Friday, July 31, 2009

A Strong Case for Sotomayor


By David C. Baldus

Now that the Senate has finished its hearings on the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, the next steps in this process are critical to all Iowans. Senators Grassley and Harkin will soon execute one of their most important constitutional responsibilities – voting to confirm the lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor is a highly qualified nominee who will keep faith with our nation’s constitutional values. Iowans should value someone who is moderate and measured in her rulings.

President Obama has chosen someone who is superbly qualified and endorsed by the American Bar Association. Judge Sotomayor has outstanding legal credentials and she understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, commonsense application of the law. We Iowans understand the need for someone who respects fair application of the law for all.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Health Care Reform Should Include Women


By Paula Gianino

Health care reform bills are moving quickly in Washington D.C. As a trusted health care provider serving over 50,000 women a year with thousands of pap smears, breast exams, and tests for sexually transmitted disease, Planned Parenthood of the St. Louis Region and Southwest Missouri wants to make sure women’s health is a priority in health care reform.

Reform is sorely needed with more than 750,000 Missourians (one out of every six) uninsured according to the Kaiser Family Foundation. In addition, former Governor Blunt’s Medicaid cuts reduced benefits for 300,000 Missourians, and eliminated Medicaid coverage for 100,000 Missourians according to the Missouri Citizen Education Fund. Furthermore, in 2003, the Missouri House eliminated a successful and cost-saving program that gave 30,000 Missouri women access to family planning services.

In our current health care system, women of childbearing age spend 68 percent more in out-of-pocket expenses than men. A recent report by the Department of Health and Human Services titled “Roadblocks to Health Care: Why the Current Health Care System Does Not Work for Women,” show that “women are more vulnerable to high health care costs… [because] women’s reproductive health requires more regular contact with health care providers, including yearly Pap tests, mammograms, and obstetric care.” And a 2009 survey conducted for the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists found that women are delaying their annual exams as a result of the economic downturn.


By Delia Armstrong Busby

The U.S. Department of Education’s 2010 fiscal year budget of $47.6 billion includes an allocation of $517 million dedicated to the Teacher Incentive Fund which rewards principals, teachers, and other school personnel who raise student achievement, close achievement gaps and work hard to staff schools.

School districts across the country will be competing for the billions of dollars on the line. They will showcase their great schools, exemplary teachers and innovative ideas. There’s no doubt that the stimulus money will be a boon for school reform. For years, school districts have shown that they have innovative ideas, but without proper funding those ideas never come to fruition.

Colorado Springs School District 11 is among those salivating at the size of the federal pot. One of its latest projects, the creation of the Jack Swigert Aerospace Academy, could well fit the criteria the feds come up with for handing out money. The school is in a low-income neighborhood, it's being created in partnership with the U.S. Space Foundation, it'll have hands-on -- or what's now being called project-based -- learning, and its emphasis will be on math and science, areas where U.S. students tend to lag their counterparts in other parts of the world. District officials recently said they've already presented the idea to the governor and are working with state officials.


By Melissa Reed

How reproductive health care is dealt with in national health care reform is no small matter; and who provides this care is still to be determined.

For communities like ours, local health centers are where many people turn for trusted health care. In North Carolina, more than 504,160 low-income women need family planning services. Community health providers, like Planned Parenthood, often serve as an entry point for essential health care needs. And Planned Parenthood isn’t the only health center women rely on for preventive care.

Today, one in four women who receives contraceptive care does so at a women’s health center. One in six who obtains a Pap test or a pelvic exam does so at a women’s health center, as do one-third of women who receive counseling, testing or treatment for sexually transmitted infections, including HIV. This basic health care is essential, particularly during difficult economic times, to give women the tools they need to protect and support their families. This is particularly true when you consider that women of childbearing age spend a remarkable 68 percent more in out-of-pocket health care costs than men, in part because of reproductive health-related needs.

By Ralph Riviello, MD, MS

Recently I saw a pregnant woman I will call Lillian, a 22-year-old who brought her two children with her to the ER. Lillian has a fulltime job whose health insurance doesn’t cover pregnancy. She can’t afford to cover herself and her family on the individual market, and she makes too much money to qualify for Medicaid. Lillian came to the ER because she wants to make sure her baby is okay. A friend with better insurance advised her that she should have an ultrasound.

But because Lillian told the registration clerk about abdominal pain, we had to put her through other work-ups like a complete pelvic exam, cultures, and blood tests, on top of the only test she wanted. The hospital spent at least $1,000 on Lillian, which drives up the price of care for everyone.

I discharged Lillian with worry. I know that she will have a difficult time finding standard prenatal care. Without that help, she and her baby are at much higher risk for complications, like low birth weight, that can turn into tragedy. Or Lillian’s health might suffer. I am embarrassed by how many women die in childbirth in the U.S. -- at 15.1 maternal deaths per 100,000 live births, our rate is higher than most developed nations


By Elia Arenas

I grew up hard-working, and started at the age of 15 to supplement my family’s income when my father became very ill and required surgery. I stopped going to school to sustain our family, and would go on to work at the same job for 37 years.

