Beaver County Blue

Progressive Democrats of America – PA 12th CD Chapter

Trump Offers Fool’s Gold to Fund Infrastructure

Posted by carldavidson on June 10, 2017

Leo W. Gerard By Leo W. Gerard

USW International President

Via USW Blog

June 9, 2017 – Donald Trump surrounds himself in gold. The signs on Trump buildings shimmer in it. His penthouse in New York is gilded in it.

He claims now to have found the alchemy to conjure $1 trillion in infrastructure gold. He plans to put up a mere $200 billion in federal funds and stir it together with $800 billion in private investment and state dollars.

That is fool’s gold. A falsely-funded infrastructure program is a massive broken promise. America needs real improvements to roads, bridges, schools, hospitals, airports, water systems and railways. That requires a commitment of real tax dollars, not the relinquishment of America’s public assets to profit-seeking private Wall Street entities. Americans should not be charged twice for maintenance of the public good, once through tax breaks to investors and again in outrageous tolls and fees the investors charge.

On Wednesday, standing on the banks of the Ohio River in Cincinnati, Trump reiterated the pledge he made repeatedly on the campaign trail to put $1 trillion into infrastructure. He said “restoring America” is a promise that Washington, D.C., has broken. “It has not been kept, but we are going to keep it,” he said.

“Taxpayers deserve the best results for their investment,” he said, “and I will be sure that is what they get.” But the plan to turn over public assets to private corporations for tax-supported investment is gold only for the 1 percent who can afford to invest.

The Wall Street Journal reported last fall that to raise the private funds, Trump planned to give massive tax breaks of 82 percent of equity to investors that help pay for infrastructure repair. For citizens, that’s a crappy deal – giving Wall Street control over public assets in addition to being forced to fork over the taxes that rich investors will not pay.

That financial alchemy creates poison, not gold.

In addition, there is no profit in many types of infrastructure that need repair, like schools and hospitals. A corporation can’t collect tolls from children entering their elementary school each morning.

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Posted in Economy, Infrastructure, Tax Policy | Leave a Comment »

Pennsylvania Aims to Smooth Ex-Convicts’ Path to Employment

Posted by carldavidson on May 28, 2017

excon-job-fair-_greggBy

Ex-offenders at Philly jobs fair

Michael Walton
Tribune Review Live

May 27, 2017 – State officials and community groups are trying to reduce employment hurdles for Pennsylvania’s former convicts, but finding work remains a struggle for ex-prisoners long after their release from incarceration.

Starting July 1, state agencies will no longer ask job candidates about criminal convictions as part of employment applications. The move mirrors similar “ban the box” initiatives gaining popularity across the country.

Pittsburgh and Philadelphia have similar fair-chance hiring practices enshrined in city ordinances. And while such initiatives don’t forbid candidate criminal background checks, they can give job seekers a chance to make their case to employers instead of being automatically weeded out of a candidate pool.

“Process matters,” said Beth Avery, a staff attorney with the National Employment Law Project. “If (an employer) knows from step one that a person has a record, that’s going to color their interaction. … It’s going to affect their assessment of a person.”

Nearly 20,000 inmates were released from Pennsylvania prisons in 2016, according to the Department of Corrections. Almost 17,000 were paroled, while 3,000 were released after completing their sentences.

Former convicts looking for work can do a few things to try to make the search easier, according to a report by Community Legal Services of Philadelphia. They can try to persuade employers to seek bonds against an often-perceived risk of theft. They can try to enforce a state law that allows employers to consider felony or misdemeanor convictions “only to the extent to which they relate to the applicant’s suitability for employment,” though that often requires a lawsuit.

They also can try to clean up their criminal records through expungements or pardons, although those options are limited in Pennsylvania.

“Most likely, they do not know of or cannot utilize any of these options, and their only alternatives are long, dogged and often repetitive job searches, work in the underground economy or a return to committing crimes,” the report states.

Michael Tedesco, 60, served seven months in prison and five years on probation following his 1990 guilty plea in a Penn Hills cocaine trafficking case. President Barack Obama pardoned the Murrysville businessman. Read the rest of this entry »

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There Is a Plan to Fix Infrastructure. But It’s Just Not Trump’s

Posted by carldavidson on May 27, 2017

By Liz Ryan Murray, Ben Ishibashi

Ourfuture.org

May 25, 2017 – There’s broad agreement across our country, and across party lines, that we need more good jobs and that we need to rebuild our nation’s crumbling infrastructure.

