In the political world you must work to have your voice heard. The path to representation is clear but is often fraught with the missteps of miscommunication. The video below encourages you to find your representative and speak to them about issues that you hold dear. You can email, call, text, message over social media, or protest your elected officials. The only thing you can’t do is refuse to participate. Our lives are political from the pillows you wake up from, to your mode of transportation, to your healthcare when you are ill, to the family you leave behind in death are all regulated by your elected officials. Let them know what you feel about certain issues so that you can make your voice heard. The video below will help you to accomplish these objectives.
On the last day of May, Congress reached agreement over a spending bill that keeps the government funded until September. The House and the Senate are expected to vote on the bill this week despite missing some of the more controversial issues. In previous forms of the the government budget Republicans and the President wanted to crack down on various issues, the border wall, sanctuary cities and Planned Parenthood. While the full text of the bill hasn’t been released yet, The Hill, notes that defunding Planned Parenthood has been kept out of the current bill. Yet, Congress must approve the measure by May 5th when the temporary stop gap measure put in place earlier in the week runs out.
In light of discussion surrounding Planned Parenthood, this post will be a little different. I have asked a colleague to provide her conservative perspective on the issue and I will provide my progressive prospective. We aren’t here to attack each other’s arguments, merely to show differing perspectives over the same issue.
Carolyn Guthrie, a graduate student in English, presents a Conservative Christian outlook on Planned Parenthood. She grew up in Protestant, Charismatic communities and continues to practice a Faith-based lifestyle. She is pursuing her MA at a state school and teaches Rhetoric and Composition.
I am a vehement advocate for women’s health issues. I do whatever research I can and I attempt to take care of my body to the best of my known abilities. In Christian circles, we consider ourselves “stewards” of our bodies. We were given the gift of life and how we take care of ourselves matters. Christians at large don’t do the best job of widely advertising that we feel this way, but in my personal circles women often gather together to help one another care for their bodies. I offer help when I can to female friends, and I argue that taking care of your body means knowing your body and what it needs. If that is hormonal birth control, then that is your choice.
I’m not a supporter of Planned Parenthood for the same reason. I believe life is precious and should be preserved, and I don’t support abortions. I do think PP gets attacked far too much without a plan for how to replace it. I think that the more productive approach from the Conservative stance should be to provide alternatives. I think that the ACA did a lovely job by making birth control free, which was one way to help women in lower-income settings to prevent pregnancy and therefore prevent the need for abortions.
What I take a much stronger issue with is when women use abortion because it is the most “convenient” answer. I get irritated at Christians who shame women in lower-income scenarios who have abortions for the sake of “Not having another mouth to feed.” I don’t agree with that choice, but if faced with someone trying to make that choice I would offer every alternative I could (including my own home for their child if need be) and then let them choose. Shame is never the answer. If you are not prepared to offer real, practical alternatives then you cannot step into a conversation about what someone should do with their body. The same applies on a large scale. PP offers important services, services other places are not offering at an affordable cost, so if you want to oppose them you must be ready to offer real, practical alternatives to solve the same problems PP solves.
Paige Russell, a graduate student in Communication, presents a progressive outlook over Planned Parenthood. She grew up in rural Wyoming and has traveled the nation pursuing degrees in higher education. She is currently finishing up her MA at a state school where she teaches Public Speaking and Competitive Forensics (Speech and Debate).
I have always advocated for women’s healthcare and that includes women’s reproductive health. While I have been privileged to receive reproductive healthcare from a family gynecologist, other women are not as lucky as I am. That’s why Planned Parenthood is so important. When women who are not able to afford such services are in desperate need of them, then they can go to Planned Parenthood.
The Planned Parenthood website states that their healthcare centers provide, “preventive care such as contraception, reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections through testing and treatment, and screen for cervical and other cancers.” These services are important when considering that the healthcare bill that Republicans have been trying to pass would be a financial strain on pregnant women. Further, women shouldn’t be shamed for getting pregnant, if all women had access to the birth control that benefited them the best, then we wouldn’t have the need for abortion. Abortion is not something that any woman takes lightly, they are often fully aware of their choices and the decisions they must make in order for them to live.
