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

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/

“Democrats believe immigration is not just a problem to be solved, it is a defining aspect of the American character and our shared history.”  Amen! But we have often been divided about immigration. We have barred and banned nations and regions, often on racial prejudices.

Two reasons explain why many migrate into the US unofficially: poverty and danger. When our laws prevent people because they are brown or poor or speak another language, they still find a way because Walls do not work.  No dam can stop a swollen river and no wall can prevent people from fleeing danger and poverty. Part of our immigration policy includes improving the health of our neighbor nations.  Here’s how we can do all of that:

1. Create truly equitable NAFTA and Central American Trade Agreements:   Not just to remedy American issues but to strengthen the economies and governments of those nations.  Endemic corruption creates poverty and the illegal drug trade, which is the sponsor of violence.  Making Mexico and Central America stronger economically and governmentally is good for the USA.

2. End our ‘War on Drugs’ Policy: which paradoxically has created a more violent illegal drug industry and with it greater corruption and violence in Mexico and Central America.  Focus on reducing demand in the USA and treating the issue as a health problem will in turn diminish the market and the drug trade.

3. Create a bold Customs and Border Agreement between Mexico, the USA and Canada:  This would not be a European Union agreement that allows anyone to live anywhere at will. It would exchange greater liberty to work and do business in the three nations for more accountable migration and a stronger border between Mexico and Central America.

4. A clear path to legal residence or citizenship for those already in the US: Mass deportation is impossible. We must deal with the people here. Three things seem clear:

Dreamers (DACA) should be able to remain. Whether as citizens or as Permanent Legal Residents, they should not be held responsible for their parents’ actions nor punished for them.

Document everyone. Not an amnesty but an accounting, with a legal guarantee that all who are documented will be treated fairly, and that deportations will focus on the most criminal and most risky, and only those people will be held in custody.

Create clear criteria for unauthorized immigrants in the future – from relocation, to temporary residents with possibility to renew, to permanent residents. Those relocated because of poverty or danger should be assisted by the USA to insure they have a solid chance to prosper in their home countries and remain there.

FWIW, There is much more to be done that this, but we must do this. Why?  Well, years ago I lived in Brooklyn with a view of the Statue of Liberty and memorized the great poem that ends,

“… Give me your tired, your poor,
your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
The wretched refuse of your teeming shore,
Send these, the homeless tempest tost to me…”

This is the American ideal at its best – to lift the lamp of hope.

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Fred Wooden On Gun Violence

Over 33,000 people a year die from gun violence in America: 1000 times more than the soldiers who died in combat in 2017, 500 times as many police officers who died from gunfire in 2017. Surely we can do better.

As a Democrat I share the party’s statement: “We can respect the rights of responsible gun owners while keeping our communities safe.” I also believe that we need universal background checks without exceptions for gun shows and private sales. We, and even the nonpartisan League of Women Voters support banning military grade weapons, like AR-15s and equivalents. We all say we need to study gun violence as a public health issue, which is not possible now.

Some gun rights advocates see these as a slippery slope but I disagree. No right in the Constitution is absolute and all of them come with responsibilities, including the right to keep and bear arms. Other reasonable ideas I support that would reduce gun violence are:

  1. Red Flag Laws. Most gun deaths take place in homes, either as suicides or domestic violence. Judges should be able to impound firearms of those with substance abuse, domestic abuse or dangerous mental health issues.

  2. User Licensing.  Like a driver’s license which ensures people can use a car safely, a gun user’s license would indicate someone who has been educated and trained in the use of firearms and include the necessary background check as well. Though voluntary, user licensing would have positive incentives to encourage responsible use.

  3. Liability Insurance.  Having a firearm in a home or office statistically raises the risk of injury and death. We should require gun owners to take responsibility by having liability coverage for the added risk. And we should end the legal immunity of gun manufacturers as well.

  4. Youth and firearms. No one under 21 should be able to purchase or own firearms. And only those 16 or above should be able to hold a user’s license.  Like driver education, firearm safety should be taught beforehand by trained teachers.

  5. Illegal arms trafficking.  The source of many firearms used in crimes, these weapons move secretly across state lines due to wide variations in state law.  Having clear national standards about gun sales would lower the rate of illegal trafficking.