But that’s where the agreement ends. The answers to how we do that, what we build, where we build and who gets the jobs couldn’t be more different.

One plan will move us backwards – deepening the climate crisis, income and wealth inequality, make our neighborhoods more toxic and more vulnerable.

The other takes on the challenges of a warming planet and toxic neighborhoods head on by investing in repairing and replacing deteriorating infrastructure. This creates good, living wage jobs communities where they’re needed most and empowers our communities to build the new green, climate-change ready and just economy that finally works for all of us, not just the wealthy few.

At its core, the fight over how we deal with infrastructure is about environmental justice. It is about whether or not black and brown people, Native people and working class people of all races have the same right to clean air, clean water, well-maintained neighborhoods and a livable climate as the one percent.

This week, Trump put out an anti-people, anti-planet budget plan that shows us what his answer to that question is. Trump and his friends on Wall Street and the energy companies are crafting an infrastructure plan that will:

    Give taxpayer dollars to corporations to build privately owned toll-roads in wealthy suburbs and cities.

    Sell off our airports and let corporations charge us more fees to use them.

    Sell off our water and energy utilities and loosen regulations on safety, making a bad situation worse.

    Sell our public parks to oil companies to drill and then let them build more pipelines through sacred lands.

    Gut the rules on environmental protections and those that require a living wage for workers.

The Trump infrastructure bill is an attack on our lives, our communities, our future and our planet. We can either let him do this to us or we can stand up and fight back for our lives, our people and our environment. We know what our choice will be.

We at People’s Action have a much different plan. Working with directly impacted communities across the country from Rust Belt cities, to small farms, to the Big Apple, to Indian Country, we’ve created a People and Planet First vision of what it means to really fix our infrastructure.

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Local Peace Organizations Hold Discussion at CCBC

Posted by carldavidson on April 26, 2017

 

Michael McPhearson, Vets for Peace, at BCCC

By: Christina Sheleheda

Beaver County Times

April 24, 2017, MONACA — For national peace activist Kevin Martin, the current state of our country can be best described with one word: Resolute.

Martin, along with Michael McPhearson, national executive director of Veterans for Peace; and Nancy O’Leary, president of the Beaver County Peace Links, hosted Prospects of War, the Need for Peace, Saturday at the Community College of Beaver County’s Health Sciences Center.

Presenting to a group of about 50 people, Martin, who currently serves as the national president for Peace Action, kicked off the event, which was hosted by the Beaver County Peace Links. He asked the audience to say how they felt regarding the current administration.

“Scared.”

“Disappointed.”

“Hopeful.”

Having devoted over 30 years to peace activism, Martin believes the election simply drove a deeper wedge into an already divided country.

“We were divided before the election,” Martin said. “The contradictions of election are fascinating to me.”

Martin explained that three “evils” that have been discussed for decades – racism, militarism and economic exploitation – were first cited in Dr. Martin Luther King’s April 4, 1967 speech.

“My assertion,” Martin said, “is that militarism is the one that’s the worst of our society.”

Militarism is defined as “the belief or desire of a government or people that a country should maintain a strong military capability and be prepared to use it aggressively to defend or promote national interests.”

“Progressives often link all struggles together. They list every progressive struggle, but won’t list peace and anti-war discernment, and I have a real problem with that,” Martin said. “We are not going to win if we don’t overcome militarism. That’s where all of our money goes. Not to economic or social justice issues, and certainly not to the environment,” Martin said.

Martin, who grew up in Lancaster, Pa., had both his father and uncle serve in the United States Air Force. He does not believe opposing militarism correlates with being anti-American.

“If you understand militarism as a problem, weapons, nuclear bombs, etc., that is separate from members of our military. [Militarism] has nothing to do with individuals in the military; their service is incredible. I believe that forced patriotism is coercive,” Martin said.

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Going Solar in West Virginia

Posted by carldavidson on April 15, 2017

It’s an uphill struggle, but solar entrepreneurs have begun building the state’s post-coal future.

By Manuel Madrid

American Prospect

April 14, 2017 – Former Congressman Tom Perriello makes the case for why he’s got the “insider pragmatism and outsider populism” to win Virginia’s gubernatorial race.

