing ceremony for May 26 during which he will sign a bill approved by the Vermont Democratic-controlled legislature, with the state Senate voting 21-9 to pass it on May 3, and the House adopting it on May 5 with a 94-49 vote "that paves the way for the state to launch a health system approaching a single-payer model later in the decade and to create a state health insurance exchange"...

All Vermonters would be eligible for the plan, which would cover hospital services and prescription drugs.

Shumlin had pledged to enact a single-payer health system during his January 6 inaugural address, saying "Let Vermont be the first state in the nation to treat health care as a right and not a privilege."

For the rest of the article, click here. It provides many details and interesting graphics about cost savings.

Vermont gets it, why not Congress?

End the war in Afghanistan: Call Congress today!

by Norman Solomon
Co-chair, Healthcare NOT Warfare

With lives in the balance every day, the Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign has never been abstract.

Nearly two years ago, in Kabul, I saw tragic human consequences of what Martin Luther King Jr. called "guided missiles and misguided men." Since then, contrary to the recommendations of a Congressional Progressive Caucus report to President Obama in mid-2009, our country has continued to spend vast sums on warfare in Afghanistan.

The people of that country—in desperate need of healthcare and so much more—deserve much better. So do the people of the United States, where economic distress is severe.

This week, as early as Tuesday (May 24, 2011), a large military authorization measure is expected to come to a vote on the House floor. Please call your member of Congress now and urge support for Rep. Barbara Lee's amendment that would limit U.S. military spending in Afghanistan to paying for a rapid, safe withdrawal of U.S. military forces.

Call Congress TODAY!

The Healthcare NOT Warfare campaign is strongly behind Congresswoman Lee's push for a responsible end to the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan. If it fails, we will throw our support behind Rep. Jim McGovern's measure for requiring the president to set a timetable for ending the longest war in U.S. history.

It's also important to make clear that you oppose any move to undermine congressional authority over war. We must defend the Constitution and the War Powers Resolution.

Please urge President Obama to follow the wishes of his party as expressed in the Afghanistan Withdrawal Resolution and fulfill his pledge on a significant military drawdown in Afghanistan this July.

Call Congress TODAY!

Capitol Hill maneuvers related to military spending will be fast moving and fluid this week. You can check here to get updates and to report on your conversation.

Carry it on!

Norman Solomon
Co-chair, Healthcare NOT Warfare

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Immigrants for Sale: How the nationwide, multi-billion-dollar private prison system and right wing legislators exploit immigrants

It's common knowledge that Arizona Governor Jan Brewer and Arizona State Senator Russell Pearce are cozy with Arizona's private prison industry and that this relationship is related to the passage of SB1070-- Arizona's infamous anti-immigrant legislation and the growth of prisons managed by the Corrections Corporation of America.

Now Cuentame, a nationwide group, is calling attention to the nationwide movement to pass anti-immigrant legislation in other states and thus fuel the private prison industry with new inmates.

Immigrants are for sale in this country. Sold to private prison corporations who are locking them up for obscene profits!

Here are the top 3 things YOU need to know about the Private Prison money scheme:

The victims: Private prisons don't care about who they lock up. At a rate of $200 per immigrant a night at their prisons, this is a money making scheme that destroys families and lives.

The players: CCA (Corrections Corporation of America), The Geo Group and Management and Training corporations—combined these private prisons currently profit more than $5 billion a year.

The money: These private prisons have spent over $20 million lobbying state legislators to make sure they get state anti-immigrant laws approved and ensure access to more immigrant inmates.

How is all this possible? They profit from locking people up.

The US needs comprehensive immigration... and, I dare say, prison reform.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

We Got Osama bin Laden – Now Let’s Get Out of Afghanistan

by Raul Grijalva

The news of Osama bin Laden’s death at the hands of a small group of Navy SEALs, after hiding in plain sight for years, reminds us that we spent a generation deploying ever more troops to fight an enemy that doesn’t have an army, or a country, or a government. President Bush told us a decade ago that we’d prevent al Qaeda and the Taliban from committing more attacks, no matter what it took. After our recent successes, we know what it took, and it wasn’t a ground force still scaled for the Cold War. The rationale for the decade-long battle in Afghanistan is gone. It ended in Pakistan, a nation where we have no combat soldiers on the ground. This is a new chapter. It’s time to bring our troops home.

Several leaders in the Congressional Progressive Caucus -- Rep. Barbara Lee, my co-chair Rep. Keith Ellison, Rep. Lynn Woolsey, Rep. Mike Honda, Rep. Maxine Waters and myself -- sent a letter to President Obama May 4 urging him to order "a near-term and significant drawdown of U.S. troop levels in Afghanistan beginning no later than July of this year." The logistics of bringing approximately 100,000 troops home should be an incentive, not an impediment, to getting started as soon as possible. Our soldiers deserve to come home to an honorable reception, be reunited with their families, and begin thinking about the rest of their lives.

