The President Just Announced This —

Our immigration system has been broken for decades. And every day we wait to act, millions of undocumented immigrants are living in the shadows: Those who want to pay taxes and play by the same rules as everyone else have no way to live right by the law. That is why President Obama is using his executive authority to address as much of the problem as he can, and why he’ll continue to work with Congress to pass comprehensive reform.

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Obamacare Reality Check

— submitted by Rich Dunn, RNDC 2nd Vice Chair

If you’re asked about Obamacare, use it as an opportunity to show how much difference progressive change can make. Open enrollment began one year ago, on October 1st, 2013. The websites had a rocky rollout, but 10.3 million Americans who had no health insurance a year ago now have coverage. Competition has increased – there are now 25% more insurance companies offering policies in the health insurance market. United Healthcare, the market leader, will be offering policies on 25 state exchanges in 2015, double the number in 2014. The system was designed to foster competition, and that is exactly what is starting to happen.

According to the Republicans, the ACA was going to be a government takeover of heathcare. But you wouldn’t know that from how private sector insurers have been doing on the stock market. United Healthcare’s stock is up 16%, Humana’s is up 34%, Aetna’s 22%, Cigna’s 13% and Wellpoint’s a whopping 37%. Some government takeover that turned out to be.

On top of that, 8.2 million seniors have saved over $11.5 billion, money that went right back into the economy. Republicans predicted that Obamacare would send costs through the roof, but between 2010 and 2013 health care costs have only risen at an annual rate of 1.1%, which is the slowest rate of increase of any three year period on record and below the overall rate of inflation.

Hospitals are expected to save $5.7 billion dollars this year alone in uncompensated health care costs. Republicans kept saying that all people without insurance had to do was go to the emergency room, but as usual they never mentioned who was supposed to pick up the tab – the hospital, of course. Thanks to Obamacare, that’s now far less of a problem. Most of that $5.7 billion in hospital savings happened in states like Nevada that opted to expand Medicaid. The 23 Republican states that refused Medicaid expansion are seeing a wave of hospital mergers and closures thanks to the rising cost of uncompensated care.

The next open enrollment period begins on November the 15th, and even though there may be more website glitches, it is bound to go a lot smoother this time around. You may have noticed that the Republicans have stopped talking about repealing Obamacare after more than 50 attempts, and that’s because it’s working. It doesn’t solve the long term cost problem – only healthier lifestyles can do that – but at least fewer Americans will be at needless risk because they can’t afford to see a doctor when they get sick.

And don’t forget that insurance companies can no longer drop you from coverage because you get sick. They can no longer refuse to sell you coverage because of a pre-existing condition. Women can now get free breast cancer screening. The “donut hole” for senior meds is being closed. Children can now stay on their parents’ policies to the age of 26. We’ve also seen the end of lifetime limits to insurance reimbursements.

The rate of uninsured Americans has already dropped from 21% to 16%, which is pretty impressive progress considering the level of Republican obstruction at all levels of government. Had that obstruction not occurred, we would now have more like 20 million newly insured Americans instead of just 10.3 million.

Our friend Mark Amodei supported every single attempt to repeal or delay the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, something voters can’t be reminded of too often. Amodei has been part of the problem from day one, and it’s a little late for him to strike a pose as a bipartisan pragmatist who stays above the fray. It’s time for him to go!

A License to Kill

Without environmental regulations, many companies would gladly poison you to earn bigger profits.

David ReingoldRegulations stink, right? Lots of politicians run on promises that they’ll get rid of them to make way for an economic boom.

Well, have you ever considered what our world would look like without regulations?

In the early 20th century, almost all paint contained lead. Despite many reports documenting the dangers of lead exposure, especially on children, the lead industry did nothing about it. Indeed, it responded by establishing an organization that countered bad publicity with campaigns like an ad depicting Santa Claus encouraging children to paint toys with lead paint. The companies also refused to put labels on their products warning parents not to paint toys and cribs with that toxic product.

matthileo/Flickr

In the 1950s, it took local and state health officials to make the case that lead paint should be banned for interior use. The lead industry fought vigorously against that ban, which we now take for granted. Without regulation, paint would still have lead in it, and our kids would still be dying and suffering from brain damage because of it.

Historians Gerald Markowitz and David Rosner teamed up to document this shameful tale in Deceit and Denial: The Deadly Politics of Industrial PollutionTheir book also tracks a second case of industrial foot-dragging, which involved vinyl chloride. That’s the ever-present stuff that PVC pipes, vinyl siding, and many toys are made from. The plastics industry first learned of animal studies in Italy suggesting that vinyl chloride caused cancer in 1970, but manufacturers hid this information from the public, the government, and their own workers for several years.

