Make Your Voice Heard

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.

Who Cares What Bathroom You Use?

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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.

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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.

AHCA v. ACA Which Healthcare plan will be the best for you?

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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.

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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

AHCA Offers:

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
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ACHA: Repeals/Disadvantages

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.

A State of Instability

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

Here are some websites that help immigrants in need, consider donating or volunteering your time to these organizations.
Go to American Civil Liberties Union
Go to National Immigrant Law Center

Free Trade isn’t Free

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 (NOAMER-253634.ai)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.

Problematic Zones

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?

blog-coffeenewThis 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.