Opinions expressed are those of the poster and not necessarily the Sonoma County Young Democrats.

Monday, March 22, 2010

What is Health Care Reform?

With the passage of the historic Health Care Reform Bill yesterday many people are questioning what exactly is included in the bill. Here is a breakdown:

- Pre-existing conditions will not be a reason that insurers could deny someone of insurance starting in 2014

- Medi-Cal will be expanded to include more lower-income individuals under the age of 65. Households with income up to 133 percent of the poverty level, or about $29,327 for a family of four, would be eligible.

- The Medicare prescription drug program will be changed to close the “doughnut hole”. This is a gap in coverage that affects millions of individuals. While it won’t be eliminated until 2020, there will be improvements in 2011, including a 50 percent discount on brand name drugs.

- Dependent children up to the age of 26 would be eligible for coverage under their parent’s plans.

- Eliminates lifetime dollar limits on policies.

- Prevents insurers from canceling coverage because someone gets sick.

- Immediately prevents insurers from denying coverage to children because of pre-existing conditions.

- While there is no government-run insurance plan included in this bill, there is the creation of the new state-based purchasing pools called exchanges. These will begin in 2014 and will allow for individuals to have the same purchasing power as an employee of a large company.

- Provides new investment in training programs to increase the number of primary care doctors, nurses, and public health professionals.

- Increases the funding for Community Health Centers to allow for nearly a doubling of the number of patients seen by the centers over the next 5 years.

There is a great breakdown by congressional district on what the bill includes. Here is an example using the 6th Congressional District:

- Improves coverage for 419,000 residents with health insurance

- Gives tax credits and other assistance to up to 121,000 families and 20,400 small businesses to help them afford coverage.

- Improve Medicare for 101,000 beneficiaries, including closing the donut hole.

- Extend coverage to 42,000 uninsured residents

- Guarantee that 10,000 residents with pre-existing conditions can obtain coverage.

- Provide millions of dollars in new funding for 28 community health centers.

The link to find this information is http://bit.ly/9bfzuh.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. ~ MLK

On this, the 18th of January, we stop to celebrate the life of Martin Luther King, Jr. In his short 39 years on earth Martin Luther King had an incredible impact, one that continues on to this day. His efforts to end racial segregation and racial discrimination earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964. He was the youngest recipient of that award.

When I stop to think of the impact he had on our country I am reminded of the speech given by Bobby Kennedy to eulogize his passing, and I thought it would be fitting to reflect on those words today.

Statement on the Assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr.

Indianapolis, Indiana

April 4, 1968

"I have bad news for you, for all of our fellow citizens, and people who love peace all over the world, and that is that Martin Luther King was shot and killed tonight.

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort.

In this difficult day, in this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black--considering the evidence there evidently is that there were white people who were responsible--you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge. We can move in that direction as a country, in great polarization--black people amongst black, white people amongst white, filled with hatred toward one another.

Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend, and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with an effort to understand with compassion and love.

For those of you who are black and are tempted to be filled with hatred and distrust at the injustice of such an act, against all white people, I can only say that I feel in my own heart the same kind of feeling. I had a member of my family killed, but he was killed by a white man. But we have to make an effort in the United States, we have to make an effort to understand, to go beyond these rather difficult times.

My favorite poet was Aeschylus. He wrote: "In our sleep, pain which cannot forget falls drop by drop upon the heart until, in our own despair, against our will, comes wisdom through the awful grace of God."

What we need in the United States is not division; what we need in the United States is not hatred; what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness; but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.

So I shall ask you tonight to return home, to say a prayer for the family of Martin Luther King, that's true, but more importantly to say a prayer for our own country, which all of us love--a prayer for understanding and that compassion of which I spoke.

We can do well in this country. We will have difficult times; we've had difficult times in the past; we will have difficult times in the future. It is not the end of violence; it is not the end of lawlessness; it is not the end of disorder.

But the vast majority of white people and the vast majority of black people in this country want to live together, want to improve the quality of our life, and want justice for all human beings who abide in our land.

Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

Let us dedicate ourselves to that, and say a prayer for our country and for our people."

The words that bear repeating for me are as follows:

"What we need in the United States is not division;

what we need in the United States is not hatred;

what we need in the United States is not violence or lawlessness;

but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black."

As our President celebrates his first MLK day in office, nearly a year, to the day since he was inaugurated, the words state so many years ago still ring true. We do not need division, we don not need hatred. In order for this great country of ours to move forward, in the spirit of change, we need compromise, we need caring, we need compassion, and we need hope.

- We need to comprimise on our differences, so we can move forward for the betterment of the country.

- We need caring, for those amongst us who do not share in our good fortune.

- We need compassion, for our neighbors who have just suffered through a horrible disaster

- We need hope, for a better tomorrow.

