Guest Column: The Age Of A Fractured Political System

ILWU - longshoremen union

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr.By Thomas J. Mackell, Jr., Ed.D.

This is an age of fractured jobs, a fractured economy, fractured families, a fractured political system, a terribly fractured American Dream and where the political protagonists, our elected leaders, are in need of spinal transplants.

The soon-to-retire greying generation is experiencing no pensions. Those pensions are promises that will not be kept, leaving thousands of employees in dire straits when they are most vulnerable. Roller-coaster retirement accounts subject to the whims of the market. Longer life spans and higher health care costs. Children in college. Young adults with staggering student-loan debt who are financially incapable of purchasing a home. Aging and ailing parents. A will to work but fewer jobs to be had.

America is dying for a champion who makes preserving the middle class a top priority. They want somebody who can level the playing field so that Main Street doesn’t always come second to Wall Street. Someone who is not running networks of oligarchs who take advantage of our weakened campaign finance laws to manipulate the democratic process in pursuit of their self-interests.

This is the scenario as we head into the 2014 Congressional elections with predictions that Republicans will hold the House of Representatives and, perhaps, gain control of the Senate.

If that happens, forget a Congress that looks out for the little guy.  In conjunction with a non-caring Congress, today, unfortunately, the concept of freedom has come to mean the freedom of the wealthy to do whatever they want, without regard to the consequences for the rest of us. In reality, the 1 percent has undertaken a serious effort to buy elections.

At any kind of gathering whether it be at work or at home, Americans are expressing disappointment about the way things run in Washington. They don’t see them dealing with the multitude of problems facing our nation. Their approval rating is at an all-time low. Many citizens say they see no value in bothering to vote.

Clearly, the constant bickering between the Republicans and Democrats is wearing thin on Main Street and leads to a notion of false equivalency. The Pew Research Center says that Republicans and Democrats are more divided along ideological lines than at any point in the last two decades.

The GOP has done all it can to undercut the Obama presidency. Democrats had to fight back. The line is drawn in the sand which has resulted in blind allegiance or blind hatred.

But let’s put the blame where it belongs: on the Republican side of the aisle. The Republicans must end their internal civil war between the moderates and the Tea Party aficionados.

Recently, a number of the members of Congress who have announced their plans to retire have expressed their frustration with the cantankerous environment in Washington and their inability to get things done.

When even the pols start complaining, you know that things are really bad. If they can’t find solutions then we are, truly, in deep trouble.

Despite this horrendous dilemma, failing to vote surely will make things worse. We have a solemn obligation to go to the polls. Neglecting the most fundamental responsibility of citizenship invites complacency and encourages political abuse. Showing up on Election Day proves we are in the game, that we care and that we want to see change.

There are areas of this country where people have been removed from the ranks of eligible voters and GOP operatives are doing all they can to suppress participation by traditional Democratic constituencies.

Today, the American workplace is plagued with wage theft, disrespect of culture, pressure, unsafe environments, unbridled automation and more. Everything solid is melting into air. This should not be tolerated in modern America. We must vote our pocketbook to protect our livelihoods and our well-being.

We must encourage our union memberships, thoughtful young folks and retirees to go out on Election Day and exercise their right to vote. They must be engaged in their communities and serve as an example to those who might stay away. Staying home is not an option. It will only continue and calcify this dangerous divisiveness.

Dr. Thomas J. Mackell, Jr. is Senior Consultant to the International Longshoremen’s Association, AFL-CIO for political, legislative and public affairs.

Cheshire Country Democrats Talk About Why They Are Running For Office

Cheshire County Courthouse (Wiki Common)

The Cheshire County Democrats are proud to release their slate of candidates for the upcoming fall election.

Cheshire County Courthouse (Wiki Common)

Cheshire County Courthouse (Wiki Common)

According to Carl DeMatteo Chairman of the Cheshire County Democratic Committee “At this time it is critically important that we all support and vote for the Democratic ticket to be sure we continue to make the kind of progress made in the last Two years in Concord. There is much unfinished work to do to ensure equality of opportunity for all citizens of New Hampshire.  Every vote matters! We cannot afford to return to the policies of obstructionism and the anti labor sentiments that are prevalent in the opposition party.  Even though we enjoy a strong voter registration presence here in Cheshire County, we are not taking anything for granted. We are encouraging our candidates to pound the pavement and talk to voters about our values and our vision for moving the state forward.”

County Commissioner District 2 Candidate Terry Clark of Keene, states his reason for running for County Commissioner is “To increase the level of resource sharing among local governments. State and Federal funding to local and county government is trending down and we must make the most of every tax dollar we raise. After all, it’s the same taxpayer paying for city, school and county government expenses. I also want to make sure that any changes in nursing home care do not take away the safety net county government has been providing all these years, and that property in Keene is not taken off the tax rolls to house a new nursing home.”

Anna Tilton, Cheshire County Registrar of Deeds who is running for re-election, “It is critical that the land transaction record of Cheshire County be accurate and safely maintained for future generations. I am committed to always improving our on-line services, serving the public and protecting the public record.”

“I am running for re-election as Cheshire County Register of Deeds to continue with updating our technology to secure our paper and digital records and to better serve those who use our services now and in the future.”

Eli Rivera Sherriff of Cheshire County who is running for re-election “During my first term in office, as Cheshire County Sheriff, I’ve been able to increase revenue by reviewing current practices and making the proper adjustments to reflect a true cost for services.  Our community involvement has increased and we’ve become active participants with local organizations throughout the county. It is important that our momentum continues and we stay focus on moving into the 21st century.”

State Senator Molly Kelly of District 10 is who is running for re-election “Through the tremendous efforts of the people of New Hampshire, our beautiful state has begun to make its way to recovery. The economy is growing and unemployment is at its lowest levels since 2008.   We have made progress with restoring funding to our University System and our Community College, providing health insurance for 50,000 hard-working people, and working together to solve difficult problems.

We have made great strides, but the recovery remains fragile. Now is the time for proven and experienced leadership to secure continued growth. Over the past eight years, I have worked with our political and community leaders to be that force for greater opportunities for our citizens, and more importantly a voice for the needs of the people of Southwest, NH. There is still work to be done and I would be honored to serve once again as your NH State Senator.”

