Monthly Two Cents
Time for your retirement!
by Colleen Berry
In an April 9th email sent to his constituents in the 1st Congressional District, Rep. Rob Wittman touted an award he received from the 60 Plus Association. The “Guardian of Seniors’ Rights” Award commends Wittman for “his commitment to protect Social Security and Medicare and to work to cut wasteful government spending.”
The email further describes the 60 Plus Association as a “non-partisan organization representing over 7.2 million seniors.”
However, what our Congressman conveniently omits is that the 60 Plus Association is funded by Charles & David Koch (of Koch Industries) via the Freedom Partners, who consider 60 Plus to be part of their “massive conservative political network.” They have donated millions of dollars to candidates, all rightwing Republicans. They are also members of the “Cooler Heads” organization, a climate change denial group that promotes the repeal of EPA regulations on clean air, offshore drilling, and energy subsidies.
60 Plus was formed as a counter to the AARP, but definitely does not have the best interests of seniors in mind, either through its PAC or its stated goals, which include “seeking alternative solutions developed through the private sector, financed through the free enterprise system.” This is doublespeak for privatization of Social Security and Medicare, which will end both programs as we know them.
These are certainly not “good people” to be receiving an award from. To the contrary, it highlights the hypocrisy of Rob Wittman, telling his constituents that he is working for them to protect Social Security and Medicare while accepting accolades from a group whose openly stated goals include dismantling those very programs. Furthermore, touting how much of an environmentalist he is, while taking awards from groups that are actively working against the clean Chesapeake Bay and action on climate change is simply dishonest. It seems obvious to us where Rep. Rob Wittman’s allegiances lie — and it’s not with the people of Virginia’s 1st Congressional District.It is imperative that we all come together as one to support our Democratic nominee for US Congress after June 12th. Our message to Rob Wittman – we will not tolerate a representative who works against the best interests of his constituents and community. Time for your retirement!
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Monthly 2 Cents from Vangie Williams.(This month's Two Cents features Vangie Williams, one of three Democrats vying for the Democratic nomination to run for the first Congressional District seat. The April newsletter featured John Suddarth and the June newsletter will feature Edwin Santana. We have three good candidates running for the Democratic nomination...we will be excited to wholeheartedly support the candidate who wins the June 12 primary. Don't forget to vote!)
Ready to Work For the First District
by Vangie Williams
I am from the 1st District. I grew up here, have family roots going back 300 years, and it’s where my husband and I have chosen to raise our daughters. This is my home. My experience and knowledge of the district makes me uniquely positioned to understand the issues that impact our communities. From idling in traffic on I-95 and I-64 to watching families struggle with paying out-of-pocket for medical services, I know that our current representative in Washington is not doing his job. The same problems we’ve faced for years are not getting better. They’re getting worse. At some point we have to say ‘enough is enough.’ I decided now was the time to run for Congress because the hardworking men and women of the 1st District should get a fair shot at success. We need good government that takes care of people, not the bottom line of greed-driven companies. As a strategic planner I solve problems for the government every day. I look for solutions to real problems real people face in the 1st District. My common sense agenda for our future looks like this:
• An economy that works for everyone. We can bring good jobs to the 1st District throughimprovements and new investments in education, transportation and innovation.
• Healthy families with access to world-class healthcare. I support a single-payer healthcaresystem that puts people over profits. I believe healthcare is a right and profit-driven armies oflobbyists are standing in the way of real healthcare reform.
• Investing in our communities and our hometown heroes. My INVEST Initiative will address core issues like education, public safety, military families and veteran dignity while revitalizing communities – big and small – all across our great nation. But in order for us to bring jobs and prosperity back to our district, we have to remove greed and excessive corporate profits from the system.
