A Bishop In The Exam Room: When Faith Dictates Health Care Instead Of Science

A number of folks in Humboldt County have expressed complaints about our local hospital, but they should be thankful for the secular hospital we have available to serve our population. Given the merger-mania in corporate America, we could be facing, like so many other communities, a takeover of our hospital by Catholic Hospitals of America and the imposition of OBGYN-lite policies, restricting the availability of reproductive healthcare services to women throughout the hospital’s service area.

Here’s a post an article from ThinkProgress that will walk you through how religious institutions are imposing their religious beliefs on women through the limited care they’re willing to provide, essentially elevating their religious rights at the expense of any patient’s rights.


CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS
CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS

— by Erica Helerstein and Josh Israel

When Rita, a Michigan-based OB-GYN, learned that the hospital where she worked would be switching hands, she was dismayed.

The secular community hospital, Crittenton, had plans to join with Ascension Health, a prominent Catholic nonprofit hospital chain. Rita, who asked that her real name be withheld to protect her identity, knew the transition would profoundly impact her ability to do her job the way she saw fit. The OB-GYN specifically wanted to work at a place where she could practice the full scope of reproductive care, from preventing pregnancy to delivering babies. But now, with the hospital merger looming in the not-so-distant future, that possibility seemed increasingly unlikely.

Rita also understood the change in leadership meant that her patients’ medical options would be limited. That’s because Catholic hospitals follow a set of rules written by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, which often prohibit doctors from performing basic reproductive services — like contraception, sterilization, in vitro fertilization, abortion — and end-of-life care.

Although Rita knew certain services at the hospital would soon be banned, many of her patients had no idea. They also may not have known that mergers like Crittenton’s are becoming increasingly common.

As hospitals throughout the country struggle with financial woes, many have begun to merge with Catholic systems in order to stay in business. This means a growing number of patients are winding up in institutions guided by religious doctrine. Between 2001 and 2016, the number of hospitals affiliated with the Catholic Church increased by 22 percent. Today, one in six patients in the U.S. is cared for at a Catholic hospital — a troubling trend for health care providers like Rita, who worry that patients are increasingly being placed in centers that provide services based on faith rather than medical necessity.

“I do think as more places are being purchased by Catholic systems it’s going to become more of a problem,” she told ThinkProgress. “To take away the ability to provide services that people need or desire… I think it’s very upsetting both for an OB-GYN and also for a woman. Having those choices gives you the ability to participate in society.”

Rita found another job before the Catholic system moved in. Although she says her decision to leave Crittenton was based on other factors, she admits she probably would have sought employment elsewhere even if those reasons hadn’t come up. Before Rita departed from the hospital, though, she warned her patients about what was to come — and encouraged them to get their tubes tied before it was too late.

As Rita was advising her patients to move forward with their procedures, organizers with the American Civil Liberties Union of Michigan were trying to gin up support for a campaign opposing the Crittenton merger. In June, they arranged an event at a public library in a nearby town to talk about what the shift in leadership would mean for community members. But only six people showed up. “It was so hard for us to connect to anyone who cared,” said Merissa Kovach, a field organizer in charge of the campaign.

The struggle to engage people who could be directly impacted by Crittenton’s transition might not be entirely surprising given the demographic makeup of Rochester, which is predominantly white, conservative-leaning, and upper-middle class. But it suggests another problem that Kovach and others have been struggling to address: A widespread lack of awareness about a conflict that’s quietly brewing in the health care industry. It’s a trend that has managed to accelerate rapidly and yet evade public scrutiny. Because Catholic hospitals aren’t required to disclose their religious affiliation or talk about the limited medical services they may offer, many patients wind up in the dark — and don’t think about the hierarchies that govern their care until it’s too late.

In Rochester, for example, the two systems merged without much of a fuss. But just a few days after Ascension took over the hospital in October 2015, its official website changed ever so slightly. “Tubal ligations” were removed from the list of available services.

CatholicHospitalData-before-after6

The role of Catholics in health care is nothing new — indeed, throughout the Middle Ages, it was the Catholic Church that created hospitals and hospices for the old and ill in an attempt to follow Jesus’ teachings about healing the sick. Many of the earliest hospitals in America were set up by Ursuline sisters and other Catholic orders dedicated to serving the poor. About 75 Catholic hospitals had been established in the U.S. by 1875.

But there has been a particular boom in the number of Catholic hospitals since the beginning of the 21st century, according to a groundbreaking 2013 report on the growth of Catholic hospitals and health systems by MergerWatch, a patients’ rights organization that tracks hospital mergers, and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU). In 2001, about 8.2 percent of the nation’s acute care hospitals were Catholic nonprofits. By 2011, that number had jumped to 10.1 percent. This increase coincided with notable drops in the numbers of other nonprofit hospitals and public hospitals.

This trend is accelerating among all hospital chains, too, and not just nonprofits. A recently released 2016 update found that 14.5 percent of all acute care hospitals are now Catholic-owned or affiliated (up from 11.2 percent in 2001) and that four of the nation’s 10 largest hospital systems are Catholic-sponsored. Some of the growth is the result of new Catholic hospitals opening their doors — but many were the result of secular hospitals merging with Catholic systems, bringing them under the Catholic hospitals umbrella.

But while Lois Uttley, MergerWatch’s director, believes Catholic hospitals do deliver “excellent care” in many treatment areas, she and her group are working to shine a light on a major exception. They believe Catholic hospitals prevent many women from getting the reproductive health care they need — even procedures that are medically necessary — ultimately putting them in an untenable situation once they walk through the doors of one of these religious facilities.

Once a hospital elects to merge with the Catholic system, it agrees to obey a set of directives issued by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. Called the “Ethical and Religious Directives for Catholic Health Care Services” (ERDs), these rules include instructions that Catholic care “should distinguish itself by service to and advocacy for those people whose social condition puts them at the margins of our society and makes them particularly vulnerable to discrimination: the poor; the uninsured and the underinsured; children and the unborn; single parents; the elderly; those with incurable diseases and chemical dependencies; racial minorities; immigrants and refugees.”

Although these large Catholic hospital systems operate in accordance with religious values and doctrine, they aren’t directly funded or controlled by the Catholic Church. As Uttley put it, “they are not being funded by the envelope my mother used to put in the collection basket every Sunday.”

Instead, as tax-exempt nonprofit corporations, they are funded through a combination of private insurance reimbursement, Medicare and Medicaid payments, and sometimes government grants, according to Uttley.

By bringing many hospitals together into large Catholic health systems, they can cut costs through shared administration and joint purchasing, offering protection to hospitals in rural states where isolated health care facilities often struggle. “It’s to their credit, they’ve kept these hospitals operating in very challenging times,” she said.

