Clinton: Supporting Our Veterans, Troops and their Families

VeteransDay01

Just ahead of Veteran’s Day, Presidential candidate Secretary Hillary Clinton has issued a fact sheet detailing her commitments to our Nation’s Veterans.  “As Commander-in-Chief, Secretary Clinton will personally commit to fulfilling America’s promise to our veterans, our troops, and their families — a commitment driven by her recognition not just of the extraordinary sacrifices they make, but also of how essential that promise is to our long-term national security and our vitality and prosperity at home.”

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Secretary Clinton believes that supporting our veterans is a sacred responsibility. By fulfilling that responsibility, we not only ensure that veterans receive the opportunity, care, and support they earned by serving our country. Prioritizing their reintegration also ensures that they bring their unique skills and experience to the success of their communities and our nation after their service is over. Yet too often, we as a nation failed to uphold our end of the bargain. As Commander-in-Chief, she will personally commit to fulfilling America’s promise to our veterans, our troops, and their families – a commitment driven by her recognition not just of the extraordinary sacrifices they make, but also of how essential that promise is to our long-term national security and our vitality and prosperity at home.

Secretary Clinton has fought for our veterans throughout her career. This issue is deeply personal for her, and her approach is rooted in her upbringing as the daughter of a World War II veteran and decades of experience working with military members and their families. As First Lady, she fought to have Gulf War Syndrome recognized. As Senator on the Armed Services Committee, she fought to establish new services for military members and veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress (PTS) and traumatic brain injuries (TBI). She regularly worked across the aisle to expand military benefits, including to ensure that all members of the Reserves and National Guard and their families had access to health benefits; to expand benefits afforded to surviving spouses; and to broaden protections afforded by the Family and Medical Leave Act to the family members of wounded service members. And as Secretary of State, she was at the table in the Situation Room, providing advice to the President on the most grave decision a Commander-in-Chief makes: whether and how to send our military personnel in to harm’s way.

Secretary Clinton is committed to a strong and resilient military, built by the extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve and the families who serve alongside them. And she believes that issues affecting current service members and veterans are inseparable. As President, she’ll continue to support the needs and talents of all who have served and who serve us still, whether Soldiers, Sailors, Marines, Airmen and Coast Guardsmen, including active duty, reserve, and National Guard, and every race, creed, gender, and sexual orientation. And she will have no tolerance for failure to put veterans first.

Secretary Clinton’s comprehensive plan will:

  • Fundamentally reform veterans’ health care to ensure veterans’ access to timely and high quality health care and block efforts to privatize the VHA
  • Modernize and refocus the full spectrum of veterans’ benefits across the federal government
  • Overhaul VA governance to create a new veteran-centric model of excellence
  • Empower veterans and strengthen our economy and communities by connecting their unique skills to the jobs of the future
  • Sustain and strengthen the all-volunteer force
  • Strengthen services and support for military families
VETERANS AGENDA

The systemic failures of the VA to uphold its core mission underscore the need for fundamental reforms and focused leadership. Long wait times for health care, crippling claims backlogs, and lack of coordination among agencies represent government at its worst. Secretary Clinton recognizes the gravity of these challenges, and as President will pursue a veteran-centric reform agenda that tackles problems head-on and revitalizes the VA. She will end the excuses and ensure our veterans receive the timely health care they deserve. She will oppose the privatization of the VA system, which would undermine our veterans’ ability to get the unique care that only the VA can provide while leaving them vulnerable to a health care market poorly suited to their needs. And she will lead a national effort to invest in and empower veterans to apply their considerable skills in their communities.

ENSURE VETERANS’ ACCESS TO TIMELY AND HIGH QUALITY HEALTH CARE

Veterans must have access to a system that puts their needs first. But in order to build such a system, prepared for the unique and growing needs of the twenty-first century, we cannot simply throw more money at the problem or tell veterans to go get private care, as the VA’s implementation of the Veterans’ Choice Act has shown. We also cannot throw our veterans at the mercy of the private insurance system without any care coordination, or leave them to fend for themselves with health care providers who have no expertise in the unique challenges facing veterans. The Veterans Health Administration (VHA) must embrace comprehensive process and systems integration across its health care enterprise to ensure a fully-networked and financially- sustainable organization that is dedicated to best practices and continual improvement in everything it does. Specifically, Secretary Clinton will:

  • Create a new framework for VHA health care delivery by refocusing, reorganizing, and streamlining the VHA to best serve veterans in the 21st century. The VHA must be transformed from primarily a provider of services into an integrated health care system that responsibly balances its role as health care provider, partner, and payer for veteran-directed care. And it must have the health care providers necessary to ensure it is able to provide quality and timely care. At the same time, the VA must maintain the ultimate responsibility of coordinating and ensuring comprehensive and quality health care for every veteran and the specialized services that they deserve – critical functions that would disappear if the VA were privatized. The VHA must:
    • Refocus as a veteran-centric provider of service-connected care. The VHA should focus its resources on what it can do best, particularly health care for service-connected conditions. This is especially important in areas where veterans lack access to the necessary care outside of the VHA, such as prosthetics and traumatic brain injury.
    • Synchronize and coordinate VHA care with other available programs, including coverage already provided to veterans, such as private or employer-provided insurance, TRICARE, Medicare, federally-qualified health centers, Indian Health Service, and the Affordable Care Act, to ensure the most responsible use of taxpayer dollars;
    • Strategically purchase private-sector care when it makes sense to do so, such as for some specialty inpatient or surgical procedures, expanded access to mental health and substance abuse treatment, or when the VA cannot provide timely access to necessary care. Secretary Clinton would present and advocate for legislation that allows the VA to pursue provider agreements to do this in the most effective and efficient manner;
    • Establish a VHA Strategic Oversight and Governance Board of health care and management leaders. In line with the best practices of modern hospital systems across the country, the board will be empowered to provide oversight of VHA management processes, monitor accountability, promulgate best practices, and ensure the VHA remains true to its mission of putting veterans first. This Board would include strong veterans representation.
  • Personally convene the Secretaries of Veterans Affairs and Defense regularly in the Oval Office and direct them to develop, execute, and report on an effort that integrates their health care operations to create a more efficient and a sustainable system. She will direct them to:
    • Streamline the DoD-VA health care footprint by identifying opportunities to co-locate and better coordinate inpatient services across federal health delivery programs, while stripping out costly and redundant bureaucratic functions, and developing a plan to ensure the VA has the facilities needed to provide 21st century care;
    • Synchronize procurement to find cost savings by negotiating and procuring a single formulary of pharmaceuticals along with medical and office supplies and information systems to ensure compatibility and eliminate waste and redundancy;
    • Streamline VA and DoD IT, ending the years of delay in developing an electronic health record (EHR) system that is fully interoperable. The VA has over 100 different versions of its own EHR system, making it difficult enough to communicate between different VA clinics, let alone with DoD. DoD and VA must also eliminate bureaucratic barriers to seamless coordination and information-sharing. And the new system must also link to private sector providers to enable full information sharing, care coordination, and integrated billing and payments.
  • Improve health care for women at the VHA to ensure all veterans are fully and equally supported after serving our nation. Women veterans are the fastest growing population served by the VA, highlighting the importance of proactively addressing the VHA’s ability to meet their needs. Secretary Clinton would work to pass bipartisan legislation that requires VA medical facilities to meet the health care needs of women veterans. In addition, Secretary Clinton calls for:
    • New funding to ensure women equal and respectful access to health care, going beyond simply modifying facilities and increasing the number of OBGYNs employed by the VHA, to include expanding provider training, ensuring culturally-competent VHA staff and policies, and providing other gender-specific health services – including mental health services;
    • Requiring the provision of reproductive services across the VHA to ensure women have access to the full spectrum of medical services they need;
    • Broadening initiatives to provide childcare at VA medical facilities so that parents, particularly single mothers, don’t have to choose between taking care of their child and taking care of their health.
  • End the veteran suicide epidemic and ensure that every veteran has access to world-class
    medical and counseling services whenever and wherever they are needed. To do this,
    Secretary Clinton will:

    • Increase funding for mental health providers and training to ensure timely and ongoing identification and triage of mental health issues, and ongoing access to quality mental health care and substance abuse treatment, particularly for alcohol and opiate abuse, including private-sector care when necessary.
    • Expand programs targeted at providing effective mental health treatment for veterans that have participated in classified or sensitive missions without compromising non-disclosure requirements, working with Congress to pass needed legislation;
    • Promote better prescriber and treatment practices by promulgating guidelines that recommend treatments for pain management other than opioids, so that prescribers can consider those alternatives, particularly for patients without chronic physical pain;
    • Ensure that Military Sexual Trauma (MST) is acknowledged as a valid form of PTS, setting a burden of proof for MST that is no higher than for any form of trauma, and that men and women who suffer from it are uniformly eligible for disability compensation and treatment;
    • Educate and encourage state veterans affairs departments to include veteran mental health programs in state requests for federal grants as part of Secretary Clinton’s initiative to combat drug and alcohol addiction;
    • Provide proper legal assistance to review and upgrade other-than-honorable discharge categorizations for service members who were improperly separated from service due to service-connected mental health and cognitive issues, such as TBI, PTS, and addiction.
  • Continue efforts to identify and treat invisible, latent, and toxic wounds of war that
    continue to affect veterans, family members, and caregivers long after their service. This includes Agent Orange, Gulf War syndrome, burn pits, and – two issues that Secretary Clinton has long worked to better address — PTS and TBI. Secretary Clinton will:

    • Maintain presumptions of service-connection for latent and invisible wounds from the Vietnam War, Gulf War, Iraq war, and Afghanistan war while directing the VA to consider additional presumptions of service connection for disabilities arising from toxic exposure;
    • Expand the current VA burn pit registry to become a comprehensive registry for all post- 9/11 deployment veterans exposed to environmental dangers, toxic hazards, and other conditions.
    • Dedicate research funding and provide mechanisms for collaborative efforts to facilitate the development and expansion of evidence-based diagnostic tools and treatments for veteran-centric conditions, including mental health issues and other invisible, latent, and toxic wounds of war, and direct the VA, HHS, and DoD to collaborate and integrate portfolios when it makes sense to do so.
MODERNIZE AND REFOCUS THE FULL SPECTRUM OF VETERANS BENEFITS ACROSS THE FEDERAL GOVERNMENT SYSTEM BY IMPLEMENTING A “NEW BRADLEY PLAN”

In the years following World War II, 16 million returning service members were able to rely on the health care and educational opportunities afforded by an adaptable VA organization, headed at the time by General Omar Bradley. General Bradley worked effectively with Congress and stakeholders to build the system that cared for those returning troops. In a similar spirit, aimed at address the VA’s current limitations, Secretary Clinton will direct a national, multi-sector effort to streamline and modernize the veterans’ benefits system. The “New Bradley Plan” will address the shortcomings of today, while ensuring the nation can meet the needs of tomorrow’s veterans. To implement this plan, Secretary Clinton will:

  • End the disability benefits and appeals backlog through overtime work, productivity improvements, and new initiatives. Secretary Clinton will:
    • Streamline and simplify the claims process by integrating DoD and VA medical evaluations, using “fully developed claims” from private providers, allowing rules-based automatic adjudication for the simplest of applications, and by ensuring veterans have an effective appeals process to make sure the VA gets it right.
    • Improve the VA’s partnership with DOD to anticipate and prepare for future waves of VA claims across the government, and surge resources to the system before claims backlogs grow out of control.
    • Launch an Innovation Initiative led by a team with diverse backgrounds and expertise to connect the VA with leaders in the nation’s leading businesses, universities, and non-profits to develop innovative solutions for sustainably managing the claims and appeals process and to address unforeseen challenges.
  • Bring Sustained and Focused White House Leadership and Attention to coordinate the programs supporting our veterans across the U.S. government, ensure continued consultation and engagement with the veteran community, and leverage the private sector to ensure the entire nation is mobilized to meet this challenge. To do so she will:
    • Create a standing President’s Council on Veterans, coordinated by a Senior White House official responsible for Veterans Integration. The council will be an all-of-government approach to supporting veterans, comprised of the heads of all 17 agencies involved in this mission to synchronize and integrate the patchwork of programs and benefits.
    • Conduct an end-to-end evaluation to optimize the full scope of benefits afforded to our veterans and provide recommendations to ensure that greater investments in services and support for veterans are smart, effective, and will best meet the needs of veterans today and for generations to come;
    • Convene a White House Summit on Veterans to personally address progress on veterans’ issues with all stakeholders directly, meet early and regularly with a cross-section of veterans to understand their needs and ensure we meets our promises, and work with state governors to ensure that veterans and National Guard issues are addressed at the state level given their important role;
    • Continue to engage private and philanthropic sectors with this effort by ensuring that companies know the value of hiring veterans and by amending federal ethics and acquisition regulations to allow VA, DoD, and other federal agencies to effectively partner with the private and nonprofit sectors, including better data sharing, more open access to federal facilities, and sharing of resources.
EMPOWER VETERANS BY CONNECTING THEIR UNIQUE SKILLS TO THE JOBS OF THE FUTURE

Secretary Clinton recognizes that America’s veterans are an enormous asset for the future of the country and our economic growth. Veterans bring unique skills from their time in the military that can move America’s economy forward. From their commitment to service and teamwork to specific job skills from computer science to welding, investment in our veterans can power a workforce for the future. Secretary Clinton is committed to the programs and supports that will strengthen pipelines of veterans and service members into higher education and industry. Specifically, Secretary Clinton will:

  • Support and broaden initiatives that provide educational benefits, job training, and support for veteran entrepreneurs. Secretary Clinton will build on First Lady Michelle Obama’s Joining Forces Initiative with a national push to improve the pipeline of our nation’s veterans into the workforce. To do this, she will:
    • Make the Post-9/11 GI Bill a lasting part of the nation’s social contract with those who serve, working with Congress to pass legislation that solidified existing benefits, preserves and extends family transferability (including to non-traditional families), and expands qualified uses for use in the 21st century economy, such as at approved coding academies, entrepreneurship programs, and apprenticeship programs with America’s leading companies and labor organizations;
    • Expand tax credits for veterans’ employment through reauthorizing and making permanent the Work Opportunity Tax Credit for veterans and expanding it to provide credits to businesses that hire disabled veterans.
    • Improve concurrent certification and credentialing programs by increasing funds available to state and local governments to process military certificates, and by expanding the concurrent credentialing program to all appropriate military career fields, to ensure that our veterans can seamlessly transfer their skills from the military to the community;
    • Strengthen veteran entrepreneurship programs, including expanding the efforts of the Interagency Task Force on Veterans Small Business Development to provide entrepreneurship training and counseling and small business loan guarantees;
    • Create pathways and platforms for service members to enter growing career fields, including jobs in clean energy, cyber, and information technology, and areas of critical need by improving integration between these opportunities and the military’s Transition Assistance Program;
  • Protect veterans from discrimination and predatory companies that unfairly target veterans and their families, in the spirit of Secretary Clinton’s broader efforts to protect consumers and bolster the middle class, she will:
    • Fight back against schools that prey on veterans, including through legislation that closes the 90-10 loophole exploited by for-profit schools, and by banning schools from receiving federal student aid (including DoD tuition assistance and VA GI Bill funding) if they are found guilty of fraudulently recruiting students;
    • Enforce zero tolerance for firms that overcharge service members and veterans by banning bill collectors and loan servicers from contracts to service federal loans, and help defrauded students discharge debt from fraudulent schools;
    • Strengthen non-discrimination laws protecting veterans and military families by expanding the Uniformed Services Reemployment and Readjustment Act (USERRA) and Servicemembers Civil Relief Act (SCRA), adding veteran status to the Fair Housing Act of 1968 to protect veterans from discrimination in the housing market.
  • Move decisively to end veteran homelessness by building on successful initiatives and expanding programs that help ensure long-term success.
    • Increase funding for reducing homelessness while expanding public-private partnerships, with an emphasis on regions with the greatest need. Leverage federal resources to support community-based organizations, including by reallocating excess and unused federal property for use by veteran-focused non-profit organizations;
    • Expand complementary programs and services including outreach, especially in locations involving high densities of homeless veterans, and programs that prepare veterans for independent living to prevent recidivism, such as counseling, job training, disability benefits, and transportation;
    • Address the needs of homeless women veterans and homeless veteran families by clarifying language in the Fair Housing Act that removes ambiguities in the law regarding gender and family-specific housing, and providing shelter options that account for local demographic conditions.
  • Support Veterans Treatment Courts nationally using block grants to state and local governments while also directing the VA to expand its current pilot programs for “medical legal partnerships” to offer space to community legal organizations in VHA clinics. Veterans Treatment Courts provide an alternate to the traditional criminal justice system for veterans with minor offenses aggravated by mental health or substance abuse issues, ensuring these veterans are rehabilitated while getting the treatment they need.
  • Recognize the honorable service of LGBT veterans by proactively reviewing and upgrading discharge records for veterans who were discharged because of their sexual orientation; and honoring their service by continuing efforts to improve the support and care they receive at the VHA to ensure respectful and responsive health care.
OVERHAUL VA GOVERNANCE TO CREATE NEW VETERAN-CENTRIC MODEL OF EXCELLENCE

