Starbucks’ Free College Gimmick Clouds the Real Problem

student drinking coffee

As we’ve reported here and here, the state of higher education in this country has reached a crisis. The cost of tuition has risen substantially faster than any other good or service over the past 40 years.  There are many that are calling the student debt crisis the next financial bubble.

Under the Starbucks plan, employees would receive a discounted tuition rate for the first two years from Arizona State University’s online program. The discount amounts to roughly $6,500 over two years on $30,000 retail price. The remainder of their tuition is expected to be paid by the employee, through personal savings or federal Pell Grants or scholarships.

While this promotion may be somewhat helpful for struggling low-wage Starbucks employees, it does little to fix structural deficiencies in the higher education system. They are deficiencies that Starbucks directly causes and benefits from. As a key member of the Fix the Debt organization Starbucks funded groups that were lobbying for lower corporate tax rates.  These tax cuts are a direct cause of the disinvestment we’ve seen over the past 40 years in higher education. Read more

Daley Weekly: D.C. Summer Nastiness is in Full Bloom

billD.C.  Summer

The political season is in full flower in D.C. Lots of things are being proposed and voted on in both Houses of Congress that will not become law any time soon. There is no looming debt default or government shutdown, so everyone simply is taking a stick to everyone else. They will be doing this for a solid three weeks in July.

Immigration Confrontation

A huge confrontation is coming on immigration. Two months ago Speaker John Boehner seemed to be prepping his caucus to take a vote on some version of reform. The Administration seemed to be doing things to accommodate this possibility. Events: Eric Cantor’s loss, Obama’s falling approval ratings, international crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, economic stagnation, the children’s march into the arms of ICE.

Instead of pushing reform, some House Republicans are calling for a cessation of deferred prosecutions – deporting record numbers of people apparently is not enough. All of this comes on the backdrop of a wildly unpredictable election season. What happens if inaction in the House continues? Obama cannot but react, he is being invited into a confrontation.

Things got started in earnest last week when Speaker Boehner began readying a lawsuit over executive power. At week’s end, Obama bluntly told Boehner that if the Speaker did not like him using his legal authority, then the Congress could very well do something about immigration.  More will come soon as the debate widens over what to do with the refugee crisis on the Southern Border. Read more

The Daley Weekly: Updates from D.C.

THE DALEY WEEKLY: Updates from D.C.

By Bill Daley

June 27, 2014

D.C.  Summer

The political season is in full flower in D.C. Lots of things are being proposed and voted on in both Houses of Congress that will not become law any time soon. There is no looming debt default or government shutdown, so everyone simply is taking a stick to everyone else. They will be doing this for a solid three weeks in July.

Immigration Confrontation

A huge confrontation is coming on immigration. Two months ago Speaker John Boehner seemed to be prepping his caucus to take a vote on some version of reform. The Administration seemed to be doing things to accommodate this possibility. Events: Eric Cantor’s loss, Obama’s falling approval ratings, international crises in Ukraine and the Middle East, economic stagnation, the children’s march into the arms of ICE.

Instead of pushing reform, some House Republicans are calling for a cessation of deferred prosecutions – deporting record numbers of people apparently is not enough. All of this comes on the backdrop of a wildly unpredictable election season. What happens if inaction in the House continues? Obama cannot but react, he is being invited into a confrontation.

Things got started in earnest last week when Speaker Boehner began readying a lawsuit over executive power. At week’s end, Obama bluntly told Boehner that if the Speaker did not like him using his legal authority, then the Congress could very well do something about immigration.  More will come soon as the debate widens over what to do with the refugee crisis on the Southern Border.

Health Disparities and Exchanges

Have you been agonizing over how you can help your health insurance exchange get those private insurance companies to join the fight against disparities based on race, culture, and language? Your worries may be over.

This week the Public Policy and Action Fund, Make the Road New York, and the Alliance for a Just Society released a new policy brief:“Addressing Health Disparities through the Marketplace: An Action Agenda for New York State of Health.” This report details recommendations about how New York State can use its insurance exchange to take practical and aggressive steps to implement new strategies in communities disproportionately excluded from the health insurance market.