State Senate:

District 10

Molly Kelly Keene

State Representative

District 1

Michael D. Abbott Hinsdale

Tara Sad Walpole

Lucy McVitty Weber Walpole

Paul Berch Westmoreland

District 2

John E. Mann Alstead

District 3

Daniel Adams Eaton Stoddard

District 4

James Cleaveland Keene

William Pearson Keene

District 5

John Bordenet Keene

District 6

Timothy N. Robertson Keene

District 7

Gladys Johnsen Keene

District 8

Cynthia L. Chase Keene

District 9

Richard Ames Jaffrey

Douglas Ley Jaffrey

District 10

Marge Shepardson Marlborough

District 11

Luke Sacher Fitzwilliam

District 12

F. Barrett Faulkner Swanzey

Ben Tilton Swanzey

District 13

Henry A.L. Parkhurst Winchester

District 14

Patricia Martin Rindge

District 15

Bruce L. Tatro Swanzey

District 16

Larry Phillips

Kris E. Roberts Keene

Conan Salada Keene

COUNTY OFFICES:

Sheriff

Eli Rivera Keene

County Attorney

D. Chris McLaughlin Westmoreland

County Treasurer

Roger T. Zerba Keene

Register of Deeds

Anna Z. Tilton Keene

County Commissioner District 1

John M. Pratt Walpole

County Commissioner District 2

Charles Weed Keene

Christopher C. Coates Keene

Philip Dale Pregent Keene

Terry M. Clark Keene

 

 

 

 

3-23-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: Retirement, False Claims against Public Employees, and More

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative UpdateWe are now entering the final week prior to “crossover” on Thursday, March 27.  The House will be in session Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday while the Senate will be in session on Thursday. Each will have to finish up on all their own bills by Thursday, after which they begin taking up those bills sent from the other chamber.

AFT-NH thanks the representatives that stood with us by voting to defeat:

  • HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid.
  • HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms.

We would have liked HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils to have been defeated as well but the House referred this bill to interim study.

HB 1122, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property was tabled (which AFT-NH supported),  because HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant will be voted on this week with a recommendation from the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee of ‘Ought to Pass As Amended’.

As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

THIS WEEK THE HOUSE WILL BE VOTING ON THE FOLLOWING BILLS:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1105-FN-L, relative to aid to school districts for costs of special education. AFT-NH asks that this recommendation be overturned and a motion of Ought To Pass be brought forward. AFT-NH supports this bill because it lifts the current cap of 72% on catastrophic special education funds and fully funds it. With this cap of 72% the state has downshifted roughly $8 million to communities. Catastrophic aid is a state fund that helps local district with exorbitant special education costs for our severely disabled children.

The Finance recommended ‘Ought to Pass’ on HB 1494-FN,relative to administration of the New Hampshire retirement system and authority of the board of trustees. AFT-NH supports this recommendation. We were originally opposed to this bill as it was a policy overreach by the NHRS, but Rep. Goley’s amended version ensures this is just a housekeeping bill that establishes a procedure for the determination of the costs of purchase of service credits, clarifies the ability to earn service credit while on a salary continuance plan, changes the date for the approval of the comprehensive annual financial report (CAFR), adds a penalty for employers who fail to timely remit data on compensation paid to retired members, and repeals obsolete provisions.

PART I OF THE CALENDAR

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

COMMON CORE AND THE SMARTER BALANCE STATE ASSESSMENT

There are several bills that will be voted on that are related to the Common Core and the Smarter Balance state assessment. I think it bears repeating where AFT-NH stands:

AFT-NH knows that a Recent AFT Poll found that 75 Percent of teachers support the Common Core standards, but it also found that they have not had enough time to understand them, put them into practice or discuss them with colleagues.

If these standards are to work we need to ensure that in each district the following are in place when implementing the Standards:

  • There needs to be planning time for understanding the Standards and time to put them into practice.
  • We need opportunities to observe colleagues implementing Standards in class,
  • Provide teachers with model lesson plans aligned to Standards,
  • Ensure textbooks/other curricula materials align with Standards,
  • Communicate with parents on the Standards and the expectations of students, AND
  • Develop best practices and strategies alone with coaching to help teachers teach content more deeply.
  • We need to ensure all districts have the equipment and bandwidth to administer computer-based assessments, AND
  • Make sure we have fully developed curricula aligned to Standards and available to teachers.
  • Assessments need to be aligned to Standards indicating mastery of concepts,
  • Professional development and training in the Standards need to be offered, AND
  • We need to develop tools to track individual student progress on key Standards.

We also know that:

States and districts must work with teachers to develop a high quality curriculum and professional development programming, provide teachers with the time needed to try out new methods of teaching to the standards in their classrooms, commit financial resources to ensure success, and engage parents and the community.

When assessing students, we need to make sure these tests inform teaching, not impede teaching and learning. All children deserve a rich, meaningful public education that prepares them for the opportunities, responsibilities and challenges that await them as they become contributing members of a democratic society.  Growing our nation’s future citizens and workers is a serious undertaking that calls for a thoughtful focus on teaching and learning. Since the implementation of the No Child Left Behind Act, the growing fixation on high-stakes testing has undermined that focus, putting at grave risk our students’ learning and their ability to meet the demands of the 21st-century economy and fulfill their personal goals.

We believe in assessments that support teaching and learning, and that are aligned with curriculum rather than narrow it.  Assessments should be focused on measuring growth and continuous development of students instead of arbitrary targets unconnected to how students learn. Assessments should be diverse, authentic, test for multiple indicators of student performance and provide information leading to appropriate interventions that help students, teachers and schools improve, not sanctions that undermine them.  Development and implementation of such tests must be age appropriate for the students, and teachers need to have appropriate computers to administer such assessments.  Because each district is at different stages in their teacher/staff development and student curriculum changes that meet Common Core Standards and the assessment of their students, the Department of Education should waive the Smarter Balance testing deadline for at least another two years.

Further, we believe that assessments designed to support teaching and learning must contribute to school and classroom environments that nurture growth, collaboration, curiosity and invention—essential elements of a 21st-century education that have too often been sacrificed in favor of test prep and testing. We know that collaboration with educators is necessary to ensure that high-quality instruction and content are given their proper emphasis.