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CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS

But the directives also include prohibitions on abortion, even when a woman’s health is at risk; assistance with surrogacy; egg and sperm donation; contraception; and temporary or permanent sterilization, with few — if any — exceptions. And the condoning of or participation in euthanasia or assisted suicide “in any way” is expressly verboten for all who work at a Catholic health care institution. MergerWatch, the ACLU, and the handful of other organizations that track this issue believe these directives often mean even procedures needed to mitigate serious health risk to the patient are unavailable at a Catholic hospital.

The groups also pointed to a troubling lack of transparency: Because Catholic hospitals often choose not to disclose which services are not offered, patients don’t always realize they operate any differently from a secular institution.

Proponents of the Catholic hospital system say the distinction should already be obvious to patients given the facilities’ religious presentation. As the attorney for one Catholic hospital in California that refuses to perform tubal ligation argued in a lawsuit earlier this year, “no one is lacking for understanding that this is a Catholic hospital, from the crucifix in the front entrance to everything about it.”

But that’s not necessarily how providers see it. Nancy, a physician who provided services at Rochester’s Crittenton before the merger and continues to do so today, said the now-Catholic hospital is presented to the public as a secular institution with no disclosure of its restrictions. “I think it is incredibly difficult to understand what limits we have available,” said Nancy, who asked that her real name be withheld because she is still practicing in the field, noting that the names of Catholic hospitals don’t always reveal their religious affiliation. “It’s not Saint Crittenton. It’s not Mary of Christ Crittenton. It’s just Crittenton.”

Ascension and Crittenton did not respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about their practices. A spokesperson for the Catholic Health Association, which represents hundreds of Catholic hospitals and facilities nationwide, said his group “encourages transparency from Catholic hospitals regarding the services they do and do not offer.”

But Brigitte Amiri, senior staff attorney for the ACLU’s Reproductive Freedom Project, says in practice, that transparency is often absent — putting patients in potentially perilous situations when they’re in urgent need of care.

“The hospital closest to you might be Catholic, you might not know it, you might not think to ask these questions until [you’re facing] an emergency situation or far along in a pregnancy,” she said.

Rachel Miller found herself in that exact situation when she was a patient at Mercy hospital in Redding, California in 2015. Miller, who was pregnant with her second child, was certain she didn’t want to have more kids: In 2013, she had an emergency C-section for her first daughter, and knew she would have to repeat the procedure for the birth of her second child. After she discussed her options with her OB-GYN, she decided a tubal ligation made the most sense — she could get it right after delivering her baby and it wouldn’t require an additional hospitalization.

Miller sent a request to Mercy for the procedure, and assumed it would be approved. Instead, she received a letter back stating Mercy would be unable to accommodate her, citing the Catholic bishops’ directives.

Miller had never heard of the directives before — in fact, she had no idea that the standard of care at Mercy would be any different than what was available at a secular hospital. “I guess if someone had asked me at the time, ‘is this a Catholic hospital?’ I would have said yes, because it’s Mercy, normally a Mercy hospital is Catholic,” she told ThinkProgress. “But I had never thought about it. And as far as Catholic hospitals in general and having ERDs, I had never thought about that either.”

Miller was sure she wanted to get her tubes tied, but after Mercy’s rejection, she found that her options were limited. Redding has only one hospital with a labor and delivery department and the nearest hospital Miller could find that took her insurance was some 160 miles away. That was out of the question — Miller knew she would have to stay at the hospital for several days, and she didn’t want to be away from her toddler for that long. Mercy — the largest hospital provider in California — was her only option, and they just wouldn’t budge.

That was especially concerning to Elizabeth Gill, an attorney at the ACLU of Northern California who later took up Miller’s case. “It’s troubling that your access to health care in such a significant degree in a state like California is dictated by the moral code that corporations subscribe to, especially given that these are entities that are largely state and federally funded,” she said.

The predicament Miller found herself in is becoming increasingly common.

For many patients, Catholic hospitals are now so ubiquitous they may be the closest or only option for care. According to MergerWatch’s most recent report, more than 40 percent of the acute care beds in Alaska, Iowa, Wisconsin, Washington, and South Dakota are in Catholic-owned or affiliated hospitals, and more than 45 Catholic hospitals in the country provide the only acute care in their geographic region. Naturally, this impacts the services available to patients. As Miller experienced, the bishops’ guidelines often prevent doctors from performing tubal ligations after patients deliver, which is the safest time for the procedure.

Moreover, as the National Women’s Law Center noted in a complaint to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, many Catholic hospitals don’t follow the medical standards of care for what’s known as “miscarriage management,” often by denying services to women experiencing pregnancy complications before viability or in the middle of a miscarriage.

Tamesha Means was 18 weeks pregnant when she showed up at a Mercy hospital in Michigan in December 2010. Her water had broken prematurely. Hospital staff examined Means, but neglected to tell her that the fetus she was carrying had virtually no chance of survival — and in fact posed a risk to her health if she continued to carry it. Means was sent home, but she returned the next day as her bleeding and cramps intensified. Again, she was instructed to go home. Means returned for a third time that night — visibly in pain and showing signs of an infection. The hospital prepared to send her home once again, but stopped when she started delivering. The baby died shortly thereafter, and the hospital staff told Means to prepare funeral arrangements.

The ACLU took on the case, arguing that the directives prevented hospital staff from informing Means of the risk of the pregnancy and directly placed her in harm’s way. “Because of the Directives, MHP did not inform Ms. Means that, due to her condition, the fetus she was carrying had virtually no chance of surviving, and continuing her pregnancy would pose a serious risk to her health,” the lawsuit claimed. As a result, “Ms. Means suffered severe, unnecessary, and foreseeable physical and emotional pain.”
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CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS/SHUTTERSTOCK

The restrictions on care don’t present a burden for patients alone — working within the system can also weigh heavily on providers who are prevented from performing the full range of medical care they expected to practice as an OB-GYN. According to a 2012 national survey, more than 50 percent of OB-GYNs who work at Catholic hospitals said they’ve run into conflicts with their institutions over the directives. Dr. Didi Saint Louis, a physician in the Southeast who completed her medical residency at a Catholic hospital, is familiar with that tension herself. She remembered seeing a patient who fell extremely ill at an early stage in a nonviable pregnancy. Saint Louis was prohibited from terminating the pregnancy — even though the fetus would not survive — and ended up transferring the patient to another hospital.