We should be charging for it, but you can obtain your own copy of this slim volume for FREE at: http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/06/2014-06_Addressing-Health-Disparities-Through-the-Marketplace-Print.pdf.

Minimum Wage

Maybe there is a race to the top for a change. Last Thursday Massachusetts Governor Patrick signed a bill providing workers in his state an $11.00 minimum wage by 2017. This temporarily will be the highest amount of any state. It follows minimum wage action in Connecticut and Vermont.

Medicaid Expansion

Virginia Gov. Terry McAuliffe used his item veto power to strike a portion of the legislative budget intended to prevent him from expanding Medicaid without approval of the General Assembly. The Republican House responded quickly to McAuliffe’s action through a parliamentary ruling that “voided” this veto on the grounds that the entire item with an appropriation had to be stricken.

The governor had not been able to veto the entire appropriation because it was buried in a section providing for the Medicaid budget. McAuliffe vows to press on, perhaps via the creation of a semi-private organization through which Medicaid funds would be funneled to the state. Attorneys are now being hired for the coming fight over the Governor’s legal authority.

Same-Sex Marriage Benefits

Molly and Mary got married in Maine. They moved to Miami to help save the manatees, cheer for the Marlins, and sip mimosas in the moonlight. This passion for alliteration may have landed them in a mess. Maine recognizes same-sex marriage but Florida does not. If they ever need to get the same Social Security benefits available to other married couples, they cannot do so in Florida.

Even though the Supremes tossed out the Defense of Marriage Act, spousal Social Security benefits for non-hetero couples only are available where same-sex marriage is recognized by the state.

Legislation to rectify this glitch in Social Security law was introduced into both Houses of Congress last week sponsored by Senator Patty Murray of Washington and Representative Ron Kind of Wisconsin. It is called the SAME Act – S. 2305 in the Senate and H.R. 4664 in the House. If passed, it would permit same-sex couples to enjoy spousal benefits throughout the entire country.

We will chronicle carefully the meanderings of this measure as it makes its way through the corridors of Congress.

Some Election Stuff

If you had your money riding on the T Party you may have just lost the trifecta. With the exception of Eric Cantor’s self-inflicted defeat, it looks as though the Wall Street/U.S. Chamber wing of the Republican Party has prevailed in almost all Republican primary elections so far this season.

Perhaps the most interesting contest was in Mississippi where incumbent Senator Thad Cochran beat a Tea Bagger in a run-off primary by asking Black voters to save him from a cruel fate. Cochran also defended federal funding for Mississippi projects, including, egad, education! It seems to have worked. Hefty turnout in Black areas gave Cochran enough votes to squeak by Chris McDaniel who had the backing of such luminaries as the attorney for the KKK Wizard and Senator Rand Paul.

Perhaps the Mississippi Rs will want to reconsider the voter ID law they have enacted in an effort to suppress the turnout among the very voters who rescued Cochran.

By the way, even though he had picked the loosing fruitcake, Rand Paul acted as though the winning strategy was all his idea by praising how Cochran had expanded the electorate.

Unfortunately, T Party election losses are masking their real victory – the Republican agenda and the T Party agenda have essentially merged on issues like immigration reform, women’s health, the role of government, taxation, social insurance, health care, and job creation.  But voters are less likely to notice because the “establishment” Republicans look less radical than the blatantly racist, homophobic, anti-women characters that the big money gang now has squelched.  This may not bode well for the Democrats in the fall – the Ds had to be hoping for another group of totally radical R nominees to give them an extra edge.

Nevertheless, Democratic candidates have begun confronting conservatives over the issue of Choice. Supporters of Kay Hagen in North Carolina and Mark Udall in Colorado have begun sharp attacks on their Republican opponents anti-abortion records.

One more just for fun. New York City Representative Charles Rangel, who has represented Harlem since 1970, managed to squeeze through the Democratic primary even though redistricting and changing demographics had made his constituency more Dominican than Black. Rangel is always fun to watch. Maybe the house in Dominica that got him in so much trouble a few years ago was not such a bad idea after all?

New Fronts Open in the Rx Wars

If you think the fight between the Sunnis and the Shiites is bewildering, take a peek at this short report on the fight over drug prices.

