Saturday, December 30, 2017


I wanted to write about my hopes for 2018.
But I have fears.
I fear that if we do not become engaged as a people, the rich will continue to control our politics, and the working class and the poor will continue to suffer.

Something like 60% of eligible voters voted in the last presidential election.
That means 93 million eligible Americans didn’t even vote!

What has followed is a yearlong attempt to strip healthcare insurance from millions of Americans, rewrite the tax code to further favor the richest of all Americans at the expense of the working class and the poor, and an erosion of safety, environmental, and labor laws through executive decisions.

We like to complain about our “government” but we should remember that our own constitution begins with the words “We the people,” and Lincoln reminded us at Gettysburg of a “government of the people, by the people, for the people”

I understand people are frustrated.
I understand they feel helpless.
I also understand that it could be the downfall of this social experiment we call America.

My hope for 2018 is that we can shed that thinking.
Shed the idea that one person, one vote, will not matter.
Shed the idea that foreigners, or gays, or people of color, or _______, are out to take what we have.
My hope is that we can come together as a people, become engaged, and put “US” before “me.”

We will be tested this summer as the Janis v AFSCME decision comes down from the Supreme Court.
Public sector unions will become “right to work.”
Each member will need to decide,
Do I stand with my sisters and brothers in unity?

The answer to that question will determine the future of our society.

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What do you get God for Christmas?

On Monday, we celebrate the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
Born to Jewish parents, prophet to Muslims, Savior to Christians, and to many others, a man who taught how to live a good life.

But religion in general, and Christianity in particular, are too often used as a justification for beliefs that, in my opinion, are in direct contrast to the teachings of Jesus.
Jesus taught love, acceptance and non-judgement of others.
As a practicing Catholic, I must admit, my own church does not always practice what it preaches.

Jesus was priest, profit, and king.
All Christians, in our baptism, are called to also be priest, prophet, and king.
What does that mean?

First it means that we are not called to be spectators.  We are called to be involved.
How often do we complain, but do nothing to improve things?
We are called to do more.

Second, it gives us direction on how to be involved; as priests, prophets, and kings.
As Priests, we are called to act justly, to love tenderly, to walk humbly in imitation of Jesus.
As Prophets, we are called to speak for God, not so much in words, but in actions.
As Kings, we are asked to imitate Jesus in being humble leaders, as he did, when he washed the feet of his disciples.

We Christians love to quote the Bible as a guide on how we should live our lives.
I know of many passages that give guidance as to how we should conduct our own lives.
I know of no passages that say we should judge others.

As we near the birth of the Nazarene, let us look at ourselves, instead of judging others.
Let us embrace those of other religions or of no religion.
Let us love those who are different from us, be it by race, color, language, sexual orientation, or other differences.
Let us roll up our sleeves (as the carpenter did) and wash the feet of others.
Let us build a world of love of neighbor (all neighbors), a world where everyone has enough food, everyone has shelter, everyone has healthcare, everyone has education, everyone has the dignity of a job that pays a living wage.
Let us truly follow the teachings of the Nazarene.

I think Jesus would like that.

Sunday, December 17, 2017

Clear vision

It started as a slight blur this past spring.
The first thing I did was clean my glasses, but that didn’t help.
I noticed I had lost perifial vision in one field of my left eye.
This can’t be good I thought to myself.
Usually, when something is wrong with myself, an ache or pain, I ignore it.
It almost always goes away.
This time, thank god, I did not ignor it. I got to my eye doctor, and the very next day I was having surgery to repair a partially detached retina.
Had I ignored it, I could have gone blind in that eye.

After surgery they gave me the good news and the bad news.
The repair was suggessful, my vision was safe, but I would almost assuredly develop a cataract.

Friday, I had cataract surgery which was a complete success.
My vision since the retina repair had gotten so poor in my left eye that even with a stronger prescription, everything was a blur.
Yesterday, the patch came off the eye, and my vision in my left eye is 20/20, without glasses, for the first time since I was ten years old!
I will wear a contact in the other eye (and I still need reading glasses) but what started out as potential blindness in my left eye, after two surgeries, has given my pefect vision.

I think our country is facing a simular vision problem, but perhaps, long term, we can have an equally good outcome.
Donald Trump ran on a promise to make America great again, great for the common man, great for the workers.
The republican tax plan will make America great again for the richest of the rich in this country, the Donald Trumps, the big republican campaign donors, not for the working families of this country.
Polls already show that Americans understand this.
The Republican tax plan will destroy our economy, and destroy our healthcare system.

And the fault will be the Republicans.

Now, lets be fair.
There is a reason Donald Trump and so many republicans have won election.
Many Democrats have let down working families.
But let me repeat.
This is a Republican tax Plan.
They own it.

My hope is that American working families will awaken from the clouded vision that has affected us and see with clear vision a path forward.
My hope is that we will become educated and engaged, and work to elect people who stand up for our values, such as a tax system that asks everyone to pay their fair share, a living wage and healthcare for all Americans, not just the rich.

But my sisters and brothers, if we do not take action, the result will be the same had I ignored my blurred vision last spring.
In the end, its up to us.
We can chose to have the vision to make change happen.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Sandy Hook

My heart goes out to the people of Newtown Connecticut today, and especially to the families directly effected and my sisters and brothers of the Newtown Locals.
Five years ago today, 26 souls went home to heaven, gunned down at Sandy Hook School.
Among them were 20 six and seven year old children.
Among them were 6 educators.

The day will be remembered quietly.
There is no reason for big shows of public rememberence.
They are remembered in our hearts every day.

Saturday, December 2, 2017

Fiscal responsibility

This may surprise people, but I am a fiscal conservative.
In my family budget, in my decisions in regards to my position as vice president of a 30,000 member labor union, and in my thoughts about how town, state, and national government should be run.

I understand most of my views would be seen as “progressive” or “liberal,” and I do not deny this to be true, but when it comes to money, I am conservative. (Just ask my wife, she might call me cheep)

I try to live by a few fundamental fiscal principles.
I believe I should not spend more than I earn.
I believe in looking for and negotiating better deals.
I know that sometimes it makes sense to borrow money, but that I should have a workable plan to pay it down. (Examples would be a home mortgage or car loan)
I believe that I should expect to contribute according to my means. (If I earn more than my spouse, I should contribute more to the family expenses)

I think most of us try to live by there principles.

I feel the same way about my union, my town, my state and my nations finances.

I feel all union members should contribute dues to help pay for the needed expenses of the members, and that this money should be spent in a fiscally responsible manner, directed by membership, and reviewed by a yearly independent audit. (Our audit was this week)
I feel that all residents should pay taxes enough to fund town, state, and federal government and that these funds should be collected according to an individual’s income and ability to pay, and that they should be spent wisely with resident’s oversight.
I oppose deficit producing budgets, much as I oppose an unbalanced family budget, expect in rare circumstances. 

This does not mean I don't believe in spending money on those things we value as people and a society.