“I remember our director riding in the ambulance with the patient, she went straight to the operating room, they terminated the pregnancy, and she was fine,” she recalled. “But it could have gone so many different ways. And while the Catholic hospitals strive to give the best standard of care, this is one area where I think they fall short.”

The impact of a hospital merger can be much more profound for people living in geographically isolated regions without easily accessible alternatives. According to MergerWatch, there are 46 hospitals nationally that provide the only short-term acute care for people in their region, leaving people who lack transportation and travel resources with few alternative options.

Nancy, the physician from Michigan who works with Ascension, says she’s fortunate to be in a region with more than one hospital. “I’m in an area in which my patients can commute or get to a different location, so people in more remote areas are stuck without that,” she said. “Which is a really disturbing trend.”

About 2,000 miles west of Rochester, a Catholic hospital merger brought a very different outcome. In Washington, a battle was waged over the fate of Vashon Island’s only health clinic. Vashon, a quirky island community near Seattle, is home to about 11,000 people, 45 miles of shoreline, and an unofficial mayor who was re-elected in 2015 over a goat named Bandit. It is a Democratic bastion: Mitt Romney received a mere 18.6 percent of the vote in the 2012 elections, to Barack Obama’s 77.6 percent.

In 2012, Mark Benedum, the CEO of the island’s health clinic, announced the board had decided that, due to financial struggles, the time had come “to explore the benefits of joining a larger system.” It reached an agreement to become an affiliate of Franciscan Health System, a chain of Catholic health facilities and part of the behemoth Catholic Health Initiatives.

Benedum initially claimed patients’ options would be unaffected by this union, insisting, “it’s not going to change a thing.”

Vashon’s residents weren’t so sure. A group of skeptics, calling itself Vashon HealthWatch, worried that the island’s sole clinic would now be forced to adhere to the bishops’ directives — and that their care would be limited as a result. After consulting with MergerWatch, they organized a massive town hall meeting where members of the community could question Franciscan and Highline leadership.

On April 25, 2013, weeks after the Franciscan’s purchase of the clinic was complete, about two hundred people packed the multipurpose room at one of the the island’s schools, according to Kate Hunter, who helped organized the event. It was a far cry from the sparsely attended event that took place in Michigan. And not only did people show up, but they’d read the directives and were prepared with specific questions.

Benedum and executives from Franciscan Health Services were peppered with two hours of anxious inquiries from community members about the merger’s impact on available reproductive health and end-of-life services.

Margaret Chen, a staff attorney with the ACLU of Washington Foundation, said this level of civic engagement is atypical. “The visibility of concerned citizens was large in the Vashon Island community, maybe in part because of the unique situation [of being so separated from other options].” This response, she suggested, might have been part of the reason the new ownership agreed to continue offering birth control, family planning, and contraception to patients on the island — though a company spokesperson said the directives are “consistently applied” across all of its facilities.

While the executives sought to assure residents that “nothing is going to change at the Vashon medical clinic,” Hunter wasn’t convinced. She recalled one particularly concerning exchange toward the end of the forum: “Does your contract with your doctors specify that they will follow the directives?” a resident asked. “Yes, they do,” the Franciscan representative answered. “Our employment contract does.”

John Jenkel, who is part of the Vashon-Maury Health Collaborative, a community group that works to improve emergency care options on the island, said the relationship between the new ownership and residents was scarred by that early tension. “[T]hose directives and the manner in which the Franciscans communicated with the community caused a rift that never really made for a comfortable working relationship on our small island,” he said. “The initial discussion that the Franciscans had with the community was a rocky one, and the relationship of the directives to the type of care the Franciscans would be providing was never too clear.”

Hunter stopped going to the Vashon clinic. “I just feel so strongly that no one’s religious beliefs should interfere with my health care and I had no confidence that that would not be the case at the clinic anymore,” she said. Instead, she travels to a secular nonprofit facility in Seattle, via ferry and bus — a 60- to 90-minute trip each way.

When ThinkProgress reached out to Franciscan for comment, spokesperson Scott Thompson said that “none of the practice’s women’s reproductive services changed at the clinic after Highline’s affiliation with CHI Franciscan Health.” However, he added that the Vashon Island clinic would be closing in August. The company attributed the decision to the cost of operating the clinic and the fact that visits had declined from about 1,000 a month when they took it over to between 750 and 850 a month today.

Kate Hunter laments that with the closing, “there will be no health care clinic on Vashon Island. We’re back to ground zero.”

The bishops’ directives were last updated in 2009 and, according to observers, are due to be revised again in the near future. Reproductive rights advocates say a revision could loosen restrictions on how hospitals that become Catholic through mergers may deal with reproductive decisions — or could put the kibosh on the limited flexibility that Catholic chains have shown in places like Vashon Island.

Sara Hutchinson Ratcliffe, domestic program director for Catholics for Choice, fears it will be the latter. “I think the upcoming regulations are going to close those avenues for alternative provision for those health care services, to make the partnership agreements even more strict on who must/must not do this or that,” she said. “I think it will make it worse.”

MergerWatch’s Lois Uttley is a bit more optimistic. “We hope that they will be realistic about the fact that, in this day and age, Catholic hospitals are serving everyone in the community, not just Catholics. And they are employing doctors and staff that come from a wide background of religious affiliation,” she said. “We hope there will be a recognition that all hospitals, including Catholic ones, are licensed to serve the whole community.”

The press office for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops did not respond to a ThinkProgress inquiry about their timetable for an update. But when and if the directives are updated, they could make a huge difference in terms of whether doctors at hospitals that merge with Catholic hospital system.

In the meantime, several approaches have been contemplated for how to address the topic.

The Center for Inquiry, which advocates for a secular society, thinks that the Medicare and Medicaid funding Catholic hospitals receive could be used as leverage to force Catholic hospitals to provide a full range of reproductive health and end-of-life care. Michael De Dora, who heads the Center’s Office of Public Policy, explained that while he does not believe all individual doctors should be forced to engage in all health care services, all hospitals should. “The responsibility should be with the hospital in any case [if] they’re receiving public funds,” he said. “That is the ideal.”

The ACLU’s Brigitte Amiri noted that some — though not many — states have considered legislation that would shield doctors from punishment, should they choose to provide services forbidden under the directives. After non-discrimination laws and same-sex marriage equality were enacted, several Catholic Charities organizations shelved adoption services rather than serve same-sex couples.

Thus far, the ACLU has concentrated its efforts on the judicial system, threatening and bringing lawsuits under the federal Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act and state medical laws. Two suits were dismissed at the trial court level, though both are being appealed, and others are still working their way through the courts. In April, for the first time, the 41,000 doctors of the California Medical Association announced they would join an ACLU of Northern California case against a Catholic hospital system that bars its doctors from performing tubal ligation.