It's important to put this moment in the right context.

For the rest of Congressman Grijalva's blog post, click here.

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Clean elections suit filed

From the Arizona Daily Star...

PHOENIX - Saying the proposal is legally flawed, supporters of public financing of elections filed suit Friday to block a public vote to kill the state's Clean Elections funding system. 
The proposed constitutional amendment is billed as barring the government from providing public subsidies to candidates for public office, attorney Paul Eckstein said in the suit filed in Maricopa County Superior Court. But he said the language lawmakers last month approved for the 2012 ballot would bar government agencies from collecting or spending public funds for "campaign support," a phrase that is not defined.

The problem with that, Eckstein said, is it could be interpreted as barring not only direct contributions to a candidate's race but also other functions of the Citizens Clean Elections Commission, including its sponsorship of debates and voter education. And that, he said, means the proposal would do two things, violating a requirement that constitutional amendments address only a single subject.

If the courts don't buy that argument, Eckstein has a backup.
The ballot proposal would affect not only the state's public-financing system, approved by voters in 1998, but also would kill an even older program in the city of Tucson by which candidates who agree to limit what they collect from private donors can get matching public dollars.

Eckstein pointed out the measure would "sweep" any leftover funds set aside for candidate financing into the state treasury. That would cover not only cash in the state Clean Elections fund but also city tax dollars.

Click here for the rest of the story.

Friday, May 6, 2011

PDA Tucson joins May Day March (video)

May 1 is a day to celebrate workers worldwide. Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) Tucson Chapter proudly marched with others to commemorate this day. Here is a video report of Tucson's May Day event by PDA Southern Arizona Organizer Alison McLeod.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Grijalva Submits Amendment to Block Discriminatory Tax Hikes in Republican Anti-Choice Bill – Republicans Block It Before a Vote

Washington, D.C. – Rep. Raúl M. Grijalva today [May 3, 2011] proposed an amendment to H.R. 3, a bill offered by Rep. Chris Smith (R-N.J.) to take away women’s right to reproductive insurance coverage. The amendment would prevent the bill from being implemented if tax penalties imposed by the bill are found to have disproportionate impacts based on race, gender, income or other factors.

Despite the House Republican majority’s “pledge” to allow more open amendments and debate in the 112th Congress, the House Rules Committee did not to allow the Grijalva amendment or most others for consideration.

H.R. 3 raises taxes on anyone whose health insurance provides reproductive choice coverage, denies tax credits to individuals or entities that pay for reproductive care, and permanently bans military women from receiving reproductive care in military hospitals overseas even if they use their own money, among other similar provisions. Grijalva’s amendment would void the law if the Secretary of the Treasury finds it has a “disparate impact on individuals based on race, gender, national origin, religion, ability or age and will not curtail economic growth of small businesses owned or operated by minorities at a disparate rate when determined by race, gender, national origin, religion, ability or age.”

“There’s no reason to sign any law that wouldn’t pass that test, and there’s no reason my amendment should have been dismissed without discussion or consultation,” Grijalva said. “Republicans are using the tax code to implement unpopular and discriminatory social policies. The fact that the Rules Committee ignored its transparency pledge to protect a radical bill is disappointing.”

Grijalva said the level of government interference the bill involves “is unnecessary, burdensome and wrong. These choices should be left to women and their families. Politicians have no place dictating private behavior, whether they disguise it as a tax bill or anything else.”

The committee decision comes after Republicans have faced a series of questions about their commitment to the transparency promises they made when they took control of the House. As Politico reported earlier this year in a story headlined “GOP Bends Its Own New House Rules”:

After calling for bills to go through a regular committee process, the bill that would repeal the health care law will not go through a single committee. Despite promising a more open amendment process for bills, amendments for the health care repeal will be all but shut down. After calling for a strict committee attendance list to be posted online, Republicans backpedaled and ditched that from the rules. They promised constitutional citations for every bill but have yet to add that language to early bills.

“Lack of transparency is bad enough, but to ignore your own promises adds an extra dimension that the American people won’t forget,” Grijalva said. “Blocking my amendment is part of a pattern of saying one thing and doing another. Today it’s reproductive health – tomorrow it could be education, Medicare or Social Security that’s being quietly dismantled.”

People's Budget presentation by Grijalva at PDA Tucson meeting (video)

Congressman Raul Grijalva presented a thorough view of the People's Budget to a full house at the April meeting of the Progressive Democrats of America (PDA) Tucson Chapter. Here is a video report by PDA Southern Arizona Organizer Alison McLeod.