Author: Kevin Gaither for Congress

Running for Congress to make a different for the People

Trump to End ACA Subsidies

President Trump used the power of the pen to issue executive orders to take away the healthcare of the poor this week. He did this by removing subsidies offered to enrollees that couldn’t afford the high premiums and deductibles that are currently available in the marketplace.

Instead of working with Congress to provide increased protections for Americans from excessively high premiums and deductibles, the President has decided to throw the health insurance exchanges into chaos, which will undoubtedly cost people their access to healthcare.

And, to make matters worse, the health insurance companies have been making record profits as their stock prices have increased steadily since the passage of Obamacare. (See the above graph)

Without significant protections for Americans and any capacity to bring down the cost of prescription drugs, it’s the American people that will be footing the bill for this misadventure.

Yes, these subsidies are paid to these very health insurance companies. However, without these subsidies and without sufficient protections applied to the companies, the health and wellbeing of the country is at stake.

That’s unacceptable to me and should be to any member of Congress. 

Some people want a single payer, or Medicare for all plan. Others want to repeal Obamacare altogether. Both of these approaches don’t solve the impending crisis facing real people that need their healthcare today. 

We have to fix Obamacare today and work toward better solutions for the long term. That’s what Americans have deserved for decades and haven’t seen in far too long.

The Flag, Kneeling, & The First Amendment

It’s increasingly difficult to have respectful dialogue with people regarding current events. The most recent hot button being the debate over kneeling during the National Anthem.

Extraordinarily enough, the people that are most disrespectful regarding this topic online are the ones that claim kneeling is extremely disrespectful. They use name-calling, bullying, and censorship to stop having a rational discussion about the issue. I can take all the above. Others, however, cannot. They deserve to have their voices heard and their needs met.

Of course, there are different perspectives regarding the Flag and how to respect it. It shouldn’t be as difficult to be respectful of one another while we express our differences, but, apparently, that is too high a bar for far too many.

Some groups of people complain about players being disrespectful when they kneel during the National Anthem while they openly disrespect anyone who disagrees with their positions. Most likely, they don’t even stand for the Anthem from the comfort of their homes when it’s played on their TVs. 

Double standards? Of course. That’s as rich a tradition in America as is peaceful protest. Double standards allow the American people to languish in the status quo. Aren’t we all exhausted by the status quo?

The reality is that our veterans, active military, Congress, and the President all took an Oath to defend the U.S. Constitution. Not part of it, ALL of it. 

The sacrifices made to defend America and Americans were made to protect our rights,  Freedom of Speech and to protest injustice in America being among them. Forgetting our actual history and our actual Constitution seems to be easy for too many Americans today.

Regardless of your belief about whether or not people should kneel or stand during the National Anthem at professional or college games, it is their right to do so. 

I will always stand as long as I can stand. That’s my choice as much as your choices are your choices. Both are protected by our Constitution and have been supported by the Supreme Court many times.

It’s not my place to tell these players what to do, many of whom grew up in poverty, watched family be prosecuted and jailed, and have seen generations lost to violence in their streets. They now have a position and wealth that most never attain. They’re using that position to do good in their communities, but that’s not enough for some players. Those who languish in the status quo deserve people that can and will stand up for them, even if that means kneeling and taking the heat publicly.

It IS my place to protect their right to peacefully protest our government, because that’s what men and women died for while fighting for America, and while fighting for rights here IN America. 

Also, adding more hatred and bigotry into the national conversation does nothing to move our country forward. We need to move forward together.

The First Amendment is First for a reason. It’s what keeps our government serving all her people. If we lose sight of that, we’re in much deeper trouble than we could imagine.

I want to live in a country where we all want to stand together in solidarity with one another.

That’s the American Dream I’ve believed in throughout my life.

We can achieve it, but only through dialogue, listening, and coming together instead of tearing each other apart.

The Case Against Graham-Cassidy

The case against the Graham-Cassidy healthcare repeal bill is complicated.

As usual, the GOP is light on the details, hoping that someone else will do the right thing or that we’re not paying attention.

Within the bill, there is language that allows states to determine what “adequate and affordable” means for those of us with pre-existing conditions. This would mean higher premiums and deductibles for the chronically ill, the disabled, aging populations, as well as for veterans. That’s a big NO GO for me.

It also allows states to deny preventive care and services. These efforts save money down the road. This includes denial of maternity care, childbirth, and even mental health, which includes treatment for opioid addiction. Considering how the opioid epidemic is ravaging communities and families across the country, this seems the exact wrong direction to take healthcare.