PART II OF THE CALENDAR

The Finance committee recommended ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH is in support of this bill and would like the committee recommendation to be overturned and a recommendation of Ought To Pass be brought forward. It puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many district have not been able to afford to complete upgrades, repairs or build new building because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and click “Like Us”
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARINGS WEEK OF MONDAY, MARCH 24

TUESDAY, MARCH 25
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate COMMERCE, Room 101, LOB
1:15 p.m. HB 1404, relative to payroll cards.
1:35 p.m. HB 1405, prohibiting an employer from using credit history in employment decisions.
1:55 p.m. HB 1407, relative to privacy in the workplace.
2:15 p.m. HB 1188, relative to paycheck equity.

Senate HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:00 a.m. HB 1132-FN, relative to school building security.

9:20 a.m. HB 1260-FN-L, relative to communication of the cost of services provided under the children in need of services (CHINS) program to parents.
9:40 a.m. HB 1113, requiring school districts to distribute a concussion and head injury information sheet to student-athletes and establishing a definition for head injury.
10:20 a.m. HB 1392-FN-L, removing the restriction on the number of pupils eligible to transfer to a chartered public school.
EXECUTIVE SESSION

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
9:15 a.m. HB 1137-FN, relative to annulment of certain obstruction of justice crimes and relative to the crime of escape.
9:30 a.m. HB 1533-FN, requiring a warrant to search information in a portable electronic device.
9:45 a.m. HB 1144, establishing a committee to study information included in arrest records and access to information on the disposition of criminal cases.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 26
10:00 a.m. House in Session

Senate EXECUTIVE DEPARTMENTS AND ADMINISTRATION, Room 100, SH
10:00 a.m. HB 1102, relative to membership of the police standards and training council.
10:20 a.m. HB 1222, prohibiting commercial use of the law enforcement and fallen firefighters memorials.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

THURSDAY, MARCH 27
10:00 a.m. House in Session

10:00 a.m. Senate in Session

TUESDAY, APRIL 1
House MUNICIPAL AND COUNTY GOVERNMENT, Room 301, LOB
11:30 a.m. SB 236, relative to delivery of the final budget and recommendation of the municipal budget committee to the governing body.

Senate JUDICIARY, Room 100, SH
10:30 a.m. HB 1435, requiring law enforcement officials to disclose specific information relating to a police checkpoint.
EXECUTIVE SESSION MAY FOLLOW

WEDNESDAY, APRIL 2

House ELECTION LAW, Room 308, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 120-FN, relative to political contributions and expenditures and relative to reporting by political committees.
11:00 a.m. SB 183-FN, (New Title) relative to identification of voters, processing absentee ballots, and voluntary political expenditure limitations.

House JUDICIARY, Room 208, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 262-FN, revising the form for “summons instead of arrest” and prohibiting attachments in small claims actions.

THURSDAY, APRIL 3

House FINANCE, Rooms 210-211, LOB
11:15 a.m. SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

House FINANCE – (DIVISION I), Room 212, LOB
1:30 p.m. Work session on SB 339-FN, relative to instituting a credit card affinity program in which fees received are directed to offset the retirement system’s unfunded liability.

THURSDAY, APRIL 10
House EDUCATION, Room 207, LOB
10:00 a.m. SB 343, relative to the duties of the statewide education improvement and assessment program legislative oversight committee and repealing the school administrative unit legislative oversight committee.
11:00 a.m. SB 350, relative to the transfer of adequacy aid calculation data from the department of education to the department of revenue administration.
1:15 p.m. SB 348, establishing a commission to study sexual abuse prevention education in elementary and secondary schools.

3-17-14 AFT-NH Legislative Update: School Building Aid Bill, Retirement, Charter Schools, and More

AFT NH Legislative Update

AFT NH Legislative Update

Both the House and Senate are finishing work on their bills prior to the crossover deadline of March 27th (after which bills from one chamber can no longer cross-over to the other chamber for consideration).  The House will be meeting on Wednesdays and Thursdays for the next two weeks to finish up on bills and the Senate will be meeting Thursday the 27th to finish up. Then we start all over again with the House holding committee hearings on passed Senate bills and the Senate holding committee hearings on passed House bills.

This coming Wednesday and Thursday the House will be considering the following bills:

CONSENT CALENDAR

The Finance committee made the recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate‘ on HB 1114: which establishes a minimum state expenditure for school building aid of $50,000,000 per fiscal year. AFT-NH asks that this be taken off the consent calendar and the recommendation be overturned and a recommendation of ‘Ought To Pass’  be presented. AFT-NH supports this bill for it puts a floor to building aid not a cap. For the past six years many districts have not been able to afford upgrades, repairs or build new buildings because of the cost. Keep in mind 50% of our school buildings are over 60 years old and many need infrastructure upgrades necessary for a 21st century learning environment.

REGULAR CALENDAR PART II

AFT-NH supports the Criminal Justice and Public Safety Committee’s recommendation of ‘Ought to Pass as amended’ on HB 1565-FN, establishing the crime of filing false lien or encumbrance against a public servant. As public employees just wanting to do our jobs we should not have to worry that someone unhappy with us could go the county’s Register of Deeds and file a million dollar false claim against your property. Unless you go to the Register of Deeds in your county and fill out paperwork to be notified of such actions, you would never know this lien existed until you wanted to sell your home. It could take up to a year to clear this up and could be very costly.

AFT-NH supports the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1101-FN, relative to the recovery of overpayments by the retirement system and establishing a committee to study the policies and procedures of the retirement system for benefits wrongfully paid. This bill is unnecessary for there is already a process in place for recouping overpayments, and this puts the entire onus on the employee, penalizing them when the error is more likely to be made on the other end.

AFT-NH is in support of the Executive Departments and Administration Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1493-FN-L, relative to members of the retirement system working after retirement, and relative to membership of political subdivision officials appointed for fixed terms. AFT-NH knows that this bill gives unprecedented authority to the executive director of the NHRS to apply punishments at his/her discretion to the employee, when part-time work reporting is both an employer and employee responsibility. To put all the onus on the employee is wrong.

AFT-NH would have like the Finance committee to recommend ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  and not ‘Referred Interim Study’ on HB 435-FN, relative to funding for chartered public school pupils. Keep in mind that Charter Schools:

  • Do not accept all children that walk through their doors,
  • They entire teaching staff are not certified,
  • They do not take on all the responsibility of educating special education students but they  rely on the child’s local school system to offer services,
  • They do not take on the responsibility of transporting the students to school.
  • They do not have to follow all the laws and rules that current public schools follow.