Fulfilling the nation’s duty of taking care of our veterans requires effective performance by the VA and other federal agencies that support veterans. As part of a broader effort to promote good governance, Secretary Clinton will reform management within the Department of Veterans Affairs, ensure fair and transparent accountability, and set us on a path to excellence for our nation’s veterans for generations to come. Secretary Clinton will:

  • Create a culture of accountability, service, and excellence at the VA. Secretary
    McDonald has done a commendable job of refocusing the VA on its core mission: putting veterans first. But Secretary Clinton believes more must be done to reform and improve the VA from the top-down, and from the bottom-up. Secretary Clinton supports legislation that will:

    • Hold every employee accountable for their performance and conduct. From the top leadership to mid-level managers to entry-level employees, everyone at the VA must embody the highest workplace standards. Supervisors must be empowered to suspend or remove underperforming employees in accordance with due process not only for the good of the organization, but in service of our nation’s veterans.
    • Revamp the performance evaluation system to recognize and advance high-performing employees to create a thriving, effective, and sustainable organizational culture, while also establishing processes to ensure managers are held accountable for taking action to deal with poorly performing employees.
    • Bolster critical whistleblower protections. Individuals who sound the alarm over wasteful programs or question inefficient practices embody the spirit of reform and management excellence that the VA must champion. Whistleblower protections are key to ensuring these employees are empowered and their voices heard, not silenced.
  • Provide budgetary certainty to facilitate reforms and enable long-term planning. The recent budget deal reached between the Congress and the White House is a promising first step in providing government agencies with much needed fiscal stability. But we must go further by ending the sequester for both defense and non-defense spending in a balanced way, and prioritizing full-funding and advance appropriations for the entire Department of Veterans Affairs.
  • Ensure our veterans are buried with the honor, distinction, and integrity they deserve, directing the VA to clean up problems that have led to unacceptable indignities for our veterans and their families.
MILITARY PERSONNEL AND FAMILIES AGENDA:

Our obligation to our veterans cannot be separated from our broader commitment to take care of our soldiers, sailors, airmen, marines, coast guardsmen -active duty, reserve, and National Guard – and their families. Our men and women in uniform have volunteered to put their lives on the line to serve our country in operations that keep our people safe and ensure peace and security across the globe. As President, Secretary Clinton will make sure the United States supports the men and women who make the US military the best-trained, best-equipped, and strongest military the world has ever known.

Secretary Clinton believes that no individual should have to choose between serving their country and taking care of their family, while on active duty or afterward. She will continue to work with civilian and military national security leaders to ensure that our nation’s armed forces are trained, equipped, and ready for the full spectrum of challenges they will face, including those still over the horizon.

SUSTAIN AND STRENGTHEN THE ALL-VOLUNTEER FORCE

The All-Volunteer Force (AVF) has been stressed by fourteen years of continuous combat and is endeavoring to rebuild and reset, while facing growing instability and complexity around the world, reduced end-strength, and an uncertain fiscal environment. Secretary Clinton is developing a broad strategy on DOD budget and reform measures grounded in permanently ending the damaging sequester while making smart reforms in both defense and non-defense spending. Included in that plan will be military personnel policies that support and promote total force readiness by:

  • Supporting smart compensation and benefits reform that attracts the best and brightest new recruits to the AVF. Secretary Clinton’s unwavering commitment to our military men and women includes policies that will:
    • Ensure reforms to military compensation and retirement benefits improve readiness and quality-of-life, and working with Congress and the services to ensure that ongoing improvements to the system, such as plans to modernize the commissary system, are accomplished in a smart and comprehensive manner, guaranteeing the strength and sustainability of the force for generations to come.
    • Modernize the military health system by ensuring service members, military retirees, and their families robust access to health care by changing the incentive structure of the TRICARE contracts to produce better health outcomes with better patient satisfaction, expanding access to mental health care through telemedicine and non-traditional treatments, and ensuring the health needs of military women – including reproductive health care – are fully supported.
  • Adopting modern and inclusive personnel policies that serve to bolster and enhance the finest fighting force the world has ever seen. Secretary Clinton’s plan will both take advantage of America’s strengths while embodying its values. This includes:
    • Attracting millennials to military service by building on ‘force of the future’ initiatives, to include emphasizing military opportunities in science and technology and promoting smarter and more flexible DoD policies on tour lengths and assignments, which give military families greater stability and increase retention.
    • Zero-tolerance for Military Sexual Assault and Harassment by strengthening protections to ensure that our women and men in uniform can serve without fear of sexual assault or harassment, and without fear of retaliation for reporting.
    • Welcoming women to compete for all military positions provided they meet the requisite standards, in line with the ongoing DoD policy review. From piloting fighter jets to serving on submarines to earning respect as an Army Ranger, merit and performance should determine who serves in the military’s combat specialties and units, not gender.
    • Supporting the DoD policy review on transgender service, anticipating that transgender people will soon be allowed to serve openly alongside their comrades in arms in a military where everyone is respected enough to let them serve with dignity.
STRENGTHEN MILITARY FAMILY SERVICES AND SUPPORT

Secretary Clinton recognizes that military family readiness is a critical part of total force readiness, and she understands that military families face unique concerns and challenges, especially after fourteen years of continuous deployments. To tackle these challenges, Secretary Clinton will:

  • Promote family policies that provide military families with additional opportunities and much-needed flexibility in juggling multiple challenges. This includes:
    • Increasing access to child care both on- and off-base, including options for drop-in services, part-time child care, and the provision of extended-hours care, especially at Child Development Centers, while streamlining the process for re-registering children following a permanent change of station (PCS);
    • Creating flexibility around military moves by allowing families to continue receiving their housing allowance for up to six months after a military member’s PCS move under common-sense circumstances; for example, when the service member has a spouse enrolled in a degree-granting program or one or more children enrolled in a local school;
    • Expand military spouse employment initiatives by developing resources and high quality portable or work-from-home positions for spouses while expanding public hiring preferences and credentialing programs to assist military spouses.
  • Champion efforts to care for our military members and families, and ensure that our
    nation honors and respects them throughout their service and beyond. Secretary Clinton will:

    • Ensure continued focus on mental health for military members and families by enhancing DoD programs to help remove the stigma of mental health issues and by developing a comprehensive whole-of-life approach with the DoD Suicide Prevention Office that includes education, training, counseling resources, and family outreach;
    • Remain committed to extended leave policies that are critical to military families, whether preparing for a service member’s deployment or caring for a wounded warrior, and expanding paid maternity and paternity policies across all of the services;
    • Continue to support Gold Star Families and recognize their sacrifice through enhanced gratuity payments to surviving spouses and ongoing access to benefits in recognition of their sacrifice.
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Hair Force of One

The Mis-Education Of The Republican Party
— by CAP Action War Room

The GOP presidential field needs an education, but for the moment their only teacher is Donald TDebaterump. With President Ronald Reagan’s Air Force One casting a shadow over them, eleven GOP candidates spent three hours debating largely about Donald Trump and failing to address the many key issues facing working families. On education, raising wages, and health care, the GOP candidates said close to nothing, instead doubling down on attacks on immigrants, women’s health, working families, and the Iran nuclear deal. Over three grueling hours of television, the Republican candidates mentioned “middle class” just three times, “health care” twice, and “students” just once.

What the GOP Candidates Failed to Mention:

Ensuring Access to an Affordable, Quality Education. Families are finding it harder and harder to access an affordable, quality education. Between 2000 and 2011, the cost of higher education grew three times faster than overall inflation and students are being saddled with debt. However, the Republican candidates were silent on whether they would support measures such as allowing Americans to refinance their student loans and restoring public investment in education. Not only did Republicans ignore the plight of students seeking a higher education, they also ignored the needs of our youngest learners. High-quality public preschool programs range from $6,500 to $11,000 across the country—putting them out of reach for many families. But on solutions like providing universal pre-school, the Republicans were mum.
Raising Wages for Working Families. Higher wages are what working families need most. Instead of seeing their incomes improve, middle class households saw their incomes fall 2 percent between 2000 and 2011. However, the Republican presidential contenders overwhelmingly failed to offer, or support, real solutions that would improve incomes for families, such as raising the minimum wage or reforming overtime rules.

A Plan to Improve Access to Health Care. On a day when new data became available showing that the number of Americans lacking health insurance dropped by more than eight million people in 2014, Republicans once again attacked the Affordable Care Act (ACA) but offered no alternatives. Before the implementation of the ACA, health care costs were skyrocketing. From 2002 to 2012, health care costs paid by a family of four with an average employer-sponsored PPO plan rose by 85 percent. The ACA, however, has helped control rising health care costs. At the same time, the ACA has improved access to health care. Overall, 15.8 million people have gained coverage since the ACA’s marketplaces opened. Republicans, however, have offered no ideas on how to keep improving upon the successes of the ACA, instead continuing to call for repealing the ACA.

What the GOP Candidates Did Say:

Follow Trump’s Lead on Immigration. Trump’s extreme rhetoric on immigration is often credited with putting immigration right at the center of the GOP presidential primary. But at the debate on Wednesday night, several Republican candidates went out of their way to show that they stand with Trump on his extreme positions.

  • Trump doubled down on his claim that birthright citizenship isn’t settled in the Constitution, saying, “Well, first of all, the — the 14th Amendment says very, very clearly to a lot of great legal scholars — not television scholars, but legal scholars — that it is wrong.” Trump wasn’t alone–Rand Paul, the author of a constitutional amendment to repeal birthright citizenship, restated his support for ending it.
  • Trump again raised his plan to build a wall between the United States and Mexico to deter illegal immigration, even though the border is more secure than ever. The other GOP candidates, however, raced to outdo Trump: Chris Christie jumped at the opportunity to say that he would push to establish “more than just a wall,” pledging “electronics” and “drones,” while Ben Carson said he would turn off the “spigot that dispenses all the goodies so we don’t have people coming in here.”

Defund Planned Parenthood. During the debate, the GOP candidates spent much of their air time attacking women’s health. In rushing to declare that they support defunding Planned Parenthood, they ignored the fact that Planned Parenthood provides critical health care services for millions of women.

  • Jeb Bush believes “that Planned Parenthood should[n’t] get a penny from the federal government.” This is not a surprising statement from a man who previously said he was “not sure we need a half billion for women’s health issues.” However, Planned Parenthood helps millions of women—in 2013 alone it served more than 2.7 million patients and provided 10.6 million services, including the treatment of chronic diseases and authorization for hospital care.
  • Ted Cruz called Planned Parenthood a “criminal enterprise” and says he’s “proud to stand for life.” But 90 percent of Planned Parenthood’s activity is preventive care. Defunding Planned Parenthood would limit women’s access to lifesaving cancer screenings, birth control, and more.

Give Tax Breaks to the Wealthy Few. Several GOP candidates talked about their tax plans and records on taxes at the debate, but their rhetoric was the same rehash of tired Republican talking points: cut taxes on the wealthy to boost the economy. That didn’t work before, and it won’t work again.

