Fred Wooden on LGBTQIA+ Issues

When I was a kid, I had little understanding of the LGBTQIA+ community. As an adult, I began to wake up, and by the 1980s, I had lunched with Christine Jorgensen, conducted my first communion service with a lesbian co-officiant, and discovered that Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Trans folk had been part of my life all the time. When AIDS erupted, the indifference of the Reagan Administration angered me. But when members of my church told me they were HIV+ it became personal. I performed their weddings and sat with them in hospitals and conducted their funerals. I have marched for Marriage Equality for years in GR.

LGBTQIA+ issues (like race and religion and gender) are personal to me. So, I speak as a person, not just as a candidate: I really believe that ‘all people are created equal,’ and without asterisks. And I believe our laws must say that and meant it. For example:

1. Bullying. I know victims and survivors of targeted hate crimes. Rollbacks of policies that protect LGBTQIA+ youth in schools are clueless and cruel. State legislators ignored this when I went to press the case a decade ago. Now, the little progress made is being unmade. If elected, I will work hard to advocate for the rights of LGBTQIA+ people in the Third District and beyond. It’s time for safer, more accepting communities, and our leaders need to set the example in lawmaking.

2. Healthcare. I remember physicians refusing to treat HIV, and others who did not believe their trans patients’ gender, treating them as mentally ill. Getting responsive and respectful healthcare should not be harder because one is female, trans, or gay. They don’t take less in taxes from them or charge them lower premiums, do they? I will continue to work for the end of discrimination, even if I am not elected to office. It’s what I’ve done for 40 years, both as a preacher and a social activist, and I don’t see myself slowing down anytime soon.

3. HIV/AIDS. Despite enormous strides, treatment for HIV is still inaccessible to many people — particularly people of color. In 2016, women of color were 83% of all women living with HIV in the United States.* Continued funding for research, and affordable accessible treatment is essential. The federal government alone can sustain funding to research, treat, and prevent, and we need representatives in Congress willing to stand up for this. If elected, I will stand up.

4. Discrimination. For years I was the only clergy person around who would perform same sex weddings because other religions would not. That may be inevitable, but religion never justifies discrimination in housing, employment, public services, and more. Freedom of religion cannot permit depriving someone else of their rights and liberties. In Congress, I will work to make sure the separation of Church and State is honored, and for people to be able to live proudly without the fear of discrimination.

5. Planned Parenthood. Lots of LGBTQIA+ folks depend on Planned Parenthood because they do not discriminate when it comes to reproductive healthcare, hormone therapy, affordable contraception, STI testing, and PrEP. If elected, I will work to make sure proper education about Planned Parenthood’s services is made accessible to the public, and I will advocate for more funding from the federal level for these vital programs.

These are issues my friends and family deal with. They are thus my issues. I will be vigilant in remedying them, for their sake and mine. As I fought for marriage equality for years, so I will stand up for LGBTQIA+ rights and liberties in Congress.

 

 

*Statistic provided by: http://www.thewellproject.org/hiv-information/why-race-matters-women-and-hiv

Fred Wooden on Healthcare

Our healthcare system has become unsustainable. We can prop it up with short term fixes, but those will only postpone an inevitable collapse. We must take a more comprehensive approach.

But to understand why we need to change, why we are stuck here, it is helpful to review how it all came to be in the first place.

Here is a summary: 

– Employer-sponsored health insurance plans took off during WWII. Although wages were controlled, benefits such as health insurance were not, and so companies added health insurance as a way to attract workers.

– After the war, President Truman proposed a system of public health insurance. Although it was highly popular with the public, it was fiercely opposed by businesses and medical lobbying groups. Unfortunately, in order to avoid a costly political battle, many labor unions chose to campaign for employer-sponsored coverage instead of the public option. Thus, the idea of a public health insurance system ran out of political steam, and failed to pass into law.

In other words, despite broad public support for the idea, organizations used their influence to derail a system of national health insurance. Are we surprised that they still resist it? Add in the insurance carriers that grew up to serve this system, and we have a mighty array of ‘stakeholders’ invested in maintaining the status quo.

This thicket of stakeholders have not only hindered the development of a public health system in the U.S., but by their practices have actually increased the costs we all pay to see a doctor and fill our prescriptions. Healthcare in this country consumes a greater share of our GDP than of any other economy in the west.

Glib political statements only obscure this complex reality, and insure that nothing fundamental ever actually changes.

I believe that the answer is Medicare, a platform which is ripe for conversion into this nation’s first true common health insurance system.

The goal is to transform Medicare into something like Social Security. That is, it should be basic coverage just as SSI is basic income for retirees. Like SSI, Medicare parts A & B are far from complete, just as most people have additional retirement income, but the coverage Medicare provides is sufficient to meet basic needs.

