CHIP Still at Risk

While this Republican administration Congress pull us in many different dangerous directions on a daily basis, I’m going to stick with what I know best: healthcare. As you may now, funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is set to expire by the end of September 2017. CHIP provides federal healthcare funding for millions of low and middle-income American children, including over 180,000 in Wisconsin alone. Unfortunately, members of Congress have repeatedly provided only short-term extensions. While in the past there has been bipartisan support for CHIP, in the current political environment that may not end up being the case.

From Hurricane Harvey, to Russia, to North Korea, to our President’s approval of neo-nazis and white supremacists, the media has their hands full and I’m concerned that this lack of focus could lead to a lack of awareness.

I strongly encourage all Americans to remain active in contacting their members ofn Congress to ensure continued support for this incredibly important program. The American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) is calling for Congress to pass at least a 5-year funding bill for CHIP.  With recent statements from President Trump threatening to shut down the government because he cannot get funding for his wall, this becomes all that much more important. Lives are at stake if children cannot receive appropriate health insurance.  

On a positive note, it was fantastic to see a number of Senate Republicans stand up for their constituents against President Trump’s desire to take away health insurance from millions. Republican Senators Susan Collins (Maine), Lisa Murkowski (Alaska) and John McCain (Arizona) stood against their party and their President to protect health insurance and for a time avoid forcing the dangerous collapse of ObamaCare. In addition to these individuals, red state Democrats including Senators Joe Manchin III (West Virginia), Heidi Heitkamp (North Dakota), Jon Tester (Montana), Claire McCaskill (Missouri) and Joe Donnelly (Indiana) stood strong for their constituents against the Senate TrumpCare legislation. I hope in the future Congressional Senators and Representatives will work together to improve our healthcare system, instead of trying to make it harder for individuals to obtain health insurance based upon partisanship fights.

Funding Obamacare Exchange Subsidies

by Paul Martorell

It’s time for President Trump to commit to making the Obamacare cost-sharing reduction payments (CSRs) through 2017. These payments reimburse insurance companies for making premiums affordable for millions enrolled in Obamacare exchanges. So far his administration has only committed to the CSR subsidy payments on a month-to-month basis. Insurance companies are leaving markets because of this uncertainty, such as in Wisconsin (“Molina to drop out of Wisconsin’s Obamacare marketplace,” Aug 2).

After the Obamacare repeal failed, Trump threatened to stop funding the CSR subsidies altogether, which are not “bailouts to insurance companies” but a way for low to middle-income Americans – including a member of my family – to get health care.

This is why, as long as Obamacare is still running, leaders from both parties are imploring the administration to fund these CSR subsidies. A bipartisan group of 40 House lawmakers called the “Problem Solver’s Caucus” released a plan that, among other pieces, mandates sufficient CSR funding. The National Governor’s Association issued a statement reading “It is critically important to provide insurers and states with certainty that CSRs will be funded.” By threatening CSR funding, President Trump is jeopardizing the lives of millions of his fellow Americans.


It’s Not About the Money

It’s easy to call the current Foxconn agreement a ‘bad deal’ because, most certainly, it is. The bill that passed the Wisconsin Assembly sets up over $2.85 billion in state tax credits over the next 15 years, exemptions from sales taxes, and environmental waivers.

The deal’s proponents have pointed out that if it were to fall through, it would make whichever state that does manage to make an agreement with Foxconn very happy. This is undeniable but it’s indicative of the real problem. When elected officials treat our state government as just another player in the market rather than the voice of the people, we end up with an economy without safeguards. Such an economy quickly becomes a race to the bottom, with states fighting over how much of their tax revenue and how many of their environmental protections they can give away just for the privilege of housing an employer. The problem with races to the bottom? You might win.

The temptation is to continue calling this a “bad deal,” but I don’t think that tells the whole story. For me, the issue is bigger than the money saved, or not saved, by taxpayers. It’s not about a good or bad deal, but the role of government in general. More than a government that is simply efficient or that saves me money, I want a government that protects the people and environment of Wisconsin. To call it a deal suggests that the Wisconsin state government is just another business out to make a profit or cut costs. But that is not what our government is (or, at least, that’s not what our government should be).

The Wisconsin State Assembly (who passed the agreement) and the office of the governor (who constructed the agreement) were built to enact the will of the people of our state. And, in that regard, it is not they who make deals, but we who make rules – rules to protect the safety and interests of Wisconsin citizens. In terms of a deal between two financial entities, sure, the deal is ‘bad’. But in terms of an agreement designed to protect Wisconsin, this bill is a colossal failure and a complete perversion of the role of government.

