By Simmi Bagri
Alliance for a Just Society
Imagine being poor. Then imagine that the depth of your poverty is compounded because you committed a minor infraction. You can’t pay your ticket. You go to court and are put under a probation monitoring service – more fees and fines. You can’t afford bus fare, so you walk everywhere. You can’t afford food, so you go hungry.
Then imagine being put in jail because you can’t pay the fines. Your life has been criminalized, and infrastructure that ought to allow you to you to make amends and move forward, traps you. You can’t escape it. Now you can stop imagining, because that is exactly what is happening across the United States today
Earlier this month the Human Rights Watch released a report titled “Profiting From Probation: America’s Offender-Funded Probation Industry,” which describes a probation model that incentivizes private for-profit companies to prey on low-income misdemeanor offenders.
The Alliance for a Just Society’s Native Organizing Alliance is pleased to announce our annual Native Organizers Training this spring! Sponsored by the Communities Creating Healthy Environments Initiative, this is a four day intensive workshop on community organizing that covers building and leveraging people-power, campaign planning, community led policy change; and how to use our stories to win battles.
This workshop focuses on skill building while recognizing the considerations of organizing in Indian Country. Because of historic underfunding in Indian Country, organizing infrastructure is lacking. This training is an opportunity to bolster that infrastructure through relationship building, peer support and coordination with other Natives who are doing community organizing. This workshop prepares organizers for leading a community driven campaign on the issues and concerns that are relevant to Indian Country. Continue reading
Yesterday, the Congressional Budget Office released a report on the estimated effects of increasing the minimum wage to $10.10 and indexing it to inflation by 2016. Opponents of the increase have jumped on the report’s (questionable) conclusion that it would cost jobs, while many in favor of increasing the minimum wage have focused on the benefits, including lifting almost one million workers out of poverty.
However, even a minimum wage of $10.10 doesn’t come close to reaching a living wage that allows workers to move beyond living paycheck to paycheck. Our 15th annual Job Gap study, America’s Changing Economy, clearly shows that $15 – $16 per hour is the minimum pay needed to support a single adult working full time.
So, here are seven reasons not to let the CBO report discourage Congress from increasing the minimum wage from $7.25 to $10.10, and why we actually need an even higher minimum wage:
On the opinion pages of USA Today, LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society, and Dr. Brian Smedley, with the Joint Center for Political and Economic Studies, call on on HHS to release full data on who is enrolling – and who is being missed. They also call on states where lawmakers have turned their backs on their poorest families, to accept federal fund for expanding Medicaid.
The health disparities associated with race, ethnicity, culture and language in America are vast. Minorities and the poor suffer more, and die sooner, than the general population.
The ACA is an unprecedented opportunity to shrink the racial gap in health coverage and end inhumane disparities. How do we know who is being reached if Health and Human Services isn’t providing enrollment data by race and ethnicity?
Data or no data, these disparities demand action. If every state expands Medicaid, it could cut the uninsured rate for people of color in half. Instead, lawmakers in 19 states have rejected the funds, and six states are still debating.
Read the full article in USA Today here.
A man walks into a bar. He sees an old friend sitting with a champagne glass in front of him. “What’s the celebration,” he asks.
“We just learned that my brother qualified for Medicaid and isn’t going to die,” is the answer.
And you thought that this was going to be a man walks into a bar joke. Well, this isn’t much of a joke but it sure is something to smile about. And it actually happened to me a couple of weeks ago.
For all the to-do about the Affordable Care Act website and the agony of the private market, the real story should be about Medicaid.
Expanding health coverage with federal funds will create economy-boosting jobs in states that most need them, according to a new report by the Alliance for a Just Society. The report comes as state legislators debate adopting the Medicaid expansion authorized by the Affordable Care Act.
“This report shows that Medicaid expansion will not only expand health coverage to more residents and create jobs, but also the jobs we’ll create through Medicaid expansion are living wage jobs that support families and boost the state’s economy,” said LeeAnn Hall, executive director of the Alliance for a Just Society. “For lawmakers who care about boosting the economy and creating good jobs, this report shows Medicaid expansion should be common sense.”
Read the full report here.
Last fall, in the final push to convince legislators to pass immigration reform – voices that had so far been quiet, spoke up. They were dairymen, potato growers, and ranchers and business owners. They are the voices of rural America.
Small towns and rural communities are the heart and soul of our country. They are the places where many of us grew up; the places where we formed our values and learned about the importance of family and relationships.
Families are at the heart of the push to fix our broken immigration system, this is something rural communities understand well. Continue reading
Use of emergency rooms is a much-debated part of the U. S. health care system. I recently had the chance to experience what it is like going to one of these places with a medical emergency – and in a place where they did not speak my language.
I went with friends on a trip to Portugal and Morocco to take a winter vacation and sample the local cuisine. We spent 10 days in and around Lisbon and then flew to Morocco, destination Marrakesh.