The only reminder Robert Atkins has of his coal days are a hardhat and a heart-shaped scar on his right hand, a souvenir from a voltage explosion in the mines.

Starting right out of high school with a shovel and sledgehammer, Atkins was pulling down a six-figure income by the time he was 23, working 70-hour weeks in the mines as an underground electrician. He didn’t imagine that in just four years he’d be laid off, with a newborn daughter to take care of. Much less that soon after, he’d be a crew chief overseeing solar panel installations.

“If you’d told me I’d be working in solar, I would’ve never believed you,” Atkins says. “I always thought I’d bounce from coal job to coal job until all the mines closed and I had to leave.”

Atkins is one of a small but growing number of West Virginians who’ve said goodbye to coal mining and who’ve staked their future on an industry still distinctly out of place in the state: solar power. West Virginia’s government makes no major investments in commercial solar companies, and offers no tax credits or rebates to residents who install solar panels on their homes. Indeed, state legislators have actively blocked efforts to expand the renewable energy industry. In West Virginia, where Donald Trump, promising to revive mining by slashing regulations, beat Hillary Clinton by more than 40 percentage points, coal remains king.

But Atkins and his colleagues in the nascent renewable energy industry have made a bet that the golden days of coal, hammered by both automation and the boom in natural gas, are gone. They now work for Solar Holler, a Shepherdstown-based venture firm that crowdfunds residential solar installations through an innovative community rebate program. Solar Holler invites supporters to install energy-efficient devices in their homes for free. Instead of keeping the rebates they’d receive for the energy saved, homeowners direct the proceeds toward solar panels and installations on other buildings. This recycling of funds has enabled nonprofits, homes, and businesses to go solar, some for the price of an LED light bulb.

(Photo: Coalfield Development Corporation)

Solar panel installation in Wayne, West Virginia, in 2016

It’s taken awhile to get Solar Holler off the ground. So far, crowdfunding has produced nearly 80 kilowatts of solar energy across West Virginia, enough to power only ten homes—but the company is rapidly expanding. In 2017, Solar Holler expects to install a minimum of 750 kilowatts, equal to nearly a sixth of the state’s currently installed capacity. The company’s model is changing the way people think about solar and has played a part in gradually expanding West Virginia’s solar infrastructure. The surge in demand following Solar Holler’s first major project, a 60-panel installation in Shepherdstown, overwhelmed the limited manpower of installers statewide. Since then, the number of solar companies in West Virginia has grown steadily, from 15 solar companies in 2014, to 26 in 2015.

The driving force behind Solar Holler is Dan Conant, a Jefferson County native with a master’s degree in energy policy from Johns Hopkins, who founded the company in 2013. Conant isn’t just bringing sustainable energy to West Virginia. He’s now helping bring jobs to out-of-work coal miners. Solar Holler had a watershed moment in 2015 when it decided to create the state’s first solar training program in partnership with the Coalfield Development Corporation, a community organization that helps low-income West Virginians in the state’s southern region find jobs and affordable housing.

Since 2012, Coalfield, led by executive director Brandon Dennison, has been offering full-time construction work and training in specialized fields to laid-off miners. The organization’s first foray into solar came as an addition to one of their construction projects, and demands for installations began to balloon soon after. It was around the time that Dennison realized he was onto something big that he got a call from Conant. They struck a deal. Solar Holler would find projects and take care of logistics through crowdfunding, and Coalfield would retrain miners and provide the installation crews.

Denison dubbed the new program ReWire Appalachia. Expanding job training into the solar energy industry, he says, was strictly a market decision. The ReWire crew led by Robert Atkins started with four people, and now boasts a dozen workers.

“Coal miners are smart people,” says Dennison. “It’s important for the country to understand: They make use of hi-tech, sophisticated equipment to do their jobs. They have incredible skill sets to build off of.”

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Fight for 15 and Black Lives Matter Join Forces on Anniversary of MLK’s Death

Posted by carldavidson on April 4, 2017

Christopher Smith, right, leads chants during a protest for higher wages for fast food workers outside a McDonald’s in Memphis, Tenn., Thursday, April 14, 2016.

Forty-nine years after King was assassinated, the left’s organizing vanguards seek to continue his work. 