Further, to call it a ‘bad deal’ assumes that the agreement’s proponents didn’t get what they wanted. It’s tempting to criticize Governor Walker, and his allies in the Assembly, on their own terms: to say that if they ‘were really a conservative’ they wouldn’t have resorted to ‘corporate welfare’ or ‘tried to pick winners and losers in the market.’ But, again, I’m not so sure that’s the whole story. Maybe the ‘bad deal’ they’ve made serves their ends perfectly well: By waiving environmental regulations and providing Foxconn with a massive tax cut, the agreement increases the burden on the state’s infrastructure while removing the tax revenue necessary to maintain it. This guarantees further budget shortfalls and other financial dysfunction and makes it easier for ideologues to justify a weaker government, one incapable of meeting the needs of its citizens.

Don’t get me wrong, I’ve called it a deal in the past and you’ll probably catch me calling it a deal in the future; it’s an intuitive way to understand and talk about what’s happening. But it’s important to remember that, as progressives, we do have a broader vision for our society, one that includes building a robust and responsive government accountable to its constituents, capable of protecting the people and their interests, and that ensures prosperity for all.

History Lives

It’s my last week of work as a Senior Care Resident Coordinator, and with recent national events I’ve found myself doing a lot of reflecting on my 9 year journey in senior living. We need only turn to our seniors to know that history is still alive and to learn the real stories of what the past was like. Working in Chicago and the surrounding area, I’ve had a wide range of people I’ve cared for and bonded with.

I remember the man with the number tattooed on his forearm who, 70 years later, still had night terrors from the Holocaust. One of my favorite residents would tell us about her time in a Japanese internment camp when she was a child. I had another resident who grew up Black in rural Indiana in the 40’s. Her family lived in constant fear of the KKK. She would sometimes hallucinate from her condition that they were still coming for her. The threat was illusory, but her terror was so real. I wonder what they would think to see these groups that terrorized their families on TV, having rallies, spewing their hate. It breaks my heart knowing some of my residents worked their whole lives for a better world.

That is why I feel the urge to pick up where they left off and continue doing what I can. Sometimes that can be as simple as being nice to someone who frustrates me, assuming the best intentions, or having conversations I don’t want to have. That’s why you’ll see pictures of me at rallies, doing voter registration, and just being a general nerdy weirdo (my residents have also taught me to enjoy life and be myself). History isn’t an abstract page in a book; it’s people I’ve cared for with my own two hands. It’s real people’s lives, and it cannot be allowed to repeat. So do something, do anything. Just know that what you do (or don’t do) matters.

Featured image by Ingrid Laas

Are You Outraged Yet?

I just watched portions of today’s press conference with The D. He continues to defend the actions of the white supremacists who brought their vile message of hate to Charlottesville last weekend. It is revolting.

This is not my President.

I will stand with Charlottesville’s counter-protesters that risked their lives. I will stand against hate and intolerance along with my immigrant, LGBTQ, Jewish, Hispanic, Black and Muslim friends, family members and colleagues. I will not turn my head aside and silently accept this kind of world for my beautiful Hispanic grand daughters.

Yet, I (and most of my colleagues and friends) live in a cocoon of white, middle-class privilege. Many of us feel powerless to make a difference. Today, a co-worker asked “What can I do?” After pondering this much of the day, here is my suggested starter kit for white, middle-class, fledgling activists:

Recognize and acknowledge the presence and power of white privilege. Read “White Privilege: Unpacking the Invisible Knapsack” by Peggy McIntosh or “Explaining White Privilege to a Broke White Person…” by Gina Crosley-Corcoran if you want to learn more.

Be self-aware.Take a close look at your own implicit biases – we all have them because we are human. Be more aware of the lens you use to view the world and where that lens may be ‘cracked’.

Pay attention to everyday micro and macro aggressions towards yourself and others. It is likely that you have people in your life that exhibit their own implicit (or explicit) biases in unkind, thoughtless or hurtful ways.

Get out of your comfort zone to challenge inappropriate or hurtful comments or other micro-aggressions that you encounter. Call out the sexist or homophobic joke, the racist reference, or the casual nasty remark about a woman’s body.

Find your voice and find your power. Power is the ability to effect change, in yourself and others. You are not powerless.

Get involved. Volunteer in a homeless shelter, tutor someone, attend a march, organize a fundraiser, volunteer for a political candidate, write a blog, donate money, join a group that is focused on resistance. But …DO something.

Be brave. By taking a stand, you will risk ridicule and risk being misunderstood. Yet, your best and most authentic self will stand up for what you know to be right, even when it is not easy. Try being brave in small ways first; you may just surprise yourself!

Finally, be kind. Be the change you want to see in the world.

Courtesy of Paula Riesch is a member of Indivisible Madison and a frequent contributor to the IM newsletter and website.