  • In January the National Community Pharmacists Association called for Congressional hearings about skyrocketing generic drug prices.

  • In May the Association of Health Insurance Providers (yep, AHIP, the anti-consumer insurance group) attacked the drug maker Gilead for charging $1,000 per pill for Sovaldi, a Hep-C therapy.

  • PhRMA struck back with the charge that the insurance companies are to blame because they push too much of the cost of treatment onto the patient with high co-pays and deductibles for drugs.

  • According to a report last week in The Hill, AHIP President Karen Ignagni has upped the anti-PhRMA rhetoric:  “Is this ‘whatever you can get away with’ pricing here … Is that the right thing for the future?” (Ignagni should know ‘whatever you can get away with pricing’ when she sees it.)

  • PhRMA is now accusing critical care hospitals of using drug discounts as a “cash cow.”

  • The Safety Net Hospitals pushed back last week saying through a spokesman: “We find it highly ironic that the pharmaceutical industry is talking about cash cows….They are the ones who are profiting off of the skyrocketing costs of pharmaceuticals.”

Pharmacists, hospitals, insurance companies all jumping on PhRMA, but, so far, not a peep out of the Congress. Should you be perplexed by the quiescence of your lawmakers you can find enlightenment as you page through last year’s AJS report on campaign donations by the drug makers:

http://allianceforajustsociety.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/09/Bad.Medicine.Report.Alliance2013.pdf.

Impeachment?

The South Dakota Republican Party is after Obama’s head. Their State Party Convention voted 191-176 to call upon Congress to impeach the President. Their reasons are the cancelled insurance policies, the climate change executive order, and the Bowe Bergdahl prisoner exchange. We might assume that they do not want the President’s head in order to graft it onto nearly Mount Rushmore. One can hope that the Congressional Republicans do take up this impeachment call as a sure-fire way to bolster Obama’s approval ratings.

New ‘Beyond Cellblocks’ Webinar: Ending Police-ICE Collaboration

US_Immigration_and_Customs_Enforcement_SWATThroughout the country, local police have been partnering with immigration services, resulting in unfair targeting and treatment of people of color. On Tuesday July 1, join us for an important video discussion about ending collaboration between local law enforcement agencies and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE).

In addition to educating participants on the police-ICE collaboration and its effects on our communities, we will be discussing strategies to end the collaboration, focusing on how we can build policies at a local level in order to help assemble what we hope to see happen at a national level.

We are excited to showcase three very accomplished and passionate speakers at this webinar: Nicole Brown, field director for the Center for Intercultural Organizing; Alisa Wellek, co-executive director for the Immigrant Defense Project; and Stephen Manning, a partner at Immigrant Law Group PC.

Date:  Tuesday July 1st  2014

Start Time:  11:00 AM PST/2:00 PM EST

To view the video presentation live and participate in the Q&A, register here. This webinar is part of the Beyond Cell Blocks & Border Stops series.

New Video: Case Study of Colorado’s Consent-To-Search Policing Policy

In October 2013, the Alliance for a Just Society partnered with the Union Theological Seminary for a symposium called Cell Blocks and Border Stops: Transformational Activism in the Age of Dehumanization. Since then, the Alliance has been working closely with our affiliate organizations to advance policies that deconstruct systemic structures of criminalization in their local jurisdictions — and we’ve launched this webinar series, as platform for organizers and policymakers to learn from one another and to generate new ideas for local campaigns that can be replicated across the country.

Our last webinar covered Seattle’s LEAD program, a cutting-edge diversion program that uses Medicaid expansion dollars to pay for the chemical dependency or mental health treatment of potential arrestees. This month, we’ve brought together a distinguished panel of speakers to discuss how Colorado passed a law in 2010 requiring police officers to inform people of their constitutional right to consent or refuse a search. Four years later, what’s been the real outcome of the program, and what can other states learn?

This webinar originally aired live on May 28, 2014. Our panelists:

Tania Soto Valenzuela is a community organizer with Colorado Progressive Coalition, a statewide, member-driven organization that engages communities to advance economic and social justice. She has fought alongside survivors of police brutality and misconduct, and with the Racial Justice & Police Accountability Hotline, she’s working to highlight members’ stories to change the culture of silence and violence currently dominating our law enforcement agencies.

