Archive | March 2013

Maryland Repeals Death Penalty

7 Handcuffs

This month, Maryland became the sixth state in six years to repeal the death penalty. With that said, the total number of states that have abolished capital punishment is now eighteen (18). For years, Maryland’s Governor, Martin O’Malley has championed the repeal of death penalty in his state. After signing the bill into law, Governor O’Malley said that the risk of executing an innocent person weighed heavily in his dedication to ending capital punishment in Maryland. The success of the repeal effort in Maryland has given momentum to repeal efforts in Delaware where an abolition bill was passed by the state Senate this week. The next step in Delaware is for the legislation to go before the House. The Delaware Governor, Jack Markell, has refused to say whether he favors the legislation.

The US criminal justice system is based on guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. It’s the foundation of our justice system, built to serve and protect the wrongly accused. But in the case of Troy Davis and countless others on death row, it’s a principle that was defied, ignored, and trampled on. As Troy Davis wrote in a letter when he was facing execution in 2008 :” … no matter what happens in the days, weeks to come, this Movement to end the death penalty, to seek true justice, to expose a system that fails to protect the innocent must be accelerated. There are so many more Troy Davis’. This fight to end the death penalty is not won or lost through me but through our strength to move forward and save every innocent person in captivity around the globe.

With the recent decision to abolish the death penalty in Maryland, we have moved one step closer to dismantling our unjust criminal justice system city by city, state by state and country by country. Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) have been seeking to do just that for decades. Specifically, these organizations have been quite successful in raising awareness about the problems with criminal justice system and the need to end the death penalty. The number of persons supporting their work is growing as demonstrated in the case of Troy Davis. Their petition seeking clemency in the Troy Davis case was signed by almost one million persons. NAACP and Amnesty International have experienced steady progress in this important undertaking to end the death penalty. However, the Troy Davis case reminds us that more work needs to be done to end the death penalty across our nation.

The collective work done on Troy Davis’ case resounded with people all over the world. Next stop for the abolition of the death penalty nationwide is California, a state poised to make history this fall by ending its death penalty through a referendum. The struggle continues. But with each victory, we, as a nation, come closer to a world where human rights are respected, and executions are a thing of the past.

For further information on how you can get involved in efforts to end the penalty nationwide, please visit the websites for Amnesty International and the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Equal Justice USA, and the Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Sources: Delaware Senate approves repeal of death penalty, POLITICO, March 26, 2013, Associated Press. Amnesty International, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP), Innocence Project. The Campaign to End the Death Penalty.

Photo credit: Microsoft Clip Art

US Senate Said No To The Ryan Budget

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The US Senate resounding rejected the Ryan Budget Plan. Ryan’s Budget Plan severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Poverty in America not only affects the millions of people who are deprived of the common necessities to live, but it also affects the idea of progression and hopefulness in this country. The more than 46 million people in America living in squalor, poverty, and hunger are not invisible. Their concerns must be our concerns.

Had the Senate like the House passed the Ryan Budget, it would have struck a very serious blow to vulnerable children and families far into the future. Millions of children were in danger of budget cuts to vital health and income supports. House budget chair Paul Ryan, in his budget plan would rather the money go to defense spending and tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.

Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts in the Ryan Budget Plan would have come from vital programs, while much of the savings goes to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts. The members of the house supporting the Ryan Budget Plan opted to balance our federal deficit on the backs of the most vulnerable. Ally of Ryan’s budget proposals fail to create a circle of protection around programs vital for hungry and poor people in our country and abroad.

The Ryan Budget Plan would have gouged the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, formerly food stamps) by billions, and turns it into a block grant, which would prevent SNAP from responding to economic downturns. Additionally, the proposed budget cuts the funding levels negotiated by Congress last August, and it eliminates the protections established for all major low-income entitlement programs. It also would have slashed other crucial programs, such as the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, WIC, and Head Start. International food aid and poverty-focused foreign assistance would have also been deeply cut. Cuts to this vital funding would have endangered lives and our own national security.