Since these and other attempts to force Catholic hospitals to provide services have not yet been met with much success, some activists have focused on making the rules more transparent.

Washington state enacted a requirement that hospitals generally disclose what services they refuse to provide to the state government — which would become public record — but MergerWatch’s advocacy coordinator, Christine Khaikin, observed even that “leaves a lot of room for interpretation to the hospital system,” and few hospitals have reported much of anything.

model-patiens
CREDIT: AMERICAN ATHEISTS

The American Atheists, a group that advocates for a strict separation of government and religion, have circulated a piece of model state legislation called the Patient’s Right to Know Act. The organization’s national legal and public policy director Amanda Knief said it would simply require that providers “inform their patients up front of all services they’re not going to provide, according to their religious, philosophical beliefs.” This “sunshine law” would not require hospitals to provide an explanation or a referral, she added, but simply a disclosure of which services are not provided there “because we’re Catholic affiliated, or we’re Pastafarian affiliated, or we don’t believe in modern medicine.”

The bill has been introduced in Arizona, and Knief is hopeful other states will soon follow. But, she acknowledges, it may have trouble gaining momentum — some progressive groups have been reluctant to back the measure because it lacks a requirement that the hospital refer the patient to a place that performs procedures prohibited by the directives.

In some communities, MergerWatch has partnered with local advocates to utilize state hospital merger laws and galvanize public actions to force accommodations or block the mergers entirely. “Frankly, totally stopping the merger is our fallback position,” Lois Uttley explained. “What we try to do, from the outset, is make sure that community access to needed reproductive health care services is preserved in some way.” She pointed to one case in which a separately funded and staffed reproductive health care center was opened on the second floor of a newly Catholic hospital that could no longer provide all services under the directives. In another, the community got a local hospital to call off its plans to affiliate with a Catholic system.

But, like with Crittenton Hospital in Michigan, these mergers often fly under the radar. Because the hospitals themselves do not highlight that they are going to begin restricting services, MergerWatch, the ACLU, and a small number of other organizations are often the only early-warning system for communities. And, as Sara Hutchison Ratcliffe of Catholics for Choice pointed out, until more people understand what these mergers mean, it can be an uphill battle for them to galvanize community resistance.

“Awareness isn’t the only solution, but it is the first step,” she said. “Until they are aware, the likelihood of something happening is small… The first step is getting those who have the power to change it involved.”

The fate that awaits Rochester, Vashon, and the numerous other communities that have recently experienced hospital mergers is uncertain. Indeed, some may choose to go the path of resistance favored by Washington’s quirky island community, organizing themselves and arranging well-attended town hall meetings. But, as Merissa Kovach and her coworkers at the ACLU of Michigan experienced while organizing their campaign, getting that community buy-in is often an uphill battle.

“One of the biggest issues with this is that it’s just not well-known at all and nobody understands what these hospitals are doing,” Kovach said. “We’re in such a public education step with this, and it’s such an unknown issue. People don’t know why they should care.”

But why did they seem to know and care in the Washington island? At least some portion of the differences between the two community responses can likely be drawn along political lines — Vashon overwhelmingly leans left, Rochester tilts right. But what took place in the Michigan city might be the more standard course of events: A merger takes place in a community that isn’t predisposed to fight it — or isn’t even aware that it might impact the care they expect to receive — and, as was the case with Rochester, a new merger quietly goes into effect. And the cumulative impact of these mergers, critics say, is an overall reduction in available reproductive services.

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CREDIT: DYLAN PETROHILOS

So what are the alternatives to Catholic medical care? In some rural communities, there aren’t any — it’s a Catholic system or nothing at all. That’s a sobering reality for people on all sides of the debate, including reproductive health advocates. They recognize that a singular focus on the expansion of the Catholic health care system ignores the forces that often propelled them to step in in the first place. Public hospitals are struggling, and their Catholic counterparts can provide much-needed care. According to the most recent MergerWatch report, the number of public short-term acute care hospitals in the U.S. dropped an astonishing 34 percent between 2001 and 2016. The number of secular nonprofit hospitals, too, shrunk by 11 percent, while for-profit systems shot up by more than 50 percent. In rural areas, where it is harder to turn a profit, these trends have left tremendous disparities in health care access.

Catholic hospitals help fill some of that gap — but at what cost? The ACLU’s Brigitte Amiri worries that hospitals’ fealty to the directives over the standard of care means that for some, the delta between the services they seek and those that are available is becoming a gulf.

“We don’t want to take away health care services from a community that desperately needs them,” she acknowledged. “But I don’t think we can be so timid about our work that we don’t push them to provide health and lifesaving care to women.”

Kiley Kroh and Tara Culp-Ressler edited this piece. Cory Herro provided research assistance. Videos by Victoria Fleischer, graphics by Dylan Petrohilos, and illustrations by Laurel Raymond.


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

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Planned Parenthood Facilities Raided by TX Governor’s Goons

368Anna, Victoria, Bobby, Manny, and the rest of the team

Officials from Republican Texas Governor Greg Abbott’s administration have raided Planned Parenthood health centers across the state, demanding the confidential records of women who visited the health centers, including ultrasound records.  The news is especially alarming for a state with an extensive history of criminalizing abortion.

And the raids came just three days after Gov. Abbott announced that the state will end the one remaining source of government funding for Planned Parenthood—funding to provide health care for families earning less than 19 percent of the federal poverty level, or $3,760 for a family of three.

In total, seven states have eliminated funding for Planned Parenthood since the summer despite having done nothing wrong. And the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed a special budget bill to defund Planned Parenthood that cannot be blocked in the Senate using the filibuster, which is how other bills have been stopped from attacking the organization.

MoveOn.org has put together a plan to fight back:

  • Turn up the heat on vulnerable Republican senators running for re-election next year by holding events outside their in-state offices and running powerful social media campaigns targeting them for waging a war on women.
  • Run a hard-hitting media campaign to expose the attacks on Planned Parenthood for what they are: propaganda designed to close down health clinics and ban abortion.
  • Ramp up campaigns in the next set of states where Republicans are going after Planned Parenthood funding.

We simply cannot allow anti-abortion extremists to destroy an organization that helps so many people—or to roll back women’s rights and access to health care. 