Alex Landau is a civil rights activist and a member of Colorado Progressive Coalition. As a survivor of a high-profile case of extreme police violence in Denver, Colorado, he has been instrumental in the re-launching of CPC’s police profiling hotline, and he assists with internal affairs and independent monitoring processes.

Hillary Jorgenson is the Interim Executive Director of Colorado Progressive Coalition. She led the coalition’s work to pass the Affordable Care Act, to expand Medicaid and to protect Medicare. She recently took the position of CPC’s political director.

Art Way is Senior Policy Manager at Drug Policy Alliance, based in Denver. Way brings substantial public policy and criminal justice reform experience to DPA. And was formally the lead organizer for responsible for the Consent-To-Search campaign.

Our next webinar will be examining the local policies that are being passed to end police and ICE collaboration, on July 1st at 11:00 PT/ 2:00 ET. We hope you will join us again.

Tools to Rescue Underwater Homeowners When Outreach Isn’t Enough

Photo by: Alan Pollock, Workers World

Photo by: Alan Pollock, Workers World

As previously discussed in Alliance reports, the housing crisis is over for some, but there are still millions of homeowners across the country struggling to pay off mortgages that are valued at more than the current worth of their homes. When combined with a sluggish labor market forcing many families to make due on less than before the recession, paying more than something is worth is not only dissatisfying, but often impossible.

In communities of color that still have high numbers of underwater mortgages, the effect on individuals overflows into the community, preventing entire neighborhoods from fully recovering from the recession.

During the height of the recession, there was sometimes a temptation to put the blame on borrowers who took out loans that they could not afford or with fine print they ignored, despite the fact that many homeowners were steered into these loans by banks looking to make a quick sale. Struggling homeowners were viewed as not smart with their finances and not reading or understanding the fine print, suggesting that it was the borrowers who needed to change.

As the crisis moved beyond subprime mortgages and property values dropped across the country, more and more “smart” people fell into foreclosure. Finally, the blame shifted appropriately to the banks, but solutions continued to focus on homeowners. Read more

Rural and Small Towns Calling for Immigration Reform Now

GrowingOurFuture_Logo logo_Large GOODOver the course of our nation’s history, immigrants have traditionally moved to some of the U.S.’s largest cities consolidating the perception that immigration is an urban concern. But the truth is in the latter part of the twentieth century, immigrants have been moving to rural towns. And like waves of immigrants before them they are shaping and revitalizing communities they join.

“I’m probably the last guy you’d expect to see pushing for immigration reform. But the fact is, rural towns across America need immigration reform the most. Past generations of immigrants built rural America; new generations are revitalizing it,” said John Bechtel, mayor of Wilder, Idaho – population 1,533. Read more

Poor, in Prison – and Pregnant

pregnant-inmateAs poverty levels in the U.S. increase, safety nets are  slashed, and families are left with few options for survival. As a result, more people are forced into difficult economic decisions, including alternative street-based economies and crime from sheer economic desperation. Many of these people are women and mothers.

Among women who are fortunate enough to have employment – women of color, are still making 64 cents on the dollar compared to men. (For white women, it is  77 cents on the dollar.) These women are also most likely to be the primary caregivers for children. Add in the high cost of childcare and the amount of money that women have left to live on is abysmal. Read more

Grassroots Victory! $15 Minimum Wage Passes in Seattle

Screen shot 2014-06-02 at 4.50.47 PMThe Alliance for a Just Society congratulates Seattle on making history today by unanimously passing a path to a $15 minimum wage – the highest in the nation. Seattle Mayor Ed Murray said he would quickly sign the legislation into law.

More than 100,000 workers – disproportionately women and people of color – work minimum wage jobs in Seattle and will directly benefit from the increase. The whole city will benefit from the City Council’s courageous action.

“The victory in Seattle sets the stage for minimum wage victories in other states and nationally. We can’t wait for legislators to decide what’s best for working families, we have a responsibility to step up, be heard, and make change ourselves,” said Alliance Executive Director LeeAnn Hall. Read more