The Ryan Budget Plan would have cut Medicaid funding by 20 percent next year, gutting a popular program that helps more than 28 million needy children receive care. And Medicaid would have been slashed by one-third over 10 years. By defunding the Affordable Care Act (health reform), millions more would also lose out on the chance for coverage. Education would have been hard hit, too, with billions slashed to services kids need to compete in the future. Pell Grants, which help students afford college, would have faced a budget freeze, and the interest some pay for student loans could double.

As an advocate for indigent children, youth, and families, I see the impact of poverty and need on those that we serve every day. I know first-hand, what poverty and dependence look like and how they destroy lives, hopes, dreams, and aspirations. We pray and cry with children who are hungry and parents who have lost hope. It is what we are, it is what we do.

In spite of the seemingly limitless prosperity that many Americans enjoy, millions of others are going hungry, foregoing medical care, doing without winter coats and gloves, struggling to break free from poverty. Last year, 46.2 million Americans lived below the poverty line – $22,314 a year for a family of four – marking the fourth year in a row that poverty has increased.

With 46.2 million residents, Poverty, USA, is the largest state in America. Today, the unemployment rate stands at 8.6 percent and despite recent economic growth more than 43 million Americans -including 14.7 million children – live in poverty, the highest in the more than 50 years that the data has been tracked. Yet a recent Gallup poll found that only 5% of Americans believe poverty and homelessness are important problems for the country. So let’s look at some facts and make our own determination:

Over 25 percent of the children in the US under the age of six live in poverty. The poverty rate among women climbed to 14.5 percent in 2010 from 13.9 percent in 2009, the highest in 17 years. As poverty surged last year to its highest level since 1993, median household income declined, leaving the typical American household earning less in inflation-adjusted dollars than it did in 1997. One out of every six Americans is now being served by at least one government anti-poverty program. Child homelessness in the United States is now 33 percent higher than it was back in 2007. More than 50 million Americans are now on Medicaid, the U.S. government health care program designed principally to help the poor.

According to the National Center on Family Homelessness, 1.6 million American children “were living on the street, in homeless shelters or motels, or doubled up with other families last year”. The percentage of children living in poverty in the United States increased from 16.9 percent in 2006 to nearly 22 percent in 2010. One out of every seven mortgages in the United States was either delinquent or in foreclosure during the first quarter of 2010.

The number of children living in poverty in the U.S. has risen for four years in a row. There are 10 different U.S. states where at least one out of every four babies is born to a family living in poverty. 28 percent of all U.S. households have at least one member that is looking for a full-time job. There are seven million children in the United States today that are not covered by health insurance at all.

Hundreds of advocates for families in crisis have called members of the US House of Representatives and the Senate about the Ryan Budget Plan. Like leading economists, we have analyzed the Ryan Budget Plan, and the news was bad for all people who are struggling. Ryan’s proposed budget cuts the highly effective Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program by 17 percent over the next 10 years. This would have put millions more American families at risk of hunger. The nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reports that the cuts are so severe that most of the government—aside from health care, Social Security, and defense—would cease to exist by 2050.

The Ryan Budget Plan would have severely and disproportionately cuts programs for hungry and poor people. Much of the $4.1 trillion in proposed cuts would have come from these vital programs, while much of the savings would have gone to $4.3 trillion in new tax cuts.

The US Senates decision to resounding reject the Ryan Budget Plan reminds advocates and others that we can only make a difference when we take action.

“You may never know what results come of your action, but if you do nothing there will be no result. ~ Gandhi

Source(s): Action Alert Voices for Americas Children. Action Alert Bred For the World. St. Vincent de Paul Society. National Center on Family Homelessness

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art

You Can Help Change the World

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Research indicates that ten million children die before their fifth birthday every year. Malnutrition and hunger-related diseases cause 60 percent of these deaths. CARE works diligently to help people in crisis worldwide to escape hunger and poverty as well as their effects. CARE needs partners in its fight against world wide hunger and poverty.