By Justin Miller

American Prospect

April 4, 2017 – On the April 4, 1968, Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was gunned down on the balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, where he had come to support the city’s striking sanitation workers, virtually all of them African American. The workers were embroiled in a heated labor dispute with the city government over low wages, dangerous working conditions, and its unyielding opposition to recognizing their union.

Forty-nine years later, much has changed, yet much more has stayed the same. Despite landmark advancements in civil rights, black Americans still face staggering levels of systemic social and economic inequities and rampant state-sanctioned violence and discrimination. Black men are three times more likely to be killed by police than white men, and are incarcerated at a rate five times higher than white men. Meanwhile, black men make 22 percent less in wages compared with white men who live in the same areas, with the same levels of education and work experience. Black women make 11.6 percent less than their white counterparts. On average, white households hold 16 times the wealth of black households. Today, 54 percent of African American workers make less than $15 an hour.

And 49 years later, black activists are still leading large-scale movements to address these injustices. On the anniversary of King’s assassination, Fight for 15 workers and Black Lives Matter activists—many already involved in both movements—are joining together for a series of protests across the country to elevate their intersecting demands for racial justice and economic justice. The actions today not only seek to emphasize and build upon African Americans’ inextricable and intertwined struggle for both civil rights and economic justice of the 1960s, but create a broader front of intersectional progressive power to face off against the Trump administration’s attempt to roll back both.

Activists in 24 cities will be mounting demonstrations and teach-ins under the banner of “Fight Racism, Raise Pay.” They plan to call attention to the systematic targeting of communities of color—ranging from abusive local police departments that harass people of color, to Republicans in the states advancing anti-protest legislation in response to Black Lives Matter and Fight for 15 while at the same time stifling local minimum-wage hikes through state legislation. Activists will also call out the Trump administration for advancing an anti-worker agenda, supporting voter suppression, and threatening immigrant communities.

“Our two movements have a common bond in fighting the racism that keeps down people of color everywhere,” said Latierika Blair, a 23-year-old McDonald’s worker in Memphis, in a statement.

The actions center on Memphis, Tennessee, where thousands of workers, activists, and civil rights leaders will march to and hold a memorial outside the Lorraine Motel. In the mid-South city, Fight for 15 activists have encountered aggressive resistance as fast-food workers organized for higher wages and union rights. As The Guardian reported, organizers alleged in an a lawsuit filed in March that, with the “authorization from the president of McDonald’s,” the Memphis police department was authorized to arrest McDonald’s employees and engaged in a “widespread and illegal campaign of surveillance and intimidation.” Last November, the suit states, police officers allegedly followed organizers home after meetings, banned activists from entering city hall, and in one instance even stepped behind a McDonald’s counter to stop workers from signing a petition demanding better working conditions. Based on these and other allegations, the lawsuit argues that the police department was acting in concert with McDonald’s. 

“White supremacy and corporate greed have always been linked in America,” said Chelsea Fuller, an organizer with the Movement for Black Lives, in a statement. “The fast-food workers who are going on strike for $15 an hour and the right to a union are resisting the same institutional racism and oppression that fuels police violence across the country. We are stronger when we stand together, and so our movements are going to keep fighting back against the twin evils of racial and economic inequality that continue to hold back black and brown people.”

Less than 250 miles southeast, in Alabama, the state legislature, dominated by white lawmakers, passed a law prohibiting localities from instituting their own minimum-wage laws after the city council in majority-black Birmingham had passed legislation in 2015 to phase in a $10.10 hourly minimum wage. The NAACP promptly responded with a lawsuit claiming that the GOP super-majorities in the statehouse and the Republican governor rammed through the legislation in 16 days in order to block Birmingham’s ordinance—which would have largely benefited black low-wage workers—from going into effect, a move that the lawsuit claims was tainted with “racial animus” and undermines the power of the city’s black electorate. A judge has since thrown out the case. (Continued)

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Casey to White House: Action, Not Studies, Needed for Western PA Locks And Dams

Posted by carldavidson on April 4, 2017

 

Montgomery Locks in Beaver County

By Tom Fontaine

Tribonline

March 31, 2017 – The Army Corps of Engineers has spent more than $17 million over the past 15 years studying what to do about crumbling locks on Western Pennsylvania’s portion of the Ohio River.

Now the White House’s Office of Management and Budget wants it to spend more, according to U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, D-Scranton.

“We don’t have time for any more studies, nor are they needed or justified,” Casey said Friday during a stop at the Emsworth Locks and Dams, about six miles downstream of Pittsburgh.