The influence of money in politics is at the core ofcorruption, government waste and congressional dysfunction. It’s the reason why healthcare has become outrageously expensive and we’re not improving patient outcomes. It’s time to close tax loopholes by having large corporations pay their fair share in taxes and take stepsto undo the harm from Citizens United with legislation such as the DISCLOSE Act (Democracy Is Strengthened by Casting a Light On Spending in Elections). Without such measures, special interests will continue to have a strangle hold on making progress for the average American. Ultimately, we have to remove barriers and bring people together. It’s not “us versus them” when it comes to making sure our children are safe, and ensuring every school has the resources it needs for teachers to prepare the next generation for the future. The issues we face every day are not exclusive toone political party. Taking on an incumbent will be a challenge, but it’s a challenge I readily accept.
I have concrete policy proposals. And more importantly, I know government. I know how rules are made and how they are implemented. My 25 years as a public servant and work with federal contracts has given me the know how to make vision a reality. Programs we rely on a daily basis were managed under my leadership. People in the district are ready for change. I know this because I’m gaining new supporters every weekacross the entire political spectrum. My message of “we the people” resonates with residents who voted for Trump and still want Wittman out of office. Plus, many want to see a woman with a seat at thetable. In 230 years, Virginia has only sent four women to Congress.We need new leadership on Capitol Hill that will represent your interests. As your congresswoman, I’m ready to work for the people of the 1st District.
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My Two Cents
from the Candidate's Corner
(This month's Two Cents features John Suddarth, one of three Democrats vying for the Democratic nomination to run for the first Congressional District seat. The May newsletter will feature Vangie Williams and the June newsletter will feature Edwin Santana.)
Single Payer-A Must!
By John Suddarth
I knew running for Congress would be hard work. I knew I would have to ask friends, family and strangers for money to support my campaign—something no one likes to do. What I did not know is how much active assistance I’d get from so many people. You inspire me to work even harder for our progressive agenda.
As a candidate, I’m meeting many passionate, empathetic, progressive Americans in our district, deeply concerned about the direction of our country who have been waiting on the sidelines, eager to get involved but not knowing how. Groups like Indivisible, CircleUp, Together Hanover, as well as traditional organizations like the Hanover Democratic Committee, are vehicles for such involvement and action and membership rolls are swelling. Their involvement is critical to electing progressive candidates like me in tough traditionally Red districts like Virginia’s First and sending us to Washington to get this country moving again.
I hear again and again from families who cannot afford health insurance, who do not qualify for unexpanded Medicaid and cannot afford insurance on the ACA exchanges. This is because the GOP has sabotaged the Affordable Care Act, hoping it would fail. They shortened the enrollment period. They hedged on cost-sharing with health insurers so rates shot up 35 to 81%. Aetna and United Health left the state. The GOP did this not just out of the inability to understand how health markets really work but out of pure spite for anything advanced by President Obama and the Democratic Party and disregard for the well-being of less affluent Americans. In some of our rural counties, there is a choice of only one insurer. Providers without an insured patient base on moving out of the area and clinics are closing down. Well, those of us trying to ride the Blue Wave into congress intend to do something about that.
I am a strong advocate for fundamental reform to our healthcare system, a change that would lead to universal access to affordable healthcare and unsurpassed global competitiveness. It would create a truly dynamic American economy while cutting our healthcare costs in half, saving us $1.5 trillion a year, half of that in savings to the federal government.
We do not have to reinvent the wheel. Single-Payer is the preferred healthcare system throughout the industrial world. Almost every industrialized democracy save America insures all of its citizens; these citizens have better healthcare outcomes at half the cost. Citizens in democracy after democracy have universal access. Their companies don’t have to provide health insurance to employees, so they hire workers more freely. Their workers don’t have a $15,000 insurance burden on their backs as do Americans, so they don’t have to be as productive as we do to have a job. Today companies choose to create new jobs in countries with lower healthcare costs. Let’s fix our healthcare system, reduce our costs, and bring jobs home to the world’s most productive workers.