With your help, CARE can provide: hungry children a warm, nutritious meal at school to improve their energy, attention and performance; mothers with garden kits, including a spade, watering can and other tools, to improve crop production and income for her entire family; and farmers with handbooks on improved techniques to increase and better manage their crop production.

When women are empowered to fulfill their potential, they invest in their families and work for lasting change. These are a few reasons why CARE works side-by-side with women in the fight against hunger and poverty in more than 70 countries around the world every single day of the year. Please don’t wait for another crisis to help people. Make a gift today to CARE to help empower women around the world create a brighter future for all.

Source: CARE. Photo credit Microsoft Clip Art

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Earth Day 2013

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This year, Earth Day is being recognized on Monday, Apr 22, 2013. It is intended to inspire awareness and appreciation for the earth’s natural environment. Celebrate Earth Day everyday.

Do not throw out gently used items and goods that are still working and in great shape. Keep them out of the landfill by donating them. When we donate items, our earth awareness can not only decrease the already exploding landfills but also serve to improve the quality of life for many of our nation’s most vulnerable persons.

Let’s all be good stewards of this beautiful place we call our home.

Reduce the National Debt: Close Corporate Tax Loopholes

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Our nation can significantly reduce the deficit by closing corporate tax loopholes and limiting the unfair tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. Not only would Senator Patty Murray’s budget reduce the deficit, it would take an important step to increase investments in early learning and home visiting programs, giving more children access to the prekindergarten, child care, Head Start and Early Head Start opportunities they need to succeed in school, more parents the support they need to work, and our economy the skilled workforce it needs to prosper.

Senator Murray’s budget would also protect Social Security and most core safety net programs, including SNAP/Food Stamps, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, and Supplemental Security Income, which are especially important to women who are at greater risk of poverty than men at all stages of their lives. It would permanently extend the improvements in the Child Tax Credit and Earned Income Tax Credit that lift millions of women and children out of poverty. And it would expand access to affordable health insurance and preventive care services by providing funding to implement the Affordable Care Act.

Also, Senator Patty Murray’s budget would close corporate tax loopholes and limit unfair tax breaks for the wealthiest Americans. It calls for tax reforms that would raise $975 billion in revenues needed to support critical programs and help reduce the deficit.

Source: National Women’s Law Center

House Republicans Passed the Ryan Budget Plan: A Nation Divided

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Like last year, this week, the House Republicans passed the Ryan Budget Plan. Last year, the House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis., entitled his FY2013 budget plan “The Path to Prosperity”. Countless well-known economist have written that the Ryan Budget Plan is anything but the road to prosperity. Economist have proven that “Trickle Down Economics” simply does not work. Assertions about there flawed premises has not deterred US Rep. Paul Ryan, R-Wis. and his Republican counterparts in the House of Representatives.

The Ryan Budget Plan has faced strong opposition by House Democrats and others. Many opponents assert that the Ryan budget irresponsibly seeks to balance the federal budget on the backs of the poor and other vulnerable citizens. Opponents to the Ryan budget assert that, we, as a nation, must find a balanced approach to the federal budget that will serve to protect investments in our nation’s greatest resource its people.

This week, the Republican-led US House of Representatives passed the Ryan Budget Plan by a partisan vote. The Ryan Budget Plan and the resulting vote in the House highlight the deep divisions in the vision for this nation.

As previously stated, opponents to the Ryan Budget Plan call it anything but a road map to financial health for this nation. One such opponent to the Ryan Budget Plan is Congressman Chris Van Hollen (D-MD)[i]. Van Hollen is the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. Since the passage of the Ryan budget by the House, Van Hollen and others have been writing and speaking about the devastating implications of the Ryan Budget.