I have no problem with abortion. I believe that women should have access to the services they need when they need it. They shouldn’t have to jump through hoops to be given a service they choose to partake in. Women seeking abortions often have to travel miles to a clinic and even then the abortion is not guaranteed, they often have to meet with numerous doctors or phycologists in order to get approval to move forward with their choice. Even then they may have to wait a few weeks before the procedure can even take place, and these clinics are not often in the place they live in. Which means that already poor income women have to commit more time and resources to procedure that already takes so much of their emotional and mental health. I have no problem with a woman being informed of her choices, but the doctors, nurse practitioners and the staff at Planned Parenthood are fully capable of providing that education. Women should not be shamed for taking part in services they need to live.
There is not a single, reasonable assertion that should stop individuals who are transgender from using the bathroom of their choice. To do so, is discriminatory and wrongful as a human being. Every single person in the U.S. (unless they have portable restroom that only they use everywhere they go) has at one point used a bathroom that a person of a different gender identity has also used. The bathrooms in our homes are gender neutral, single person restrooms at rest areas, businesses and schools are also gender neutral; just because we don’t label them as such, doesn’t mean they don’t exist. There are co-ed bathrooms in colleges across the nation, and I have used the opposite gender’s bathroom when the one that corresponds with my identity is too busy. The assumption of violence and threat from such people is a harmful stereotype asserted by fear, and it makes the Trump administration’s ruling a severe miscarriage of justice.
On Feb 22, 2017, the Trump administration decided to rescind the Obama administration’s memos regarding transgender student rights.
The Obama era memos said that restricting a transgender student from using facilities that align with their gender identity violates federal anti-discrimination laws. The U.S. Department of Education notes that under Title 9, schools who receive federal funds may not discriminate based on a student’s sex, including a student’s transgender status.
The decision to revoke these justified distinctions was made due to apparent “legal confusion”. There are a variety of arguments for and against the decision by the Trump administration. In some states, the revoked measure wont do anything. In Colorado, state lawmakers passed legislation in 2008 that prohibited discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity.
For some the ruling is more personal. Gavin Grimm, a 17-year-old boy in Virginia, sued his school board for the right to use the male restroom, after a policy was passed requiring students to use facilities that corresponded with their “biological sex”. Up to that point, he had been using the male restroom without notable incidents.
Alabama, Arkansas, Illinois, Kansas, Kentucky, Minnesota, Missouri, Montana, New York, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, Washington, and Wyoming all introduced Anti-Transgender Bathroom Bills in the 2017 legislative session.
There has been some backlash to these measures. When North Carolina passed similar legislation in 2016, companies like PayPal refused to build and artists Demi Lovato and Nick Jonas pulled concerts out of the state. When we refuse to contribute economically to discriminatory measures, then we send a message that these decisions are not justified.
Visit The National Center for Transgender Equality
to help fight against such legislation both locally and nationally.
The infamous phrase that posited women’s rights are human rights was uttered by Hillary Clinton at the United Nation’s Fourth World conference on Women in Beijing, China in 1995. Yet 22 years later, we are still introducing policy that demeans and demoralizes women’s choices at home in the U.S. and abroad. We must fight for women to be recognized as human beings in this administration and forever.
The race to repeal the ACA would threaten pregnancy and maternity as part of the 10 essential health benefit categories. Prior to ACA plans could overcharge women because of their gender and exclude maternity coverage. For a party that is suppose to be Pro-Life, it would appear that consideration is not about the woman carrying the child, or even after the child is born. See: Cutting of Afterschool Programs
Please consider volunteering at your local Planned Parenthood. Clinics around the country need support in various ways, and we all can provide them with the help they aren’t receiving from the government.