After being terminated from the job in 2008 because the business was closing, I did not know what to do. Without a high school degree I could not apply for jobs. I learned of the opportunity to gain my General Education Development (GED) and registered. I will graduate soon, that is, unless Illinois legislators cut the program before I have the opportunity to finish.

Due to our state’s budget crisis, adult education programs are facing severe cuts to their budget. Most programs will have to close down completely so people looking to attain their GED, participate in career preparation, or take English-as-a-Second-Language lessons are in a tough situation. Adult education classes are the only opportunity for adult learners who did not attain a U.S. education as a youth, to get back on track and advance.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Ending the Sexual Abuse of Girls


By Kaffie McCullough

Despite aggressive FBI action to target prostitution and pimp rings, an estimated 300 girls are still forced into commercial sex transactions each month in our state, more than twice the number who are killed in auto accidents in a year.

The Juvenile Justice Fund has mounted a statewide campaign called “A Future. Not A Past.,” to address this sexual exploitation, seeking to show that adolescents who are drawn into prostitution are victims of adult criminal behavior, rather than criminals themselves. The media has helped raise awareness of the staggering dimension of the problem, most recently in an article profiling the forceful response of faith-based communities.

This fight is to rescue girls who have been exploited and help restore their lives. Although we still do not have enough capacity to treat all of the victims, the Governor’s Office of Children and Families has committed to develop a statewide system of care so that any girl who may have been exploited can be assessed and, if necessary, treated for the trauma that she has endured through commercial sexual exploitation.

By Dawn Dalton and Sharmili Majmudar
Chris was raped by a friend. Kiran was degraded and humiliated at home every night after work. Mischelle is living a life filled with violence and shame. Maria was beaten in front of her children by their father. Stories like these are all too common.

These survivors were assisted by the sexual assault and domestic violence agencies across Chicago and Illinois. They received counseling, legal advocacy, shelter and support in escaping the violence in their lives. Because of this, they no longer are trapped by abuse, but have found healing, safety and justice.

On May 31 our state legislators passed a budget that decimated the infrastructure of human services throughout the state. Due to this action, agencies laid off staff, closed offices in already underserved communities and cut services because the 60 to 100 percent cuts they received in contracts from the state. Domestic violence shelters closed and rape crisis centers operated at service levels as if it were 1979 as opposed to 2009. When the option was put forward for a tax increase versus meeting the needs of Illinois constituents, a vote was taken and decisions were made. Human needs are not important to our general assembly.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed

By Larry Struck

Picture yourself with a serious health problem and no medical care. This is not difficult to imagine for anyone without health insurance or with substandard coverage.

Fortunately, my partner Debra, and I were in excellent health when we departed the U.S. aboard our sailboat for a multi-year sabbatical. We left corporate and government jobs which had provided complete first-class health care and insurance for decades. Now we were self-insured and decided to see what a medical system in another country could offer.

In the U.S. if you are unable to pay to see a doctor, then you reluctantly learn to live with that low-grade fever, strange pain, rash, persistent cough, or deep ache in the gut. Your shortness of breath probably just means you have to take it easy if you can and maybe lose a few pounds. You hate to do it but you’d better postpone checkups for the kids.

Friday, July 17, 2009

An Open Letter on Sotomayor


By Linda Tobin and Marie Smith

As the Senate finishes its hearings on the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Senators George Voinovich and Sherrod Brown will soon execute one of their most important constitutional responsibilities – voting to confirm the lifetime appointment to the Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor is a highly qualified nominee who will keep faith with our nation’s constitutional values. Ohioans should value someone who is moderate and measured in her rulings.

Endorsed by the American Bar Association, President Obama has chosen someone who is superbly qualified. Judge Sotomayor has outstanding legal credentials and she understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law. We Ohioans understand the need for someone who respects fair application of the law for all.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Taxes and the Wisdom of Our Forebears

By Brian Miller

One-hundred years ago, on July 17, 1909, Sen. William E. Borah (R-ID) wrote the words, "The income tax is the fairest and most equitable of the taxes. It is the one tax which approaches us in the hour of prosperity and departs in the hour of adversity. Certainly, it will be conceded by all that the great expense of government is in the protection of property and wealth. There is no possible argument founded in law or in morals why these protected interests should not bear their proportionate burden of government."

Within two years of Senator Borah's pronouncement, Wisconsin enacted the first state income tax. Several other states followed suit as a wave of Progressive Era reforms led many states to replace their ailing property taxes with more progressive and effective income taxes.

By contrast, the first functional sales tax was enacted in Mississippi during the dark days of its segregationist history, in 1932, in part as an effort to shift taxes off of the wealthy and politically powerful landowners, and onto the backs of African-Americans and poor whites. Several states followed, and while their reasoning may have been less offensive, it’s clear that legislators have known since the very beginning exactly who is most impacted by the sales tax.


By Charles E. Fisher

There’s a common theme coming from some of Missouri’s Congressional delegation regarding the subject of clean energy and green jobs.