While many will be taking this MLK day to relax and recover from the weekend, I feel it is important for us to commit to action. Action that will honor the legacy of this great man. Wether that action comes in the form of volunteering, or simply taking the extra time involved in doing what is right for our fellow man. I know I will try to do my part, and I hope you will too.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti in Ruins

As we are all very well aware at this point, there was a devastating earthquake just outside of Port-Au-Prince, Haiti. This 7.0 magnitude quake has lefts thousands homeless, and roughly 100, 000 dead. The tragedy that Haiti is facing is one that is compounded by the fact that it is the poorest country in the western hemisphere. Roughly 80% of the citizens of Haiti live below the poverty level. The per capita income of Haiti is $560 annually. Living in California we have the luxury of strict building codes and seismic standards that are not the norm in Haiti, which has been a major factor in the impact that this earthquake.

I am coincidently staying in San Luis Obispo for training on Emergency Management for earthquakes right now, and I cannot help but let my mind wander off to the thought of how devastating this earthquake has been, and how fortunate we truly are here in California. I have been searching for ways that I may be of help and was able to find a listing of resources from CNN. The below link provides information on charitable organizations that you can donate to.

Hip Hop artist Wyclef Jean is urging people to donate $5 to his Haitian charity, YĆ©le Haiti, by texting "YELE" to 501501. (The donation will be automatically charged to your cellphone bill.) His is one of many Haiti earthquake relief efforts underway.

Additionally, you can text HAITI to 90999, which will send a $10 donation the Red Cross. The donation will be added to your phone bill and all of the money will go directly to the Red Cross.

While I am well aware of the tough financial situation that many people are in, it is hard to look at the devastation on television and not feel an overwhelming desire to give all you can to help our fellow man in this dire time of need.

Resources to donate:


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Death to the 2/3 rule!

Let's imagine a scenario: A once great land is mired in political bickering. Nothing can be done without lies and personal attacks being lobbed by the opposing factions. Social programs that the people have relied on for decades begin to crumble. The price of a college education soars beyond what most can reasonably afford. State parks you've visited your entire life are closing. People are confused, angry and ashamed of what is being done. A land once held up to the world as the shining beacon of hope and equal oppurtunity begins to fade away. Guess what? This land is our great state of California. While there are many factors that brought California to this point, one stands out as the most destructive, and the most to blame; the requirement of a 2/3 majority to simply pass a budget. That requirement may have worked in an age without term limits, when lawmakers from both parties had worked together for years. They were friends and enemies at the same time. Nowadays, they are only the latter.

Every year, a political showdown occurs in Sacramento. Republicans vow to resist any increase in revenues, and Democrats fight tooth and nail to save programs we all unknowingly depend on. And who loses? The people. Especially those people who have no voice; the homeless, the poor, the elderly, students and many other powerless groups. The people who go unnoticed in state politics because they can't bankroll massive campaigns and get politicians elected. We read about these budget cuts every year in the newspaper, yet it's often hard to put a face to them. But behind each dollar cut from a program, there is a person who will suffer or die. Programs that provided funding for HIV/AIDS medication, breast cancer screening for women who can't afford it on their own, and food stamps. Those are just a few of the examples of our social safety net being ripped to shreds. How did this happen in California? Blame that 2/3 requirement.

What is the 2/3 requirement you ask? It's simple; 66% of the state legislators need to vote 'aye' to any budget package, or any tax increase. Since the CA Legislature is mostly Dems(thank god), a few Republicans each year must be coaxed into voting for what is essentially a Democratic budget. Like the health care debate in the US Congress, these handful of GOP lawmakers hold an enormous amount of sway over the debate. They demand concessions for their vote, and they always get them. Last year the Republican leaders in the Assembly and Senate did the right thing and voted for the budget, saving their constituents from hardship. Care to guess their caucus' reaction to an act of political bravery? They immediately removed them from the leadership, and essentially ended their careers in public office. This is the reward given to a Republican by their own party when they bite the bullet, and do the right thing.

And why should the average voter care? It's hard to fathom in the moment when the budget is signed what will happen, but now we are beginning to see the results. Tuition costs at state universities are rising, state parks are on the brink of closure, infrastructure projects languish due to lack of funding, and social services are cut to the bone. Our land of fruit and honey has been reduced to a land of bond debts and no money. And while there are other factors to be considered in this, such as term limits and ballot initiatives tying legislator's hands, the 2/3 rule is the crux of the problem. Eliminate this insane requirement to simply pass a budget, and our great state may yet reclaim it's former glory. Stay tuned for more posts about the budget, because I assure you, this yearly battle is just heating up again.

Monday, December 21, 2009

"We are entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts"

Below is a link to a lively exchange between Sen. Franken and Sen. Thune. In his short time in the Senate Franken has established himself as a much needed voice of reason. In the clip he attempts to explain to Senator Thune that "We are entitled to our own opinions, but we are not entitled to our own facts."