On International Women’s Day, House Republicans reignited legislation to defund Planned Parenthood. Trump as vowed to defund Planned Parenthood, an organization that works for women’s reproductive health, especially low cost care for poor women. In December 2016, The Verge noted that 55 million women have access to birth control right now without a co-pay, thanks to the ACA.
-As a note, women already face extreme circumstances if they want to get an abortion. There are many women who have to travel to different states, where those localities may require counseling or an ultrasound prior to the procedure taking place. There are logistical and financial burdens that await any woman’s right to choose.
Only two days after the Women around the world protested and marched on behalf of Women’s Rights, Trump reinstated the global gag rule (The Mexico City policy) that blocks U.S. federal funding to any non-governmental organizations that provide abortion counselling, referrals, for the expansion of abortion services or advocate to decriminalize abortion.
– Marie Stopes International, an international nonprofit reproductive health group said they will not follow the order, which will result in the loss of USAID funding. They note this loss of funding will result in in 6.5 million unintended pregnancies, 2.2 million abortions, 2.1 million unsafe abortions and 21,700 maternal deaths in Africa and Asia.
On March 24, 2017 Paul Ryan decided to pull the repeal Obamacare vote from the floor that afternoon. The repeal bill was combined with the AHCA, or the republican’s version of healthcare reform. Ryan told reporters “We are going to be living with Obamacare for the foreseeable future.”
While Democrats rejoiced and made back handed comments about Trump’s so called failure at the art of the deal. Conservatives on the hill aren’t done yet. Only a few days later, after pressure form conservative activists, House Republican Leaders and the White House said they would begin negotiations about repealing ACA again.
Last week Stephen Bannon with far right groups the Freedom Caucus and Tuesday Group have started meetings about repealing ACA. The problem is that they aren’t just talking about repealing the current healthcare system we have, they want to replace in the same bill. Which means these far right groups who found the AHCA to be just shy of the ACA, means the healthcare reform likely to come from these meeting will make Americans worse off than they are now.
Yet, there isn’t much time to offer a replacement as April 7th begins another two week recess for congressional legislators. Also a budget proposal must be passed by April 28th in order for the government to stay funded.
Here is what we know of the bill so far with updates coming in the next 24 hours
- States would be allowed to charge higher rates to sick people.
- A waiver system that would allow States to opt-out of some of ACA’s requirements. There would be non-negotiable requirements such as the ban on excluding coverage to those with pre-existing conditions.
- These waivers would make states prove that they could provide equal or more coverage with less costs.
There isn’t much known about the current Plan B for healthcare reform from the GOP candidates, but the White House has been reported saying that the bill needs to be in this week. We shall see what will happen in the meantime with our taxes.
Healthcare is a difficult subject and one we don’t always comprehend. The United States is one of two countries that doesn’t provide universal healthcare to its citizens and former President Barack Obama has worked significantly to change that. However, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA aka ObamaCare) has been largely controversial but overall effective. Yet, the U.S. Congress in 2017, in collaboration with President Trump, have released the American Health Care Act (ACHA aka TrumpCare). The republican healthcare plan says that it will lower premiums and increase patient health but will actually hurt many Americans especially the oldest and poorest in the country. The AHCA is a tax cut for the rich while pricing many older Americans out of the market all together. This plan fails to address how it will be paid for, as the ACA forced people into the market in order to subsidize coverage in the US, AHCA repeals these payments without offering a replacement for them. Let’s dive into both of these plans to determine what it means for you and me.
What is ACA
The Affordable Care Act is the current operating healthcare system in the United States.
– Employers provide health insurance, because the ACA required companies to provide affordable insurance or face penalties.
– Ideally, the ACA makes insurance more affordable by reducing premium and out-of-pocket costs for individuals who have been priced out of coverage in the past. In 2013 over 15% of Americans were without insurance despite the goals of the ACA
– The risk is spread equally to reduce discrimination.