The state of Connecticut recently passed a budget after a 4 month delay.
That budget is now running at a deficit, and seniors are being hurt by a rollback in eligibility standards of the Medicare Savings Program. Legislators will likely return for a special session to address these concerns.
State employees voluntarily gave back $1.6 million in the current budget.  
Teachers are contributing an additional 1% of their pay. 
Working families are facing possible increased town taxes as a result of state cutbacks to towns.
Seniors and the disabled are being harmed.
And still we have a deficit!

There is one group that have not been asked to contribute their fair share.
The Rich.
It’s past time for legislators to ask them to do so, to balance the budget, and to stop kicking the can down the road as they have done for far to long. 

Last night the US Senate passed a major tax reform bill.
It will cut healthcare to 13 million Americans, increase the deficit $1.4 trillion, cut taxes for the Rich and Corporations, and even eliminate the estate tax for the Super Rich.
(Let me ask you, do you feel the Rich and Corporations are suffering and need a break?)
From the party that is supposed to be the “fiscally Conservative party” we have the most fiscally irresponsible piece of legislation in recent memory.
Imagine running your family budget on their principles.
Spend money you don’t have, borrow without a plan for repayment, cut services that are most needed.

It’s shameful.
Elections have consequences. 

Saturday, November 25, 2017

The person who has two coats must share

Yesterday I took part in a coat giveaway in Windham County, run by the local K of C councils.
I know most people outside of Connecticut think of the state as the land of the rich, but in reality, it would be better to describe it as the land of the haves and the have nots.
Yes, Fairfield County in southwest Connecticut has some of the richest people in the country (the town of New Cannon has a per cap income of nearly $106.000), but Windham County in northeast Connecticut has some of the poorest (the town of Windham has a per cap income of $20,000.)
In one part of the state, sailboats line up at the marinas while in another, people line up for the bus.

We gave away nearly 800 coats, hundreds of blankets, baby clothing, hats and gloves.  Most had been donated at area churches. As the coordinator said, “A coat on someone’s back is better than a coat in someone’s closet.”
A few hundred were new coats, purchased by the Knights, so that there would be a variety of sizes.
People came from as far as 30 miles, and these are people often without their own transportation.  Many happy people left the building. Some disappointed left too, because they could not find the size to fit themselves or their child.
One young lady was almost in tears.  She had come all the way from Norwich, hoping to find warm clothing for her 18 month old.  By the time she got into the building, our limited supply of that size was gone.
As she picked through the small pile of clothing that might fit, in search of a coat, another lady entered the building, 2 small coats in hand.  She had heard of the drive and wanted to drop off a few coats that no longer fit in her home.  They were in great shape and the first lady left with one to keep her baby warm.

It was good to do something that benefitted so many people, it was sad that there is such a need to do it.
Lukes writes, “Now in the fifteenth year of the reign of Caesar Tiberius.......a message from God came to John, the son of Zechariah, in the wilderness.....
The crowds kept asking him, “What, then, should we do?”
He answered them, “The person who has two coats must share with the one who doesn’t have any, and the person who has food must do the same.”

We live in a country that is divided on so many issues, and along racial, political, economic and religious lines.  “Hate talk” is prevalent, especially on social media. 
Yesterday was a reminder of that.
There are so many in need while so many live such a comfortable life.  
But yesterday was also a reminder of the good in people, at least some people.

Perhaps it is not too late for us to remember what John said about sharing our coats.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Standing together is the cure

Earlier this week in Japan, the corporation that runs the trains apologize because one of the trains left the station 20 seconds to early. They were afraid they may have inconvenienced their customers.
The same day in Connecticut, Hartford Healthcare Corporation refused to agree to arbitration in a dispute with anthem insurance, a dispute that affected patients cross the state.
(Late yesterday, HHC and Anthem FINALLY came to an agreement with had left patients in limbo for 7 weeks)

“I had heart surgery. My electrophysiologist cardiologist is part of Hartford Health Care. When I contacted BC/BS I was told the doctor was still in network. When I arrived for my appointment, having taken a sick day to do so, I was informed by the nurse that the doctor was not accepting BC/BS patients and that BC/BS had mistakenly told several patients the same information.
I am now overdue for a check up of my heart and am very distressed. This situation must be resolved.”

This was just one of the many stories we received at AFT Connecticut from our members in response to an email we sent them detailing our involvement in the ongoing dispute between Anthem Insurance and Hartford Healthcare Corporation.
Jan, our president, personally answered the emails.
When I pushed back that that was too much for her to do, she would have none of it.
“John,” she said, “I understand, this is my story too.”
Jan recently ended up in the ER and received a bill from Hartford Healthcare stating she owed them nearly $4,000 and that because of the ongoing dispute with Anthem, she was responsible for all of it.
I made a few phone calls.
Turns out, it was a scare tactic designed to get patients to call Anthem in a panic and beg them to settle with Hartford.
In reality, even if the dispute had not been settled, she was responsible for the "out of network" copayment, not the entire bill.
She, and many other patients affected, are but pawns in a cruel chess game between Anthem and Hartford.
It makes me sick.

As Insurance companies and healthcare corporations get larger and larger, and there becomes fewer and fewer of them, we can expect more of these disputes that use patients as the pawns, because there is insufficient regulation in the industry to protect patients.

But hey, we want our state and our country to be “pro business” right?
If we cut regulations and cut corporate tax rates, businesses will be able to expand, become more efficient, and create great jobs and we will all be better, right?
The truth of the matter is that “business ethics” is too often a class taught in university, not a thing in real life.

We allow healthcare corporations and insurance companies to merge unchecked because it is creating a  “pro business” state. Meanwhile, the executives of Anthem and Hartford Healthcare are making millions of dollars a year, while patients suffer as the pawns in their high stake chess game.
It’s sickening!

We push a tax bill through congress that cuts corporate taxes because we are creating a pro business country.
Meanwhile, top campaign donors get “payback”, while the rest of us face higher taxes (and higher insurance premiums if they repeal the individual mandate.)
It’s sickening!

Until workers wake up and realize that we are all in this together and need to stand together in order to have the power to push back, this will continue.

Don’t talk to me about being “pro business."
Tell me you’re “pro patient.”
Tell me you’re “pro student.”
Tell me you’re “pro worker.”

Chemo makes a cancer patient nauseous because its a poison. 
This "pro business" ethics makes me sick for the same reason...
Its a poison.
Workers standing together is the cure.

Connecticut Senate President Pro Tem Martin Looney has promised to reintroduce legislation creating a binding arbitration process to settle contract disputes between insurers and hospitals that the parties cannot solve on their own.
I support this.
If healthcare executives and Congress won’t act ethically on behalf of their patients and the electorate, then we need to act for them.

Saturday, November 11, 2017

Elections matter

Sometimes things have to get bad, before they can get better.

One year a go, Donald Trump was elected president and the Congress came under Republican control.
This year, in Connecticut, with a very small Democratic majority in the state house and a tie in the senate, we saw unprecedented attacks on working families, unions, and an austerity budget.