Click here to chip in and stand with Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood is under an all-out assault. But our fighting back has made a huge difference, including helping stop bills to defund Planned Parenthood in the U.S. Senate. Specifically:

  • I recently traveled to Washington, D.C., where I met in person with Senators Elizabeth Warren and Harry Reid to bring them 1.2 million signatures from MoveOn members and key partners supporting Planned Parenthood.
  • We flooded Senate offices with 10,000 phone calls.
  • We ran ads highlighting how Planned Parenthood has helped individual MoveOn members.
  • We partnered with Planned Parenthood to organize 138 rallies and other visibility events across the country on #PinkOut Day last month.
  • And, on the state level, we supported numerous MoveOn members in leading petition campaigns and other organizing to stop their states from defunding Planned Parenthood.

Now, we need to show that attacking Planned Parenthood is a political loser and will cause vulnerable Republicans running for re-election next year to lose support among women. We know this strategy can work because Planned Parenthood is enormously popular. And we’ve used this strategy before and won: The Republican War on Women is a big reason why Todd Akin and Mitt Romney lost their elections in 2012.

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New Speaker, Same Old Policies

— by CAP Action War Room

Paul Ryan’s Record Indicates We’re In For The Same Broken GOP Policies

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Speaker of the House — Paul Ryan (R-WI)

After much chaos and dysfunction, the House of Representatives elected Representative Paul Ryan from Wisconsin to be Speaker of the House. The Republicans have lauded their new Speaker as their “thought leader” who creates the “blueprints” for policies: he was Mitt Romney’s running mate in 2012 and chairman of the Ways and Means Committee. Much of the GOP rhetoric around Ryan’s run for speaker has suggested that he will usher in a new era of moderate, pragmatic, and effective leadership that will be both good for the economy and the American people. Though we hope Ryan can bring sanity to this House of GOP crazies and stop them from holding the government hostage time and again, we’re not holding our breath for a “new day in the House of Representatives.”

Despite GOP rhetoric, the reality of Paul Ryan’s record, including his signature 2014 budget, suggests that his Speakership will be full of the same old, out of touch, extreme Republican policies that undermine working families to help the rich get richer—policies that voters already rejected in the 2012 election. Here are a few reminders of Ryan’s record:

  • Bad for low-income families. Ryan tried to paint himself as an anti-poverty crusader, by embarking on poverty tour in 2014 and releasing a report documenting his concerns about poverty. But in reality, Ryan creates policies that cut programs that are vital for working families and blames poverty on personal failures, claiming that it is the result of a “culture problem.” The bulk of the Ryan Budget’s spending cuts—69 percent—come from gutting programs that serve low-income people. And after his 2014 poverty tour, he proposed slashing $125 billion from the
    (SNAP), also known a food stamps, over the next 10 years, and converting it to a flat-funded block grant. He also proposed cuts to Medicaid, a critical program that provides health care to 70 million Americans, including low-income children, seniors, and people with disabilities. And of course, Ryan wants to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which has provided health insurance for 17.6 million people.
  • Bad for seniors. In his 2014 budget, Ryan abandoned the pledge Republicans made to protect anyone age 55 or older from Medicare cuts and instead advocated for forcing seniors to pay more by radically altering Medicare. He also supports turning Medicare into a voucher system, which would increase premiums for traditional Medicare by 50 percent, according to the CBO. Ryan has also attacked one of the other pillars of economic security for seniors: Social Security. Despite the fact that Social Security survivor benefits made it possible for him to pay for his college tuition, Ryan’s 2010 budget cut benefits and privatized a substantial portion of the program, instead of lifting the Social Security payroll tax cap so that the rich pay their fair share of payroll taxes.
  • Bad for women. Ryan’s dismal record on women’s issues has earned him a 0 percent score from Planned Parenthood on women’s issues. He has voted numerous times to defund Planned Parenthood and is a leading advocate for personhood bills. And though Paul Ryan used his power to guarantee time with his family despite his Speaker duties, he refuses to support legislation, such as guaranteed paid sick and paid family leave, to help others have this right. Unlike Paul Ryan, no one else has federally guaranteed paid time off for illness, holidays, vacation, or the arrival of a new child. Women usually still most feel the burden of this lack of paid leave. More than 40 percent of mothers have cut back on work to care for family. And as new research shows that boosting women’s earnings helps slow the growth of inequality, it is apparent that Paul Ryan’s extremism hurts not only women, but also the economy.
  • Bad for the economy. Ryan’s budgets and rhetoric tout the same failed trickle-down economic theories that have only helped the rich get even richer but leave middle class and working families behind. His budget proposed giving millionaires a tax cut of at least $200,000. And analyses indicate, there is no way to implement Ryan’s tax cuts for millionaires in a deficit-neutral way without raising taxes on the middle class. Ryan also advocates for austerity measures that have never worked and would hurt the economy. And yet, his budget advocates for enormous cuts to investments in education, science, and other programs that benefit the middle class.

BOTTOM LINE: Though we’d like to hope that Paul Ryan’s new title will cause him to reevaluate his policies and support legislation that will actually help working families, his record of damaging polices creates huge warning signs. If Paul Ryan’s reign as speaker is anything like his record, we’re in for another period of GOP extremism that hurts families, seniors, women, and the economy. But now that the chaos has cleared, Republicans in the House of Representatives should take this opportunity under new leadership to pass policies that support working families, rather than the wealthy few.


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

This Week’s Democratic Campaigns and GOP Agitprop

Joe Biden will Not Run for President

Swipe Right for Hillary

Bernie Sanders Explains Social Security

O’Malley on the Need for New Leadership

 

Clinton vs. Sanders vs. O’Malley On Fixing Banking
How do we fix Wall Street, a.k.a. “the banks”? How do the candidates compare? … The first place to look, of course, is CAF’s Candidate Scorecard … Clinton’s 63 percent rating is primarily based on not having a position on a financial transaction tax … as well as opposing reinstating some form of a Glass-Steagall Act and a lack of specific proposals related to the categories “Break Up Big Banks” and “Affordable Banking.” Meanwhile, Sanders rates 100 percent … O’Malley is stressing his positions on and independence from Wall Street [and] also has a 100 percent…

Blue States Make Voting Easier as Red States Add Restrictions
“In Illinois, a new provision allows voters to register electronically when they visit various state agencies. And in Delaware, some residents with criminal records will regain the right to vote … In Republican-controlled states, the story is different. North Carolina has instituted a new voter ID requirement. North Dakota has narrowed the forms of identification voters can present … Ohio’s GOP-controlled legislature has instituted … shorter early voting hours.” Meanwhile, here at home in Nevada, folks who wish to participate in the Democratic County Caucuses will enjoy the ability to “same-day” register to participate, while Republican caucus goers will need to have registered at least 10 days prior to the caucus date AND will be required to present a government issued photo ID card … no indication as to which will be allowed and which will not (e.g., will VA photo IDs be accepted?).

