Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Can Common Ground Prevail?

By Cristina Page

When it comes to the abortion conflict in the U.S. a fascinating new consensus is emerging: the need for common ground. Americans, it seems, are weary of the acrimonious and seemingly endless fight. People want pro-choice and pro-life advocates to work together to reduce the need for abortion.

According to Faith in Public Life Poll, the vast majority (83 percent) of voters, including white evangelicals (86 percent) and Catholics (81 percent), believe elected leaders should work together to find ways to reduce the need for abortion.

For years, pro-choice groups have pushed measures designed to prevent unwanted pregnancy. They have promoted social programs that support poor pregnant women who are forced to make decisions based on economic need. They have pushed prevention over punishment. And now, after decades of resistance, some in the pro-life movement are stepping forward in support of at least some of these pro-choice goals, even if that means jeopardizing their standing in the established pro-life community.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Day for Medicaid Reform


By Timothy D. McBride

The increase in the uninsured to 729,000 in Missouri and 45.6 million nationwide can be traced in part to a sluggish economy. When people lose jobs they lose access to employer sponsored health insurance, and in Missouri almost 17,000 jobs have been lost in the last 12 months.

Spiraling health insurance costs have also made insurance unaffordable and led employers and employees to drop health insurance. Premiums have doubled in the last eight years, well above the 20 percent increase in inflation. This has led to an unprecedented drop in the percentage of firms offering health insurance from 69 percent to 60 percent nationwide.

Rising health insurance premiums are also cutting into the take home pay of workers. While health insurance premiums were doubling since 2000, wages increased only 24 percent. Thus, when employers set aside money for wages and benefits -- they had little left over for wage increases.

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By Damon Circosta

As the election fades and the holiday season is upon us, our collective attention shifts away from campaigns and towards more festive matters. But before we put a bow around this past campaign season, let us take a look back at some of the issues surrounding money and politics in 2008.

I don’t know if Santa takes into account campaign finance reports when he makes his list of who has been naughty and who has been nice, but maybe he should. If he did, he might not be climbing down as many chimneys. Sure, the folks who got elected have the opportunity to bring good tidings of great joy when they take office, but the process by which money enters the political system is still more pernicious than stale fruitcake.

Political fundraising broke records this year. Some of this can be attributed to the influx of small donors and the rise of Internet-driven fundraising appeals. And while small donations from everyday citizens is generally a good sign of a healthy democracy, the specter of elected offices being bought and paid for by large contributors still blankets our democracy not unlike a winter blizzard.

By Mary Ellen Bradshaw and George Pauk

It’s time for the big insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment and supply companies, for-profit hospitals and for-profit providers’ groups to stop obstructing real health reform.

There are 140 Arizona members of Physicians for a National Health Plan and many thousands more nationwide. We submit there is only one way to effectively address our country’s crisis in health care: the enactment of single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for all.

The electorate of Arizona has spoken by defeating Proposition 101: people want real change. They want comprehensive, high-quality, and affordable care. They want to go to the doctor or hospital of their choice.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Accessible Housing Still A Dream For Many


By Aviva Rothman-Shore and Sean Caron

Since the election of Barack Obama, there have been frequent discussions about the implications of this historic election on the state of inequality in the nation. Many have said that the landslide election of an African-American raised in a humble setting by a single parent demonstrates that while racism and socio-economic inequality are stains on America’s history, they are no longer a significant part of our societal fabric.

However, this pivotal moment should not cloud the truth about social and racial inequality in the Commonwealth today. Greater Boston remains one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the nation. The bulk of the Commonwealth’s people of color, regardless of their incomes, reside in urban centers.

In fact, the Commonwealth’s seven largest cities (Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Brockton, New Bedford, and Fall River) have only 20 percent of the total population, but are home to 41 percent of the Commonwealth’s people of color and 40 percent of residents living below the federal poverty line.

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By Kemba Smith

The nomination of Eric Holder as the next U.S. attorney general has renewed concerns about the end-of-term clemencies granted by President Clinton.

High-profile names such as Marc Rich grabbed headlines at the time, but many other people with no political influence benefited from the president's mercy.