A Prayer for the Fallen and Injured

The following is the statement Rabbi Jonathan Biatch delivered at Madison’s Candlelight Vigil in Solidarity with Charlottesville on Sunday, August 13, 2017. He was speaking on behalf of Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice.

Good evening, my friends,

I am Jonathan Biatch, Rabbi of Temple Beth El here in Madison, and I am deeply pained by the reason we gather here tonight. I represent an organization called Wisconsin Faith Voices for Justice. Yet our voices are, at this moment, silenced by the shock and sadness that pervades this nation because of this weekend’s events in Charlottesville, Va.

A sacred text of my tradition reminds me that ‘although we are not required to complete the work, we are still compelled to be engaged in it.’ [Pirkei Avot 2:21]. So, here we gather once again, in this case to mourn and to seek catharsis by our presence, but also to rededicate ourselves to the ongoing work of realizing the true American values of equality and justice and peace that give our nation its unique place in the world.

On this occasion, I cannot think about anything other than fire. According to the folklore of my tradition, fire was the first of humanity’s creations. It happened just at the end of that first week in the book of Genesis’ account of God’s creating the world. Yet after creating fire, Adam and Eve discovered that they were afraid of it, and our legends tell us that God demonstrated to them how best to employ those flames which, we know, can be used for good purposes or for ill. We saw this past Friday night, one of the more purposeless and destructive uses of fire. White supremacist marchers used torches to light up the city of Charlottesville in support of their cause.

And I realized that it may have always been thus: For I recalled that these same kinds of torches were employed by Nazi troops and sympathizers during WWII, during their pro-Aryan and anti-Semitic rallies. As I witnessed this terror-filled apparition in Virginia, I realized that we have regressed as a nation and a world, that we have not learned from our past.

Yet we gather here in the same spirit of those concerned citizens, the progressive Americans, and the many religious leaders who gathered in Charlottesville this weekend (and those who are gathering in countless American communities tonight) to confront bigotry and racism.
Our hearts are with the people of the Commonwealth of Virginia who want to redress and resolve the racism in their past. They, there – and we, here – are being challenged by bigots, racists, and anti-Semites who take many of their cues from the so-called leaders in the current presidential administration.

Do we even recognize our nation? Do we see in our fellow citizens our best aspirations, or our worst fears? Is there a way that the president can remove his moral blinders that have, so far, shielded him from the truth of the hatred in our nation? Can we ask him to call out racists, anti-Semites, and xenophobes who are antithetical to the true spirit of America? We all can do this. Why does he refuse?

Let us go forward from this place, tonight, to help our leaders understand the depth of our pain and anguish. Let us go forward from this place, tonight, to ask the president to lead without being forced, cajoled, or compelled, to offer denunciations of white supremacist groups who are anti-American and anti-human, not simply anti-black, anti-Muslim, anti-Semitic, or anti-LGBTQ.
Let us go forward from this place, tonight, propelled by our common humanity and sense of justice, so that when white supremacists dare to appear anywhere in our nation, they will be met with overwhelming numbers of counter-protesters to bring forth true American values, not fake values.

On this night, let us go forward and offer sympathies and condolences to all those whose lives have been hurt by these bigoted and hateful people, in Charlottesville, Virginia, Bloomington, Minnesota, Oak Creek, Wisconsin, and others. And let us be certain to support them in whatever ways they require.

On this night, our sympathies are with the families of Heather Heyer, H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates, whose deaths did not have to occur were it not for the unforgivable acts of violence and terror perpetrated by the white supremacists who gathered in Charlottesville. Our sympathies are also with the wounded in yesterday’s events.

Please permit me to offer this prayer for those who were injured:

May the One who blessed our ancestors bless and heal those who are injured. May the Holy One of Blessing send them compassion, to restore them, to heal them, to strengthen them, to enliven them. May the One who is Blessed send them, speedily, a complete healing: healing of the soul and healing of the body, along with all the ill among all humankind.

And permit me to offer a prayer in memory of those who were killed:

May the One who blessed our ancestors send wholeness to the families of Heather Heyer, H. Jay Cullen, and Berke M.M. Bates, who now suffer at their losses. May God send them loved ones, family and friends, to comfort them and console them, so that they are not alone at this time of grief. And may their memories become blessings in this world.

May all innocent victims from yesterday’s events in Virginia, they and their families, know that good-hearted people from across the world stand with them and with their cause, that of discovering the true spirit of this country and its values of equality, justice, and peace.
I ask us to spend a few moments in silent prayer to remember those who have fallen, and those who will yet rise again in furtherance of these goals.

The struggle continues. May we be successful. Thank you and good night.

Healthcare’s Done, Right?