Ex-Gov turned Democrat Charlie Crist announced a run for U.S. House
On Tuesday, ex-Gov. Charlie Crist announced that he would run for the St. Petersburg FL-13 seat. Crist said all the way back in July that he’d run for this seat if he lived in it after redistricting, so this announcement was no surprise. However, Republican Rep. David Jolly, who is leaving this district behind to run for the Senate, unexpectedly crashed what would have otherwise been a routine campaign kickoff. Jolly told reporters that he cares too much about the seat “to lay down and let this huckster walk into office.” Republicans utterly hate Crist, who left the party in 2010, so this kind of stunt certainly won’t hurt Jolly’s chances in the GOP primary.  If Crist wins, he’ll be one of only a few ex-governors to be elected to the House. The University of Minnesota’s Smart Politics blog finds that in the last half-century, only four other ex-governors have done this, and none of them had run a state anywhere near as large as Florida.

Meanwhile in the House of Representatives, the Freedom Caucus is vowing not to play nice —all this at a crucial time when some pretty critical votes will need to be taken:

  • A vote to raise the debt limit to avoid a default on our nation’s debt. House RW budget hawks are looking again at hijacking any efforts to raise the debt limit to pay for expenses they already authorized.  Expect new attacks on medicaid, medicare, social security and planned parenthood. And then there’s Teddy Cruz, urging GOP members to take an absolute hard line against any efforts to pass a “clean” bill to raise the limit to pay for the spending they already authorized.
  • A vote will be needed to pass a fiscal budget, not yet another let’s kick the can down the road continuing resolution to extend the current (previous) budget that was passed,  and
  • A vote will be needed regarding the Iran Deal, which the US and other foreign nations have already begun to implement regardless of any approval/disapproval from our disfunctional Congress.

November should prove quite interesting. But, if all of that that is not enough agitprop for your tastes, Speaker Boehner is proposing that it’s possible that they could actually “repeal Obamacare” by the end of the year. What is he smoking, drinking or otherwise ingesting?  Apparently he thinks President Obama is just gonna roll over and sign onto their repeal efforts taking away any and all opportunities for millions of Americans to be able to purchase health care insurance.  Somebody needs to throw some ice water in his face and yell “Wake Up Bozo!”

  • Rep. Paul Ryan announces speaker bid, with conditions. NYT: “…Ryan called for … an end to the antics of ‘bomb throwers and hand wringers,’ according to members in the room … He suggested that he wanted an answer by Friday. Mr. Ryan made it clear that he would not accede to preconditions set by ‘one group,’ a clear reference to the members of the hard-line Freedom Caucus…”
  • Freedom Caucus resists. Politico: “They were dismissive of his Ryan’s request that they relinquish a procedural tactic they used to threaten to strip outgoing Speaker John Boehner of his title – one of the most potent weapons in the group’s arsenal.”
  • Paul Ryan’s Conditions for House Speaker Bid Meet Early Resistance, Bloomberg: “How does giving Paul Ryan more power solve the problem of John Boehner having had too much power?” Rep. Tim Huelskamp tells Bloomberg.

 

Banana Republicans

— by CAP Action War Room

The Latest House GOP Meltdown Has Been A Long Time Coming, And It’s Not Just About Them

The same tumultuous group that led the Republican Party to control the House of Representatives is now at the center of the latest and most public display of Republican dysfunction, or as Rep. Peter King (R-NY) calls it, “a banana republic.” Amidst absurd infighting in the House over Planned Parenthood funding, Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) was more or less forced to announce his future resignation, leaving the GOP needing to find the next Speaker. Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) was the favorite to replace Boehner, until he unexpectedly and dramatically dropped out yesterday afternoon, leading members of Congress to openly weep and pronounce their caucus has hit “rock bottom.”

The media frenzy surrounding these events has focused on intrigue like it is an episode of “House of Cards.” Was there something behind why McCarthy took himself out of the running? Will Paul Ryan step up and run for speaker despite repeatedly pledging not to? But here’s what is much more important: this self-inflicted leadership breakdown is just one more chapter in a story of House Republican recklessness – and their own caucus hasn’t been the only victim. House GOP dysfunction has resulted in a string of harmful policies and American families have paid the price. Here are just a few examples:

  • The GOP orchestrated the reckless government shutdown in 2013 which had a devastating impact on our economy. Republican leaders bowed to the will of their extreme right wing to shut down the government over the Affordable Care Act. The shutdown lost Americans at least 120,000 jobs, prevented sick Americans from enrolling in clinical trials, forced Head Start programs for children to shut down, stalled veterans’ disability claims, delayed $4 billion in tax returns for Americans, and severely hurt small businesses. Overall, S&P estimates that the Republicans cost the United States economy a whopping $24 billion with their shutdown.
  • The GOP has repeatedly used the debt ceiling to manufacture crises. In order to maintain the full faith and credit of the United States and avoid global economic collapse, Congress needs to raise the debt ceiling from time to time. Yet, GOP leaders have repeatedly joined with their unyielding Tea Party caucus to manipulate these once run-of-the-mill debt ceiling increases for their own gain. In 2011, the GOP threatened to force the United States into a default – to “crash the global economy,” as Time put it – which was only averted after both sides agreed to $1.2 trillion in economically damaging sequestration cuts. This behavior led to a U.S. credit rating downgrade. In 2013, the GOP used this brinksmanship again to attempt to make cuts to programs like Social Security, Medicare, and the SNAP food program, again putting the credit-worthiness of the United States in jeopardy.
  • The GOP also used a manufactured crisis to force sequestration cuts that are still hurting the economy today. The Republican-induced sequester disproportionately hurt low-income and middle class families. It led to significant cuts to funding for education, small business, and health research. Sequestration overall will cause approximately 1.8 million people to lose their jobs.

Clearly, the GOP’s inability to control their own party has already caused a lot of damage to our economy and the well-being of American taxpayers. And yet, as their conference devolves again into chaos, they have no inclination to change their backwards policies or irresponsible behavior. They have no plans to avert the upcoming shutdown or increase the debt ceiling, even though the United States could default on its obligations if Congress doesn’t act by November 5th. House Republicans are not only distracted by their internal pandemonium, going into the upcoming budget negotiations they remain committed to the backwards, policy ideas and reckless political strategy that have caused so many problems for themselves, but more importantly for the American people.

BOTTOM LINE: The GOP’s current state of disarray has been a long time coming. The party’s leadership gave in to a minority of its members who are devoted to pushing devastating cuts to working-and middle-class families in pursuit of rigid and impractical ideological principles. The result has been a government in a state of perpetual dysfunction. And while House Republicans may be paying the price with negative news coverage, it is American families who pay the real price of their extreme policies.