  • Bush promoted the $19 billion in tax cuts he pushed as Governor of Florida, but analysis of his time in Florida show that he catered his tax cuts to the wealthy. What’s more, Bush’s tax plan, just released last week, would be a massive giveaway to the wealthiest Americans, would blow a hole in the deficit, and give Bush a personal tax savings of $774,000.
  • Walker claimed that under his watch, Wisconsin passed $4.7 billion in tax cuts “to help working families, family farmers, small business owners and senior citizens,” but the richest 20 percent reaped a full half of the benefits of his income tax package — all while Wisconsin ranked 44th in the country in middle class income growth under Walker.
  • John Kasich boasted about having the “largest amount tax cuts of any sitting governor,” but he neglected to mention that his so-called “tax cuts” benefited wealthy Ohioans. Under Kasich’s tax proposals, the average tax bill went up for the bottom 60 percent of taxpayers, while the top one percent of taxpayers saw an average tax cut of nearly $12k.

Tear Up the Iran Deal. Last night, many of the GOP candidates offered much of the same, similar-sounding bluster we have heard on the campaign trail: tear up the Iran deal on “day one.” Their empty rhetoric presented no real leadership, just more partisan attacks on a tough-minded deal.

  • Cruz claimed that the Iran deal “will only accelerate Iran’s acquiring nuclear weapons.” He continued to say that if elected, he would “rip to shreds this catastrophic Iranian nuclear deal.” Far from being a bad deal, the agreement cuts off all pathways to an Iranian nuclear weapon and is verifiable through rigorous international inspections of Iran’s nuclear supply chain and facilities. This accord proves that American diplomacy — and not war — can bring meaningful change to make our homeland and the world safer and more secure.
  • Walker casually remarked, “I’d love to play cards with this guy because Barack Obama folds on everything with Iran.” That is simply not true. The Iran deal is the result of years of tough-minded American diplomacy and a comprehensive strategy. The deal is backed by our partners and allies across the world, but conservative GOP candidates are putting politics over patriotism.

BOTTOM LINE: The eleven GOP candidates had an opportunity last night to offer real solutions to the key issues they face. But on education, working families, and health care, the GOP candidates came up empty. Instead, they spent their stage time fighting with each other and catering to the most extreme wing of the Republican Party. What we need are real leaders ready to tackle the problems facing working families, not panderers who are alienating entire communities of Americans.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.


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The Middle Class At Risk

Jul 27, 2015 | By CAP Action War Room

The Gap Between Rhetoric and Reality of Republican Prescriptions for the Economy

In recent decades, dramatic changes have squeezed the middle class, making it harder and harder for middle-class families to feel economically secure. In response to these changes, GOP candidates have shifted their rhetoric and begun decrying stagnant wages, inequality, and rising middle class costs. For example, in his campaign launch speech Jeb Bush said we need to “make opportunity common again.” Meanwhile, Sen. Marco Rubio introduced his tax plan in an op-ed with Sen. Mike Lee saying, “Too many Americans believe the American dream is slipping away.

But a new report from CAP Action finds that despite its new rhetorical shift, the GOP continues to propose policies that would undercut economic security for working- and middle-class families. Even as Republican candidates talk about restoring the American dream and expanding opportunity to all Americans, they continue to embrace the same, failed policies that have led to middle class Americans being squeezed by rising costs and stagnant wages.

Here are a few of the key facts on how the middle class is at risk and how Republican policies would only make things worse:

  • Republicans continue to support tax policies that favor the wealthy but do little for middle class families. Many of the GOP candidates favor eliminating capital gains taxes, which would do nothing for middle-class Americans. Middle-class families receive very little income from capital gains and dividends: Only 6 percent of market incomes for households in the middle quintile come from business income, capital income, and realized capital gains. The top 1 percent of households, on the other hand, receive more than half of their incomes from these sources. Eliminating capital gains taxes is nothing more than a massive tax cut for the wealthiest few.
  • Republican governors are blocking bills that help families juggle the demands of work and home.Of the 12 states with laws preempting localities from taking actions like increasing the minimum wage or offering paid sick leave, 11 were passed by a GOP governor and legislature since 2011. In particular, Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker signed a preemption bill that nullified Milwaukee’s paid-sick leave law which would have helped 120,000 Milwaukeeans–or 47 percent of the city’s private sector workforce.
  • Despite the rhetoric, GOP economic policies favor the wealthy. In 2014, 41 Republican senators with an average net worth of $8.1 million, including several eventual presidential candidates, voted against giving low-income Americans a $6,000 raise.
  • Instead of investing in working Americans, Republicans have been slashing key pillars of opportunity, such as education. More higher education cuts have occurred under Republican leadership than under Democrats. Between 2007 and 2014, real state funding for public education grew under Democrats and fell 10 percent in states led by Republicans. This also led to higher tuition increases.
  • Republicans still oppose a minimum wage. If a Republican president spent two terms in office continuing to block a minimum wage increase, like each of their positions today, the value of the minimum wage would fall below $6 in today’s dollars, lowest in 70 years.

BOTTOM LINE: Decades of failed, trickle-down economic policies have left middle-class Americans struggling. Disguising old, top-down policies with new rhetoric is as disingenuous as it is dangerous.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe. Like CAP Action on Facebook and follow us on Twitter!

I Take Exception — My Rebuttal

NV Controller Ron Knecht’s “2nd Monthly Report” was published last week in the Humboldt Sun.  I took exception with much of what he had to say.  Below are his  report and my rebuttal which was published in the second edition of this week’s Humboldt Sun:

Mr. Knecht’s Report:

Knecht01The second Controller’s Monthly Report is now on the state web site (www.controller.nv.gov). It addresses state revenues, while the first one reviewed state spending. In sum, its findings are …

Nevada state revenues include taxes, federal and other grants and contracts, plus charges for services that have amply served the public interest. Both total tax revenues and charges for services have increased slightly relative to Nevada’s economy and the incomes of Nevada families and businesses since 2008. Total state revenues have increased at roughly the same rate as state spending, and both spending and taxes have grown significantly faster than our economy, proving again that we have a spending problem, not a revenue deficit.