We flew there via an eight-hour layover in Casablanca and found the chance to visit the city irresistible.
We ventured into the produce market where I purchased saffron and fennel seed for a fish soup. There are lots of poor folk in Casablanca and their market is pretty basic. When I was accosted by a man who was coughing, spewing germs, and grabbing the hand of the “generous American” I politely fled in terror to wash up.
President Barack Obama delivers the State of the Union address in Washington, D.C., on Jan. 28. (Official White House Photo by Pete Souza)
President Barack Obama delivered his fifth State of the Union address Tuesday night: low-key compared to other addresses, determined and occasionally defiant.
He touched on many of the priorities being worked on by the Alliance for a Just Society this year, including mentioning that nine million Americans have signed up for private health insurance or Medicaid coverage. He didn’t mention that 23 states have not accepted Medicaid expansion for their most vulnerable residents.
The President called for immigration reform to be passed, a solution for college graduates trapped by student loan debt, he pushed for a federal minimum wage increase to $10.10 an hour.
“Americans overwhelmingly agree that no one who works full time should ever have to raise a family in poverty,” he said.
Private businesses shouldn’t wait for a government mandate, but instead follow the lead of giant Costco and much smaller Punch Pizza and give employees a raise. Continue reading
This is the first in a three-part series by the Alliance for a Just Society, looking at the high cost of student debt for our country and for our future.
Young college graduates are putting their futures on hold as they struggle under the burden of high student debt – and a weak economic recovery that has failed to provide good jobs for them. Young adults in their 20s and 30s are delaying buying houses, cars, furniture or starting families. The implications for every family, and our nation, are huge.
Student loan debt has passed $1.2 trillion, according to the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. Such widespread indebtedness has many causes and the ramifications are pervasive – including a decline in purchasing power.
By Sheena Rice
Montana Organizing Project
It’s no longer shocking to read news articles about the scandalous behavior of big banks. Readers roll their eyes when they see JPMorgan’s CEO being awarded a total pay of $20 million the same year the bank made repeated headlines for being fined millions of dollars and incurring losses of billions of dollars. Stories like these are so common it’s almost boring.
But a jury in Butte, Mont. – population 34,000 – recently decided they weren’t going to tolerate a second set of rules just for banks. They delivered a $52 million verdict against Comerica, another national bank that was also bailed out by the government, and then refused to help a borrower.
The borrower, an office supply company, was essentially destroyed when Comerica reneged on a written forbearance agreement. The company decided to fight, and filed the lawsuit.
Alliance for a Just Society Lobbyist Bill Daley (far right) attended a Washington D.C. press conference in support of raising the minimum wage. Pictured in the front row are Democratic Whip Rep. Steny Hoyer, Congressman George Miller, Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, and Secretary of Labor Tom Perez.
The work of Alliance for a Just Society was very much in evidence earlier this month when House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi and Labor Secretary Tom Perez held a press conference calling for passage of legislation to raise the federal minimum wage.
The legislation, endorsed by the Alliance, would bring the hourly minimum wage up to $10.10 per hour over three years, then index future wage increases to inflation. Federal minimum wage is now $7.25 per house.
Bill Daley, the Washington D.C. lobbyist for Alliance for a Just Society and Main Street Alliance, advocated for the increase, sharing the Alliances latest job and wage gap study: America’s Changing Economy which notes that minimum wage is a “barely surviving” wage and an actual living wage in many parts of country is closer to $16 an hour.
The young minister paused and looked out at the crowd of thousands, then looked back at his notes stacked neatly before him on the podium. He was searching for just the right words – words that would speak to the indignity of poverty and racial inequality; words that would inspire hope in an hour of despair.
He raised his head, focusing his gaze forward. After a long moment of silence, out from the side of the stage rises the bolstering voice of Mahalia Jackson: “Tell them about the dream, Martin!” she urges. Continue reading
Fifty years after President Lyndon Johnson announced a War on Poverty in America, more than 46.5 million people in our country, about one out of every seven, still struggle to get enough to eat or have a place to live. The U.S. Census Bureau shows that for people of color, the poverty rate is even higher, with one out of every four people who are black or Latino living in poverty.
Programs like Medicare and Medicaid that were created to fight the War on Poverty have helped millions of people. Strengthening both of those programs continues to be a critical part of protecting families. But the battle plan for keeping families safe and secure also has to include another key element: a significantly higher minimum wage – an actual living wage. Continue reading
Have you heard the latest? Apparently JP Morgan will pay a $2 billion fine because it aided Bernie Madoff by laundering $150 billion for his Ponzi scheme – $1.7 billion will go to the victims and $461 million in fines. But here’s the fun part – criminal prosecution will be deferred and no individuals will be charged.
Well la-de-dah. What a nice deal for these guys.
It is not the first nice deal for them. Continue reading