BURLINGTON - The U.S. Senate voted late last evening to approve a Budget Resolution that sets a framework for cuts to federal health care and education as well as tax cuts that mainly benefit corporations and the wealthiest households. The Resolution includes a $1.5 trillion tax cut that will increase the deficit and may force cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, education, and other services that families rely on.
We are thankful that in Vermont our Senators Bernie Sanders and Patrick Leahy voted against the Resolution that could put Medicaid for 200,000 Vermonters and Medicare for 131, 381 people with disabilities and seniors at risk.
The Senate budget includes $5.8 trillion in cuts to federal spending, including nearly $500 billion from Medicare and $1.3 trillion from Medicaid and other health care programs. Another $650 billion may be cut from income security programs, such as Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP, or food stamps), Supplemental Security Income (SSI) for individuals with disabilities, and tax credits for working families.
Time and time again, the Republicans in the Senate (and the House) have shown that their priority is taking care of the rich and big business, not the vast majority of Americans. They started with trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would have taken health coverage and Medicaid from millions. Failing in that effort, thanks to the resistance mobilized by thousands of Americans, they have now turned to a budget plan that would make even more cuts to health care and other programs—all to give tax breaks to the people who need them least.
We’re so grateful that we can depend on Senators Sanders and Leahy to stand up against cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and other programs that families depend on. We will continue to need the Senators’ leadership as the GOP and President Trump move forward on implementing their plan for massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations paid for by cuts to our health care and education.
The Senate budget resolution creates instructions to make these cuts and write legislation with tax breaks that mainly benefit the wealthiest among us based on a framework laid out by President Trump earlier this year. Under the GOP plan, the richest 1% in Vermont would receive about 45.1% of the tax breaks. These Vermont households are projected to have an income of at least $505,400 next year and the GOP tax framework would give them an average tax cut of $45,250 in 2018, which would increase their income by an average of 3.8 percent, while the poorest 20% of Vermonters would see only 1.8% of the tax breaks under this proposal.
Rights & Democracy stands in opposition to the Trump-GOP tax plan that cuts health care, education, and other key social safety net programs to give tax breaks to the wealthiest Americans and corporations whose pockets and company coffers are already overflowing.
"Now, more than ever, we must reject a budget passed on the backs of low income folks, working families and America’s shrinking middle class. We must stand together and stand up for the health care and other programs hundreds of thousands of Vermonters depend on," said Jessica Early, RAD's Health Care Justice Organizer.
RAD is asking people to become a Health Care Justice Voter and join the movement to urge Gov. Scott and all our elected officials to fight to protect Vermonters’ health care and invest in the health of our communities for today and for tomorrow.
I am a 26-year-old lower income resident of Vermont who recently put herself through graduate school, paying tuition out-of-pocket and struggling to make ends meet while doing so.
I have mild sciatica, mild scoliosis, chronic joint pain, and occasional migraines. Despite needing care for these issues, I could not afford health care premiums for a private insurance plan and so I used to avoid going to the doctor. Fortunately, last year I applied for and gained Medicaid coverage and I was finally able to seek the treatment I needed.
Medicaid has been hugely important to me as it has allowed me to find explanations for pain that I didn't understand, giving me peace of mind and relief I needed to get through grad school. With the professional help I can afford through Medicaid, my issues are being resolved rather than continuing to escalate as I age. I have since graduated and will be transitioning to employer-based coverage at the end of the year, but my story is simply a reminder that people go through periods of their life when they need Medicaid, and to not have that support makes it harder for people to move past those periods.
The current budget proposal being pushed by the Trump administration and Republican Congressional leadership would make massive cuts to Medicaid. According to the Senate Budget Committee Minority Staff, by 2027 Medicaid would see a $1 trillion cut and Medicare would see a $473 billion cut. This would fundamentally change Medicaid as we know it and rob people of a program that gives them access to needed medical services which enable them to lead successful lives. The GOP budget is not only an attack on Medicaid but also on equity and the health of our communities in Vermont and across the country. Vermonters of all affiliations need to unite against this budget that threatens the health and well-being of millions in order to give tax cuts to corporations and the wealthiest few.
— Bria Yazic
If you want to get more involved in our health care justice organizing, sign up to be a Health Care Justice Voter!
If you're like Bria and have a story to tell that you'd like to share with us and others, send us a confidential note.
With the recent defeat of Graham Cassidy and the Affordable Care Act (ACA) repeal efforts that preceded, we thought the battle to save our health care was won.
Unfortunately, yesterday President Trump demonstrated unequivocally that this battle is far from over—he is directly attacking women, the middle class, and the poor in his effort to strip millions more from having necessary access to health care in order to provide tax breaks for the wealthy and powerful.
Rights & Democracy stands in opposition to Trump and the GOP Congressional leadership’s inhumane and immoral attack on the health care of hundreds of thousands of Vermonters and millions of Americans.
We stand in support of our members of Congress—including this statement from Sen. Patrick Leahy—in their resistance to these proposals and we call on Governor Phil Scott to do the same.