The main thrust of the GOP effort to repeal Obamacare is the Medicaid expansion. In states like Illinois that expanded Medicaid, it will result in the loss of healthcare coverage for roughly a million people. Hard working Americans were able to gain access to Medicaid under Obamacare. The GOP wants to take that choice off the table. 

None of this is to discount the very serious problems with Obamacare and Medicaid.

We have to fix the law, protect healthcare for those it helps, fix it for those who are being hurt with high premiums and deductibles, and send retroactive checks to those low wage workers that were hit with tax penalties for not having coverage.

We have to be relentless in our pursuit for better, more affordable healthcare. We cannot stop until no one is left behind. We can do that by electing different people to Congress. People that know how vital healthcare is, how it works, how it can work better for people, and that will never stop fighting.

I have a history of doing just that. I won’t stop as I know personally the costs of dismantling healthcare programs. These are life and death decisions that are current representative to Congress takes cavalierly. I won’t.

Photo: Fortune.com

Democrats for Action, not Litmus

Senate politics are different from House politics. Winning back the House isn’t easy, and Nancy Pelosi knows that personally. Blue meat like single payer doesn’t sell as well or enough in many of these conservative-leaning House districts to make a difference at the ballot box next November.

We must win back the House in order to begin making a difference for the American People again. Doing so as the minority party in Congress is simply too difficult during the next three years.

And, Americans and DACA recipients need us to do more than make simple talking point issues that are unlikely to pass a veto override.

When we have the opportunity to pass legislation once again, we must act. We must take aim at wage stagnation, at protecting healthcare, and at protecting the most vulnerable amongst us. Those are the issues I’ve been targeting in my campaign.

The country did not trust Democrats after the last healthcare overhaul. We have to reforge that trust and not by making massive promises that may not turn out the way we expect. The best of intentions are meaningless if these don’t translate to real results for people.

The rural districts have remained in the hands of the GOP for far too long and are the keys to turning the page on the broken politics of the last few decades. 

I know the voters I listen to every single day are ready for a change that will make a beneficial difference in their daily lives and in their bottom-lines. That hasn’t happened in too long of a time in too many of these districts.

The Democratic Party has to deliver for the People, not just deliver big promises and force litmus tests on its candidates and legislators.

Together, we all can achieve so much for those who haven’t had a voice in Washington, DC. 

Let’s get to it!

Unions, Wage Stagnation, & Labor

It’s time to balance the power between workers and employers
Lawrence Summers is a professor at and past president of Harvard University. He was treasury secretary from 1999 to 2001 and an economic adviser to President Barack Obama from 2009 through 2010.
The central issue in American politics is the economic security of the middle class and their sense of opportunity for their children. As long as a substantial majority of American adults believe that their children will not live as well as they did, our politics will remain bitter and divisive.
Surely related to middle-class anxiety is the slow growth of wages even in the ninth year of economic recovery. The Phillips curve — which postulates that tighter labor markets lead to an acceleration of wage growth — appears to have broken down. Unemployment is at historically low levels, but the Bureau of Labor Statistics reported Friday that average hourly earnings last month rose by all of 3 cents — little more than a 0.1 percent bump. For the past year, they rose by only 2.5 percent. In contrast, profits of the S&P 500 are rising at a 16 percent annual rate.
What is going on? Economists don’t have complete answers. In part, there are inevitable year-to-year fluctuations (profits have declined in several recent years). And in part, BLS data reflects wages earned in the United States, even though a bit less than half of profits are earned abroad and have become more valuable as the dollar has declined relative to other currencies. And finally, wages have not risen because a strengthening labor market has drawn more workers into the labor force.
But I suspect the most important factor is that employers have gained bargaining power over wages while workers have lost it. Technology has given some employers — depending on the type of work involved — more scope for replacing American workers with foreign workers (think outsourcing) or with automation (think boarding-pass kiosks at airports) or by drawing on the gig economy (think Uber drivers). So their leverage to hold down wages has increased.
On the other hand, other factors have decreased the leverage of workers. For a variety of reasons, including reduced availability of mortgage credit and the loss of equity in existing homes, it is harder than it used to be to move to opportunity. Diminished savings in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis means many families cannot afford even a brief interruption in work. Closely related is the observation that workers as consumers appear more likely than years ago to have to purchase from monopolies — such as a consolidated airline sector or local health-care providers — rather than from firms engaged in fierce price competition. That means their paychecks do not go as far.
On this Labor Day, we would do well to remember that unions have long played a crucial role in the American economy in evening out the bargaining power between employers and employees. They win higher wages, better working conditions and more protection from unjust employer treatment for their members. More broadly, they provide crucial support in the political process for programs such as Social Security and Medicare that benefit members and nonmembers alike. (Both were passionately opposed by major corporations at their inception.)
Today, only 6.4 percent of private-sector workers belong to a union — a decline of nearly two-thirds since the late 1970s. This is the one important contributor to the decline in the relative power of labor, especially those who work with their hands. Workers seeking gigs on their own are inevitably less secure than a group collectively representing their interests. The decline in unionism is also a contributor to the pervasive sense that our political system is too often for sale to the highest bidder.
What can be done? This surely is not the moment for lawmakers to further strengthen the hand of large employers over their employees. Sooner or later — and preferably sooner —
  • labor-law reform should be back on the national agenda, especially to punish employers who engage in firing organizers.
  • We should also encourage union efforts to organize people in nontraditional ways, even when they do not involve formal collective bargaining.
  • And policymakers should support institutions such as employee stock ownership plans, where workers have a chance to share in profits and in corporate governance.
In an era when the most valuable companies are the Apples and the Amazons rather than the General Motors and the General Electrics, the role of unions cannot go back to being what it was. But on this Labor Day, any leader concerned with the American middle class needs to consider that the basic function of unions, balancing the power of employers and employees, is as important to our economy as it has ever been.