Single-payer healthcare would also liberate our citizens from working in jobs just for health insurance and enable them to pursue their entrepreneurial dreams. Assured universal access and insurance would remove the anxiety so many of us face when ill or injured. In today’s expensive American healthcare system, some parents don’t even let their children play sports because they can’t afford the emergency room. Those with pre-existing conditions, half of us, fear what the GOP will do next to the Affordable Care Act that prevents discrimination against us. Senior citizens don’t take recommended dosages of prescriptions because they can’t afford to pay twice as much for medicine as do Danes or Singaporeans. And everyone fears losing insurance or an illness resulting in financial failure and bankruptcy. We have 600 thousand bankruptcies in this country every year due to our dysfunctional healthcare system. Good, hardworking Americans losing everything because the system serves the health insurers and pharmaceuticals and not the public. Let’s rid ourselves of this needless anxiety. This is wrong, it is immoral, and it has to be fixed.
Single-payer would also eliminate the cumbersome administrative burdens providers bear. Every doctor’s office in America is protected by a staff behind a front desk that screen would-be patients for valid health insurance prior to being seen by an actual provider. Our current for-profit system has reduced access to healthcare to a pay system like a fast food drive-thru where you don’t get your French fries at the second window until after you hand over your money at the first.
In addition to my experience running multinational companies and seeing how our healthcare system hurts the American worker and our economic competitiveness, I have studied this issue closely. I have received guidance from the Physicians For a National Healthcare Program. I’ve had in depth discussions with a family practitioner who received his medical training in Canada. Canada has single payer healthcare and physicians enjoy levels of income and lifestyles commensurate with those of physicians here. They have the added joy of not having to turn away patients. And the experiences of Canadian patients were as good or better than those experienced by Americans, except for the lack of out of pocket expenses, anxiety about coverage, and threat of financial ruin. My vision is to do better than Canada and include prescription drugs in our single payer plan.
The GOP talks about healthcare being provided by private insurance companies. Well, the free market has had hundreds of years to provide universal healthcare at a reasonable cost and has failed miserably on both counts. Most Americans believe healthcare is a basic human right, just like access to clean air and water. Why are we not assured what each of us will need at different points in our life? Because some politicians care many times more about the well-being of businesses than they do about yours.
The GOP position is fundamentally flawed. It is based upon the idea that healthcare should be rationed based on what a patient can afford to pay, not on what the patient actually needs to get better. It is clear to anyone paying attention that our free market health insurance companies won’t cover everyone, won’t control costs, won’t allow a true free market and competition, won’t keep wasteful administrative costs down, and won’t limit government control.
Most importantly, our current system creates a moral hazard. Insurance companies profit by denying care and skim off hundreds of billions of dollars every year for non-valued adding administrative costs and executive incentives!
Physicians are fed-up and frustrated with insurance companies, who make it hard for most to do their jobs. And many would be agreeable to a single payer that assures payment while they pursue the noble dream that motivated them through eight or more years of tough schooling: to heal.
SPS will: eliminate all that wasted effort in begging for-profits to approve recommended care; it will eliminate restrictive networks that serve primarily the interest of the insurance company, not the patient, certainly not the provider; huge billing costs will be eliminated as will uncompensated care. Most importantly, it’ll assure you of access to healthcare and eliminate all that related anxiety you currently have. The manner in which physicians are compensated would NOT change. But physicians would be free to treat citizens and legal residents with confidence of payment and without the current expensive and cumbersome administrative burden.
If single-payer would do all of these things, why don’t we do it? Unfortunately vested interests have fought for decades to protect the franchise that pharmaceutical companies and health insurance companies enjoy in this country alone. They’ve cornered the market through lobbying and donations to politicians at all levels. They’ve set themselves up to the point they can charge Americans twice what other citizens in democracies pay. And they create fear and anxiety by mischaracterizing the quality and accessibility of care in other countries. Canadians and Europeans laugh and shake their heads when they hear our politicians criticize their healthcare systems.