In Connecticut, the legislature refused to close tax loopholes that favor the rich.
In Washington, the administration and congress has tried repeatedly to take away healthcare from millions of Americans, and now they are trying to give the rich a tax break!

Last winter, in a special election, AFT Connecticut member and Hartford teacher Josh Hall was elected as a Working Families Party candidate to the state legislature.
We have defeated Obamacare repeal over, and over, and over.
And this past Tuesday, progressives won elections across this country and the state of Maine voted in a referendum to expand Medicaid.
AFT Connecticut endorsed over 100 candidates for municipal office, including over 30 of our own members. Over 70% of our endowed candidates won.
Our members teamed with their communities and door knocked for pro-worker candidates. We passed our literature and had one on one conversations about our endorsed candidates. 
We became active.
We became engaged.

There is much work left for us to do.
But for those of us who believe that America can still be a country of equal opportunity, regardless of race, skin color, religion, etc.....
I see hope.

Those of us who are not of the top 1% must stand together.  
We must believe that a society “of the people, for the people, and by the people,” is possible if we are engaged and active.

Tuesday showed that.

Sunday, November 5, 2017

Why bother?

Tuesday is election day.
I know, why bother, for most of us it's just a municipal election.
Nothing important.

Most of us must feel this way.
I read that only about 15% of eligible voters turn out for a municipal election.

Let me remind you.

Many have fought, been injured or even died, for you to have the right to vote.
You owe them to exercise that right.
If only those who criticized others for "not being patriotic, or honoring the flag, or honoring the troops" would vote.....we'd be above 15%
So do it for our troops.

"All politics are local,"
Decisions on how to spend much of your tax money, when to repair the roads and street lights, how to run your school, are made on the local level.
So do it for yourself.

If you work for the town or city, you can elect your boss.
So if you are a teacher, you can vote for the board of education.
If your otherwise work for the city, you can elect the mayor and the board.
So do it for your work.

"Up and coming" political newcomers have to come from somewhere.
Often, they come from having held local office.
Political parties call this "building the bench."
If we don't elect those who hold our values at the local level, they will not be "on the bench" for higher office.
So do it for the future.

Only 15% of eligible voters vote in municipal elections.
This apathy can work to your advantage.
Entire political tides can be turned with only a small number of votes because of apathy if one side or the other mobilizes those who believe in their values.
So do it because of apathy.

It can send a message.
If you are tired of how things are in Hartford (or your state capital) or in Washington, you don't have to wait till 2018 to change things.
You can send a message this week.
You can affect the direction of our country.
So do it for your values.

Elections matter.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

Protecting the rich

Let me ask you a question.
How many rich people do you know that are struggling?

OK, you don’t know many or even any rich people.
But how many rich people do you believe are struggling?
How many do you here or read stories of them struggling?


So, why is our president and our congress intent on giving them a tax break?
Why are they intent on cutting healthcare for the working class?
Why, in my state of Connecticut, after getting contract concessions from working class state employees (for the third time in 8 years), after raising taxes on working class teachers, and after eliminating tax deductions for the poor, was the legislature unwilling to ask the rich of Connecticut to pay a little more?

There was a time in this country not so long ago when both political parties believed that just as a CEO has an employment contract, every worker had the right to join together and collectively bargain.
Now only the democrats believe this, and not all of them.
There was a time when “shared sacrifice” meant all shared, not just the poor and working class.

The wealth divide is wider than it has every been.
The difference between CEOs and top management compensation and the working class is at an all time high and it is worse in this country than in any other country in the world.

It’s easy to get frustrated and think there is no way to reverse this trend.
Please don’t do that.

Municipal elections come in just over a week in Connecticut and other states and in some states there are elections for other offices.

Take a look at the candidates.
Look at what they stand for, what they vote for.
And support those that support us, the poor and working class.

In Connecticut, 35 members of AFT Connecticut and others from other unions are running for municipal positions, some as democrats, some under Working Families Party, some cross endorsed. These people deserve our support.
Consider this a step in the right direction.

It’s not about party affiliation, but parties have platforms that state what they stand for, and when every single Connecticut republican (and a handful of Democrats) passed a republican budget that hurt the working class and the poor, they stated clearly what they stood for.
Yes, it was vetoed, but now we have been forced to accept a compromise budget that continues to ask nothing of the rich.

Then again, maybe you know some rich people that are hurting.

Elections have consequences.

Saturday, October 21, 2017

Let's make it great!

There have been 2 good things that have come out of the assault on healthcare that began January 20th.
First and foremost, the activism of millions of activists who pushed back against several plans that would have stripped healthcare access from up to 30 million Americans.
Second, the same people pushing repeal and replace, also want to “reform” the tax code, and they were too busy with one horrible piece of legislation to begin work on the second.

Now that they know that even their own supporters think taking healthcare from 30 million Americans is a bad thing, they have decided to leave the dismantling of healthcare up to the president by bankrupting the system through the very process he so, so often criticized President Obama for, executive action.
This gives them time to turn to “tax reform.”
They passed a bill in the senate this week that paves the way for their plan to decrease taxes for the top 1%, increase taxes for working families, and raise the deficits a trillion dollars to do it.
Remember when deficient were considered a problem?
Welcome to the Republican Party of 2017.

Back home in the state of Connecticut, so called moderate democrats voted for and passed a republican budget (also not balanced) that would have taxed teachers, bankrupted Hartford, cut vital services,  and raised taxes on working families,
It was vetoed.
Thank you governor.

Now they must come up with a compromise or our towns will be in a fiscal crisis.
The compromise will not be good.

Such a mess.
What are we to do.
First, as Jimmy says, remember this:
Elections have consequences.

Then remember that against incredible odds, we pushed back on repeal and replace.
We did that because we organized.

We must all be registered to vote.
We must all educate ourselves to vote wisely.
We must step up and run for office.
We must change the makeup of town councils, state legislatures, Congress, and the White House.
Or, we must live with the consequences.

It’s really up to us.

It is possible.
Angie, who became involved in East Hartford because of Bernie Sanders, is now on town boards.
Cindy, who was involved in Plainfield politics is becoming involved in AFT Connecticut’s Legislative Committee.
And across the state, 17 AFT CT members and many others from other unions and progressive organizations, are running for municipal office this year.

T Reed says this will be the last generation of the movement, or the greatest.

Let’s make it great!

Saturday, October 14, 2017


Last week, while our president tweeted that we could not stay in Puerto Rico “forever,” a planeload of union members from various AFL-CIO unions flew to the island in a relief effort.  In that group were 30 or so AFT nurses and doctors.  
The reports back our horrifying. 
People unable to get needed medicines, clean water, food, and shelter.
Our union sisters and brothers are clearing roads, providing medical care, restoring power and communications the best they can, but it is difficult at best.
The working conditions are difficult, with heat and humidity.
These unionists gave up their time, using vacation pay, to volunteer for this assignment.
A big thank you to them.