Also remembers when a charter school opens, your local tax dollars, taken from your local school district budget, must pay for services for special education students attending the charter school.  If a charter school opens in your community your tax dollars are going to transport any student that lives in your community attending the charter school.  All of this is mandated by State law, and in a time when budgets are tight charter schools seem to be coming back and asking for more and more. And you have no say in the matter unless our local elected state leaders stand up and say “No more!”

AFT-NH is in support of the Labor, Industrial and Rehabilitative Services Committee’s recommendation of ‘Inexpedient To Legislate’  on HB 1228, establishing a commission to investigate the procedure for public employee collective bargaining. There have been many committees/commissions that have studied this issue and too often, it only seems to open the door for destructive legislation.  Rather than risk opening a Pandora’s Box with a study commission, let’s prepare specific legislation to remedy some of the problems already identified in previous study committees.

If you have any questions or concerns please email me at lhainey@aft-nh.org.

Thank you!
In Solidarity,
Laura Hainey

Please visit www.aft-nh.org and AFT-NH Facebook page and clicked “Like Us”?
Late breaking news appears on our web site and on Facebook!

UPCOMING COMMITTEE HEARING FOR THE WEEK OF MARCH 17, 2014

TUESDAY, MARCH 18

CRIMINAL JUSTICE AND PUBLIC SAFETY, Room 204, LOB
10:00 a.m. Continued public hearing on
HB 1122-FN, (New Title) relative to the filing with a registry of deeds of a fraudulent document purporting to create a lien or claim against real property, –this is the same as HB 1565 which AFT-NH supports

RULES, Room 303, LOB
2:30 p.m. Regular meeting

WAYS AND MEANS, Room 202, LOB
10:30 a.m. Executive session on
HB 1415-FN, establishing a robotics education fund in the department of education,

HEALTH, EDUCATION AND HUMAN SERVICES, Room 103, LOB
9:30 a.m. Executive Session May Follow

WEDNESDAY, MARCH 19

10:00 a.m. House in session

PUBLIC AND MUNICIPAL AFFAIRS, Room 102, LOB
10:30 a.m. HB 297, relative to the management of trust funds and capital reserve funds and pertaining to library trustees.

THURSDAY, MARCH 20

10:00 a.m. House in session

Congresswoman Annie Kuster Co-Sponsors ‘Government By the People Act’

Image from Congresswoman Kuster's FB Page.

Congresswoman Annie Kuster (D-NH), along with 100 original co-sponsors, introduced legislation that would greatly reduce the influence of big money on Capitol Hill and raise the voices of everyday Americans in the political process.

The Government By the People Act (H.R. 20) would allow candidates to run for office by relying on a large number of small donations from people back home—instead of big donations from lobbyists or Wall Street bankers.

Here’s how it would work:

  • Empower Everyday Americans to Participate

The bill would provide Americans with a $25 refundable My Voice tax credit to help spur small-dollar contributions to candidates for Congressional office.

  • Amplify the Voice of Everyday Americans

Establish a Freedom from Influence Fund to multiply the impact of small-dollar donations ($150 or less). Donations of $1 to $150 to participating candidates would be matched on a six-to-one basis. For those candidates who agree to take only small-dollar donations, the $50 contribution can become a $500 contribution – matched at a rate of 9 to $1.

  • Fight Back Against Special Interests

It will allow candidates to run competitive campaigns for office even with the threat of super PACs or dark money groups. Participating candidates, who are able to raise at least $50,000 in additional small-dollar donations within the 60-day “home stretch” of the general election, would be eligible for additional resources to break this monopoly.

For the people quoteFrom creating jobs to the budget to issues concerning the environment and health care, big money warps Congress’ priorities and erodes public trust. Too often, special interests and wealthy donors are calling the shots, and the American people are fed up.

The Government By the People Act strikes at the heart of our big money problem, empowers ordinary voters by matching their small donations, and would hold members of Congress accountable to the people that elected them, not the wealthy donors who currently fund their campaigns. It’s time we return to government of, by, and for the people, not government bought and paid for by big money campaign donors.

Learn more about the Government By the People Act and find out how you can get involved in the campaign to pass the legislation at www.ofby.us.

Rep Annie Kuster Calls For Unemployment Extension Immediately

Rep_Ann_Kuster

Kuster: More than 1000 Granite Staters Lost unemployment insurance benefits at the end of 2013 – House must pass bipartisan extension immediately

During a speech on the House floor, Kuster highlights the story of a Colebrook constituent who lost her teaching position after 29 years on the job and relies on emergency UI benefits to make ends meet while she looks for work

In total, more than 1,000 Granite Staters lost UI benefits at the end of 2013; without Congressional action, an additional 150 Granite Staters will lose their benefits every week during the first half of 2014

WASHINGTON, D.C.Congresswoman Annie Kuster (NH-02) this week continued to urge her colleagues to support legislation extending emergency unemployment insurance benefits that expired at the end of 2013. During a speech on the House floor, Kuster highlighted the story of a constituent from Colebrook who lost her teaching position last fall after 29 years on the job, and who depends on unemployment insurance benefits to get by as she applies for jobs. More than 1.3 million Americans – including more than 1,000 Granite Staters – have already been cut off from their emergency unemployment insurance benefits, and more will lose their benefits every week that Congress fails to act.

“[The EUC program] compensation provides a critical lifeline to Granite Staters and other Americans who are still struggling to find work. This includes Lois, a teacher who wrote to me from Colebrook, New Hampshire,” Kuster said. “At the end of the last school year, Lois lost her job after teaching for 29 years because of falling enrollment in her rural school district. Over the last few months, she has applied to over 100 jobs without any luck.”

“Her savings have been exhausted, unemployment benefits are now her only source of income, and she is worried about whether she can keep her home,” Kuster continued. “We must give people like Lois – hardworking Americans who have suffered a tough break – the opportunity to get back on their feet.”

For months, Kuster has been outspoken about the need to extend unemployment insurance benefits for Granite Staters still struggling to find work. She first called on Congress to pass legislation to renew the Emergency Unemployment Compensation in November, and personally called on Speaker Boehner to bring that legislation to a vote before Congress adjourned at the end of last year. Kuster is also a cosponsor of the Emergency Unemployment Compensation Extension Act, legislation to extend benefits for the long-term unemployed through 2014.