I am one of those people. If I had not received a commutation, my first-time conviction for a non-violent offense would have kept me in prison until 2016 (with good behavior) because of the harsh mandatory sentencing laws for crack cocaine. My 1994 prison sentence grew out of my boyfriend's trafficking in crack. After he was murdered, the government charged me with conspiracy to distribute the crack that his drug ring distributed. During my court hearings, prosecutors acknowledged that I never sold, handled or used any of the drugs involved in the conspiracy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prescription for a Healthier Economy

By Steven Edelstein

As policymakers debate how to stabilize the sagging economy, it’s time to think about how to help more than 3 million low-wage workers who hold the answer in their busy and burdened hands.

The recession is hitting hardest in low-income communities, and, if we’re serious about stimulating the economy, we need to make sure that recovery efforts reach the people and places that need it the most. In today’s aging society and service economy, at least one in 10 low-wage-earners is a direct care worker.

These hard-working, hard-pressed Americans provide healthcare and assistance services to older adults and people with disabilities in private homes, nursing homes, and day programs that provide non-residential, non-medical services. Their jobs -- home health aide, personal and home care aide and nursing aide, orderly and attendant -- include two of the three fastest-growing occupations in the nation.


By Phil Schoggen

It’s about time we introduce some commonsense into the discussion about how to stimulate the economy. Whether we’re talking about the state or national economy, the worn-out mantra seems to be the same -- to stimulate the economy, we need to cut taxes. But such short-sighted action is likely to do more harm than good to both the economy and the common good.

The argument that taxes are simply bad for the economy is based on the false assumption that, somehow, after these taxes are collected, the money just magically vaporizes into thin air. But it’s not that simple, because there’s another side of the coin that gets ignored in this anti-tax narrative.

The money that is collected through our tax system gets invested in things like healthy kids and seniors, new schools, retaining good teachers, stocking libraries, improving roads, expanding mass transit, building parks, and paying our hard-working police officers just to name a few. These are things that we as a community have decided are important investments for us to make in order to strengthen the common good and the communities we live in.

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By Dave Wells

Facing an enormous revenue shortfall, the current secretary of state and soon to be governor, Jan Brewer, has expressed her potential openness to raising taxes. Meanwhile the outgoing Speaker of the House Jim Weiers is convening a blue-ribbon committee to study the Arizona tax code. These represent steps in the right direction.

When Gov. Janet Napolitano took office in 2003, she faced a $1 billion deficit. Relative to the economy, state general fund spending fell 20 percent below its norm for the past three decades. In response, she formed a Citizens Finance Review Commission, but refused to risk her political future by calling for significant revenue reform that would run into Republican opposition.

This year's state budget situation is far worse; $1.2 billion this fiscal year and double that next year. While both parties share blame, revenue reform must become part of the solution.

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By Harriet O’Neill

The holiday season is here. It’s a time for giving and also a good time to pause and reflect on the many blessings for which we are thankful.

As a parent, my children top the list. Every day I am grateful for the joy, and the challenges, they bring. Their safety and well-being are my first and last thoughts of the day. I am counting the hours until they return home for the holidays, eager to hear their voices, listen to their stories, and share their dreams. All across the nation, families are making preparations to connect with loved ones.

Think for a moment of what it would be like to have no one expecting you home; No one looking out the window awaiting your arrival; No one to lament if distance or circumstance prevent you from being there; No one to give thanks that you are part of their life.

Monday, December 1, 2008

We Must Maintain Immunization Laws


By Dr. Joe Donaldson

Just 100 years ago when childhood diseases like measles, mumps, and whopping cough were more prevalent, too many children lost their sight, their hearing, their mental aptitude, or worse, their life.

That is why Mississippi, just like every other state, requires that before children enter school they receive vaccinations to prevent what used to be common but serious childhood diseases.

Unfortunately, some parents in Mississippi are pushing to broaden exemptions from vaccination requirements from the current medical necessity exemption in the state law. Many of these parents simply do not believe in the efficacy of vaccinations. Some believe strongly that vaccinations contribute to childhood developmental problems, including autism, despite all science and evidence to the contrary.

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