We’ve been hearing a lot of “not so fast,” and “no, we can’t,” with a lot of mumbling about costs and endangering current jobs. Senator Kit Bond even went so far as to issue a report called “Yellow Light on Green Jobs.” His sound bite on the issue: “It sounds really neat to think we're going to have wind-powered jobs, except I don’t see cars going down the road with propellers on them.”

For members of United Auto Workers Local 2379 in Jefferson City, green jobs are a reality. We quite literally have wind-powered jobs, building the transformers for a new wind farm in northwest Missouri. According to the Department of Energy, this single wind project in DeKalb County will not only create 150 megawatts of pollution-free energy; it will create more than 2,500 jobs here and around the country.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed


By Elena Rovner

As the Senate begins open hearings on the Supreme Court nomination of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, no doubt there will be those who continue to oppose the nomination, but they will have a tough time proving their case.

It has been widely observed that President Obama has chosen someone who is superbly qualified. Judge Sotomayor has outstanding legal credentials and understands that upholding the rule of law means going beyond legal theory to ensure consistent, fair, common-sense application of the law to real world facts.

If confirmed for the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor would bring more federal judicial experience to the Supreme Court than any justice in 100 years, and more overall judicial experience than anyone confirmed to the Court in the past 70 years. She has been a big-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator, a federal trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sotomayor Entitled to Fair Hearings


By Carol Bloch and Jan Schneiderman

When the Senate begins holding hearings on the confirmation of Judge Sonia Sotomayor, Senators Nelson and Johanns will exercise one of their most important constitutional responsibilities – to advise and consent to lifetime appointments to the Supreme Court.

Judge Sotomayor’s outstanding legal record shows that she is someone who makes judicial decisions based on the law and the Constitution. In nominating Judge Sotomayor, President Obama has chosen someone with the ideal combination of brilliance in the law and a real-world understanding of what it means to ensure that legal theory is applied in a way that ensures justice for all.

If confirmed for the Supreme Court, Judge Sotomayor will bring more federal experience than any justice in the past 100 years. She has served as a large-city prosecutor and a corporate litigator, a federal trial judge on the U.S. District Court, and an appellate judge on the Second Circuit Court of Appeals.

Click Here to Read Full Op-ed

Tuesday, July 7, 2009


By Mark Heyrman and N’Dana Carter

The Illinois legislature recently called for a special session after Governor Quinn vetoed the proposed “doomsday budget” passed by the House and Senate. This budget would have drastically cut mental health services. State legislators now have the chance to reconsider their priorities and should pass a fair budget. Last year over 700,000 people in Illinois suffered from a serious mental disorder and any cuts to these programs will harm not only those using these services, but also their family and friends.

One of those 700,000 people is Ms. Carter, long-time resident of Chicago’s south side. She excelled professionally with a career spanning over 20 years and was heavily involved in local civic organizations. She developed depression after suffering extreme setbacks. She could not take a promotion due to the interference and anxiety and eventually had to stop working. She utilizes mental health services in order to gradually regain her life back.

People with mental disorders face a variety of challenges. They are made to feel ashamed and have few places they can go to for help.

By Thoraya Ahmed Obaid

None of the crises we face today -- whether it is the food crisis, the water crisis, the financial crisis or the crisis of climate change -- can be managed unless greater attention is paid to population issues.

World Population Day is the right time to put the issue of population back on the radar screen. And it is not a moment too soon. By 2050 our current global population of 6.8 billion could grow to the United Nation's median projection of 9 billion, or even soar to 11 billion people.

But what is not widely appreciated is that the projection of 9 billion global population is premised on a substantial reduction in fertility in the least developed countries and this requires a dramatic expansion in access to voluntary family planning.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

A Fourth of July for Everyone

By Charles "Shai" Goldstein

This Fourth of July, America celebrates(d) its 233rd birthday. Concurrent with the celebration, over 6,000 immigrants were naturalized as citizens in commemoration programs throughout the United States (including New Jersey’s Liberty Island and Betsy Ross House in Pennsylvania).

Unfortunately, millions of American residents who are “yearning to breathe free,” who work hard, pay taxes, and even some who protect and defend our republic in the military do not have a path to citizenship … yet.

Lost amidst a variety of “stories” over the past weeks was news the President Barak Obama met on June 25 with bi-partisan group of leaders including Senators McCain, Schumer and Menendez to develop a plan for reforming our immigration system.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

The First Step is the Hardest

By Billy Parish

The House recently passed the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), an important step toward protecting our environment and building a clean energy economy.

ACES has generated a lot of strong opinions, for and against, especially in the environmental community. Now I'm not a scientist or a policy wonk, but I did help start and run the Energy Action Coalition, the largest youth clean energy organization in the country, and following the debate over the 1,200-page proposal has been confusing, even for me.

Al Gore calls the proposal, "one of the most important pieces of legislation ever introduced in Congress." Yet, NASA's top climate scientist, James Hansen, says "I hope cap and trade doesn't pass, because we need a much more effective approach."