Working Together, not Fighting Allies

Instead of fighting amongst natural allies, we should be working together.

There is nothing wrong with moderate and centrist political language as the vast majority of voters are moderates or independents. Pitting the center against the left and progressives is a concern, especially in rural America. It also doubles down on false beliefs about the Democratic Party not being about rural and midAmerica. It also doesn’t help reconnect the Party with conservative Democrats, broadening our big tent party.

Our causes and policies are aligned with the political center and voters of all stripes because they’re designed to improve the lives of American families and the vulnerable, to increase equality and opportunity for all, and to give all of us better education, healthcare, and better paying jobs.

We actually have an agenda that doesn’t gut services, schools, and healthcare in order to give tax breaks to the wealthy.

We may have different views on how to achieve these goals, but that’s where communicating respectfully and compromising to make real progress for Americans is not just necessary but vital for the future of the country. Don’t we have enough disrespect coming from enough elected officials these days?

We have to work in the short term to provide immediate relief as well as fight together to reach our long term goals. We can’t do that from the far left or from the center alone. It takes all of us persevering together for years and decades, voting in every election for decades, and making an effort to not only communicate our principles and values with others but listen to their principles and values as well.

 

Fundraising Highs & Lows for Dems

In a year with many special elections, the most expensive House race in American history, and much frustration with the direction of the country under the leadership of President Trump and a GOP-led Congress, most would believe the Democrats would be outpacing the GOP in cash and fundraising.

The reality is not clear.

The Democratic National Committee (DNC) has $40 million less in the bank than the RNC. That doesn’t tell the whole story. DNC has nearly $6.9 million in cash on hand. With two quarters left until primaries begin, this should be a warning sign to all Democrats, Progressives, and Independents to not remain complacent in the midterms.

Beyond those bleak numbers, the RNC has doubled the DNC in the amount raised from small donations. Bernie Sanders was able to garner amazing amounts of small donations in 2015 and throughout 2016. These donors might be sitting on the sidelines or have moved to supporting Trump and the GOP.

However, this isn’t the entire picture.

The Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) has the opposite fundraising numbers of it’s Republican counterpart, the (NRCC). The DCCC’s first quarter was a record in contributions, spurred on by special elections and reaction to the Trump-GOP agenda.

So far this election cycle, the DCCC has raised $66 million and currently has nearly $23 million in the bank. There is hope for fundraising within the Democratic and Progressive sphere.

Perhaps after the controversies surrounding Debbie Wasserman-Schultz and other issues raised during both the primary and general election about leadership and management of the DNC, more donors are focusing efforts toward the DCCC.

Regardless, the DCCC is not funding many longtime conservative House races. Currently, there are plans to pump resources into the 12th and 13th downstate races, but not into the 15th District.

As many people throughout the 15th District realize by knocking on doors and listening to voters, conservative and independent voters are not satisfied with Rep. John Shimkus and how he has represented their interests for the last 22 years in Washington, D.C.

The People of the 15th deserve opportunities, immediate relief, and new approaches that will make a difference in their daily lives and their bottom-lines. They deserve practical and pragmatic solutions and above all someone who isn’t burdened by special interests and personal businesses that could benefit from their agenda.

Together, we all do better.

When those that struggle have more to spend, local businesses and governments benefit.

When those that work hard but can’t pay their bills earn more money, their lives improve and opportunities open up for them, their families, and their communities. 

When we all come together with a common goal of shared prosperity, affordable healthcare, the best education for every child, more access to your services and absolutely to your representation to Congress, we all learn more about each other and how similar we truly are.

That’s what I intend to do. Come join me!

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