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

This Document Reveals Why The House Of Representatives Is In Complete Chaos

CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MANUEL BALCE CENETA Congressman David Brat, a key member of the House Freedom Caucus

The House of Representative is in chaos. John Boehner announced his intention to step down as Speaker at the end of the month. There doesn’t appear to be anyone to take his place. The leading candidate, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, abruptly withdrew from the race yesterday. Another popular choice, Paul Ryan, says he’s not interested.What happened? How did we get to this point? One document, produced by the House Freedom Caucus, holds all the answers. Framed as a questionnaire the document effectively makes it impossible for any candidate to both: (1) Get elected speaker, and (2) Not send the entire country (and maybe the world) over a cliff.

Why the Freedom Caucus has so much power

The House Freedom Caucus, a relatively new group of about 40 Republicans loosely associated with the Tea Party, has an extraordinary amount of power in this process. Any potential speaker needs the support of 218 Republicans on the floor of the House. There are currently 247 Republicans in the House. That’s a large majority but without the Freedom Caucus, no candidate can get to 218.

What the Freedom Caucus says they want

The Freedom Caucus says they are just fighting for arcane rule changes that will enhance “democracy” in the House. On CNN yesterday, David Brat, a prominent member of the Freedom Caucus outlined his criteria for a new speaker. (You may remember Brat for his surprise victory over Eric Cantor, the man many assumed would replace Boehner as speaker.)

Anyone that ensures a fair process for all sides. That’s what we are all looking for, right… We’ve shown principle. We are waiting for leadership candidates to put in writing moves that ensure you have a democratic process within our own conference. That is what everyone is waiting to see. And it’s got to be in writing, ahead of time for that to be credible.

Sounds perfectly reasonable, right?

What the Freedom Caucus actually wants

Yesterday, Politico published the House Freedom Caucus “questionnaire which it described as pushing for “House rule changes.” The document does do that. But it also does a lot more. It seeks substantive commitments from the next speaker that would effectively send the entire country into a tailspin.

For example, the document seeks a commitment from the next speaker to tie any increase in the debt ceiling to cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.

355

The United States will reach the debt limit on November 5. If the limit is not raised prior to that point, the United States could default on its obligations. This could have disasterous effects on the economy of the United States and the entire world. In 2013, a Treasury Department report found “default could result in recession comparable to or worse than 2008 financial crisis.”

Cutting Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid is extremely unpopular, even among Republicans. These programs are sacrosanct to most Democratic members of Congress. There is effectively no chance that President Obama or Senate Democrats — both of whom would need to support such legislation — would agree to “structural entitlement reforms” in the next month under these kind of conditions.

The House Freedom Caucus essentially wants to make it impossible for the next speaker to raise the debt ceiling. But that is just the beginning.

The House Freedom Caucus also wants the next speaker to commit to numerous conditions on any agreement to avoid a government shutdown:

356

The government will run out of money on December 11. Unless additional funding is approved before that date, the government will shut down.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to not funding the government at all unless President Obama (and Senate Democrats) agree to defund Obamacare, Planned Parenthood and a host of other priorities. This is essentially the Ted Cruz strategy which prompted at 16-day shutdown in 2013. They’re demanding to have this now be enshrined as the official policy of the Speaker of The House.

The House Freedom Caucus wants the next speaker to commit to oppose any “omnibus” bill that would keep the government running. Rather, funding for each aspect of government could only be approved by separate bills. This would allow the Republicans to attempt to finance certain favored aspects of government (the military), while shuttering ones they view as largely unnecessary (education, health).

Why McCarthy thinks the House might be ungovernable

For McCarthy, the document helps explain why he dropped out of the race. If he doesn’t agree to the demands of the House Freedom Caucus, he cannot secure enough votes to become speaker. But if he does agree to their demands, he will unable to pass legislation that is necessary to avoid disastrous consequences for the country.

McCarthy said that, even if he managed to get elected speaker, he doesn’t see how he would be able to have enough votes to extend the debt ceiling and keep the government open.

Asked by the National Review if he thought the House was governable, McCarthy said, “I don’t know. Sometimes you have to hit rock bottom.”

Why no one wants to be speaker

Top Republicans are calling Paul Ryan and begging him to be speaker. But thus far, he hasn’t agreed to run. None of the candidates currently running appear to have substantial support.

The agenda of the House Freedom Caucus makes a difficult job effectively impossible. Agreeing to their demands means presiding over a period of unprecedented dysfunction in the United States.

Even if a candidate was able to become speaker without formally agreeing to the Freedom Caucus’ most extreme requirements, one would still have to deal with the group — and a larger group of House Republicans sympathetic to them — in order to get anything done.

This is why Boehner wanted out and why no one really wants to take his place.


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.

American’s Health-Care System Endangers Mothers’ Lives

Maternal mortality is a domestic human rights crisis that kills hundreds of American women every year.

— by

Here in my tiny outreach maternity clinic on the west side of Orlando, we achieved in 12 months something that the U.S. health care industry has failed to accomplish in more than a quarter century. We dramatically improved birth outcomes among poor pregnant women living in central Florida, an area desperately lacking in health-care services. What’s more, all the women we cared for–including several with risk factors, such as pre-existing health problems and poverty–had healthy hospital births.

Since we didn’t prescreen or select our clients, we can only surmise that these gains, measured by a 2007 independent study of 100 clients by the Health Council of East Central Florida, were the direct result of providing consistent, quality prenatal care for pregnant women who would have otherwise faced nearly insurmountable obstacles to getting it.

Maternal mortality is a domestic human rights crisis that kills hundreds of American women and affects thousands more every year, according to Amnesty International’s new report, Deadly Delivery: The Maternal Health Care Crisis in the United States. Here in the wealthiest country in the world, two or three women die daily from complications of pregnancy or childbirth and the rate of maternal death for African-American women is four times that of white women. These grim statistics do not include more than 34,000 “near misses” –severe complications in which women nearly die–each year. Our country prides itself on pioneering medical advances and spends more than any other country on health care, yet it ranks 41st in the world in maternal mortality and 29th in infant mortality.

“Mothers are dying not because the United States can’t provide good care but because it lacks the political will to make sure good care is available to all women,” says Larry Cox, executive director of Amnesty International USA.

As a midwife working in the trenches of Florida’s poorer neighborhoods, I have witnessed firsthand the many reasons for this failure. What overwhelms me the most is the sheer number of hours my staff and I must spend performing bureaucratic triage for pregnant women trapped without health care in the purgatory of this broken system.