Separately, in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget, Casey said a proposed $2.7 billion project to build new, larger lock chambers at the Ohio River’s Emsworth, Dashields and Montgomery facilities is being “unnecessarily delayed” by the office’s request for additional study and economic analysis “to determine whether the proposed project is consistent with the policy and programs of the president.”

The Office of Management and Budget did not return a message.

The three Ohio River facilities began operating between 1921 and 1936. They were built to last 50 years. Beaver County’s Montgomery is in the worst shape. Its two locks share a wall that is cracked. If the crack gets bad enough, authorities could be forced to close both locks in a move that would halt river traffic in both directions, said Col. John P. Lloyd, commander of the Army Corps’ Pittsburgh District.

“Surely, maintaining the health of this significant commercial inland waterways corridor, saving project costs and using taxpayer dollars wisely, and protecting and creating thousands of jobs are more than consistent with the president’s policies,” Casey said in his letter.

Tom Fontaine is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at 412-320-7847 or tfontaine@tribweb.com.

Posted in Infrastructure, mass transit | Leave a Comment »

Clearing the Air on Islam through ‘Spread Hummus, Not Hate’ events in Beaver

Posted by carldavidson on April 1, 2017

Interfaith meeting with Muslims in Pittsburgh

By J.D. Prose

Beaver County Times

March 31, 2017 – BEAVER — If any two things bring Beaver Countians together, it’s food and religion, and Center Township resident Toni Ashfaq will incorporate both to educate residents about Islam during events in Beaver.

“There are a lot of misunderstandings, a lot of false information floating around,” said Ashfaq, a Muslim and the organizer of two Spread Hummus, Not Hate: Meet Your Muslim Neighbor gatherings Wednesday and Saturday at Beaver Area Memorial Library. “We just want people to meet us and see that we’re just like everybody else.”

A Wisconsin native and convert from Catholicism, Ashfaq said she and two friends — Julia Chaney, a Christian, and fellow Muslim Dr. Raniah Khairy, an OB/GYN specialist at Heritage Valley Beaver hospital in Brighton Township — began brainstorming ideas “just to kind of build bridges and promote understanding” because of the “current political climate.”

That brainstorming has resulted in the Spread Hummus, Not Hate gatherings at the library from 6 to 8 p.m. Wednesday and 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday. Ashfaq said they got the idea after learning of a group in Australia doing meetings.

“We thought it was a pretty catchy title,” Ashfaq said with a laugh. Just one gathering was initially planned, but after receiving an “overwhelming” response, she said a second one was added.

Islam has been distorted by politicians and certain media, she said, not naming anyone specifically. Regardless, Ashfaq said Muslims are “not in denial” about Muslims committing violence, but the media too often focuses solely on Islam.

“People get the wrong idea that those people represent the whole faith, and they don’t,” Ashfaq said, recalling a recent conversation in which she told a woman that equating terrorists with Islam would be akin to equating the Ku Klux Klan with Christianity.

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Workers Rally to Resist Anti-Union Legislation

Posted by carldavidson on March 23, 2017

carpenters

By Tom Davidson

Beaver County Times

picketsMarch 23, 2017 -BEAVER — About 75 union supporters rallied at noon Thursday in front of the Beaver County Courthouse to rail against legislation they say moves Pennsylvania toward becoming a right-to-work state.

The legislation, Senate Bill 166, is called the Public Employee Protection Act, and it recently passed the state Senate.

"I like to call it ‘paycheck deception,’" is how Steve Kochanowski of Potter Township described the legislation.

He’s on the executive board of the Beaver County Democratic Party and is active with its young Democrats group.

Kochanowski, 32, is looking for a job now and is a former corporate trainer.

He opposed the law because "I believe it’s the first step to trying to make Pennsylvania a right-to-work state," he said.

He and other Democratic leaders, along with Beaver County’s labor union leadership, organized the rally to marshal opposition to the law before it passes the state House.

About 75 people turned out for the rally, wielding signs that said things such as "Workers’ Rights are Human Rights" and "Resist Right to Work Legislation."

The legislation would "hurt everybody here," according to Mitch Kates, political director of the Pennsylvania Democratic Party.

"We’re having organizing events like this all around the state," Kates said. "We want to help raise awareness."