When discussing his budget plan, U.S. Rep. Ryan promised that it would free America “from the crushing burden of debt now threatening its future.” Opponents to the Ryan Budget Plan assert that it would do no such thing. To the contrary, the Tax Policy Center says that “… major tax cuts included in the Ryan budget would reduce federal revenue by $418 billion in 2015 alone; by 2019, revenue losses would exceed half a trillion dollars each and every year. That will make the deficit worse, not better…”

US Rep. Van Hollen asserts that the Ryan Budget Plan is a $3.5 trillion budget bill that has no chance of becoming law but that draws a clear line in the sand between Republican and Democratic goals for our nation. Van Hollen and other opponents have stated that instead of working with President Obama on a balanced approach, House Republicans passed a radical budget that seeks to: not only maintain but expand the Bush tax cuts; end the Medicare guarantee; Medicaid budget would be cut by $810 billion. If House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan, has his way with his proposed budget resolution, Medicare will be privatized and Medicaid, food stamps, and countless other federal entitlement programs will be eliminated. The cuts under Ryan’s budget proposal, if implemented, would drastically increase income inequality and poverty.

While the Ryan budget reduced health, education, welfare, and transportation spending, the defense department budget was increased. Although, the Defense Department recommended a decrease in defense spending, its budget recommendation went unheard by House Budget Committee Chairman, US Rep. Paul Ryan. In response to the divided opinion on the defense department budget line, Ryan responded that, “the Generals aren’t giving us their “true advice”…” Meanwhile, the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy aren’t just extended, they’re vastly expanded. Billionaires and corporations that ship jobs overseas would receive millions while seniors are forced to pay more for their health care.

Photo Credit: Microsoft Clip Art.

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[i] “Van Hollen was elected to Congress in 2002 in a high-profile election that received national attention. He quickly earned a reputation as an active, engaged, and effective member of Congress, rising to become one of the youngest members of the Democratic leadership in 2008. In addition to representing the Eighth District of Maryland and serving in House leadership, Congressman Van Hollen was elected by his colleagues in 2010 to serve as the top Democrat on the House Budget Committee. In this position, he is working to advance policies that support job creation and economic growth, reduce the deficit, and put America on a path to long-term fiscal sustainability.”

“The Washington Post named Chris Van Hollen one of “10 members to watch in the 112th Congress.” Roll Call has noted that “Van Hollen gets near-universal respect from his colleagues for his intellectual firepower and combination of policy and political chops.””

“Congressman Van Hollen is a tireless advocate for Maryland in Congress, and his leadership has helped to obtain funding for a wide range of critical investments in our community, including infrastructure, biotechnology and education; public transportation in the Washington National Capital area; and anti-gang initiatives. Congressman Van Hollen was recognized by Washingtonian Magazine as the ‘Best Metro Area Member of Congress’ in 2010 and as the ‘Best Local Elected Official’ by Bethesda Magazine in 2008.”

“Throughout his career, Congressman Van Hollen has been a champion of education, energy, the environment, health care, and civil rights. He is a leader on cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay, and fought successfully to obtain a historic boost in federal funds for the Bay as part of the Farm Bill and to secure provisions in the Recovery Act that provided loan guarantees for renewable energy projects. He also played an integral role in the effort to pass comprehensive health care reform and fought to ensure that young adults receive expanded access to health insurance. He has been a staunch advocate for critical government reforms. He led the fight to pass far-reaching lobbying disclosure reform and has been a key supporter of whistleblower protections. A former professional staff member on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, Congressman Van Hollen has a strong background in national security policy. He lived and studied abroad in South Asia and has remained active in issues related to U.S. foreign policy in that region and around the world.”

“Congressman Van Hollen has received numerous leadership awards for his legislative activities, including the Chesapeake Climate Action Network’s “Climate Champion of the Year” award for his contribution to clean-energy policies; the “Community Health Superhero Award” from the National Association of Community Health Centers for his efforts on behalf of the uninsured and medically underserved Americans; the Montgomery County Chamber of Commerce’s “Legislator of the Year” award; Progressive Maryland’s “Champion of Working Families” award; the Maryland Executive Council for Educational Opportunities’ “Excellence in Educational Advocacy” award; and the Multiple Sclerosis Society’s “Representative of the Year” award.”