And no, single payer is not socialized medicine. Healthcare would still be performed by private providers. The only difference would be that everyone is covered and the costs would be a lot less. Providers could see any patient and not be cul-de-sac-ed into insurance networks which stifle competition.
It will be difficult to move to single payer quickly, not just because of vested interests but because the healthcare system is massive with countless moving parts. People are naturally afraid of the unknown and anxious about change in something as crucial to life as healthcare. But true fiscal conservatives should applaud and support this system:
• Single payer is both cheaper and more effective and everyone is covered
• Everyone pays in and everyone benefits
• Our economy is made more competitive and our workers more productive
• Free market competition at the provider level is increased
• It inspires and enables entrepreneurial endeavors
• The government and insurance companies will no longer stand patients and doctors
Making this transition will require that you put aside all that misinformation you’ve been given over the years about true healthcare reform and objectively look at the opportunity to profoundly improve every American life. Moving forward requires:
—buy in from you, the people;
—buy in from the politicians;
—and buy in from the healthcare providers, physicians, nurse, technicians, and administrators.
We must reform our healthcare system now before the wheels finally come off. Already 3 million Americans have lost health insurance under Trump. Now the GOP leadership in the House is talking about eliminating the employer mandate. If the GOP eliminates the employer mandate after it has undermined the exchanges and refused to expand Medicaid, where will you get your insurance?
Over time we can sharply reduce our healthcare costs to the OECD average while producing better outcomes. This will result in a more vibrant economy, more competitive American companies, better wages, and a happier, less anxious, and healthier population.
It’s time for us to stand together and support progressive Democrats who will create a single-payer system. I ask for your support so I can stand strong with like-minded politicians who want to fix our healthcare system, fix our economy, and make America a place where everyone has outstanding healthcare and an opportunity for great-paying jobs. Please go to my website, www.suddarthforcongress.com and volunteer and contribute. This is the first year we’ve had an opportunity to turn the First Blue and it may be the only year. Act now!
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Can one take a knee against shootings?
by John Schuiteman
My country ’tis of thee, sweet land of liberty — and lots and lots of guns and school shootings. There have been so many that my country is unique in the world. It’s a grand place where a sick and hostile person can easily buy an AR-15 or some other weapon of instant lethality and kill children. It’s a place where soon enough, in yet another place, another sick and hostile person will buy such a weapon and kill more children, or country music fans, or gay dancing people. He’ll do it just because he wants to.
It’s such a wonderful country we have. It doesn’t require every transfer of a lethal weapon (not the kind for hunting or target practice) to involve a background check. Such a check could thwart transferring a deadly weapon to someone who’s had a previous arrest for assault, been involuntarily confined for deranged or harmful behavior, was the subject of a court protective order, or other issues.
God and the National Rifle Association know that these weapons don’t kill people, only people kill people, but this is disputed in places like Parkland, Newtown, Orlando, Blacksburg, Las Vegas, and so on.
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How Chesterfield Became a Blue County
Kim Drew Wright
This is how Liberal Women of Chesterfield County & Beyond helped turned our county blue in a gubernatorial race for the first time since 1961. Now, this past year I conquered my fear of public speaking through a compulsion that the message is larger than myself, or any one of us. In just the two weeks prior to the Hanover speech, I introduced the former Vice Presidential candidate, Tim Kaine, to a crowd of about 200, went head-to-head with Trump supporters on CNN New Day, and shouted “We’re coming for your seats” to Virginia House Delegates at the close of a Privileges & Elections Committee where they refused to vote on the Equal Rights Amendment bills. That’s a drastic transition, and, yet, when I took the stage in a room at Ashland Coffee and Tea that Saturday morning, I became flustered and nervous. I had jotted down notes beforehand, had conversations with myself about strategies we’d used during election season…but the fact is, that even though I’ve lived 24/7 the grassroots efforts of 2017 – there is still no easy answer.