The unexpected defeat of the repeal/replace bill on July 27th was a relief. But many have unresolved issues with the ACA: some real, some purely partisan. I’m afraid we’ve only won a few months’ reprieve before our healthcare is at stake again.

What many take issue with is the individual mandate and the penalty associated with it. The mandate is an important part of the current system, and I support its goal: making sure everyone has health coverage. The decision to go without coverage, when made willingly, is shortsighted and puts an unfair burden on the rest of society. But I agree that the individual mandate isn’t the best way to achieve that end.

So let’s look at what we can do to improve the healthcare system.


Tell Governor Walker to expand Medicaid!

Wisconsin has willingly kept the “Medicaid gap” in place, leaving childless adults above, but near, the poverty line to face hard decisions and unaffordable options. We can pressure our governor to fix it by accepting federal funds. Most states already have, and I haven’t found any stories of regret.


BadgerCare Public Option

Citizen Action of Wisconsin has been pushing for a one-line change to state law that would allow the general public to enroll in BadgerCare and pay premiums into it. This would directly address the problem of dwindling choices on the marketplace. A revenue stream from a healthy subscriber base could also stabilize BadgerCare for those who need it most.


FAIR Drug Pricing Act

This bill was co-written by Tammy Baldwin and John McCain (“man of the hour”), and makes drug manufacturers accountable for rising prices.

One of the problems with the repeal/replace proposals were that, unlike the ACA, they included nothing to directly address rising healthcare costs themselves; they merely shifted the burden of those costs from one group to another. This legislation is one bipartisan step towards controlling costs themselves.


Baldwin-Price Plan

Before Tom Price moved to DHHS, he and Tammy Baldwin had proposed another bipartisan healthcare reform that would allow states to submit proposals to Congress to explore better ways to cover their populations. This bill even won praise from the conservative-leaning Heritage Foundation.


Federal Reinsurance

In June, a group of senators sponsored the Individual Health Insurance Marketplace Improvement Act (needs a snappier name!). Reinsurance is basically insurance for insurers: they pay a premium, and when they have a high-dollar claim to pay, the reinsurance fund helps pay it.

There is an existing fund for this, but the threshold at which this “kicks in” has been too high in recent years; this has been cited as a contributing factor in rising premiums.

We’ve still got work to do!

For the bipartisan senate bills, we deserve to know whether both our senators support them, and why. And we can encourage Senator Baldwin to get out and talk about her bills, get in front of cameras, and raise the profile of these ideas.

A lot of people were shocked when, after years of the minority party advocating repeal and replace, it became apparent that there were no viable ideas for how to do that. Even if senators who listen to constituents over campaign donors are in the minority now, making these ideas long shots, we need to make it clear that there are viable policies out there, waiting to be put into law.


Courtesy of  Nicholas Davies is a local member of, and regular contributor to, Indivisible Madison.

Don’t Pull UNFPA Funding

by Maya Williamson Shaffer

I’m writing to oppose the Trump administration’s decision to end funding for the United Nations Fund for Population Activities, which provides essential health services to women worldwide. To end funding is to rob them of basic human rights.

Sexual and reproductive health problems are a leading cause of death and disability for women in developing countries. This lost funding could prevent the deaths of 77,000 children and improve the lives of countless women. UN officials have warned that large funding cuts to organizations like UNFPA could trigger global instability and hinder our fight on issues like terrorism. Finally, no matter your opinion on abortion, funding for UNFPA should not be cut because of it. For good or ill, abortion is a right of women in the United States, as established 44 years ago in Roe vs Wade.

As a fifteen-year-old girl, I believe that women worldwide deserve the same basic rights as women like me in the United States. To strip them of a right that we enjoy would not only be hypocrisy, but would contradict the very ideals of our country. Ending funding to the UNFPA is more than irresponsible and immoral.

It is un-American.

Trump Leaves Our Democracy Undefended

By Paul Martorell

It should be a national security priority to protect our nation’s elections and institutions from hostile foreign attacks. However, how can we defend our democracy if the commander in chief doesn’t take these threats seriously?  
Despite the consensus of all US intelligence agencies, Trump continues to dispute whether Vladimir Putin and Russia are responsible for the 2016 cyber intrusion. When a reporter asked Sean Spicer if President Trump believes that Russia interfered in the 2016 election, Spicer said he had not even asked Trump.  
Earlier in June, former FBI Director Comey testified that (despite the number of times Trump tried to meet with him) he could not recall a single instance of Trump asking him how to best defend the nation’s electoral infrastructure. It’s alarming how little the Trump administration is doing to protect our democracy and sovereignty.
The schemes that Russia deployed (hacking communications, spreading social media disinformation and even penetrating voter registration files) threaten elections in 2018 and beyond. President Trump is betraying his oath of office to protect the nation. And Republicans are letting him get away with it.