In-State Dreamers Should Get In-State Rates At UNH Schools

Image from http://pocho.com/viva-los-dreamers/
Image from http://pocho.com/viva-los-dreamers/

Image from http://pocho.com/viva-los-dreamers/

How many times have you heard the ignorant anti-immigrant right-wingers say that undocumented immigrants are uneducated leeches on the US economy?  I cannot tell you how many times I have heard this.  That is why I was delighted to hear that New Hampshire is about to consider a law to allow students awaiting legal citizenship, entry into the University of NH at residential rates.

For decades now we have been telling our children that they need to get a college education to be able to get a good job, and live well in the middle class.  Though I agree that college does improve your ability to make higher wages, it is not the only way.  An internship with the building trade unions will also provide a great education in a trade that you can use for the rest of your life.   However that is a post for another day. Today we are here to talk about college education.

Middle class families have been struggling to pay their own bills and this has not left much extra cash to help their children attend college.  This is forcing many students to take student loans to attend college.  This is why many have chosen to attend a local state school, because residents pay dramatically less for tuition.

For example:

In-state tuition at the University of New Hampshire is $13,670 this year compared with $26,390 for a non-resident. At Keene State College and Plymouth State University, the in-state rate is $10,410 compared with more than $17,000 for out-of-state students.” (Nashua Telegraph/AP)

As you can clearly see that in-state students only have to pay about half the tuition to attend school as out-of-state students.

In 2012 the NH Legislature led by a GOP supermajority and Speaker Bill O’Brien, passed a law that required all “students receiving in-state tuition to file an affidavit attesting that they are legal residents of the United States (Nashua Telegraph/AP).”  This means that if you are an aspiring American that you cannot attend UNH without paying full out-of-state tuition, no matter how long you have lived in NH.  I think this is wrong.

I know what some people are saying right now; they are here illegally and they should not be given preferential treatment! Yes, they may be undocumented but is that really their fault?  Many of these students were brought here as children by their parents.  Why are we trying to punish the children for their parents’ transgressions? It is like taking away the child’s driver’s license because their parents got a speeding ticket.

Throughout the United States there are about 1.3 million undocumented children or ‘dreamers’.  How many of these children do you think came here knowing their parents were violating the law?   This is a major part of the current immigration debate.  Should we allow the ‘dreamers’ a chance to get their citizenship immediately?

One of the key parts of this revision to the NH law is that in order to qualify for in-state tuition rates they must have lived here for at least three years.

The students would have to be a graduate of a high school in the state or have gotten a New Hampshire high school equivalency certificate. They would have had to attend a state high school for three years before graduating or receiving an equivalency certificate and have met all the other criteria for in-state rates (Nashua Telegraph/AP).”

According to the Immigration Policy Center, there are about 1,020 ‘dreamers’ living in NH right now.   That means this change would have a very minor effect on the UNH system.

Changing this law would also add New Hampshire to the 15 other states that already allow ‘dreamers’ to attend college as in-state residents, while they are waiting to become legal US citizens.

Since the US House does not want to address the issue of Immigration, we as Granite Staters can take a little step forward to help these young people while we wait for the Congressional gridlock to end.

Hedrick Smith Speaks to the Community about Who Stole the American Dream.

PaperbackCover

PaperbackCoverIf you are like me, you have probably never heard of Hedrick Smith before.  Those people a little older than me know his work very well.  Hedrick was a journalist and the former head of the Washington D.C. bureau for the New York Times.  He covered at least four Presidents as a reporter and is an accomplished author.  Hedrick even won a Pulitzer Prize for his work in Russia and Eastern Europe in 1974.

Hedrick’s newest book is called ‘Who Stole the American Dream?’ and it provides a very detailed description of what happened to the middle class in America.

  • What lead to the sub-prime mortgage crisis that nearly bankrupted America?
  • What happened to the labor unions and prosperity of the middle class?
  • Why is business now more powerful in Washington than the people our elected officials are supposed to be representing?

HSmith 2Hedrick addressed all these topics in his lecture to a group of about 50 people at the NH AFL-CIO office last week.

After saying that “being here reminds me of the heyday of the labor movement,”  Hedrick started his lecture by asking the question “How did we get to here?”  How did we get to a point in America where you are either just barely getting by or one of the ultra-wealthy?

Hedrick said “Some people ask me, aren’t you preaching to the choir?” when speaking to labor groups.  His response: “All the choir members need to sing from the same sheet music.”  We will not be able to fight back against these changes until we understand how we got here.  Hedrick described his book as an intellectual arsenal for the labor movement and other socially progressive organizations.

Rebuilding America with excess money from the DOD.

“Labor is a strong protector of the middle class,” Hedrick said. “The heyday of the middle class was a time when the labor movement was strong.”

Hedrick talked about how we need to rebuild our infrastructure and get Americans back to work, how we need to focus on what is happening here, and stop spending all of our tax dollars fighting in other countries.  “Why are we building bridges in Kandahar, and not in Kansas?” Hedrick asked.  He explained that too much of our federal budget is going to the Pentagon; Defense spending is higher now than it was in the Cold War – even though, during the Cold War everyone was afraid of an all-out nuclear war.

In his book, Hedrick details how much money we have spent on the current ‘wars’ that we are involved in: an estimated $3.5 to $4.5 trillion dollars have been spent, even though taxes have not been increased to pay for it.  Even now, as the conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan are winding down, the “extra” money Congress spent on those war efforts is still in the federal budget.  That means Defense is enjoying grossly inflated appropriations – even though there are no actual ‘wars’ to fight.

Hedrick suggested that if we need to find the money to rebuild our roads and bridges, we should start by looking at the Pentagon budget.  He also proposed the idea of mandatory military service, if not for everyone then for everyone in Congress.  “We would go into a lot less wars if we had mandatory (military) service,” he said.  Hedrick also questioned Congress’ ability to make decisions about war if the representatives have never served themselves.

Stakeholder Capitalism vs. Shareholder Capitalism

HRSmith 4There are two very different perspectives about how a business should be run.  On one hand there is the view – best described by Henry Ford – that a company is there to produce something, and pay people a wage high enough that they could become your customers.  This is commonly referred to as ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’.