The magic equation is not just a summation of number of doors knocked and dollars raised, but more of an algebraic formula of structure and attitude that equals a shift in culture from “this is a chore we’ve got to get people to do” to “this is who I am.” And, even that abstract is not abstract enough because there is so much more, psychologically, working behind the scenes. It’s a shift from no longer searching for volunteers during election season to canvass and work the polls, to growing a base of folks for whom politics has become interwoven in their daily lives. We’re collecting a community whose members are proud to be a part of the effort to move forward in our county, in our state, and in our nation. We are changing from a slogan of “Proud Democrat” to a gut reaction of “Damn straight I’m a Democrat. Why the hell aren’t you one?” That cannot be calculated in numbers, but more in layers.So, how are we harnessing this cultural shift in Chesterfield?
First, let’s look at STRUCTURE. Liberal Women of Chesterfield County & Beyond was never meant to be solely an online presence. At its core it was meant for face-to-face interaction and likeminded support during a time of extreme stress for many Democrats, especially women who saw a misogynistic narcissist steal the presidency out of the hands of a highly qualified woman. What many thought would be an historic first for the advancement of women in both politics and leadership roles, became a trigger of past hurts and harms. We were devastated, but we rapidly funneled our anger into action. We are an overall group of thousands; however, we have smaller meet-up groups structured by location or advocacy.
Our neighborhood groups are based on elementary school districts, as most people are familiar with their school district but, perhaps, not their voting districts. We have found that it’s an organic way to organize. We, also, have advocacy groups based on specific interests, such as, LGBTQ rights, environmental concerns, religious tolerance, immigration laws, and women rights. Overall, we currently have 25 smaller meet-up groups, which MULTLIPLIES our efforts in the following ways. I’m going to speak mostly to the neighborhood groups in this section. Some hold standing weekly coffees, others have monthly dinners, and some go on field trips. They invite educational speakers, initiate volunteer projects, and advance our LWCC name into the community. So instead of one group pushing our efforts, we have multiplied it by 25 to reach likeminded voters and project a positive image into our communities.
Candidates often participate in these meet-ups, which gives our members a chance to learn more about their positions and, also, benefits the candidates through the opportunity to practice speaking and answering questions while engaging with possible campaign volunteers. This helps members feel like they know their candidate. The frequent meetings and project efforts help form a BOND between members and bring in new members who see the groups in local coffee shops, restaurants, and libraries. This mix of social and action seems to be a winning combination.These groups sponsor a lot of our LWCC community project efforts. An example of this is our High School food pantry project. When our Education Advocacy group collected money to payoff lunch debt at a local high school, we learned through the cafeteria manager that their food pantry for needy teens did not get the attention of younger kids’ programs and often needed replenishing.
We encourage our leaders to think beyond the band aide fix, to the larger picture. Is there legislation that needs to be written? Is there a larger initiative to begin? One of our neighborhood leaders started a collection of food items for their pantry, and once it was filled, decided this was something we could easily connect and achieve for all the high schools in our county. This is a great benefit for our children, and, at the same time, puts a positive narrative out there connected with “liberal.” Which leads us to our next layer, COMMUNICATION. I had a hard time deciding between VISIBILITY and communication for this section. One of the goals for LWCC is to change the negative connotation that is often associated with the term “liberal.” I think the way to do this is to own the term and create a positive narrative through a multiple of ways. Early on we designed a logo and added our tagline, which came from our first meeting in November 2016 – Each of our causes is all of our causes. We put our logo on car magnets and t-shirts. We wore them in parades and smiled. I joked that it was the first time “liberal” and “Chesterfield” had ever been put together. I’m sure at first it was a shock to neighbors, but eventually, like all things seen often, people grow accustomed to it and it seems less strange.