 

If you asked me what has made politics so bad in the last twenty years, I would answer, the “Business of Politics.” Once you’re a candidate, it finds you:  I get email from direct mail firms, job requests from field managers, questionnaires from PACS, and this morning a pamphlet from a cable company about how to “reach my audience.”

Experts in the future will dissect how it came to be, but all I know is: win or lose, lots of people still make lots of money. The direct mail firms, the pollsters, the cable companies, the campaign managers, the cable news channels, the websites, etc, etc. Like stock brokers who make a commission whether you buy or sell, gain or lose, the Business of Politics wins, no matter who wins or loses. And that, I believe, is what is corrupting our politics.

In the Business of Politics, a vicious cycle exists that requires vast sums of money for someone to get elected: over $1M per House candidate, $10M per Senate candidate and $1B for presidential candidate. There is no way a candidate can raise that from constituents, so they are driven to get money from PACS, where wealth bundles its money anonymously, and dangles it in front of candidates who need it to pay staff, and advertise, and so on.

No wonder citizens have given up on politics; they are no more than market share, demographics, and audiences.  The “Business of Politics” has bought out democracy itself.  

How to change this?  Pass laws!  

Not this Congress.  We need a new one.  And that takes two ingredients.

  1. Candidates who are willing to risk failure by not doing the “Business of Politics”
  2. Voters who are willing to vote for those that take such risks

I am such a candidate. I got into this race to be that candidate, knowing it would reduce my chance of success. But I also believe I can get elected for less than $1M, that I do not need more money than any individual person can legally give (which is $2700). I believe there are 3000, even 5000 people in my district who are willing to give $50 or $100 to support such a candidate. I am also betting that you will vote for someone who walks this talk.

I also believe that it is worth it, because this is how we defeat the “Business of Politics.” If we succeed, it will send a shock wave of hope to others who want to believe that we can have a better Congress, that we can have Representatives that actually represent the people, not the money, that we can still be a democracy.

I believe I can help make this happen.  But I know that only you can make it happen.  

I should have written this six weeks ago when I announced my candidacy, but better late than never, right? Why I am a candidate.

That came up in spades this week when someone I was meeting, a man of some local repute, asked me “What are the top three issues as you see them?” I did not have a clear answer. That bothered me, and set me thinking. Unlike other candidates, I am not in this for particular issues like healthcare or taxes. Don’t get me wrong, I care about those a lot. But what motivates me is: why those are issues in the first place?

It is our politics itself. That is not a top issue for most people, especially those who are struggling with basics like employment and housing and education and healthcare. But I truly believe that our political system, what I have called the ‘political industrial complex,’ is what prevents us from making real progress on so many fronts.

A system dependent on money and focused constantly on seeking or keeping power, even when sought for noble reasons, inevitably becomes solely about getting and keeping power. And while I believe my Democratic party is more in touch with what the people need and deserve, they are as entangled in the ‘political industrial complex’ as the Republicans. How could they not be? Who would risk their political future for changing the system?

Me. Someone without a future in politics. I am almost 65. If elected I would show up with a Medicare card in my wallet. I cannot imagine serving more than 4 or 5 terms, if I get that lucky. And believe me, there are things I want to do before I can’t do them: see Victoria Falls, be a hospital baby cuddler, finish reading Don Quixote. Congress barely gives you time to get dressed.

But if I can bring a different attitude, one of actually representing people, of acting as though Congress can be a genuine democracy, not just a pair of punch-drunk fighters in suits and shiny ties, then it’s worth it.

You see, I was a boy scout long ago. I totally bought the idea of duty to God and country. I’ve done forty years for God, so a decade for country is not too much. And it seems to me that a little more trustworthiness and loyalty and helpfulness, a bit more friendliness and courtesy and kindness, would do Congress a lot of good.

“The occasion is piled high with difficulty,” said Lincoln to Congress on this day, December 1, in 1862. “The dogmas of the quiet past, are inadequate to the stormy present,” he said. “The occasion is piled high with difficulty, and we must rise — with the occasion. As our case is new, so we must think anew and act anew. We must disenthrall ourselves, and then we shall save our country.”

That’s what we need, to think anew and act anew. We need to disenthrall ourselves.

I believe I can help.