– A new competitive health insurance marketplace that didn’t exist before.
– There is a cap on insurance company non-medical, administrative expenditures
– You can no longer be charged more money based on health status, gender, or salary
What is AHCA
The Republican plan, named the American Health Care Act AHCA
is the current insight into how Republicans are are going to tackle healthcare, however as of March 26, the plan has been pulled from the floor of both houses by the Speaker of the House, Paul Ryan, as he felt he didn’t have the votes
o tax credits based on age for people earning a specific kind of income or less, this replaces the subsidies that ACA provided.
o you the ability save twice as much money (from previous years) a year, tax-free, in a health savings account — up to $13,100 starting in 2018.
o The individual mandate (that everyone must have healthcare or face penalties) is gone under this Plan
o The mandate that employers have to provide healthcare for employees are pay a fine
o Repeals the ACA subsidies
Subsidies are payments from the government that act as stimulus
o Puts in place a plan of continuous coverage
Continuous Coverage is the idea that if you always maintain health insurance (or don’t exceed a gap of 30 days) you will never have to pay more than an average amount for insurance in your area.
o Charges older, sick people more
Similarities between ACA and AHCA
– Adult children can stay in a family plan until age 26
– Insurers can not deny coverage to an already sick person/a pre-existing condition
– You can not charge a person more based on their gender.
– Basic benefits are still required by insurers but Medicaid would no longer offer these benefits under ACHA
– Insurers would be barred from imposing annual or lifetime limits
Differences between the two plans
– A 28-year-old could get $2,000 toward your insurance premium under the republican plan. However, if you are at a higher paying job and get laid off and you need to find insurance quickly, because you can be penalized for a gap in coverage, being charged 30% more, for up to a year, compared with someone who never had a coverage lapse.
– The ACA lets insurance companies charge 64-year-old customers only three times as much as the youngest customers. But the ACHA would allow insurers to charge you five times the price for young adults.
– ACA was paid for in large part by a tax increase on the wealthy, ACHA will give a large tax cut to the wealthy. Those making over a million dollars a year will get an average of $50,000 in tax cuts. Those in the .01% of Americans would get an average cut of more than $195,000.
-If you are living in Idaho earning $45,000 a year and your 10-year-old has cerebral palsy and gets insurance through Medicaid then, Medicaid helps your son out a lot by picking up a lot of the bills but Idaho didn’t expand Medicaid under ACA. Luckily, he qualifies for provisions as a “persons with disabilities”. However, ACHA changes this, in 2020 the federal government would scale back Medicaid by providing fixed sums to states to pay a set percentage of your son’s medical bills. If costs increase faster than the federal fixed sum, then Idaho could significantly scale back the the Medicaid subsides they provide.
In the post election world there are a lot of issues that are dividing us. A Gallup poll from before the election really sums up this divide, it said that people who were supporting Clinton or Trump said they couldn’t agree on basic facts. Which makes the political system even harder to navigate if we as a people can’t agree on basic facts. It may be time to give up agreement.
The issues of division had been studied through the lens of political polarization for years, its what brought Obama into the national spotlight and divided those among political parties in the 2016 election. The issues are often the cause of this divide, LA Times points out that gun control, abortion, fracking, climate change, immigration, school vouchers, healthcare, and who gets to use what bathroom has put us all on high alert. Yet it is how we work to understand these issues and how we fight to make our voices heard. I will give various ways through the lens of what people are currently doing, to help achieve that goal.
If you don’t like what the government is doing, then you have to confront these issues head on. Over the week of Jan 18-26 Congress was on recess and many returned to their home districts, this time was suppose to be spent using town halls so representatives could speak with their constituents. Activists even planned their own Resistance Recess , where they planned to show up at Republican official’s events, town halls and public appearances to protest Trump’s and the legislatures political agenda. As many pundits are now calling it, protest is the new brunch but the silly turn of phrase shouldn’t take any of the importance away from these actions. The news has been reporting that these activists have been effectively questioning their representative’s apparent inability to fight back against the controversial aspects of Trump’s executive orders as well as the plan to fight against the Affordable Care Act. These protests are so important because they parallel what happened in politics in 2009. After Obama passed the ACA in 2009, the Tea Party created their own movement where they flooded similar 2009 town halls. These protests had clear effective change in the federal government, they even have the Freedom Caucus where they have 32 seats in the House of Representatives.