There is one rule for the industrialist and that is: Make the best quality of goods possible at the lowest cost possible, paying the highest wages possible.”
HENRY FORD

On the other hand, there is the current business philosophy that companies are only there to make their owners and shareholders money.  This is called ‘Shareholder Capitalism’.

This difference is a major focus in Hedrick’s new book.  He spent a majority of the time during last week’s discussion talking about the differences between these two views – and how ‘Shareholder Capitalism’ has led to the decline of the middle class.

Hedrick explained that ‘Stakeholder Capitalism’ drove the American economy after World War II.  From 1945-1970, the productivity of American workers went up by 96%.  At the same time, the average median income grew by 94%.  “Growth in productivity lead to shared prosperity,” Hedrick observed.  Everyone from the poor to the wealthy prospered during these years – in fact, those at the bottom of the wealth spectrum benefitted even more than those at the top.

Then, beginning in the 1970s, businesses moved into ‘Shareholder Capitalism’.  Productivity continued to rise by leaps and bounds, yet workers’ wages stayed flat.  The added revenue the company received from the higher productivity had to go somewhere – and it went right to the executives and shareholders. This is why the average CEO’s salary is now 380 times higher than the average worker’s salary.  [Read Citigroup’s report “Plutonomy: Buying Luxury, Explaining Global Imbalances” here.]

Through the 1970s, CEOs knew that shared prosperity was good business. “The job of the CEO was to balance the needs of all the Stakeholders,” Hedrick explained.  That means balancing the wages of the workers with the cost to consumers, and the need to turn a profit for the shareholders.  This was the job of the CEO.  Some of those needs were very simple.  The workers needed money.

The middle class had been the major consumer in our economy.  Middle class Americans are spenders, not savers: they spend 90% or more of what they bring home.  For the majority, the only savings they accrue is paying off their mortgages.   If the middle class does not have money to spend (like our current situation) then the economy is very slow to recover from any economic downturn.

In 1948, the United Auto Workers (UAW) and the CEO of General Motors Charlie Wilson signed the first collective bargaining agreement that included a lifetime pension.  This means that after you put in your many years of service to GM they would pay you a salary for the rest of your life.  This trend continued in union and non-union companies for the next few decades.  GM became the model for industry and labor relations throughout the country.

By 1980, 84% of all companies with 100+ employees had a full pension for their retired workers; 70% of them had full healthcare coverage for retirees as well.

Hedrick ArnieAlpertNow that ‘retirement security’ has all but disappeared.  Only 30% of companies with 100+ employees offer a pension; and only 18% offer retiree healthcare.  Those numbers go down every year, as workers who retired with these ‘outdated’ pensions are passing away.

GM used to be the template for a successful industry, now Wal-Mart is the template,” said Hedrick.  Wal-Mart is the modern day success story in the world of ‘Shareholder Capitalism’: they have experienced massive growth and high stock returns.  Just disregard the fact that they do not offer healthcare to the majority of their employees, or pay wages that would keep their workers out of poverty.

In ‘Shareholder Capitalism’ the stakeholders (consumers, shareholders, and workers) are in conflict with each other.  The shareholders are the only people the CEO cares about: business is all about profits and stock prices.  This is also why corporations like Wal-Mart buy back their stock to continue to drive up stock prices.

The middle class is not getting their share of the pie,” said Hedrick.  “The system (economy) will not work until the middle class get more of the pie

The middle class used to drive the political bus

Hedrick discussed how the middle class used to drive our political system.  Especially from the 1960s through the 1980s the middle class effected the most change.

The middle class was made up of many different movements, including the civil rights movement, the environmental movement, and the women’s movement.   Hedrick noted that organized labor was right there in the middle of it: labor was there helping to safeguard the rights of all workers, regardless of color or gender, and ensuring that all were paid equally.

For many years, labor and these organizations pushed the political system.  Hedrick noted that the AFL-CIO nationally seems to be making a push to be more like the labor movement of the past.  Labor is working with outside groups to help workers who are not official union members.  Hedrick praised the union groups who are helping to push legislation in Congress and state Legislatures to raise the minimum wage.

Hedrick described one other thing that helped these organizations move the middle class ahead.  It’s something that has been completely lost in today’s political system: hope.

People in the middle class used to believe that when something was broken in Washington that together they could change it.  They effected a great deal of political change and helped move our country forward.   Many people do not feel they can make a difference anymore.  We need bring hope back. We need people to believe again.

The Shift In Political Power

All through the 1960s, the middle class prospered and dominated the political system.  Now that is completely the opposite.  Business and their paid lobbyists control Washington.  What happened to cause this major shift?

Hedrick asked, “How many of you have ever heard of the Powell Memorandum?”  Hedrick admitted that until he started writing Who Stole The American Dream he had never heard of it before either.  Even though Hedrick was a journalist in Washington, D.C. in 1974, he had never heard of it.  It was not given to the press or the public; instead, it was shared “under the table. ‘

Lewis Powell was conservative, a corporate lawyer, and eventually a Supreme Court Justice. The 1974 ‘Powell Memorandum’ drafted a plan for business and industry to counter middle class movements.  Powell said, “These movements and regulations are killing the free enterprise system.”  He argues that the business industry needed to organize (like many of the other movements of the time), that they needed to put people on Capitol Hill and use their collective will to influence the regulations and policy changes that are hurting business.

Does that sound familiar?”  Hedrick asked the AFL members.

Starting in the mid-1970s, business took this message to heart.  They created the ‘Business Round Table’, a group of businesses who pooled their resources to lobby Congress.  Now the BRT is the largest single lobbying group in the nation’s capital.  The US Chamber of Commerce went from 6,000 members in 1974 to over 600,000 members in 2010.

These changes shifted the power from the people and pushed it toward the business community.  These lobbyists started pushing more and more money into the political system and began to overpower the voices of the people.  They quickly got to work: pushing for lower taxes, lower regulations and what they called ‘business-friendly’ policies.

“They started by deregulating trucking and telecom,” said Hedrick.

In 1978, with a Democratic President and both Houses of Congress controlled by Democrats, the business lobby passed some of the most damaging laws for American workers.  For example, they changed the tax code and wrote in paragraph 401 sub-section K to allow executives to have a tax shelter for their earnings.  The 401(K) provisions quickly became the answer to lowering retirement costs and keeping more profits.  Some companies, such as ENRON, even forced their workers to use their 401(k)s to buy stock in the company – which would force stock prices up and up. But then if the company goes under, as ENRON did, the workers have completely lost their retirements as well as their jobs.