Sadly, in this ongoing debate about healthcare reform, facts haven't always been at the forefront. Watch the clip and enjoy a healthy exchange.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

My letter to Santa

Dear Santa,

I am writing, and I know this is a little late, but I am writing to ask for a small gift. That gift would be Senator Harry Reid stripping Joe Lieberman of his Chairmanship of the Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee. I know it is not nice to ask for something to be taken away from someone during this holiday season, but I think the time has come. I know what you’re thinking Santa, we need Joe on our side, and letting him have the Chairmanship keeps him in our good graces, but I ask you, is he the kind of friend we want? He campaigned for McCain, he is toying with running as a Republican for re-elections, and he has vowed to vote against a public option.

Sen. Lieberman has been very good to his friends though. Aetna, has contributed over $91,000 to Lieberman. This past September he was interview by a news agency and stated his support of expanding Medicare, but is now against it? Instead he favors “a centrally financed system of private health insurance options”. I wonder if his friends over at Aetna had anything to do with that change of heart?

Sen. Lieberman has stated that he is prepared to live with his opposition to publicly funded insurance, convinced, he said, that it would increase taxes.

Doesn’t this seem like a Republican point of view? I know personally, I am prepared to live with an increase in the taxes I pay if it means as a country, we can allow everyone access to insurance coverage. If I have to skip out on a couple of martinis in exchange for a public insurance option for all, so be it. During the past two years one out of three Americans under the age of 65 were without health insurance. How is that?

If more Americans have health insurance, and thus access to a primary healthcare provider, the costs of providing care will go down. As it stands now, those without insurance will end up going to seek care in Emergency Departments. This is the most expensive venue to provide care in. The costs for providing care to these people in the ED are often times not recouped by the hospitals. In order for the hospitals to make up for that loss, they then charge those persons with insurance more for their care in order to cover their losses. So, in the end aren’t we paying for it already? It is time for change, and it is time for us to get those who are against change out of office.

So, in closing Santa, if you can grant me this one wish, I think we can begin to lessen Sen. Lieberman’s influence, and give us a better chance of getting a Democrat into his seat. Maybe then we will see some real reform to our healthcare system.


Gabe Kearney

Sunday, December 13, 2009

John Perez chosen to lead Ca State Assembly

On December 11th history was made in California. John Perez, freshman assemblyman from Los Angeles was unanimously chosen by the Assembly’s Democratic Caucus to be the 68th Speaker of the Assembly. While Perez is not the first openly gay official to lead a statewide body, the late Allan Spear of Minnesota made that milestone. Having come out of the closet in 1974, Spear was one of the first openly gay elected officials. He was the President of the Minnesota State Senate from 1992 to 2000.

The Speaker Elect did not just walk into this position. He had to compete against two fellow Latino Democrats from Los Angeles, Kevin De Leon and Felipe Fuentes. The battle lasted all the way up to the day of the Democratic Caucus vote. Although Fuentes had bowed out the week prior, De Leon was still in the race, but after several meetings with Perez, finally decided to step down, and ended up nominating Perez.

Speaker Elect Perez, a former labor leader, and UC Berkeley grad, was elected to the California State Assembly to represent the 46th district on November 4th, 2008 with 85% of the votes. Perez faces big challenges in his new post. California is facing a $20 Billion budget shortfall for the next 6 years. With the requirement for California’s budget to pass with a two-thirds vote, and the Republicans vowing to vote against any increase in taxes, make passing a budget a gargantuan task.

With regards to the significance of John Perez becoming the Speaker-Elect, Geoff Kors, Director of Equality California stated, "He's the first openly gay person of color elected to the Legislature, so it's really a testament to what he's done in the Legislature and before in labor, for the environment, for the civil rights movement and for the LGBT movement. To have an openly gay Latino heading the largest legislative body, that represents the most people in the country, in and of itself is going to have a significant impact on advancing LGBT rights."

In an interview with the San Francisco Chronicle, Assemblyman Tom Ammiano stated Perez’s election to the Speaker’s post was very poignant. "I was a personal friend of (slain San Francisco Supervisor Harvey Milk) and to live long enough to see this is very significant. ... Like Milk said, you have to give them hope, and I think what happened today is going to give people hope."

As the fight for marriage equality moves forward in California, having one of the most powerful state legislators being an openly gay man will do a lot to increase the visibility of the inequality that our current marriage laws represent. It has been shown that voters are less likely to vote against civil rights measures when they know someone it affects, and having John Perez as a face to the issue will show many more voters that there is still a long way to go until the LGBT community has achieved equality.

In the coming weeks the transition of power will take place with Assembly voting on the confirmation of Perez as the new Speaker, and current Speaker Karen Bass handing over the reigns. This coincides with the release of Gov. Schwarzenegger’s budget.

Assemblyman Perez is the scheduled keynote speaker for the upcoming Sonoma County Democratic Party Crab Feed on February 26, 2010. Tickets can be purchased through the following link: http://www.actblue.com/page/crabfeed2010