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“Progressives Can Differ Honestly”: Most Of The “Most Valuable Progressives” Named By ‘The Nation’ Have Endorsed…Hillary?

If like me you’re a longtime and faithful reader of The Nation — a venerable publication celebrating its 150th anniversary — then you probably saw its recent cover editorial endorsing Bernie Sanders for president. That lengthy essay, along with many other Nation articles over the past several months, leaves the unmistakable impression that Sanders is the only truly progressive choice for Democratic voters.

Yet just a month ago, The Nation published its 2015 Progressive Honor Roll, an annual feature written by John Nichols, who happens to be a highly enthusiastic Sanders supporter — which named several strong supporters of Hillary Clinton among America’s “most valuable” progressives. In fact, of the individuals named on Nichols’ list, nearly every single one is backing Clinton (one exception is Health and Human Services Secretary Sylvia Matthews Burwell, “most valuable Cabinet member,” who must observe administration neutrality in the primary but — as a former top Clinton administration official — would very likely endorse her).

Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI), named “most valuable Senator,” officially endorsed Clinton back in January 2014. Rosa DeLauro, “most valuable House member,” endorsed her last April. Pam Jochum, the Dubuque Democrat who presides over the Iowa State Senate — chosen from hundreds of local pols across the country as “most valuable state legislator” — announced her support for Clinton last October. Cecile Richards, the Planned Parenthood president named “most valuable activist,” led her organization to back Clinton earlier this month (and earned a sour-grapes dismissal by Sanders as “the establishment”). Newark’s Ras Baraka, the “most valuable mayor,” hasn’t officially endorsed a presidential candidate yet, but his political organization has shown every sign of backing Clinton since last summer. And “most valuable memoir” author Gloria Steinem, the great feminist leader and thinker, will campaign for Clinton in New Hampshire tomorrow.

As voting approaches, primary rhetoric gets super-hot, and partisans inevitably utter silly, uninformed, and even offensive remarks about the opposing candidate. But it is worth remembering that progressives can differ honestly over which of these two candidates will represent the nation’s real interests most effectively.

 

By: Joe Conason, Editor in Chief, Editor’s Blog, Featured Post, The National Memo, January 28, 2016

January 29, 2016 Posted by | Bernie Sanders, Democrats, Hillary Clinton, The Nation | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Family Values Hypocrisy”: We Need To Think More About “Positive Liberty”, The Ability To Realize Certain Goals In Our Lives

Politicians talk about family values but do almost nothing to help families. They talk about parental responsibility but do almost nothing to help parents. They talk about self-sufficiency but do precious little to make self-sufficiency a reality for those who must struggle hardest to achieve it.

How often can we hear that government should be more responsive to the problems Americans face now? But the vogue for simply assuming that government cannot — or should not — do much of anything about those problems leads to paralysis. This, in turn, further increases disaffection from government.

For all these reasons, it was exciting last week to see Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Rep. Rosa DeLauro of Connecticut introduce the FAMILY Act, the acronym standing for their Family and Medical Insurance Leave Act. The bill would provide partial income for up to 12 weeks of leave for new parents and for other family demands, such as care for a sick family member, including a domestic partner.

How far behind the rest of the world is our country on this quintessential family values matter? The Post’s Amy Joyce cited a Harvard University study in 2004 noting that of 168 countries it examined, 163 had some form of paid maternity leave. We weren’t one of the 163. Joyce observed that “the U.S. is on par with places like Papua New Guinea and Swaziland when it comes to paid family leave.”

The usual knock on proposals of this sort is that they would put an excessive economic burden on employers — or cost the federal government money it doesn’t have. Gillibrand and DeLauro, both Democrats, solve this problem by establishing FAMILY as an insurance program. Premiums would range from about $72 to $227 a year, depending on a person’s income. The maximum benefit is capped at $4,000 a month. They expect the average monthly benefit to be less than half that.

There is nothing revolutionary about this proposal. It builds on the existing (and highly popular) Family and Medical Leave Act, which requires unpaid leave and was enacted two decades ago. It is modest in comparison with leave policies in other well-off countries.

Yet in light of Congress’s dismal record since the Republican takeover of the House in 2010, it would be revolutionary to see any law passed that empowered individuals and families to ease their everyday difficulties.

Our current discussion of what constitutes “freedom” is shaped far too much by a deeply flawed right-wing notion that every action by government is a threat to personal liberty and that the one and only priority of those who care about keeping people free is for government to do less than it does.

This perspective ignores the many ways over the course of our history in which government has expanded the autonomy of our citizens. Consider how much less freedom so many of us would have without civil rights or voting rights laws, without government student loans, without labor laws, without public schools and without Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security. (And we don’t take seriously enough the implications of a most basic fact of our national story: that it took big government in Washington to outlaw slavery.)

Gillibrand’s role in championing this proposal also deserves attention. She is known nationally for her battle on behalf of victims of sexual assault in the military. But she has put forward five bills labeled as an “American Opportunity Agenda.” All of them involve ideas that have won broad support over many years. Besides pressing for paid family leave, she is calling for a minimum wage increase, affordable child care, universal pre-kindergarten programs and equal pay for equal work.

At a time when the political news is dominated by a debate between do-little conservatism and do-nothing conservatism — which is to say, between a right-tilting Republican establishment and the radical tea party — Gillibrand’s package includes building blocks for a broader counter-vision inspired by the idea of an Empowering Government.