Back home in Connecticut, we still have no state budget.
Some “Democratic” legislators crossed the isle to help pass a republican budget that would gut collective bargaining for state employees and bankrupt the city of Hartford.
After the governor vetoed it, republicans asked for a special “override session” of the house.  Not one of the majority who voted for the budget would make a motion to call a second vote, not one.

Why does the president tweet storm against Puerto Rico?
Why do legislators want to gut collective bargaining?
Why do we refuse to give our inner cities (Detroit, Fall River, Hartford, etc) the help they need to stay solvent?
Why do we continue to see executive actions intended to destroy healthcare?

We bailed out Wall Street and the Big Banks.
We provide help to rebuild homes along the coast when they are destroyed by hurricanes.
We provide tax breaks for Big Corporations.
We allow loopholes like the Carried Interest Loophole for the Rich.

But we attack Puerto Rico, Hartford, healthcare and collective bargaining.
Could it be a class thing?
Could it be a race thing?

Saying we are at a crossroads is probably overused.
But just maybe we are.
It’s a crossroads of ethics.
We need to decide, are we all sisters and brothers, or are we not.

Are the children of the inner city, the children of Puerto Rico, are they MY children?
Are the rights of the rich more important than the rights of the workers?
Do only those who can afford healthcare deserve it?
Do we have an moral obligation to give back to society according to our means?

You see, there are enough resources in this world to share.
No one need go hungry, thirsty, without shelter, or without healthcare.

It’s about priorities. 

Saturday, October 7, 2017

I'm Home!

I got home Friday from a two week road trip.

The first week was a wonderful and much needed vacation with Michelle.
With work and other obligations, the chances to break away like this are infrequent and appreciated. (I may have posted a few pictures on Facebook)
I was home less than 24 hours when I left for DC for a couple of days of AFT Healthcare meetings, and when I returned I attended the Connecticut AFL-CIO convention.

2 weeks isn't a long time, but it's good to be back in my own bed. (People were starting to tell me I looked tired)

The remarkable thing is how much happened in those 2 weeks!

Just to name a few:
ACA repeal was defeated and healthcare for 26 million Americans will continue

The republican budget, which passed the Connecticut house and senate, and which would have imposed a 2% teacher's tax, decimated public sector collective bargaining rights, underfunded social programs, and increased the Connecticut deficit, was vetoed by Governor Malloy. (Thank you) When it came up for an override vote, not one person made a motion to override.
Not one.
Not one republican (who all voted for it)
Not one of democrat who voted for it. (Doyle, Slossberg, Hartley, Boyd, Reed, Rovero, Hampton, Rose, McCarthy)
No one.

The relief effort in Puerto Rico continued, despite the fact that its an island in the middle of a very big ocean, as our President reminded us.
He did get to Puerto Rico and play some "paper towel football" with the residents.
I guess they can soak up the water from that "very big ocean" with them.
I am very grateful for organized labor stepping up to help our sisters and brothers in Puerto Rico.
On Wednesday, a planeload of trade unionist from the AFL-CIO headed there for a 2 week commitment in a relief effort, most using their own vacation time.
Among them were 30 AFT nurses and doctors.
Other unionists have contributed richly with financial donations.
I am grateful and proud to be their brother.

In Connecticut, Anthem Insurance and Hartford Healthcare are unable to come to an agreement, leaving thousands in limbo over whether they can continue to see their provider.
These are Connecticut's largest insurance company and healthcare system, and their inability to put patients before profits is leaving their patients unsure if they will be able to seek treatment, all while they seek excessive profits and grossly over the top salaries (in the millions of dollars for many executives)
Both Anthem and HHC are at fault.
And people like my good friend Jan suffer the consequences of not knowing if her chemo treatments will be covered.

This is just a sampling of what occurred in the past 2 weeks.
What does it tell us?
It tells us that we have a lot of work to do to make this world what it should be.
We need to elect representatives who represent the values of the working class and believe in our rights.
We need to aide our sisters and brothers regardless if their native language is English and regardless of the color of their skin.
We need to accept that healthcare is a right for all and that making a profit off the illness of another is performing an unethical act.

But there is hope.
Although there will be more battles on this, we defeated ACA repeal, which was truly just a tax cut for the rich, and more and more people see the devastating effects of excessive profits and salaries in healthcare corporations, insurance companies, and pharmaceutical corporations, and are saying, NO this is not right, healthcare is a right.

Although Connecticut passed a shameless budget, our governor vetoed it, members spoke out against those who voted for it, and when the override vote came up their was silence.

Although some still do not believe climate change is real and leading to more and stronger storms, many more a coming to believe.
Although the relief effort for our Spanish speaking, brown skinned citizens was slow, labor pushed the issue and even sent some of our own to aide our sisters and brothers.

And there is hope in the words spoken at our state AFL-CIO convention, by speakers from other states and by members from Connecticut.
Union density, although still low, grew by 4% in Connecticut, as people gain the courage and see the value of standing together.

The battle for fairness and equality is never easy, but it is right.
Good to be home.
Good to be in this battle.

Saturday, September 30, 2017

It's time, lets work on healthcare

I was listening to our tour bus guide as he spoke about the hospital we passed on Prince Edward Island.  He said how it was relatively new and had a great reputation for cancer treatment and that about the only thing they couldn’t handle were open heart surgeries, for which patients would be helicoptered to Halifax, Nova Scotia, 20 minutes away.
He matter of factly stated that if you went to the hospital, or a clinic, or your own doctor, there was of course, no bill, that it is financed by taxes on liquor, etc.

NO bill.

Not for doctor visits, hospital stays, MRI, CAT scans, cancer treatment……..

Now that the zombie Obamacare repeal is dead, can we finally have real talks in our country about joining the rest of the world in recognizing that healthcare should be a right, not a privilege for the rich, as it is now?

We accept that veterans care is a right (although we often short change them), we accept that social security and Medicare health insurance in retirement years is a right.
Why do we continue to accept, in perhaps the most prosperous country the world has ever known, that access to quality, affordable healthcare is the right of only the rich, or those lucky enough to have fantastic healthcare coverage through their work?
Why do we put added pressure on small business owners who cannot compete with corporations when it comes to providing healthcare coverage their employees?
Why do we continue to place added pressure on our our corporations to provide healthcare coverage to their employees when their competitors in other countries do not have this pressure?

We are the richest country the world has ever seen.
The fact that healthcare is tied to our employment and can end the minute our employment ends (often through no fault of our own) is a travesty.

Yes it will require us to contribute through increased taxes.
But those taxes will be offset by decreased individual or group insurance premiums.

Yes it will end excessive profits to the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry, the healthcare industry.
But no one should profit from the cancer of another.
No one should profit from the mental illness of another.
No one should profit from the genetic weakness of another.