We went to Board of Supervisor meetings, held events, volunteered at schools and food banks, and were involved in our local politics visibly enough that the local paper, The Chesterfield Observer, long dominated by conservative articles, began to take notice and write articles with quotes from our members. There was a battle for turf back-and-forth in the letter to the editor section. We were becoming part of the fabric of Chesterfield County in a way staunch conservatives could no longer ignore. LWCC held larger events that our members were interested in, like an environmental or candidate forum. We teamed up with already existing groups like the Chesterfield County Democratic Committee or a local branch of NAACP to co-sponsor events. We created a team to register voters, which continuously looks for ways to gain more voters throughout the year. We spotlight our candidates through Money Bombs that feature them as community members and suggests direct contributions to their campaigns. We write articles for Democrat blogs like Daily Kos, which is a good platform for Democrats around the nation to gain interest and knowledge about our local races. Our ATTITUDE in early 2017 changed from, “Do we have a candidate running?” to “Who is going to run? Because if you’re not going to, then I will.” We were no longer thinking that this is someone else’s job and we could slide by without worrying or even noticing that there are races every year in Virginia.
For the first time in the history of the current eight House Districts that comprise Chesterfield County, we ran a candidate. At least one of the Republican incumbents had not had a challenger in two decades. We were no longer waiting for permission, either. LWCC worked with a local print shop to print 50,000 GOTV cards that listed the positions up for election, the voting date, and how critical it was for you to go vote. We held educational workshops on how to canvass. We pushed our neighborhood groups to canvass with our GOTV cards. We tried to let people know that it is okay not to know everything about how local government works and that we are all learning together so folks don’t feel intimidated. We found that while many Democrats might not even be interested in talking about candidates or positions, they were, usually, intrigued by our new group and would stop and chat about being a part of it. This became a good inroad for a larger conversation about our candidates and overall efforts.We were FLEXIBLE. We encouraged members to volunteer with individual campaigns, the coordinated campaigns, and our own LWCC efforts. We held a canvassing contest between groups and members. We thought of new ways of doing tasks. For the sign up to work the polls on Election Day, we created a Sign Up Genius, which many mothers of school-aged children are familiar with since it is often used through volunteer efforts in the schools. Folks picked their polling place and time slots. The link could be easily shared for more volunteers to access.
We had, at least partial, coverage at all the 72 polling places in Chesterfield County for the first time. LWCC is NOT JUST ABOUT ELECTIONS, but rather, about all aspects of how politics affect our lives. After the elections, when many folks were gearing down, we were gearing up by teaching members how to advocate for specific issues through communication with their legislators. We held our first LWCC Lobby Day on the second day of the General Assembly. We congratulated our new legislators and introduced ourselves to the incumbents. We encouraged members to attend and witness government sessions from local committee meetings to the state level. We want members to be aware of how our government is functioning, and to consider running for these seats. Our REACH has grown and grown. We are determined to get our message of moving forward to those in Chesterfield and beyond. Our members have written tens of thousands of postcards for different races and causes. Many of these have been accomplished during the smaller group meet-ups. I am in talks with Postcards for Virginia to see about how we can, possibly, team up to reach potential voters across the entire state for GOTV. We believe in CONNECTING with likeminded groups and working together where it makes sense. There is no need to reinvent the wheel, but that doesn’t mean the wheel couldn’t use some improvement. Liberal Women of Chesterfield County & Beyond now has an umbrella name of Liberal Women United that is focused on developing branches around the United States.
We, currently, have 13 applicants, with our first official branch being Liberal Women of Central Wisconsin. I hope that if you’ve read this far, you will agree, that while this is a somewhat abstract list of how to accomplish our goals, it is, also, a solid springboard for advancing our causes throughout whichever community you call home. Early on, I heard the phrase, “I thought I was the only liberal in Chesterfield,” over and over from people. While we have learned many things this past year, perhaps the most empowering is that we are not alone, and with that knowledge, we have grown unafraid. We don’t have to be quiet anymore, because we have a community of likeminded folks willing to speak up with us.
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