When the government found out, regulators proposed that the plastics industry lower the allowed level of exposure to vinyl chloride in its factories. The industry fought that logical measure, claiming that to lower exposure to the suggested levels would cost $90 billion and result in plant closings, job losses, price increases and massive economic dislocation, Markowitz and Rosner wrote. Government regulators overrode those concerns and lowered the permissible exposure level in 1975. The industry quickly found ways to comply with this new standard for less than $300 million, and none of those dire predictions came true. Those plastics manufacturers would never have done it on their own.

The stages of industrial denial are always the same:

  1. X is perfectly safe.
  2. Well, there’s evidence that X might cause some problems, but there’s no proof, and it could be something else.
  3. OK, X is harmful, but it’s irreplaceable.
  4. Well, there’s something else we could use instead, but it would be soooo expensive to change, and it would ruin our business and everyone associated with it.
  5. A new product comes out that’s better and cheaper than the old one.

Whenever you hear of someone making those claims, whether it’s about fossil-fueled climate change, illness-causing fireproofing additives in furniture, pesticides suspected of making bees die off, the potentially hormone-disrupting antibacterial agents in your soap, or anything else, get skeptical.

Although there certainly are cases where chemicals suspected of being harmful ultimately prove harmless, companies almost always deny the claim that their product is dangerous.

Just remember, in a truly free market, many companies would gladly poison you to earn bigger profits. Predictions of dire consequences if we impose regulations, or benefits if we remove them, rarely come true. And anyone advocating the outright elimination of the Environmental Protection Agency, as several Republican presidential candidates did in our last election, is essentially saying they want to grant corporate America a license to kill.


David Reingold, a retired chemistry professor at Juniata College in Huntingdon, Pennsylvania, now lives in Portland, Oregon. Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org) Photo credit to matthileo/Flickr

Don’t Cut Our Kids Out of the Budget

America’s security and prosperity depend on our children’s ability to drive the economy of the future.

By Marian Wright Edelman

Marian Wright Edelman

Barack Obama won his re-election fight because Americans who are committed to moving forward turned out in record numbers to vote, especially in battleground states.

But we can’t go forward unless Congress sits down and makes the hard decisions required to create a just budget that invests in children, and creates jobs for their struggling parents while making sure those who have benefited from huge tax cuts pull their weight.

Exit polls on Election Day made it clear: A clear majority of voters agree that the richest Americans need to pay higher taxes.

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Children, the poor, and the middle class cannot afford more devastating cuts and instability as they continue to struggle against hunger, homelessness, joblessness, and loss of summer school and regular school days as a result of this long economic downturn.

To move forward, America’s security and prosperity depend on our children’s ability to drive the economy of the future. If a majority of our kids can’t read and compute at grade level, we won’t have a strong economy.

Our leaders face crucial budget decisions. They must craft solutions that will protect the already porous safety nets on which so many children and families rely, and invest in the health, early childhood development, and education of our children.

The fundamental principle of protecting children and other vulnerable populations has been a cornerstone of deficit reduction since the bipartisan Balanced Budget Act of 1985. Every automatic budget cut mechanism of the past quarter century has exempted core low-income assistance programs from any cuts triggered when budget targets or fiscal restraint rules were missed or violated.

The American people still strongly support this principle. Last year, a Gallup poll found that 55 percent of Americans oppose cutting spending on anti-poverty programs. A Public Opinion Strategies poll showed even larger numbers of likely voters oppose cuts to Medicaid (73 percent) or education programs (75 percent).

Cutting children from the budget now will cost us all more in the long run.

On the other hand, economists agree that investing in children promotes economic growth. For example, investments in education that raise high school graduation rates have been shown to yield a public benefit of $209,000 per student in higher government revenues and lower government spending, and an economic benefit to the public purse that is 2.5 times greater than the costs.

Children constitute the poorest age group in the United States. More than 16.1 million children in America live in poverty — more than one in five of all children and more than one in three children of color — so special efforts must be made to address the needs of these most vulnerable among us.

Poor children lag behind their peers in many ways beyond income: they are less healthy, trail in emotional and intellectual development, are less likely to graduate from high school and to find steady work as adults, and are more likely to head poor families. Every year we keep these millions of children in poverty costs our nation at least half a trillion dollars in lost productivity, poorer health, and increased crime.

Rather than imposing strict austerity measures without regard for the human consequences, we must invest now in children to prepare them for the future and help create jobs.

Be careful what you cut. If our children aren’t ready for tomorrow, neither is America.

Marian Wright Edelman is the president of the Children’s Defense Fund. A longer version of this essay appeared on the Huffington Post Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)