Every cent taken in taxes is an act of destruction of human and social well-being; so, public spending items should not be adopted unless they clearly provide benefits exceeding the damage done by taxes required to support them. The essence of sound fiscal policy is to deploy only the least destructive tax methods and most beneficial spending measures, and to find the taxing/spending balance point that maximizes net social benefits and public wellbeing.

All taxes are “unfair” because they can’t be charged according to the social costs that people cause, nor the benefits they receive. Fairness being illusory, in taxation and other public policy, we should seek to maximize economic growth and the human well-being that growth fosters. “Ability to pay” criteria, which have a superficial ring of fairness, and “redistribution” policies are particularly destructive to the broad public interest in growth. And claims that taxing one person to subsidize another involves “compassion” are false.

The real tax fairness issue is that public spending’s beneficiaries — public employees and contractors, plus those receiving public payments — have an unfair political advantage over taxpayers and the public, an advantage that produces excessive taxing/spending levels.

So, consider the recent fortunes of taxpayers and public employees. In the last six years, Nevada taxpayers’ average incomes declined by nearly 8 percent (from $39,079 in 2008 to $36,039 in 2010) before rebounding slowly back to prior levels ($39,173 in 2014). State employees took 4.6 percent cuts via furloughs for a couple of years, followed by a combination of furloughs and actual pay reductions still totaling roughly 4.6 percent. At present, they still must take furloughs equal to cuts of about 2.3 percent.

So, state employees in general have borne roughly the same burden from our economic troubles as have taxpayers. Considering the total package — pay, benefits and job security — state employees in Nevada essentially get total compensation at market levels. Local government employees, on the other hand, have taken fewer, if any, pay cuts and many have continued to get increases. In Clark and Washoe counties, their total compensation levels are much higher than market levels prevailing in the private sector.

The accumulated and ever-increasing over-reach of government is greatly responsible for the slow economic growth of recent years and the prospects of the same in the future. So, voters, taxpayers, Nevada state employees and the broad public interest are victims of government excess, while local public employees are to some extent beneficiaries.

All these considerations reinforce the conclusions of Controller’s Monthly Report #1 that to leave our children a better future, we must stop the growth relative to the economy and to Nevadans’ incomes of public spending that drives taxes. We must especially avoid mistakes such as adopting versions of the business margins tax defeated 4-1 by voters last November. We must restructure fiscal processes for real budget constraints and effective cost management, emphasize no- and low-cost reforms in K-12 education and end public employee collective bargaining and prevailing wage rules.

My rebuttal to his partisan ideological propaganda:

Vickie14smI have some serious problems with Mr. Knecht’s “Commentary” in the 3/13-16/2015 Humboldt Sun.

”Every cent taken in taxes is an act of destruction of human and social well-being?”  Really?  Mr. Knecht doesn’t believe in ANY public commons?  He doesn’t believe in public roads? Or public water and systems? Or police and fire fighters? Or public schools and universities?  I’m sorry, but all of those do promote “human and social well-being” and they’re all part of OUR public commons created using OUR tax dollars.  So exactly what is Mr. Knecht proposing, selling off all of our “public commons” at fire-sale prices to the “deserving” richest among us, all so THEY can charge us by the mile, by the book or test, by the flush or by the flame? What about the police?  Is he proposing we should submit to a “Robocop” scenario across the state?  Isn’t that why our fore-father’s fled Europe?  To flee the tyranny of the rich who oppressed those beneath them?

“All taxes are unfair because they can’t be charged according to the social costs that people cause, nor the benefits they receive?”  What does that even mean?  That we should bestow OUR public commons to corporate parasites that pay NO taxes just because they might be the bearer of jobs?  Isn’t it “corporations” that consume our infrastructure and pollute our lands and waters at the greatest rates, causing destruction of human and social well-being?  Isn’t it the corporations that choose NOT to pay a living wage NOR to provide health benefits to their workers, leading to the destruction of human and social well-being?  Isn’t it those same workers who now, no longer have an “ability to pay,” again, leading to the destruction of human and social well-being?  Is that really what Mr. Knecht’s “fair way to run our country” would look like?

Then there’s his rant about public employees.  Every cent of Mr. Knecht’s paycheck is paid with public tax dollars. That makes Mr. Knecht a PUBLIC employee. What makes him believe he’s so infinitely better than police, firefighters, teachers, or even a clerk at a local DMV?

He may talk fondly about our kids/grandkids, but that’s just a ruse, a distraction. He does make his intentions clear: to do everything he can to stifle/gut K-12 education programs that might make our children competitive and productive in an ever changing economy.

I disagree with Mr. Knecht and with that for which he stands. Instead of looking for ways to improve our “human and social well-being,” he’s apparently looking for ways to destroy it.  I fear that our “investment” in his paycheck will yield only negative dividends for the everyday Nevadan before all is said and done.

Congressional Progressive Caucus Unveils The People’s Budget: A Raise for America

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3/18/15: Congressional Progressive Caucus Press Release

8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018

$1.9 trillion investment in America’s future

$820 billion infrastructure and transportation improvements

WASHINGTON – Congressional Progressive Caucus (CPC) Co-Chairs Reps. Raúl M. Grijalva (D-AZ) and Keith Ellison (D-MN), along with CPC Members Reps. Mark Pocan (D-WI), Judy Chu (D-CA), Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX), Ruben Gallego (D-AZ), Grace Napolitano (D-CA), Janice Hahn (D-CA), and Barbara Lee (D-CA) unveiled the Progressive Caucus’ FY 2016 budget alternative called The People’s Budget: A Raise for America.