This is why resistance in the age of Trump is incredibly important, but this resistance has to come from enthusiastic grassroots organization not from established politicians. The Tea party movement worked because of conservative activists, the progressive resistance must work in the same way. While the resistance recess time has passed, we must continue to move forward. The first way to really contribute to resistance is to stay informed, what is happening in your community, and who are your representatives? When Trump opens his mouth or signs an executive order that you don’t like then call/email/mail your congressional representative, let them know that you are not in favor of this action and ask them to work for their constituents. This is the most basic way you can contribute to your community. There is one more way that you can act in collaboration with contacting your reps, and that’s by getting involved in your community, Ana Marie Cox on a recent episode of Pod Save America with Jon Favreau and Dan Pfeiffer talks about one way to get involved with your community is to join a local dog walking organization. She says that getting involved with your community helps to inform you about what needs to happen in your community, as well as how members feel. These are two simple ways to stay involved, informed and active in a resistance.
If you want to take things to the next level, then I present the Indivisible Guide, a how to created by former congressional aids. At the site you can sign up for alerts, there is a link to download the how to guide as well as a link to take action locally. The Indivisible group is responsible for a lot of the action regarding the protests during the congressional recess.
The Travel (Don’t-call-it-a-muslim) Ban
When President Trump enacted the travel ban executive order on Jan 27, 2017, the administration sent a clear message to anyone who didn’t see representation of themselves in the White House. That message was one of hate and fear, regardless of how chaotically and confusingly it was implemented. While the EO targeted individuals as “others”, this administration has failed to represent the safety and security of all American people. We must understand that this ban is nothing more than a desperate attempt to further divide this nation with notions of racism and fear. We can not be complicit in these actions.
Confusion and Chaos
There are a lot of people who feel uncertain after the bombardment of the EO’s. Not only is the ban confusing but many agencies have chosen to act in different ways. While the majority of chaos reigned at airports in the wake of the order, there were good people, lawyers, protestors and politicians who scrambled to help those stranded at airports, after being mid flight when the EO went into full effect. A federal appellate court did rule a temporary block on the travel ban. Melanie Evans of the Wall Street Journal notes the uncertainty after the travel ban for hospitals making residency decisions, citing 1000 doctors who applied for U.S. residency slots are from the seven countries included in the ban. This is only a small cross section to a larger overwhelming problems as there as been multiple news stories about students and families being held abroad and refused travel back to the United States.
The Threat of Raids
As Twitter now seems to be the hub for news gathering of the age, we still need to fight against too much degradation of news into bite sized tidbits for our consumption. This week and the last has seen a lot of reports from individuals using the social media to warn of ICE raids happening in various neighborhoods or checkpoints on streets. While the checkpoints haven’t been verified, there has been a surge of ICE raids on immigrant family in many major cities. CNN reported on one family in Brooklyn who despite becoming naturalized citizens over a decade ago are still in fear that they could be next. The family state they they try to act American to avoid calling any undue attention to themselves. They have outlined their measure, one of which is to carry their passports with them at all times, so that they have proof of their allowed existence here. We can’t ignore the dichotomy that this is not the first time immigration round ups have happened, but this is the first time such fear has been held captive under this new administration. Vox news pointed out that what ICE is doing now isn’t radically different from what has happened under past administrations, specifically Bush’s and Obama’s.