MayorWalkerThe law would prohibit unions from allowing payroll deductions for union dues that are used for political activities, and it’s a step toward stopping union members "from being able to donate to causes that are dear to your heart," Aliquippa Mayor Dwan Walker said.

Walker is the son of a union worker and said his father appreciated that union dues were deducted from his paycheck. Otherwise, with other bills to pay, the dues might not get paid, Walker said.

"These are matters of the heart," Walker said. "I stand for workers’ rights. You must resist."

All of the speakers at the rally urged people to call their state legislators to voice opposition to the law.

People who live in so-called right-to-work states, where union power is limited, make less money under worse conditions, Denise Cox of Ohioville said.

She’s an organizer for the Service Employees International Union and said laws like the one proposed "weaken our workforce."

"Government should … let us work together," Cox said. "(The law) is wrong for our future."

She called it "big government’s intrusion into our workplace."

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We Are Patients

Posted by randyshannon on March 12, 2017

No Politico Wants to Know: We Are Patients

“Democrats must stop simply pushing back against the repeal of the ACA/Obamacare as a strategy to make the Republicans look bad leading into yet another campaign cycle for 2018,” writes Donna Smith. (Photo: www.GlynLowe.com/flickr/cc)

It is hell out here for patients right now in America.  There may be a swampy, dirty-flash flood going on in D.C. right now, but there are precious few elected officials who see patients as patients.  We are health industry consumers.  We are political props for both sides of another ridiculous, costly and futile battle over who will please the industry and its political champions enough — who will grow profits across the board.  Patients are on the losing end of this upheaval.

Patients haven’t had access to our doctors without the elephant in the room for a very long time now, and that elephant is greed, plain and simple.  Until we decide that healthcare access through the expansion of Medicare is the best way to finally re-engage around healthcare for patients who need it, we will fail. Until we move away from greed-driven, winner-takes-all motivation for measuring health system success, we will not break the cycle of going from one dysfunctional model to another.

Greed in the systems — health and political — is nothing new.  But in 2017, that greed has reached epic levels.  Republicans are smirking and smiling their collective way toward making sure the wealthy are happy and the health industry dollars keep flowing into their coffers.  Democrats must stop simply pushing back against the repeal of the ACA/Obamacare as a strategy to make the Republicans look bad leading into yet another campaign cycle for 2018.  Patients are not stupid people.  Patients know when they are being worked.  Patients are angry and worried and even scared in some cases.  Taking advantage of that anger, worry and fear for political gain is among the greediest things going on in this period.

The greed that is harming patients in the U.S. healthcare system is growing exponentially.  Greedy insurance companies.  Greedy providers — including greedy doctors (say it isn’t true), dentists, hospital systems, etc.  Greedy pharmaceutical companies.  Patients are never allowed to forget the greedy demands — premiums, co-pays and deductibles are calculated and collected from us before any healthcare is delivered.  Most patients take that into account before submitting to the embarrassment and sadness of not being able to pay and the disgust about paying so much and in advance of any services actually rendered.  Patients are so reviled by the entire system that the system works to protect itself from us.  Patients ought never to forget our current place in the U.S. healthcare industry.  Widgets.  Patients are widgets.  Broken widgets, damaged widgets and imperfect widgets interrupt profit flow.

The greed that is harming patients in the U.S. political system is at least as insidious as that shown by industry behavior.  Our politicians calculate their own political outcomes first and foremost over anything patients may need.  Political greed is driving even those politicians and political advocacy groups who espouse a position of caring about health and patients to first calculate if they will prosper under any given course of action — will their latest campaign, photo op, town hall meeting, event/rally, or other carefully scripted plan benefit their own positions?  This political greed is at work on both sides of the aisle.  Patients are useful, sometimes, and patients sometimes allow ourselves to be used if we believe telling our stories will make a difference.  As a patient who has spent the past decade watching the political maneuverings around healthcare reform, I know the good and the bad parts about being a patient who speaks the truth openly.  It still boggles my mind that so many people in so many ways just do not want to be bothered hearing from patients.  If the current moves by the Democrats to hear how fearful many of us are about losing our coverage prove genuine, those Democrats will swiftly offer up not just a defense of a few provisions of the ACA/Obamacare but a real healthcare transformation.  I heard former Michigan Governor Jennifer Granholm ponder this week why we wouldn’t move to expand Medicare to cover more people.  Why not, indeed?