The business lobby also changed the bankruptcy law to allow the current management to continue to control the company through the bankruptcy process.  Previously, a neutral third party was brought in to divide the company assets and ensure that workers’ pensions were protected; but now, companies can file for bankruptcy and sell off all assets, leaving the workers stranded.  In his book, Hedrick uses the United Airlines bankruptcy as an example of how this policy hurts working families.  We can also see the effects of this change in the aftermaths of the Hostess and Patriot Coal bankruptcies.

The ‘Powell Memorandum’ created a political monster.  Now we have the ‘Gang of Six’, a Washington based lobbying group that “represents 40,000 member companies from beer distributors to furniture suppliers, is the dean of a bloc of a half dozen U.S. trade groups. The groups represent companies that employ more than 22 million people and generate at least $5.2 trillion in goods and services, or almost half of U.S. gross domestic product. If the Gang of Six were a country, it would constitute the world’s second-biggest economy, eclipsing Japan’s $4.7 trillion GDP.”

This ultra-powerful lobbying group is lead by Dirk Van Dongen, the “most powerful man you never heard of,” said Hedrick.  This is the guy that Carl Rove had lunch with the day after President G.W. Bush was inaugurated – that is how powerful Van Dongen is.

Making Change

What can we do about this?  How can we stop this cycle and get back to an age of prosperity again?

Many of Hedrick’s ideas have to do with fixing our broken political system. “We need to get the big money out of politics,” said Hedrick.  “We need to fix the gerrymandering” of our Congressional districts.  We need to have open disclosure on all campaign contributions.  “This may mean we need to go back to publicly funded campaigns again,” said Hedrick.   We need the Federal Election Commission to do a better job of regulating the elections and enforcing the current election rules.  Hedrick continued, “The FEC could pass a rule that would enforce open disclosure tomorrow if they wanted to.”

Hedrick talked about ‘Open Primaries’ as a way of countering gerrymandering.   There would be no such thing as safe districts any longer. Regardless of political party, all candidates would be on the same primary ballot – then the top two candidates in the primary would run against each other in the general election.    Hedrick said that in some ‘Open Primaries’ have resulted in two general-election candidates from the same party.  He also noted that places that had ‘Open Primaries’ saw a 20% increase in voter turnout – because people once again believe that their vote will make a difference.

Hedrick also suggested making changes to the corporate tax structure, particularly reducing taxes for corporations that bring jobs here to the United States and raising taxes on those that send jobs away and keep profits overseas.  “Last year corporations held $1.7 trillion in corporate profits overseas,” said Hedrick. “Now they want to bring it back, so they are pushing Congress for another ‘tax holiday’.”  A tax holiday would allow these corporations to bring their money back from overseas without any penalty.  Many of them would immediately buy up shares of their own corporations, forcing stock prices up, and increasing their returns.  The people (the government) get nothing out of this.

Summary

Income inequality, the fall of the middle class, and the rise of business profits are all related.  Our world is very interconnected and what seemed like minor policy changes 30 years ago have turned out to be some of the most damaging.   We need to take back our political system and get back to making Congress work for the people, not the corporations.

Hedrick Smith laid out a number of these ideas in his hour-long lecture – but there is so much more in his new book.  I recommend that everyone go out a get a copy of ‘Who Stole the American Dream’.

All Signs Point To A Government Shutdown

House Speaker John Boehner

There is little doubt in my mind that a government shutdown is eminent.  This means anyone who gets a paycheck from the federal government will be either forced to work without pay or forced into furlough status (stay home and not get paid).

Including the military the government employs 4.4 million workers (OPM).  Every one of those people will not be getting paid for work on beginning on Tuesday.

Obviously not all jobs are able to just close up shop.  These are called essential employees.  They could be FBI investigators, Air Traffic Controllers from the Department of Transportation, Secret Service, US Marshalls, some of the people from the Social Security Administrations, and our US Military.   All of these people must go to work, do their normal jobs, but will not get paid for their time.

All of them except the military.   This is another reason that people are really thinking that the GOP is going to push us over the edge.  Late during the night on Friday night the US House passed the “Pay Our Military Act” by a unanimous 423-0.  There is no doubt that the military is special.  They are spread out around the world and they cannot just stay home if the government shuts down.  Not to mention that over 5000 military families receive SNAP (food stamps) from the government on top of their pay.  The SNAP program was recently gutted during the Farm Bill debate.

Many people agree we should be paying the military in the event of a shutdown but what about the other essential government employees.  Those employees who still have to go to work but will not get paid.   What about their families? Why is it ok to continue to pay the military personnel, but not the essential employees?  Better yet, pay everyone and don’t shut the government down.

“I think they’re showing their hand, and it’s unfortunate, because it’s not just our military personnel who will be hurt by the government shutdown,” said Democratic Caucus Chairman Xavier Becerra, D-Calif., at a news conference after the meeting’s conclusion. “The shameful part of it is that Republicans are essentially telegraphing that they intend to shut down the government, and the only folks they are going to worry about, with the government shutdown, are the military personnel.”

Once again the House passed another Continuing Resolution to keep the government funded, with a short list of demands.  Not only did they pass a delay (or repeal) of the Affordable Care Act (43rd time) they added in some other stuff they know they would have no other chance to get passed.

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter stated in a recent press release;

House Republicans have voted 43 times to obstruct a law that was passed by Congress, signed by the President, upheld by the Supreme Court, and reaffirmed by the 2012 election. It doesn’t matter what party or state you represent, holding vital government functions hostage in order to wage an ideological crusade is irresponsible and unacceptable.  These Tea Party tactics hurt our recovering economy and harm working families, seniors, and veterans.”

The GOP in the house who are debating how they are going to fund the government, are proposing that the ‘Medical Device Tax’ be removed.  You got it, they are saying,  ‘we cannot pay our bills so lets stop bringing in revenue as well.’

Of course that is not all.  The House GOP is also pushing their anti-women ideology in this Continuing Resolution.

Roll Call reports, “House leaders made the bill even more unpalatable to Senate Democrats by including a “conscience clause” allowing employers and insurers to opt out of providing coverage for contraception if they have moral or religious objections.”