It appears that repeal of Obamacare, the zombie that just wouldn’t die, is finally dead.
Now let’s get to work.
Let’s show the world what a first class universal healthcare system is.
It won’t be easy.
The worthwhile things never are.

Friday, September 22, 2017

Being engaged is our strength

The state of Connecticut still does not have a budget, repeal of Obamacare just will not die, and Hartford is threatening bankruptcy.
It's a mess.

It's at times like this that I am most glad that we have a union that truely believes in engaged members, truely believes that we are stronger when we are all involved and each doing about part.

I'll be on the road for the nest two weeks.
First spending a little time with Michelle and then when we get back, on business.

But I know that because we have a leadership team, a staff and a membership that is engaged, my being on the road is fine. In fact, because some of it is business, it might be the way I can be most helpful.

I tell our Local presidents all the time that they cannot do all the work themselves.
Our most highly funcitioning Locals are the Locals with a president and leadership that empowers and encourages their members be engaged and each do their part, according to their available time, talents, and interest.

While I'm gone,
Please keep up the fight for a state budget that treats all of Connecticut's citizens fairly.
Please do all you can to stop what will be a last ditch effort to steal healthcare from millions of Americans.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Walking with hope

"We are all walking each other home."

Those were the closing words to a moving blessing from the minister this morning at the conclusion of the "Hike for Hope" cancer fundraiser that Michelle and I participated in.
Michelle had signed us up a couple of months ago.
She lost both parents and we have both lost many relatives and friends to cancer. We also know many cancer survivors and those battling cancer today.
In fact, today would have been her mom's 81st birthday.
This kind of thing means a lot to us, so when she asked if I would walk with her, I said, "of course I will."

Since that time, my work partner and friend has entered this battle.
Yesterday was her first Chemo.

If cancer wasn't personal before, it sure is now.

The minister put words to my feelings.
This was my feeling yesterday as I watched the infusion begin.
My work partner is walking into battle.  No one can walk this walk for her.
But so many of us can walk with her.
And so many have stepped forward to do so.
Blankets to keep her warm during treatments, offers of rides, nurse friends to explain, cancer survivors and those now battling to share with, flowers and food and conversations, friends to check on her family, and more.
The outpouring of love is incredible.

This is who we are as a people.
None of us knows how long we have, but we all know our time is limited.
Our mission is to walk with each other, till we get home.

It's the mission I was taught by the La Salette priests of my parish, it's the mission that was reinforced at home whenever I was reminded of my immigrant Irish roots, it's probably why I ended up as a nurse, and it's what drives my work (and my work partner's work) today.

We have an ethical responsibility to walk each other home.

That's why I advocate for a society that cares for all people, not just the rich and connected.
That's why austerity budgets are fundamentally unethical.
That's why I am ashamed of the position taken by the Connecticut State Legislature last night.
In approving an austerity budget that will cut services to the most vulnerable, in refusing to consider raising taxes on those who have most benefitted and who can afford it the most, they have defacto raised taxes on the working class and the poor. 
While their friends sip expensive drinks on their yachts.

It's easy to give up hope.
It's easy to think people no longer believe the words of the minister.

But we are better than this.
I know we are.
I have seen the love directed towards my friend and the love of the walkers this morning.

I choose to have hope.
I choose to believe.
And I choose to walk with my sisters and brothers.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Our road map

Yesterday we met with our Delegate Assembly for our quarterly meeting.  This meeting was accompanied by an all day planning session.
The goal was to draft AFT Connecticut’s strategic plan for the next year.

We started with a mission statement and goals, and 6 areas of concentration; political, membership engagement, external organizing, community engagement, communications, and professional development.
The idea was to incorporate the delegates experience and knowledge into a strategic plan for the State Federation as a whole and to assist individual Locals to establish like plans on the Local level, to better collaborate with Locals and members, and to effectively use resources, so that we can accomplish our goal of a robust, member driven union.

The participation among our delegates was truly amazing, and I think our plan will reflect this.

Facilitators moved about the large room, spending 30 minutes with each table, discussing one of the six areas of concentration with the group, building on the discussion from the previous group.
When the facilitators moved on to the next table, the next set of facilitators would replace them, and the group at that table would shift gears and discuss the next area of concentration.  In this way, each delegate had input into each area of concentration.

I was privileged to work with our Communications Director, Matt O’Connor.
We were appropriately tasked with Communications as our focus area.
Obviously, this is an area we both spend a lot of time thinking of.
Still, ideas came from the discussions that could only come from the people working at the Local level, who face challenges of time, resources, and energy that are unique to them.  It was beneficial to hear what they had to contribute, but I think it was also beneficial for them to hear the challenges of their sisters and brothers from other Locals and other professional divisions.
Several people spoke about wanting to stay connected with other Locals to share experiences, resources, and strength.

That was great to hear.

At the end of the day, each group of facilitators reported out to the entire group what they had heard when we moved from table to table.
We will now take this information and summarize it into a draft strategic plan that the Delegates will review, modify, and adopt.
The next step after that will be to implement the plan, help Locals to establish their own strategic plans if they are so inclined, and perhaps most important, to regularly review our progress and adjust as needed.

Someone once said that you cannot get to were you want to be if you do not know where you are going.
This is our road map.

Monday, September 4, 2017

Practicing what we preach

This weekend in church, in honor of Labor Day, we prayed for all union workers, all day laborers, all teachers, all healthcare workers, etc, and for dignity, respect, and a living wage.

I don’t think I’ve every been so proud of my faith.

This morning, we marched in Hartford with Fight for $15.

It is my belief that any business that is doing well enough financially that it can afford to pay its workers a living wage, has an ethical obligation to do so.
To be financially able, and to refuse to do so, is ethically wrong to the employees and to society.
It keeps employees as indentured servants and shifts costs of food and shelter to society, while individuals in power reap the benefits.

I’m not taking about small mom and pop stores who struggle to survive.
I’m taking about businesses in which the owner or CEO is able to make 6 or 7 figures or more and who underplays their workers out of greed, not necessity.

It’s not just wrong, it’s ethically wrong.

I also believe that those who come to our country in search of freedom or a better life, have a right to live peacefully in this country.
It the path most of our ancestors took.
Building a wall instead of caring for each other is wrong.
Deporting children and adults who have peacefully made this their home in wrong.

It’s not just wrong, it’s ethically wrong.

Almost all faiths, almost all philosophies, teach that we have an obligation to help the least amongst us.
Certainly my faith does.

As Matthew wrote,”For I was hungry and you gave me something to eat, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you invited me in, I needed clothes and you clothed me, I was sick and you looked after me, I was in prison and you came to visit me.’
“Then the righteous will answer him, “Lord, when did we see you hungry and feed you, or thirsty and give you something to drink? When did we see you a stranger and invite you in, or needing clothes and clothe you? When did we see you sick or in prison and go to visit you?’ “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

We pledge allegiance to a country “under God.”
We put “in God we trust” on our currency.

If we truly believe this, then we should practice what we preach.