Here is what I suggest should happen, in the following order:

  1. Enroll all children immediately, along with prenatal and obstetric care. This population is the healthiest and thus the least costly, but for families with low incomes, the cost of even routine care can be hard. Even broken bones and the like can be financially disastrous.
  2. Enroll all lower priority groups (5-8) of the VA in Medicare, including those not needing specialized care due to military service. Merge non-uniformed military and their families (clients of Tricare) into Medicare, leaving only those on active duty.
  3. Allow small businesses to enroll employees in Medicare Part C plans, paying an appropriate premium just like current health care insurance.
  4. Allow individual adults to enroll in Medicare for a premium that reflects the calculated cost of Parts A & B, with the option to choose part C and Part D.
  5. Medicaid & CHIP would be absorbed so that there would be no means tested program at all.

In this way, Medicare would evolve into the basic provider for everyone, and all the stakeholders would evolve with it. Insurance companies would still exist, but as supplements that handle specific  places and groups.

Yes, this would limit the profitable options of some individual businesses; however, the broader economic impact will be a net positive. Healthier citizens mean healthier families, workers, and communities. By assuring all have health insurance, the playing field is made more level, especially for new businesses. Far from being intrusive, as some might think, this program will go far in promoting the general welfare that the Constitution spoke of, and on which economies and societies thrive.

But what about the cost?

Private premiums would go down — the program would cover less. However, many of those dollars would now be filtered to Medicare, meaning only some net change for the less. We would save money by spending it more efficiently. Presently, Medicare spends far less than private insurance on overhead, which means more of that money is going towards the patients and the care they need.

The step-by-step development of my plan means that this efficiency is more likely to continue. Hospitals and doctors’ offices would be able to spend less. Under this plan, approximately $400B (over $1000 per person in the United States) would be saved from the inefficiency of our current system.

Is this enough?

No.

Skyrocketing drug prices are another notable issue. The whole question of for-profit medicine is itself worth asking. But once we empower Medicare to be this nation’s public health system, the other issues become smaller and more possible to address.

We’ve been told for decades that introducing a comprehensive public health system in this country is impossible — a fantasy — but I’m here to tell you that it’s not. It is possible. With our voices, our work, and the will of the public behind us, we can bring about a change that can create a healthier society for all of us. — Fred Wooden

To read more of Fred’s official statements, visit http://fredwooden.com/issues-ideas/

Fred Wooden on Climate Change and More

Fred Wooden on Climate Change and More

It’s real and we did it. All the environmental issues we face are the product of our industrial society. According to the EPA, over 65% of all greenhouse gases come from transportation, energy production, industry itself, and modern agriculture. Oil spills, poisoned water, air pollution – all of it –  are due to modern industrial life. The simplest answer would be to dismantle industrial society, but we need industrial society, as it gives us modern medicine, safe foods, sanitation, electricity, the internet and more. Hence the challenge.

How do we address the cost of industrial society without losing the manifest benefits of it?

  1. Make the environmental costs of industry part of the profit/loss equation. The Triple Bottom line concept is key – financial, social and ecological. For generations, the ecological costs were ignored as ‘externalities,’ the side effects of industry such as mine tailings and smoke/water pollution. The Triple Bottom Line concept seeks to quantify the environmental costs of industry.  How can we do that?
    • Restore corporate taxes at least to the level before the new Tax Law, because those taxes are what we used to remediate the social and environmental costs of business.
    • Create positive incentives to reduce those taxes when corporations take responsibility for the externalities. That means: quantifying greenhouse gases and pollutants where each has a cost/price that is the cost of removing them. A company could reduce its taxes to the extent it reduced its environmental externalities.
    • The federal government would establish the costs, akin to establishing universal weights and measures as provided in The Constitution, which companies would then measure over time.  The greater the reduction in greenhouses gases, or pollutants, the more tax credit would be available. An optimal Triple Bottom Line would be a profit to the company, a living wage and benefits to workers, and a clean community around it. This system would be universal for all businesses so that all would play by the same rules. In this way, none would have financial advantage and thus all would be able to compete equally.
    • What about imports? Through trade agreements and, if necessary, environmental tariffs, we would make importing goods that did not address environmental costs more competitive with those that do, minimizing the temptation to outsource. (This is the situation that affects the second ‘bottom line’ that affects workers especially.)
    • Reparative actions – reforestation and watershed repair for example – would also be credited, but somewhat less so, as to encourage business to avoid polluting in the first place.  And government at all levels should have punitive powers when businesses cause measurable harm to people such as chemical dumping and oil spills, which should include the true cost of repair.  
  2. Federal law should support local and state policies that encourage stewardship of natural resources, such as public transportation reducing emissions, ordinances and laws limiting waste products and rewarding recycling, and land use policies that make it economical to preserve wetlands and other habitats.  

There is much more in the vast area of environmental issues, but these ideas would touch upon all aspects, I believe. But let me add that addressing these issues, of all the challenges facing America, could spark the next phase in industrial society, one that creates new ways of creating, using, and preserving natural resources. If we make it a challenge to be met more than a law to be obeyed, far from being an impossible burden, it could be the gateway to our next chapter as a nation. — Fred Wooden