Seriously I cannot make this stuff up.  The House is pushing to roll back women’s health in a government funding bill.  Talk about earmarks!

Both sides are saying they do not want a shutdown. NH Congresswoman Annie Kuster’s released this statement:

“By refusing to vote on the Senate-passed bill to keep the government open, House Republicans are choosing to shut down the government — plain and simple. This is not what responsible governing looks like. With a costly shutdown just two days away, we don’t have time for more pointless political theater. We need to pass a responsible bill that will keep our government running, our economy growing, and our families and businesses secure. My colleagues across the aisle need to stop putting ideology ahead of common sense and focus on having a rational debate about how to responsibly reduce the deficit, create jobs, and strengthen the middle class. The last thing our economy can afford right now is another manufactured crisis from Washington.”

Congresswoman Carol Shea-Porter also had a few other things to say about the Continuing resolution:

“Today, House Speaker John Boehner took one big step toward total surrender to the Tea Party and one giant leap toward shutting down the government.  It’s time for Speaker Boehner to reject the most extreme flank of the Republican Party and work across the aisle to keep the government running.”

“I am willing to work with anyone to improve the Affordable Care Act, but changes to the health care law should be debated through an open legislative process, not through a hostage-taking stunt.”

It is strange that the only option that the GOP is offering in reference to the ACA is a repeal/defunding.  Not one of them has offered any suggestions as to how to fix any of the problems they have found.  Not one of them has attempted to make changes to the law to improve it only destroy it.   Jon Favreau, former chief speechwriter for President Obama wrote this in the Daily Beast.

“If Republicans are so confident Obamacare will end badly, why not just shut up about it? It’s not like they have the votes to repeal the law—a math problem they still haven’t solved after 37 different tries. Their appeal to the Supreme Court ended in defeat at the hands of a conservative chief justice. And now the bulk of the plan will begin to take effect in just a few months.

At this point, why not sit back and wait for this crazy experiment to self-destruct? Why not let President Obama and the Democrats reckon with the millions of angry Americans who will undoubtedly hate their new insurance or their new insurance protections?

Because Republicans are terrified that Obamacare could actually work.”

Favreau is right.  If the program is so bad, then stop trying to block it.  The GOP should be encouraging its implementation, just to watch it self-destruct.

Only 24 hours till the potential government shutdown.  And only two weeks until we reach the ‘debt ceiling’.  That is going to be much worse and more dangerous than a government shutdown.

Senate GOP Medicaid Alternative Plan Makes No Sense

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Their alternative plan would mean higher costs, lower quality care, and unaffordable coverage

CONCORD – Today, Senate Democratic Leader Sylvia Larsen, House Majority Leader Steve Shurtleff, and Bi-State Primary Care Association President and CEO Tess Stack Kuenning held a conference call with members of the press to discuss the Senate Republican-endorsed alternative to expanding Medicaid.

The plan that Senate President Chuck Morse praised on Tuesday on behalf of Senate Republicans would turn down federal funds to expand Medicaid, and instead offer those who are below 100% of the federal poverty line (FPL, $11,490 for an individual in 2013) a plan with concierge primary care service and catastrophic coverage.

“This isn’t really a plan at all,” said Senator Larsen. “It would cost our state almost $3 billion more, only covers one quarter of the uninsured people that Medicaid includes, would give very poor coverage to those people, and that poor coverage would cost these folks more than half of their annual income so they could never afford it anyway.”

“So why would we pay much more to cover far fewer people with much worse coverage that they could never even afford?” added Larsen. “It makes no sense.”

Larsen pointed out that whereas expanded Medicaid would save the state about $45 million total between now and the end of 2021, the Senate Republican plan would cost the state $46 million each year, for a total cost of $368 million over the same 10 year period. And at the same time, the state would be foregoing $2.4 billion in federal funds, for a total loss to the state of almost $3 billion under the Senate Republican plan. The state would also lose out on almost $400 million in economic growth and 700 new jobs created under Medicaid expansion.

House Majority Leader Shurtleff noted that expanded Medicaid would cover an estimated 46,200 currently uninsured people, while the Senate Republican plan would cover 11,150 people, about one quarter as many. He also pointed out that the Senate Republican plan would cost people $6,362 out of pocket before they could even access coverage. So with people in this program making a maximum of $11,490 a year, they would be paying 55% of their income for coverage. By contrast, an individual covered under expanded Medicaid would pay no more than $793 a year.

“Does anyone think that someone making under $12,000 a year can afford more than $6,000 a year on health care coverage?” asked Shurtleff. “These are working people. They are people with low incomes. These are wait staff, janitors, school bus drivers, hairstylists, teachers’ aides, grocery store clerks, construction workers, and landscapers. These are taxpayers. They are playing by the rules. And they deserve access to high quality, comprehensive coverage that they can actually afford.”

Bi-State Primary Care Association President and CEO Tess Stack Kuenning explained that the Senate Republican alternative plan combines concierge primary care service with catastrophic coverage, but no other coverage. That covers minor medical needs and acute or emergency needs, but nothing in between. That means there is no coverage for a huge proportion of medical needs and conditions including medications, treatment for many chronic conditions, most mental health conditions, outpatient surgeries, substance abuse treatment, and any other procedures not requiring prolonged hospitalization. This plan is far worse than regular private coverage, Medicaid, or Medicare.

“I can tell you as an advocate for low-income people who need access to health care, this would be very poor, very limited coverage, especially compared to Medicaid,” said Kuenning. “In my experience in this state, Medicaid provides good coverage, good quality of care, and better outcomes for people. That is why my organization and every other provider organization in the state has supported expanded Medicaid as the best way to provide coverage and access for low-income working people. But I see no way that low income working people could afford this coverage, they probably wouldn’t want it, and it wouldn’t help drive down costs or make people significantly healthier in our state.”

“I believe that Senate President Morse is serious about working on this issue and recognizes the challenges we face as a state,” Senator Larsen concluded. “I think when he and his colleagues take a close look at this plan, they will agree that it doesn’t make sense. But we agree with them about finding an approach that works best for New Hampshire. We have supported some of the ideas to bring the private sector into Medicaid including by making it a managed care program, and we look forward to continuing to work with them to find the right approach to bringing in these federal funds, helping our state economy, growing jobs, and giving people access to affordable, high-quality coverage.”