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PA 12th Congressional District in Contention

Posted by randyshannon on July 17, 2017

Pittsburgh City Paper

 FRIDAY, JULY 14, 2017

Democrats have a rural problem in Southwestern Pennsylvania’s 12th Congressional district

Posted By  on Fri, Jul 14, 2017 at 2:52 PM

CP PHOTO BY RYAN DETO

  • CP photo by Ryan Deto

On July 12, a group of left-leaning protesters rallied outside of U.S. Congressman Keith Rothfus’ (R-Sewickley) office in Ross Township. They were some 15 members strong, and they hooted and hollered for an hour, expressing displeasure with their representative for failing to hold a town halland his support of the Republicans’ attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act.

“We are here to keep the momentum going and show how [Rothfus] is not representing us,” said Michelle Raab of PA 12 Progressives, the group that organized the protest.

PA 12 Progressives has been demonstrating outside of Rothfus’ North Hills office every Wednesday for months and has even started to attract Republican counter-protesters. On July 12, three counter-protesters held signs reading “Drain the Swamp” and “Support Trump,” but they were overwhelmed by the energy coming from the PA 12 progressives, who even had a truck clad in protest signs drive by every few minutes to garner more attention.

While the group’s energy in suburban Allegheny County is starting to shift the traditionally Republican area’s support from red to blue, it’s the fight outside of suburbia that Rothfus opponents may want to focus more energy on.

When Rothfus won re-election in 2014, he received 60 percent of the vote in the Allegheny County section of his district, which includes wealthy northern Pittsburgh suburbs like Fox Chapel, Franklin Park and Pine Township. In 2016, he received 59 percent. While modest, this shift fits into the nationwide trend of upper-income suburban areas increasing their support for Democrats.

But outside of Allegheny County, Rothfus has been increasing his support which could render any suburban shift moot. The 12th District includes parts of six Southwestern Pennsylvania counties, stretching from Ellwood City to Somerset. Every county in the 12th District outside of Allegheny has become more Republican since Rothfus took office, but none as much as the Cambria County section.

In 2012, Rothfus lost the Cambria County section to former Rep. Mark Critz (D-Johnstown), only receiving 37 percent of the vote there, even though he won the district that year. In 2014, Rothfus won Cambria County with 56 percent of the vote against Democratic challenger Erin McClelland, and in 2016, increased his Cambria County margin receiving 65 percent of the vote. In just four years, Rothfus gained more than 27 percentage points against Democratic rivals and swung Cambria County from solidly Democratic to solidly Republican.

Mary Lou Davis, of the liberal-leaning, grassroots group Indivisible Johnstown, says this shift will make flipping the 12th District a difficult task. “We are as red as we can get right now,” she says.

Davis explains that Cambria County was never “quite as liberal” as Pennsylvania Democratic strongholds, like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, even though it remained in Democratic control under former Rep. John Murtha (D-Johnstown) and Critz for 39 years. She says some culturally conservative values, like pro-life stances and gun rights, have always remained important to many Cambria voters.

And while Indivisible Johnstown is not a proponent of those culturally conservative values, Davis does feel a focus on the rural parts of the 12th District would be most effective in getting a Democrat elected.

“I think the messaging needs to sway the Cambria County voters more than the Allegheny voters,” says Davis.

She says this is crucial because unlike other gerrymandered, suburban/rural Pennsylvania districts, the 12th district is still gaining Republican votes. For example, in Pennsylvania’s 7th District, which stretches from suburban Philadelphia to Berks County and has been mocked for looking like Donald Duck kicking Goofy, Democrats actually gained two percentage points from 2014 to 2016. But in the 12th District, Republicans gained 5 percentage points, even as the Allegheny County portion (the most suburban part of the district) became slightly more Democratic.

“The Democrats had put out a target list of flippable seats, most of those were moderate,” says Davis of a list release in January targeting 59 Republican-held U.S. House seats. “But we have a situation here [in the 12th District], and it is going to be extremely hard to flip this.”

Meanwhile, Rothfus appears to know his support in Cambria County and adjacent Somerset County (which has increased its support of Rothfus by 22 percentage points up to 76 percent of the vote since 2012) is important. Since being re-elected in November 2016, Rothfus has penned three op-eds in the Johnstown Tribune-Democrat, which covers Cambria and Somerset counties; during this same time, he he has only co-written one in the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette, while providing none to TribLive.com or the Beaver County Times.

On top of this, Davis says providing messaging for a strong Democratic candidate won’t be easy. With President Donald Trump and Rothfus remaining popular in the region, she says Democrats will have to offer an especially strong counter-narrative to persuade area residents to vote Democrat.