Saturday, September 2, 2017

Labor Day 2017

"Where ya from?"
The voice came from behind me while waiting in line to order chowda and clam cakes at Aunt Carrie's (Point Judith, RI) last weekend.
Turning, I replied, "Connecticut."
"I saw your T-shirt, What union?" He said.

"AFT. You in a union?"
"No, but I'm a union supporter.  I just believe in fair wages and equality for all," he replied.
I thanked him, got my chowda, and wished him well.

That man understands the movement and Organized Labor.
He understands the power that comes when workers stand in solidarity.
He understands that the need for the right to organize and collectively bargain to be protected.
He "gets" it.
He understands how workers who are union have helped workers who do not yet have that opportunity.  I'm sure he knows about the fights for weekends, 40 hour work weeks, an end to child labor, FMLA, worker safety laws, minimum wage, healthcare and retirement security, migrant rights, and more.

But we who are lucky enough to be in unions must also understand the role that the non-unionized supporters of the movement play.
People like this man.
People in community advocacy groups.
The clergy.
The civil rights movement.
The gay rights movement.
Women's suffrage.

Need I go on?

This is a movement of equality.
And if all people are to be considered equal, we in the labor movement must first accept our role in the greater "movement."

One small gesture by this man reminded me of this.
Happy Labor Day.

Sunday, August 27, 2017

Pardon me

Sheriff Joe Arpaio took an oath to uphold the law.
He then broke the law. Donald Trump took an oath to uphold the constitution.
Now he's pardoned Arpaio, not out of compassion for an 85 year old man who might serve time in prison, but because, "He kept Arizona safe!"

No, he broke the law.

What part of praising and pardoning a law enforcement officer for breaking the law is being tough on crime,
what part keeps Arizona safe,
and what makes America great again?

Saturday, August 26, 2017


The heat came on in the house this morning.
It’s August 27th.

August is an interesting month in southern New England.
It can have some of the hottest, most humid weather you can imagine.
The “Dog Days of August.”
And then, a week or two later, it can drop into the 50s at night.

The days start shortening, the shadows become longer.
Everyone rushes to get their school shopping done, and to squeeze in one more beach day.

In some ways, it’s a microcosm of life.
Time rolls on, often while we’re not paying attention.

Time is funny like that.
It’s not constant, it bends.
When we’re waiting for a day,  like summer vacation or Christmas or the end of a school day as a child, it can move so, so slowly.
And then, when in the mist of that vacation, or holiday, or time off, it goes so quickly.

I can remember more than once, working at the bedside, on an interesting case, being so focused on titrating IV medications and monitoring breathing and vital signs, that suddenly, I would realize how hungry I was, or how I really needed a restroom break, and then realize that hours had passed.
Hours that had felt like minutes.

The first time I sat and had an in depth conversation with my current work partner, I suddenly realized it was getting dark outside.  We had been talking for four hours.
It had felt like minutes.

What does all this mean?
I don’t know.
Maybe that time is precious. Don’t waste it.
Maybe that time is eternal.  Don’t worry about it.
I don’t know.

I just know that August is an interesting month.

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

I denounce hatred

The events last weekend in Charlottesville were horrific.
The taking of a life by another always is, but even more so, when the motivation is hatred.
The blame is not only on the person who drove the car that killed Heather Heyer, the blame is on everyone who fuels the flames of hatred and everyone who does not speak out against it.

I think many of us thought we had moved past such bigotry, and in some ways we have, but in other ways, we have not.  It may not be as open as it was in the 1950 and 60s but its there in the underfunding of programs designed to lift all of society out of poverty, its there in the suppression of minority voting, its there in the suppression of wages and workers rights, its there in the growing economic inequality, its there in suspicion of others because of race or religion or place of birth, its there in the daily deaths of young men of color, and its there in glass ceilings.
Often it is just out of view, or at least out of our view, for we often choose not to look at our own ugliness.
But its there.

It's waiting for someone to add fuel, and then it erupts into violence.
And then, we can no longer ignor it.

I know I am not a president, or a senator, or someone famous.
I know I am but one single person.
But I am a nurse and as such have dedicated my life to healing.
I am a trade unionist and as such have dedicated my life to solidarity.
I am a person of faith and as such have dedicated my life to love.
For what it is worth, as a nurse, as a trade unionist, as a person of faith, I denounce such hatred, such bigotry and all who perpetrate it and all who support it by their actions, or their inactions.
I ask others to do the same.

Saturday, August 12, 2017

Life is short, (life is busy)

Sometimes, at the end of one of my many long days, as I step into the shower, I am faced with that deja vu feeling.......didn't I just do this?
Another day has flown by.
Another day fighting bad bosses, fighting for funding for schools, fighting for healthcare coverage for all, dealing with "issues" at home and work with children and employees, answering phone calls, attending meetings, paying bills, and on and on.
Before you know it, another day, another week, and other month has raced by.

I know you know.

Then something stops you in your tracks.
Something that reminds you that this thing called life doesn't last forever.
Something that makes you pause.

Our work, our home life, our "mission"in life are extremely important.
These are the "things" that make up "life," that give us purpose.

But they don't make us who we are.
What makes us who we are is our relationships with other people and our Higher Power.
It is these relationships that give us the strength and the drive to accomplish the "tasks" that keep our life so busy.

Nothing wrong with the meetings, the phone calls, the business of long as we remember the really important things.
As long as we occasionally put down the iPhone and the iPad, and the iAmTooBusy, and spend time on our relationship with the people most important to us and our Higher Power.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Rhetoric v Results

We live in strange political times.
Times when the U S House of Representatives passes a healthcare reform bill, holds a celebration in the Rose Garden with the President, only to have the President latter tweet that it is a "mean bill."

No matter what viewpoint I look at this, I fail to a the logic in this strategy, in fact, I fail to see a strategy at all, unless it is to build an opportunity to spew rhetoric.

But this is just one example, and so many of us are guilty off it.
Republicans, Democrats, Conservative and Liberal "think tanks," politicians and everyday citizens who have a social media account.
I get why it happens.
It's effective.
It's one of the reasons why we have a populist president who ran with no real agenda other than to "Make America Great Again," whatever that means.
We bought it because we love it, just like we love gossip, scandals, and reality TV.
We'd rather talk how we need to "drain the swamp" because of dirty politicians than about what would make a good politician and how we could elect them. We'd rather repeat the negative ads in campaign season than cheer the occasional campaigner who speaks about the issues.

I guess my point is this.
We wonder what the reason is that there seem to be so much rhetoric and so little real results. 
Maybe we need to look in the mirror. 
Maybe our encouragement is contributing to it.

Yesterday I had coffee with a conservative member of the Connecticut legislature.
We began a discussion through a mutual friend on a particular bill that I had worked against and they had voted for.  They were willing to meet and listen. 
As it tunes out, although our political views are at opposite ends of the spectrum, we have much in common outside of politics.  We spoke about this bill but also about many other things like the role of regulations on business and the role of unions in society.

