Tag Archives: forum

Pushing Back for Progressive Values: No All-Cuts Budget

(Welcome Sen. DeSaulnier – promoted by Brian Leubitz)

At the Contra Costa County United Democratic Campaign CD 10 candidates’ forum last week, the candidates were asked to list examples of when they had defied Democratic party leadership in order to stand up for progressive values and make real change.  I told the audience of Contra Costa Democratic activists that I had a history of doing so, and in fact might have to do so if the leadership put an all-cuts budget up for a vote this week in the Senate.  Yesterday, I kept my promise and did not vote for the all-cuts budget that was brought to the floor.

Progressive values and commonsense dictate that we have a budget that combines cuts with increases in revenue.  A cuts-only budget is a recipe for disaster in California and severely hurts the most vulnerable of our fellow Californians.  In an era of “yes we can,” the Governor and Republican legislators are telling Californians “no they can’t” have sensible solutions to California’s budget crisis.  They have pushed Democrats into a “through the looking glass” scenario where Democrats are on the record voting for $11 billion in cuts and Republicans are on the record voting against them, but there is no record that in fact the Republicans want even deeper cuts and refuse to support any tax increases whatsoever.  Only in Sacramento could such an Alice in Wonderland scenario unfold.

The truth is that standing up for progressive values sometimes dictates that we go against the decisions of our leadership.  I cannot in good conscience vote for a budget that does not include significant revenue increases.  In the next few days, we will have votes on raising revenue through an oil severance tax and an increase in the tobacco tax.  I will vote for those because proposals to increase revenue to the state must be part of any solution to California’s deficit.  

In addition, I joined with Senator Lois Wolk in writing the Legislative Analyst’s Office seeking advice on the most efficient way to close corporate tax loopholes in California.  There are approximately $50 billion – $50 billion! – in tax loopholes that exist right now.  

It’s time to push back hard against the ideological inflexibility of the Governor and the Republicans in the legislature and make them take responsibility in front of the voters for their efforts to drive California over a fiscal cliff.  There is no proposal that will create a budget that is pain free.  But an all-cuts budget is the most painful for the people who are the most vulnerable.

We can do better for California.  Yes, as progressives, we can stand up to make a bad budget better.  That was my promise to the Contra Costa Democrats last Friday and it’s my promise to you today.

Mark DeSaulnier

The Villagers are Restless for Real Healthcare Reform

Lots of people are showing up at the White House forums on healthcare and delivering a very different message from Beltway insiders about what the final bill should look like.

In Des Moines Monday, registered nurses, doctors, and other healthcare activists, led by the California Nurses Association National Nurses Organizing Committee, Minnesota Nurses Association, Physicians for a National Health Program, and Healthcare Now, showed up outside the hall pressing the case for single-payer reform, and then took the theme inside the meeting.

Dr. Jess Fiedorowicz, a psychiatrist at the University of Iowa Hospitals who was with the protest group, told the meeting a majority of Americans support a “single payer” or government-run national health insurance program.

“Can we put it on the table for discussion?” Fiedorowicz asked Nancy-Ann De Parle, director of the White House Office on Health Reform.

“Can we study costing? Can we study feasibility of this truly universal, socially just and fiscally responsible alternate to our currently unjust and woefully inefficient system?” Fiedorowicz asked. Many in the crowd applauded.

Vashti Winterburg, 61, co-chair of Kansas Health Care for All, said she opposes any plan that keeps health insurance companies in business.


Rally in Des Moines, Iowa

Presumably that was not what the planners of this process were expecting when they started holding these forums away from Washington. And, somehow, the White House blog on the event neglected to mention Fiedorowicz's speech.

But though the White House and some in the media continue to close their eyes, the regional events are providing a reminder of what type of reform does have the support of doctors, nurses, and so many grassroots activists.

In Des Moines, Iowa, Dearborn, Mi., and Burlington, Vt., all three forums have seen big turnouts by single payer activists outside and inside the meetings outlining vocal opposition to any reforms that leave the insurance industry with a chokehold on our health.


Rally in Burlington, Vermont 

In Dearborn, for example, Adrian Campbell Montgomery, one of the real life stars of “SiCKO” recounted her chilling experiences with the insurance industry that have continued since the release of the film.

Adrian Campbell Montgomery is waiting to hear if she'll qualify for Medicaid, which could pay for the surgery she needs to have her cancerous ovary removed. It was the second brush with cancer for the 26-year-old from Howell, who four years ago had to pay an $8,000 surgery bill for surgery to treat her cervical cancer because her parents' insurance company said surgery wasn't recommended until patients were 26 years old.

“When you're sick, you need help. Other countries do that,” she told reporters after getting a standing ovation from the hundreds of people who attended the first White House Regional Health Reform Forum at the Ford Conference and Convention Center. “The debt, the worry, the stress — I don't want it anymore.”

What is it that those other countries do?  They have single payer or national health systems and don't let the insurance companies decide who will receive care and who won't. That's a message those holed up in the insular committee rooms in Washington seem anxious to avoid.

Two more summits and two more opportunities remain, for all of us to send a reminder about what real reform would look like: March 31 in Greensboro, NC, and April 6 in Los Angeles. Join us.