Tom Prigg (D-McCandless), a candidate for the 12th District, has discussed the importance of messaging to rural voters and has received coverage from the Tribune-Democrat. Another candidate, Aaron Anthony (D-Shaler), was featured in Somerset’s The Daily American, but candidate Beth Tarasi, of Sewickley, has yet to receive any coverage in Cambria and Somerset counties.

Davis is hopeful that Rothfus’ challenges will get more coverage over time, and says Indivisible Johnstown is hosting a candidate forum on Aug. 8, so area residents can meet the Democratic candidates.

“This might be the first time the names and faces of the candidates running against Rothfus are out there,” says Davis.

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Despite Trump, State Progressives Advance Pro-Worker Policies

Posted by carldavidson on July 11, 2017

trump-mouth

While the president goes on the attack, Democratic-controlled states and municipalities forge ahead

By Justin Miller
American Propect

July 11, 2017 – In the face of the Trump administration’s predictably antagonistic stance on pro-worker policies, coupled with the escalating onslaught against worker power in Republican-controlled states, progressives are racing ahead to enact innovative labor laws to help working people in the places where they can.

Over the past eight years, Democrats’ control of government has receded to 1920s-levels, severely hindering progressives’ ability to advance pro-worker labor policy in Washington, D.C., or in the states. As of now, the Democratic Party controls the governorship and legislature in just six states, while progressive power is most concentrated in a few dozen municipalities.

It’s in those places in recent weeks that lawmakers have pushed forward a number of innovative labor laws that present a clear contrast to the Chamber of Commerce-influenced, deregulation-driven labor agenda in the White House.
Improving Home Care

Last week, Hawaii passed a law establishing a cash assistance program for people who are struggling to take care of a sick or elderly family member while maintaining a full-time job. The policy, the first of its kind in the country, takes aim at the increasingly urgent elder care crisis as the massive boomer generation ages and their children struggle to care for them.

“Every eight seconds, somebody turns 65 in America,” Ai-jen Poo, co-director of Caring Across Generations, a group that advocates for policies that improve home care, said on a call with reporters Monday. “It’s a great thing; we’ve extended longevity. And we are wholly unprepared for what the implications are in terms of care.”

Fully half of the workforce will be called on to provide care for an elder within the next five years, the group says. And that’s not a small commitment. Of the 45 million people who currently provide some level of unpaid home care to a relative, more than half are spending about 20 hours a week while also holding down a full-time job.

The Kapuna (the Hawaiian word for elder) Caregiver program would establish a fund to provide full-time workers who are providing care to a dependent elder $70 a day to help offset the burden. A recipient could use that money to help pay for health care, a caregiver, or transportation to a doctor’s appointment.

There are more than 150,000 unpaid caregivers in Hawaii currently, according to estimates by the AARP. And while in-home care or assisted living is expensive, costing between $5,000 and $10,000 a month in the state, the $70-a-day benefit is a small step to helping caregivers balance their lives.

The legislature has provided an initial $600,000 for the program and advocates say they will return to the statehouse next year to bolster funding. Read the rest of this entry »

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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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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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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

_______

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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Beaver Rally for Jobs, Peace, Justice Jan. 21st

Posted by randyshannon on January 24, 2017

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By Tina Shannon

We had 275 people at our Courthouse. Speakers were Don Siegel, an Intl VP from IBEW, our Central Labor Council president, our NAACP president, our PDA president (me), our peace group president, our NOW president (who is also a CLUW coordinator), and a local African American teacher who also wrote a hit song in the early 70s .

The event was MC’d by the chairperson of the Labor Council’s Community Services Committee & me(he is also chair of out Moral Mondays Coalition, which sponsored the event). The picture was taken by the newly elected secretary of our newly reconstituted Young Dems chapter.

Our event was pretty much a big love fest, creating a real feeling of community. 30 people followed us to a local restaurant to break bread together & get to know us. It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.

I just wanted you all to know.

Love & solidarity forever

SPEAKERS LIST

Don Siegel, Intl VP IBEW

Rick Galiano, President Beaver-Lawrence Central Labor Council, AFL-CIO

Will Sallis, President Beaver County NAACP

Tina B Shannon, president 12th Congressional District Chapter Progressive Democrats of America

Melvin Steals, local retired educator & community leader

Janet Hill, president Beaver County NOW

Nancy O’Leary, president Beaver County Peacelinks

Mark Benkart, chairperson Moral Mondays Coalition of Beaver County & Chairperson of Beaver-Lawrence Labor Council’s Community Services Committee

Our event was pretty much a big love fest, creating a real feeling of community. 30 people moved to a local restaurant to break bread together. It’s one of the best things we’ve ever done.

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