“Before his election to the U.S. House of Representatives, Congressman Van Hollen served 4 years in the Maryland House of Delegates and 8 years in the Maryland Senate. His legislative record in Annapolis earned him the praise of The Washington Post, which called him “one of the most effective members of the Maryland legislature.” He is a graduate of Swarthmore College, the John F. Kennedy School of Government at Harvard University, and Georgetown University Law Center. He lives in Kensington, Maryland with his wife, Katherine, and their three children, Anna, Nicholas, and Alexander.”

Source: US Rep. Chris Van Hollen’s Congressional website. US Rep.Van Hollen Action Alert. Van Hollen Congressional website. “Why Paul Ryan’s budget would explode the deficit”, Jay Bookman, Atlanta Journal Constitution, March 30, 2012. “House passes GOP budget with no Dem support” Stephanie Condon, CBSNews.com., March 29, 2012. http://www.examiner.com. Washington Post. Wall Street Journal. http://www.MSNBC.com. “Republican budget: Ryan Plan would hurt seniors”, Daily Koos, Joan McCarter, March 30, 2012, http://www.dailykos.com

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act: Obamacare Turns 3

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In March of this year, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will turn three years old. On March 23, 2010, President Obama signed a sweeping set of health care reforms into law. It was a historic moment in our nation’s history. Barack Obama was the first American president that was able to deliver a comprehensive health reform. This was a goal which eluded his predecessors. Since its enactment, it has been highly debated and challenged in the courts.

Last year, in a 5-4 ruling, the United State Supreme Court upheld President Obama’s signature legislation, The Affordable Care Act. Chief Justice John Roberts provided the critical swing vote in this ruling. We all deserve high-quality health care that we can all afford, and today brings this goal to reality.

The United State Supreme Court’s ruling means that:

Children will no longer be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, effective immediately.

Young adults can stay on their parent’s health insurance policy until age 26.

Adults will no longer be denied health insurance due to a pre-existing condition, effective in 2014.

Health insurance providers can no longer cancel your policy because you get sick.

Creates state-based marketplaces where people can easily compare and shop for insurance beginning in 2014.

Prevents insurance companies from charging women more than men and overcharging those who need care the most.

Gives hard-working Americans tax credits so they can afford insurance beginning in 2014.

Provides Americans with rebates from insurers who spend too much on CEO bonuses or advertisements.

Ends insurance company power to raise rates without justification.

There can no longer be annual limits to health coverage. If your illness is incredibly expensive, you will no longer have to worry about reaching a limit to what your insurance company will pay.

Is there a need for the 2010 The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (hereinafter “Affordable Care Act”)? Let’s look at the number of uninsured in America. This nation’s deep economic recession and resulting decline in employer sponsored coverage contributed to a rise in the uninsured in recent years. Research indicates that these factors left fifty (50) million Americans without coverage in 2009.

While public insurance programs prevented some individuals from losing health insurance coverage, these programs do not reach all of those who cannot afford insurance. With that understanding, the Affordable Care Act seeks to address the gaps in our private-public insurance system. This new law requires most Americans to have health insurance and many will gain coverage through expanded Medicaid eligibility and subsidized private coverage for individuals with incomes up to four hundred (400) percent of poverty starting in 2014.

The United States Supreme Court’s ruling in this case was a victory for Americans concerned about access to healthcare for all. As stated in an article in Mother Jones, “The largest expansion of the American welfare state since the Great Society stands, upheld by the most conservative Supreme Court in decades. Yet the decision is not simply a landmark ruling, it is a monumental setback for a conservative movement strategy meant to sabotage, by all available means, the presidency of Barack Obama.”

Sources: The White House. CBS News. Chicago Sun-Times. http://www.healthcare.gov; http://www.whitehouse.gov/healthreform/healthcare-overview; http://www.democraticleader.house.gov/; http://www.dpcsenate.gov/healthreformbill/healthbill; The Kaiser Family Foundation, “Focus on Health Reform.” “Obamacare Lives: What Next?” by Adam Serwer, Mother Jones, June 29th, 2012.

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