The executive summary for The People’s Budget is below and the full budget can be found here.

The press conference to introduce The People’s Budget was live-streamed at noon and can be seen here.

“The most important thing Congress can do as we recover from the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression is pass a budget that invests in the American people,” Rep. Grijalva said. The People’s Budget create good paying jobs by addressing our nation’s biggest challenges head-on, from rebuilding crumbling roads to updating antiquated energy infrastructure. It’s a down payment on the continual effort to improve the quality of life for all Americans by raising wages, restoring and enhancing vital programs like SNAP and emergency unemployment compensation, and making bold new investments like debt-free college for all, which will increase our global competitiveness and ensure every student has a fair shot at achieving their dreams.”

“Too many working Americans open their paychecks each week and ask themselves how they will make ends meet,” Rep. Ellison said.The People’s Budget fully funds childhood health, education and affordable housing to help working families stretch their paychecks. The Progressive Caucus budget is a blueprint of proven investments to end grinding poverty, promote economic mobility and enable shared prosperity. It asks the wealthiest Americans and multi-national corporations to pay their fair share, so we can afford debt-free college, universal pre-kindergarten, paid sick leave and workforce training for all. The People’s Budget makes smart cuts to the Pentagon budget and puts the money towards working families. The People’s Budget invests in people, providing hard-working Americans with a raise they deserve.”

“First and foremost The People’s Budget reflects our progressive priorities – leveling the economic playing field by increasing wages for middle- and low-income workers,” Rep. Pocan said. “With families struggling to make ends meet, it is clear the American people want Congress to help create good-paying jobs and expand economic opportunity for all.”

“Working a full time, 40 hour schedule is supposed to lift you out of poverty, not chain you to it,” Rep. Chu said. “It’s not just unfair, it’s wrong. It flies in the face of the promise of America. And it is why this budget – The People’s Budget – is so necessary. This budget promises to not only to grow our economy but to tackle inequality.”

“During our economy’s best decades, Congress invested in the American workforce and every family was better off for it. But recent years have been dominated by growing inequality and a Republican majority in Congress obsessed with slashing the budget, making it harder for working Americans to find decent jobs and save for the future,” Rep. Jackson Lee said. “The Congressional Progressive Caucus’ People’s Budget reverses the damage budget austerity has inflicted on hard-working families and restores our economy to its full potential by creating 8.4 million good paying jobs by 2018.”

“Today Americans are working more and earning less. Republicans, however, continue putting forth a budget that gives tax breaks to the wealthy instead of helping working American families,”  Rep. Gallego said. “While the GOP budget would end Medicare guarantees and make cuts to education that would make college even less affordable, the Congressional Progressive Caucus does the opposite ensuring that we make investments in the American people – creating good paying jobs, providing universal pre-K, and restoring funding for programs like SNAP that many American families rely on. It’s time for us to pass a budget that reflects the needs of the American people and focuses on giving American families the best opportunity to move ahead.”

“The Progressive Caucus works on everyday issues of the working family, and our budget reflects this commitment,” Rep. Napolitano said. “We will continue to fight to deliver that which we all feel is a necessity for our districts, for our working class.”

“The Congressional Progressive Caucus budget expands economic opportunity for middle class and lower income families and reflects priorities different from the House Republican proposal,”Rep. Hahn said.“Our budget creates jobs and invests in essential repairs and upgrades to America’s roads, highways and bridges to keep us globally competitive in the future.  The CPC budget also includes my recommendation to fully spend the Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund, returning money collected at our nation’s ports so they can make necessary improvements.”

“Despite a recovering economy, too many Americans are still struggling to make ends meet,” Rep. Lee said. “This budget supports American families and focuses on much needed investments here at home,” said Congresswoman Lee. “This budget also reins in waste, fraud and abuse at the Pentagon and ends the OCO slush funds for defense contractors.”

The People’s Budget Executive Summary

The People’s Budget fixes an economy that, for too long, has failed to provide the opportunities American families need to get ahead. Despite their skills and work ethic, most American workers and families are so financially strapped from increasing income inequality that their paychecks barely cover basic necessities. They earn less and less as corporations and the wealthy continue amassing record profits. It has become clear to American workers that the system is rigged.

The People’s Budget levels the playing field and creates economic opportunity by increasing the pay of middle- and low-income Americans. More customers and higher consumer spending advance American businesses, not tax cuts and relaxed regulations. The People’s Budget drives a full economic recovery by creating high-quality jobs and reducing family expenses, restoring the buying power of working Americans.

The People’s Budget closes tax loopholes that companies use to ship jobs overseas. It creates fair tax rates for millionaires and provides needed relief to low- and middle-income families. It invests in debt-free college, workforce training and small businesses within our communities, helping return our economy to full employment and giving a raise to Americans who need it most. Investments in The People’s Budget boost employment and wages by addressing some of the biggest challenges of our time: repairing America’s rapidly aging roads and bridges, upgrading our energy systems to address climate change, keeping our communities safe, and preparing our young people to thrive as citizens and workers.

A fair wage is more than the size of a paycheck. It’s having enough hours, paid overtime, sick and parental leave, and affordable health and childcare. It’s being able to afford a good education for your kids and never living in fear that your job will be sent overseas. It’s knowing you can make ends meet at the end of the month. The People’s Budget helps achieve that with a raise for American workers, a raise for struggling families and a boost to America’s long-term global competitiveness.

The People’s Budget: A Raise For America
The People’s Budget: A Raise For America (03/18/15 11:06 AM PST)
EPI Analysis of The People’s Budget (03/18/15 11:00 AM PST)
The People’s Budget: A Raise For America Summary (03/18/15 09:21 AM PST)

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