Yes, we need to protect what the philosophers call “negative liberty.” There are, indeed, many things that government should never be able to do to us. But we need to think more about “positive liberty,” the ability to realize certain goals in our lives. Democratic government can create the framework in which we have more power to reach those ends.

And surely a country that honors the devotion of family members to each other should want to make it at least a little easier for them to do their jobs.

 

By: E. J. Dionne, Jr., Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, December 15, 2013

December 16, 2013 Posted by | Family Values | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Nothing Short Of Radical Inclusiveness”: The Power of Pissed-Off Women United For Equality

I’ve just begun my second four-year term as president of the National Organization for Women. I was reelected — by acclamation, I’m proud to say — at NOW’s 2013 Conference in Chicago over the July 4th weekend.

My vision for the next four years of activism begins with something that’s long overdue — the election of a women president of the United States.

And not just any woman. A feminist woman who will stand up for our issues against those who would turn the clock back to the 1950’s.

Women need to be thinking — and acting — for the long-term, not just for this year’s elections or next year’s. We need to be preparing for the next president, and the ones after that. That’s what our adversaries have been doing.

As the grassroots arm of the women’s movement, NOW is strong and getting stronger. We are focusing our power — the power of a whole lot of pissed-off women — identifying targets and achieving goals.

As we look towards the 2014 elections, we know that the stakes couldn’t be higher. The radical fringe that controls the Republican party is chomping at the bit for a replay of 2010, and this time they mean to take over the Senate as well as the House.

The Supreme Court has just made our job harder by eviscerating Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act. Now dozens of state and local jurisdictions, freed from having to pre-clear changes in their voting laws with the U.S. Department of Justice, will race to erect new barriers against voting by such “undesirable” voters as people of color, seniors, immigrants and younger citizens.

We are committed to restoring the Act, and correcting the Supreme Court’s sordid attempt to enhance the political power of those who already have so much.

Beyond our electoral challenges, NOW is doubling down on fighting for women’s economic security. We support the initiative launched last week by House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT), Congresswoman Doris Matsui (D-CA), Congresswoman Donna Edwards (D-MD), and House Democratic women to address real economic needs facing women and families: ensuring equal pay for equal work, promoting work and family balance, and providing access to quality, affordable child care.

It’s called When Women Succeed, America Succeeds: An Economic Agenda for Women and Families.

As Congresswoman Rosa DeLauro said,

Women are really struggling financially. They are looking for an increase in the minimum wage and equal pay, so they can raise their income, support their families and have a chance for a better life. So today, 165 years after the Women’s Rights Convention at Seneca Falls, we are launching a woman’s economic agenda to address these severe financial pressures. Raising wages for millions of struggling women is central to ensuring work pays for them and their families. Closing the wage gap, increasing the minimum wage, expanding educational opportunities and supporting women entrepreneurs are crucial to making sure that women — and America — succeed.

Of course, wage security isn’t the only linchpin of economic equality for women. We need access to the full range of reproductive health services, because, as this Valerie Tarico column in the Huffington Post says, “Anybody who says that talking about reproductive rights is a distraction from talking about economics is not running the numbers.”

Unintended pregnancies push women out of the workforce, keep women from earning their full potential as business leaders, contribute to absenteeism and lost wages and throw state and federal budgets out of whack. According to the Guttmacher Institute, every public dollar spent on contraception saves three dollars that would otherwise be spent on Medicaid payments for pregnancy-related and newborn care.

Another enormous economic burden facing women is the crushing cost of student loans. As Elizabeth Warren, the sponsor of the Bank on Student Loan Fairness Act has said,

Students owe more than $1 trillion in student loan debt — more than all the credit card debt in the entire country. But they didn’t go on a shopping spree at the mall–they did exactly what we told them to do. They worked hard, they played by the rules, and they got an education.

As I wrote in this column for the Huffington Post, because women are paid less than men are paid after college, student loan repayments eat up a larger part of women’s earnings.

Like a bad penny, economic insecurity follows women through school, in the workplace, at home, and far too often, in what should be a safe and secure retirement.

This year, we are rolling out NOW’s Campaign to Break the Social Security Glass Ceiling to add a good offense to our ongoing defense against cuts in this crucial program.

We are calling for a range of improvements in benefits for women — including a caregiver credit, so women will no longer be penalized in their retirement years for having dropped out of the paid workforce to care for children or family members; a higher minimum benefit for low-wage workers (who are, very disproportionately, women); modernized rules for divorced and widowed spouses; and equal treatment for same-sex couples and their families — and we show how to pay for it by requiring the wealthiest to pay their fair share into the system.

Simultaneously, our national action campaign to Let Them Put a Ring On It expands and deepens NOW’s commitment to achieving equal marriage rights in all states, at all levels of government. We’ll engage NOW’s chapter leaders and activists to press for passage of the Respect for Marriage Act, which would repeal DOMA including the provisions not struck down by the Supreme Court. And we’ll ramp up our work with coalition partners in key states to reverse anti-marriage measures and pass laws recognizing the full rights of loving, committed same-sex couples.

As NOW feminists, our goal is nothing short of radical inclusiveness, as we work to build an organization, a movement, and a society that values diversity and upholds respect for every single woman and girl, no matter where she comes from, what she looks like, where she works or who she loves. We are stronger together, and united for equality.

 

By: Terry O’Neill, President, National Organization for Women; The Huffington Post Blog, August 5, 2013

August 6, 2013 Posted by | Womens Rights | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

   

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