A Day Without Immigrants
On February 16, we experienced a day without immigrants. Across the nation, protestors were stepping out to highlight the importance of migrants to the core of this economy. Business owners in many major cities have signified solidarity with the protestors by closing up shop on this day to really show everyone how our lives would be impacted if we started to erase diversity from our communities. Immigrants have helped to build this nation and these efforts help to show that these people are an integral part of this nation. The protest is modeled after a national march in 2006 under the same name. There were close to a million people that day who marched against reforms that called for criminalizing assistance to illegal immigrants. Bourree Lam of the Atlantic points out that the restaurant industry has a good reason to worry with nearly 2.3 million foreign born workers making up nearly 23 percent of the industry.
Diversity and Change
The real meaning behind of all of this is that America is made up of diversity, and that is what makes us strong. This travel ban is not about keeping us safe from terrorist, despites its purported message. The ban, and the administration that ordered it into existence is meant to divide American citizens into an “us versus them” mentality. As the United States was built solely on immigrants that arguably, came here illegally then it is imperative that all citizens stand together to face this injustice.
A Call to Action
Free Trade isn’t free. In the wake of current President Trump’s campaign promises to end the Trans-Pacific Partnership and to “do something” with the North American Free Trade Agreement. While he may be putting “America First” it is imperative to determine how free trade often benefits the wealthiest among us, while leaving low to middle income families within member states of the agreements to be disadvantaged.
Winners and Losers
Free trade creates an atmosphere of winners and losers, by and far the losers are the American workforce. In 2003 the Economic Policy Institute notes that job losses were reported in all fifty states as a product of NAFTA. Further, Jeff Madrick a New York Time’s writer reported that American wages have been reduced as a result of outsourcing made easier by such trade agreements. Economists have averaged that between 1993 and 2014 over 600,000 jobs were lost. When NAFTA was signed into agreement, one of the supposed proponents of the plan was suppose to be that of job creation. Yet this creation of jobs took place outside the U.S.
Yet the creation of jobs in member countries often take place inside of free trade zones or export processing zones (FTZ/EPZ). These zones are rife with human rights abuses. While some zones operate according to labor and human rights regulation, a FTZ/EPZ is only beholden to the host countries domestic law an trade regulation. The International Confederation of Free Trade Unions notes that these zones have, “employers [who] pay scant regard to labor laws, employment regulations and health and safety at work” (7). In fact, most of these zones are exempt from labor laws. The ICFTU notes a report by a Mexican NGO that highlights over 1,300,000 workers are paid less than six dollars a day to work in deplorable conditions. This is followed up by a Harvard study in 2010 that notes the track record of many of these zones include mistreatment of workers, denied medical or sick leave, and restrictions on the use of sanitary facilities. When considering the purpose of NAFTA was to integrate Mexico into the high wage economies of the U.S. and Canada, clearly free trade has the opposite effect.
What does this mean for us?
Free Trade has a modest impact on the U.S. economy. In a 2014 report by the Pederson Institute for International Economic found that the United States sees 127 billion dollars in trade grown because of NAFTA. While that number may seem high, it averages to about four hundred dollars a person. These trade agreements work to make the developing member agreement countries look more attractive to U.S. and foreign investors. The Council on Foreign Relations reported in 2017, that its been difficult to tease out if the growing economy is linked to NAFTA’s policy given the rise of technological advancements and increased trade with China.
While we may never know if President Trump withdrew from the TPP or wants to negotiate NAFTA for any of these reasons. Yet, it can not be forgotten that the U.S. plays a major role in trade partnerships and to ignore these issues with free trade, is indicative of a growing compliance with globalization and protectionism than an acknowledgement of human lives.
What can you do?
This is by no means a call to end trade, but these partnerships need to shift to a base of fair and equal trade. When buying a fair trade product, you ensure that your consumer dollars are being paid to producers in developing countries. Look for products with the Fair Trade logo, as these profits go to directly impacting the communities that produced them. Visit fairtradeusa.org to find how you can do your part to help these communities. A good start to pushing against Free Trade is to replace what products you can with Fair Trade Certified ones.