There was no rhetoric because there was no audience, and no attempt to convince the other that they were wrong, just an opportunity for two people with a different look on politics to sit an talk about it, and maybe better understand where the other person is coming from.

I think what we both found was a person who shared similar values on many topics, including topics close to my heart, like a society that cares for its weakest and most vulnerable citizens, and for the working class.
Where we differed, was not on these core values, but on how we as a society achieve these goals.
While we may never agree on how to achieve these goals, and while we may argue that the other's point of view may worsen our chances to achieve these goals, agreeing on shared values is a real good start.

We also agreed to continue our discussion.
Maybe if we all did this, we could have less rhetoric and more results.
Maybe we could start by accepting the others point of view while not agreeing with it, and debate the issues, not the personalities.

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Next steps on healthcare in America

Obamacare has been on life support since January 20.
To be truthful, it's been ill for some time before that.

Obamacare is not perfect.
It's an imperfect healthcare plan and always has been, but it provides healthcare for millions on Americans who would otherwise not have access, and it improves healthcare for those who already had access by removing pre-existing coverage requirements and lifetime limits, and by requiring coverage of essential benefits, preventative care, and some employer coverage.
Again, not perfect, but an improvement over what was the case prior to it.

It needs to be improved because in some areas of the country, insurance companies are dropping out of the marketplace and because premiums continue to climb,

Since January 20, Congress has been trying to repeal Obamacare, first outright, and then with a replacement. The problem is, both of these approaches takes an imperfect system and makes it worse, not better.

I am hopeful, but not confident, that Congress is done this attempt and will work in a bipartisan way to improve, not make worse, healthcare in this country.
But I am not confident.

In addition, the President speaks of starving Obamacare so that it slowly dies, "then they'll be willing to deal."
I don't even know where to start on a statement like that.
The thing is, by directing agencies to enforce or not enforce provisions of Obamacare, Trump can affect it's survivability, but it is at the expense of millions of Americans.

Many people have spent many thousands of hours, writing, calling, and visiting legislators, at town halls across this country and in Washington.  They have spent hours at rallies and protests and on social media.  Some have been willing to be arrested in acts of civil disobedience, all to save healthcare for Americans. I have never heard any of them claim they were unwilling to "deal" or that Obamacare does not need improvement.

The good news is that all these efforts engaged millions of Americans in a fight to save a vital human service  for their fellow man, the bad news is that even with all these efforts, even will polls that showed repeal and replace to be incredibly unpopular, even with no viable alternative put forward, the House of Representatives and 49 U S Senators still voted for millions a Americans to lose healthcare and for premiums to increase.

I wish the battle was over. 
I think Americans now see healthcare as a right.
I wish we could move to a single payer system or at least a public option, so that the rest of America could be covered.

I am hopeful, but I am not confident, that we can find a way.
I'm proud of those who have worked so hard on this, community groups, healthcare groups, unions, and so many more.
Thank you.
Thank you to the legislators who stand on our side on this.
The work continues.
Lets continue to improve healthcare in America.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Who is my brother?

"I beg the Lord to grant us more politicians who are genuinely disturbed by the state of society, the people, the lives of the poor,” Pope Francis

I begin with the pontiff's prayer because today I am troubled by what I see as a society where looking out for number one is considered a positive trait.
I offer three examples.

I know a professional man who works in a union shop.  This man is friends with the CEO and believes that he can get a better deal on his own than standing with his sister and brother co-workers.
He probably can, what with his personal relationship with the boss. 
But what of his coworkers?
Where is his care for them?
Where is his responsibility for them?
This man has filed a petition to dissolve the union.
Because HE can do better.

State of Connecticut employees have voted to give the state concessions that will total in the billions over the next ten years with their overwhelming ratification of the new SEBAC agreement on pensions and healthcare.
This is the third time since 2007 that they have given concessions.
Why would they do this?
These are the people who work in our state tech schools, hospitals, prisons, courtrooms, road crews, parole offices, etc.
They care about the people of Connecticut.  They know the Connecticut budget faced a deficit.
They stepped up and did their part to help because that's who they are.

Now legislators must approve the deal, use the savings the state employees have given them (from their own pockets) and adopt a budget.
There are some in the legislature who want to reject the deal.
Why would anyone reject a giveback?
These legislators are not interested in a deal with the employees, they seek to bust the unions because state employees are not their friends. 
State employees believe in shared sacrifice.
These legislators do not.

That is why these same legislators will not even consider raising taxes on Connecticut residents lucky enough to be making a quarter or half a million dollars/year or more.
Like the guy who can get the better deal because he knows the CEO, the rich already have the better deal, and they want to keep it.
So, after givebacks from the state employees, they will look to cut social programs for the most disadvantaged among us, rather than ask the richest to do their part.

The last example is the effort in Washington to strip 23 million of the oldest, sickest, and poorest Americans of healthcare while giving the savings to the richest Americans and corporations in the form of tax cuts.
It is an effort that will just not die, despite that fact that the overwhelming majority of Americans oppose it.

It's disgusting.
All three examples are disgusting.
We have a moral obligation to help our sister and brother.  Our society applauds those who do the opposite.

I share the pontiff's prayer.

Sunday, July 16, 2017

Flip flops

Came down to the beach yesterday, renting a cottage for the week, in Galilee RI.
We stayed in this cottage a couple of years ago.
It’s small; a kitchen, 2 bedrooms, a living room, and open from the living room and kitchen to the screen porch, which doubles as an eating area.
It’s a bit noisy, right on the road leading out of town, but close to the action.
Salty Brine State Beach is 200 yards from the front door and Capt. Wheeler State Beach is a quarter mile down the road in the other direction.
One can walk the beach between the two, along private beach cottages, for about a one mile round trip stroll in some of the prettiest beachfront I have found.
The fishing village of Galilee is a 2 minute walk from the cottage with several great places to eat and the best seafood and views in the world.
One of my favorite activities is to visit Champlin’s, order my seafood, grab a beer, and sit on the outside deck overlooking the harbor, watching the fishing boats heading out to sea and returning full of catch. 
Sometimes, if our timing is right, we can watch them unload lobster on the dock below us and bring it into the restaurant. 
On those days, we eat lobster!
The harbor is also home to sail and motor boats for pleasure, as well as the large ferries that run to Block Island, 13 miles off the coast and just visible from the beach on a clear day.
This mixture of fishing boat, ferry, and pleasure boats, as well as the beach and restaurants, gives Galilee the vibe of both a tourist beach town and a fishing village, and the locals and the seasonals can be seen sitting together as the local watering holes.

I will try to keep my work to a minimum this week.
We’ll see how I do.

The fact is, it’s not just “work.”
Like nursing, union work is a calling.
It’s not something you just “turn off.”