Most of the pregnant women who come to our clinic have been turned away elsewhere, or have already visited a local emergency room. Medicaid has instructed women to apply online. Yet to qualify for coverage, they must fax in proof of pregnancy in the form of a letter signed by a physician or a registered nurse. Private medical practices require uninsured women to pay up to $200 for a lab test or exam upfront, unless they can provide proof of Medicaid coverage. Sometimes a woman will successfully jump through all the hoops required to get Medicaid coverage, only to be turned away by doctors because by then she is 20 weeks pregnant and considered “high risk,” since she has gone through nearly half her pregnancy without prenatal care.

In many other countries health care, including maternity care, is understood as a basic human right. The unwillingness of the United States, however, to guarantee pregnant women access to quality maternity care contributes to the high number of childbirth-related deaths from common causes. Standardized protocols exist but are applied inconsistently, and too often race and economic status are factors.

As the Amnesty International report recommends, the United States can make substantive immediate gains. First and foremost, the government should establish a single office within the Department of Health and Human Services that ensures that all pregnant women have access to quality maternal care. In addition, our elected officials must support federal oversight and accountability for maternal health standards. Nothing less than the survival of hundreds of pregnant women each year is at stake.


Jennie Joseph is a midwife and activist in Orlando, FL. jenniejoseph.com

Distributed by OtherWords.org.

Clinton at the National Urban League Conference

— July 31, 2015

I’m very pleased that many presidential candidates will be here today to address you. It is a signal that the work you’ve been doing – laboring in the vineyards for decades – is getting the political attention it deserves. But the real test of a candidate’s commitment is not whether we come to speak at your national conference, as important as that is. It’s whether we’re still around after the cameras are gone and the votes are counted. It’s whether our positions live up to our rhetoric.

And too often we see a mismatch between what some candidates say in venues like this, and what they actually do when they’re elected. I don’t think you can credibly say that everyone has a “right to rise” and then say you’re for phasing out Medicare or for repealing Obamacare. People can’t rise if they can’t afford health care. They can’t rise if the minimum wage is too low to live on. They can’t rise if their governor makes it harder for them to get a college education. And you cannot seriously talk about the right to rise and support laws that deny the right to vote.

Bernie Sanders: Agenda for America—12 Steps Forward

Bernie Sanders, a challenger to Hillary Clinton, for President of the United States has put forth his “Agenda for America”

  1. Rebuilding Our Crumbling Infrastructure
    We need a major investment to rebuild our crumbling infrastructure: roads, bridges, water systems, waste water plants, airports, railroads and schools. It has been estimated that the cost of the Bush-Cheney Iraq War, a war we should never have waged, will total $3 trillion by the time the last veteran receives needed care. A $1 trillion investment in infrastructure could create 13 million decent paying jobs and make this country more efficient and productive. We need to invest in infrastructure, not more war.
  2. Reversing Climate Change
    The United States must lead the world in reversing climate change and make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren. We must transform our energy system away from fossil fuels and into energy efficiency and sustainable energies. Millions of homes and buildings need to be weatherized, our transportation system needs to be energy efficient and we need to greatly accelerate the progress we are already seeing in wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and other forms of sustainable energy. Transforming our energy system will not only protect the environment, it will create good paying jobs.
  3. Creating Worker Co-ops
    We need to develop new economic models to increase job creation and productivity. Instead of giving huge tax breaks to corporations which ship our jobs to China and other low-wage countries, we need to provide assistance to workers who want to purchase their own businesses by establishing worker-owned cooperatives. Study after study shows that when workers have an ownership stake in the businesses they work for, productivity goes up, absenteeism goes down and employees are much more satisfied with their jobs.
  4. Growing the Trade Union Movement
    Union workers who are able to collectively bargain for higher wages and benefits earn substantially more than non-union workers. Today, corporate opposition to union organizing makes it extremely difficult for workers to join a union. We need legislation which makes it clear that when a majority of workers sign cards in support of a union, they can form a union.
  5. Raising the Minimum Wage
    The current federal minimum wage of $7.25 an hour is a starvation wage. We need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage. No one in this country who works 40 hours a week should live in poverty.
  6. Pay Equity for Women Workers
    Women workers today earn 78 percent of what their male counterparts make. We need pay equity in our country — equal pay for equal work.
  7. Trade Policies that Benefit American Workers
    Since 2001 we have lost more than 60,000 factories in this country, and more than 4.9 million decent-paying manufacturing jobs. We must end our disastrous trade policies (NAFTA, CAFTA, PNTR with China, etc.) which enable corporate America to shut down plants in this country and move to China and other low-wage countries. We need to end the race to the bottom and develop trade policies which demand that American corporations create jobs here, and not abroad.
    [Sign the petition to stop the Trans-Pacific Partnership — another trade deal disaster]
  8. Making College Affordable for All
    In today’s highly competitive global economy, millions of Americans are unable to afford the higher education they need in order to get good-paying jobs. Further, with both parents now often at work, most working-class families can’t locate the high-quality and affordable child care they need for their kids. Quality education in America, from child care to higher education, must be affordable for all. Without a high-quality and affordable educational system, we will be unable to compete globally and our standard of living will continue to decline.
  9. Taking on Wall Street
    The function of banking is to facilitate the flow of capital into productive and job-creating activities. Financial institutions cannot be an island unto themselves, standing as huge profit centers outside of the real economy. Today, six huge Wall Street financial institutions have assets equivalent to 61 percent of our gross domestic product – over $9.8 trillion. These institutions underwrite more than half the mortgages in this country and more than two-thirds of the credit cards. The greed, recklessness and illegal behavior of major Wall Street firms plunged this country into the worst financial crisis since the 1930s. They are too powerful to be reformed. They must be broken up.
  10. Health Care as a Right for All
    The United States must join the rest of the industrialized world and recognize that health care is a right of all, and not a privilege. Despite the fact that more than 40 million Americans have no health insurance, we spend almost twice as much per capita on health care as any other nation. We need to establish a Medicare-for-all, single-payer system.
  11. Protecting the Most Vulnerable Americans
    Millions of seniors live in poverty and we have the highest rate of childhood poverty of any major country. We must strengthen the social safety net, not weaken it. Instead of cutting Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and nutrition programs, we should be expanding these programs.
  12. Real Tax Reform
    At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, we need a progressive tax system in this country which is based on ability to pay. It is not acceptable that major profitable corporations have paid nothing in federal income taxes, and that corporate CEOs in this country often enjoy an effective tax rate which is lower than their secretaries. It is absurd that we lose over $100 billion a year in revenue because corporations and the wealthy stash their cash in offshore tax havens around the world. The time is long overdue for real tax reform.