Just in case anyone wonders any more how this turmoil is playing in living rooms across America, let me tell you how the post election period has gone in my home.  Almost immediately after November 8, 2016, I knew I would be in trouble.  As a 62 year-old cancer survivor who was seriously harmed by a 2015 hospital-acquired MRSA infection that caused sepsis and pulmonary embolisms and also required surgery to remove an infected vein from my wrist to my chest wall, I must use supplemental oxygen and multiple medications just to stay functional and working to pay our bills.  We live in a modest, two-bedroom, 950 sq. ft. apartment in a working class area of Denver.  I purchase my health insurance coverage on the Connect for Health Colorado ACA exchange.  I work three jobs.  My husband is retired and relies on his Medicare coverage and a supplemental plan for his healthcare access.  His sole source of income is Social Security.  Try as we might, we cannot figure out any other way to do this.  We have talked divorce to find a way to affordable coverage.  But to stay afloat, I can never allow us to have so little income that we would qualify for Medicaid benefits.  We are, like so many working class people, caught between the rock and the hard place that was designed for us by those in the greedy class.

Unless we move to a Medicare For All system, millions of Americans will face more intense greed and higher costs.  Hospitals and doctors with fewer “customers” will need to charge more to continue making big profits, and insurance companies will really watch what is a covered benefit once they lose millions of people who once sought coverage.  Costs will not go down.  So, what will happen to patients under the “Deplorable Healthcare Act” that the Trump-Ryan-McConnell cabal loves so much?  And what will happen to patients should the Dems prevail and retain parts of the ACA/Obamacare without the ability to pass any improvements to that law?  The organization for which I work, Progressive Democrats of America, is calling on all who call themselves progressives to support a real solution and not just a push back on the ACA.  We are asking one of our progressive champions, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, to stand with us.

Well, in the interest of honesty, some patients are already planning for the eventuality of various scenarios.  Some patients are writing and calling their governors and their Congressional members and showing up to express outrage and worry.  I sent the message below to my doctor last evening, to Colorado Governor John Hickenlooper and Congresswoman Diana DeGette, D-CO1, this morning, and now through this piece, to a broader audience.  I believe the only way we will make it through any of this is giving one another the gift of being honest about it.  It is too critical to do otherwise.

______

Good evening,

1. I am due to get a B12 blood test when I drop by the lab, and I wondered if you might be willing for me to have a CBC as well. I have swollen glands or something along my jawline on the left, and I feel a bit puny. I’m guessing it is some sort of virus thing but the gland hurts a bit and it is not changing in size one way or the other over the 10 days I have noticed it there and felt a bit “off.”

2. This is a longer term, more difficult question. I would like to know what Kaiser’s policy (and yours) is around Colorado’s “right to die” law. Because I am a cancer survivor and because this darned COPD/chronic bronchitis and asthma stuff combined with the back/hip/wrist issues and pain are my baseline in my health world, and because there is a possibility I will lose access to any health coverage or care under the political conditions, I am deeply worried about suffering without access to care or alternatively burdening my family with costs that will be overwhelming. If at some point I were to face diminished health that will likely become life-threatening without meds/inhalers/oxygen or other needed care and the inability to afford further care without coverage, would Kaiser allow prescribing of the drugs that would allow me to die? I am really sorry to even ask this, but it is weighing on my mind, and I want to know I have options. I understand that so long as I have coverage and access to my medication and oxygen this is unnecessary to consider, but things may not stay this way for me. I worry about it and my husband gets angry if I even mention the subject.

In any case, thank you for reading this.

Peace, your patient,

Donna

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Final note: some patients have absolutely no confidence that the greedy in the healthcare industry and in politics can or will be stopped unless and until we get wiser and pass an expansion of the well loved, all-American Medicare to cover everyone.  Politicos may want to consider that a strong majority of the Democratic base supports such a model, and an overall majority of Americans of all political persuasions do too.  Medicare For All stops all of this trauma and uncertainty.  For good.  Patients can be patients.

Donna Smith
Donna Smith is the executive director of Progressive Democrats of America.  PDA’s mission is to strengthen the voice of progressive ideas inside and outside the Democratic Party by using “inside/outside” and “grassroots fusion” models of working both in the Democratic Party as well as working with other progressive organizations both inside and outside the Party.

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