I did turn down a last minute request to fly to Washington this Wednesday for an AFT rally to protect healthcare coverage. The Senate is close to moving forward with a plan to eliminate healthcare for 22 million Americans, devastate state and municipal budgets through Medicaid cuts, and injure our poorest, oldest, and sickest citizens.
All to be able to give a tax cut to the wealthy.
I have been in the thick of this fight since January, and not being at the rally will be hard, but we have several great members from Connecticut who will attend and represent us well, and Michelle and I deserve this week.  Michelle is the most tolerant partner a guy could hope for when it comes to putting up to my late night meetings and frequent trips.  She understands this is calling and supports it and I understand that I am but one of 30,000 AFT Connecticut members, and we are strongest when we are all active.
So this week, I’ll trade dress shoes for flip flops.

Sunday, July 9, 2017

Why austerity budgets fail

We hear a lot these days about the need to cut taxes and cut services to make states more "business friendly" and grow the economy.
Seems like a good idea.
I know, I just paid my town taxes, it hurt to write the check.
I wouldn't mind if they were lower.
If they were lower, I would probably spend part of the savings and bank the rest of it. The part I would spend would stimulate the economy a bit.
The problem with this approach to stimulating the economy is multifold.

While I would slightly stimulate the economy with the extra spending, the rest of it would go to savings and do little towards stimulating.
If I paid less in taxes, some service would have to go.
Perhaps the roads would not get repaired or plowed as well.  Perhaps a teacher would be let go.
Besides the loss of these services, which I have said through my vote that I find beneficial, there would be a loss of income for the worker who previously provided that service which I believed in.
That loss of income would cause a loss of spending, and that decrease in spending would more than negate the economic stimulus that my slight increase in spending provided.
In addition, that worker would need assistance from me in the form of unemployment insurance, medical care, food assistance, etc.

So, in my attempt to stimulate the economy through a tax break, I would have caused a net decrease in spending and economic stimulus,
increased cost to the town (and me) in the form of economic assistance to the person who used to provide the service that I wanted in the first place.

Kind of like shooting myself in the foot.

What if I took the opposite approach?

What if I took anyone in my town who was unemployed or underemployed and provided them with a job that paid a living wage and provided healthcare and other basic needs?

I would love to have an extra hand to help repair the potholes in my street or provide other needed service in my town.
At the same time, I would save money that I now spend on unemployment and other assistance.
But also, as far as stimulating the economy, the newly employed people would spend their newly earned money in local shops and stimulate the local economy. Those local shop owners would spend their increased income in other shops or investments in their own shops and the economic stimulus continues.

Perhaps ironically, by investing in people instead of giving myself a tax break, I would achieve an economic stimulus and the more "business friendly" state that I sought.

There is disagreement in what caused the Great Depression of the 1930s and what helped end it, but what is generally agreed upon, even in the difference of opinions, is that government spending played a positive role towards ending it, because it led to increased employment and the increased private spending that came with it.

This is the basis of why austerity budgets have the opposite effect that people seek.
People seek a boost to the economy and a decrease in taxes but because austerity budgets lead to higher unemployment and lower wage scales, they depress an economy and cause a loss of services and increases in taxes.
Legislators in Kansas and Illinois have recently overridden their governor's vetoes in a rejection of austerity budgets, not because they have suddenly become anti-business, but because they understand that austerity budgets harm the very goal of becoming "business friendly."

Sunday, July 2, 2017

E pluribus unum-Out of many, one

The tradition motto of our country, E pluribu unum, adorns the Great Seal of the United States.
It originates from the idea that out of 13 colonies emerged a single nation.
13 colonies with 13 different ideas of what a government should look like somehow put aside enough differences to become one nation, imperfect for sure, but agreeing to certain principles and most importantly, to work together as one people.

In the years since 1776 we have continued to evolve as a people.
The Suffragette movement, the Emancipation Proclamation, the Civil War, the Civil Rights movement, the Gay Rights movement, and the Union movement are examples of that evolution.
Each evolutionary step has tested our ability to hold to our motto.
At times this evolution has threatened to pull us apart, often it has led to bloody confrontation, but we have grown as a people through this.
Often, compromises have to be reached, just as they were in 1776.
Sometimes this evolution takes a step backward, at least temporally.

The idea that our strength in being able to come together as one people, as our motto says, is not universally accepted.
There are those who have there own agenda, who see our division, as a way to divide and conquer us.
Sometimes they like the status quo and do not wish change and they know that as hard as change is, it is nearly impossible if we are a divided people.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act is an example.
Repeal of "Obamacare" has become such a rallying call that common sense seems to have left us.
Most Americans believe that there are parts of the ACA that should remain.  Most believe that kids should stay on insurance till 26, that sick, disabled, and elderly people should have healthcare, that those who work but make very low wages and receive no employer provided insurance should have access to coverage, that preexisting conditions should not limit one's ability to have coverage and that life time limits are cruel.
Ironically, the parts that people do not like, like the individual mandates and rising rates for those on the health exchanges, are a result of compromises to insurance companies and those opposed to a public option.
Those who want to divide us do not point out the parts of the ACA that we agree on. They paint the ACA as the work of a "liberal big government" gone too far.
Meanwhile, in the background while we are distracted fighting among ourselves, they plan tax cuts for themselves, rollbacks of financial institutions that led to the last great banking failure, limits to voter registration and immigration to those who tend to vote their interests, and more.

Our founding fathers were not perfect.  The fact that they were founding "fathers" is one indication. But they realized that to gain freedom from the English king, they needed to find what common ground they could.

E pluribus unum.

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Healthcare is an unalienable right

There is currently a fight in our country over the future of healthcare.
At it's core is one fundamental question.

Is Healthcare a right of all our people?

I gave my opinion a few weeks ago on what I felt our ethical obligation is, in  "Healthcare is a Right." Today, let me address what I feel our founding fathers were saying when they penned these words:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

What is the meaning of these words, words that led us to seek independence, words that summarize our reason for doing so.

What is a right, and is healthcare for all one of them?

In the Declaration of Independence, our founding fathers declared that certain rights came from our Higher Power and could not be questioned or restricted by any earthly power. 

Our founding fathers declared that the right to life and the pursuit of happiness were such fundamental rights.

What could be more tied to the rights of life and happiness than quality, affordable healthcare?
Certainly, the right to life and happiness are restricted if access to quality, affordable healthcare is denied to a group of citizens, be they the poor, the elderly, or the otherwise marginalized.

Our founding fathers also declared that the right to liberty was a fundamental right.
Certainly, the right to liberty is restricted if a citizen cannot speak freely in the workplace for fear that loss of employment also means loss of quality, affordable healthcare.

You see, the right to quality, affordable healthcare, independent of employment, is closely tied to the rights of Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.

Quality, affordable healthcare is something that could be available to every citizen of our country. We have the science, the technology, and the infrastructure to make that happen.
Since it is possible, and since denial of such available healthcare to any one person or group of persons is intimately tied to their life, liberty, and pursuit of happiness, then I believe it follows that denial of quality affordable healthcare is a violation of fundamental, unalienable rights.

Healthcare is a right.