Last night the President announced that he will end Cost Sharing Reduction (CSR) payments that lower costs for more than 6 million people who buy coverage on the exchange. Uncertainty about the future of these CSRs is key reason that many insurers are substantially hiking their rates for 2018—some by more than 20 percent. Some insurers have also left the market. Even Republicans are worried about how this decision will drive up costs and leave millions uninsured.
This would mean more than $12 million in CSR payment cuts to Vermonters, according to Sen. Leahy.
In addition to the elimination of CSR payments, Trump issued a new executive order that allows health association plans to sell watered down health coverage that doesn’t meet current standards under the ACA. This executive order includes provisions like those in the ACA repeal bills that were roundly rejected earlier in the year by both lawmakers and the public. Trump’s order loosens up rules for insurance companies so that they can go back to refusing coverage for people with pre-existing conditions, charging them more for their coverage, and selling bogus plans that don’t even include essential health benefits like maternity care, mental health and prescription drugs that are required for plans sold in the ACA marketplaces. These plans could even have lifetime and annual benefit caps.
Waiving ACA protections means these plans can cherry pick young, healthy consumers and pull them out of the existing individual health insurance market, leading to a market dominated by older and sicker people. That means that rates will skyrocket, insurers will flee, and, ultimately, the entire private health insurance market could collapse.
Finally, the Trump Administration has launched a full on assault on women’s reproductive health with a sweeping new rule that eliminates free contraceptive coverage based on any religious or “moral” objections from the employer. This is a significant departure from the existing law, which allowed exemptions for religious employers like churches and Catholic hospitals only. Under the new rule, any employer, not just religious ones, can deny coverage for birth control based on their own personal religious beliefs or “moral” objections.
Through the ACA, employers were required to include no-cost birth control coverage in their health insurance plans. More than 55 million women have access to birth control without co-payments because of that guarantee – saving them $1.4 billion in 2013 alone. But now these 55 million women could lose access to free contraception if their bosses decide they suddenly have a "moral" objection to paying for it. As a result, millions of American women and families could be left without affordable birth control.
The eliminations of CSR payments, the executive order on health association plans, and the new rule denying contraceptive coverage to millions of women, all make it clear: Trump doesn’t care about the will of the people who have rejected the Republican agenda for health care over the past several months.
Instead of listening to Americans, Trump is charging full-steam ahead with his stated goal of ACA repeal through a political campaign to sabotage the ACA by forcing premium increases, creating instability in the market, actively interfering with the ability of consumers to sign up for coverage, and rolling back the no-cost birth control for 55 million women.
When coupled with the Republican budget proposal working its way through Congress now—which includes massive cuts to Medicaid and further privatizes Medicare—Trump’s sabotage would mean the destruction of our health system as we know it. We will return to the days when being sick could bar you from coverage. We will return to the days when being a woman meant discrimination in the health care system. And we will see Medicaid and Medicare—two programs essential to the quality of life of millions of Americans—irreversibly transformed leading to access and lower quality care.
And what does Trump and his GOP backers in Congress gain from robbing millions of their health care? Huge tax breaks for corporations and the wealthiest Americans.
Now more than ever, we need to together build a health care system that serves us all.
Call Gov. Phil Scott today at: (802) 828-3333 and ask him to reject his national party’s health care agenda and sign up to be a health care justice voter and join the fight for health care for all in Vermont.
This just doesn't get old.
Once again, a grassroots-powered movement defeated a disastrous plan to kick millions off of health care. So, here we are again in what seems like umpteenth time this year to thank our amazing RAD community.
To the incredible activists from around the country who descended on Washington, DC this week to shut down the Senate and help to kill the GOP's cynical attempts to take health care from millions of people, including tens of thousands of Vermonters: THANK YOU!
To our very own Rights & Democracy members and allies Mari Cordes, RN, Elizabeth Deutsch, RN, Marit Young, Jim Vires, TW Collins, Drew Peltier, and Aaron Sawyer for trekking to DC to help support direct actions led by National ADAPT, the Center for Popular Democracy, and Housing Works: THANK YOU!
A special thanks to Drew (pictured right), who was one of 181 people arrested this week. Drew is active in our Rights & Democracy Bennington Organizing Team (as is TW Collins who took these amazing photos, Jim, and Aaron, who also serves as the outreach director for the Vermont Democratic Party). In all, more than 400 people were arrested protesting the GOP's assault on health care rights, including several RAD members and staff—some of whom were arrested more than once! (Staffers Elise Greaves and Emma Schoenberg were in DC, too, because they had to appear in court to answer to previous arrest charges.)
To our annual donors and monthly supporters who, along with our national partners, help make our work possible: THANK YOU!
The bill’s final demise took place at Monday’s hastily organized Senate committee hearing, which was disrupted by throngs of protesters whose numbers approached 1,000. At the very front of the line, having waited since dawn, were hundreds of disabled individuals from ADAPT and hundreds more from the birddogger network. Fewer than 20 people from the general public were allowed into the Senate hearing room. Even so, the hearing was interrupted from the outset by the small group that did manage to get in, “No cuts to Medicaid. Save our liberty!” This chant immediately triggered simultaneous protests by the masses locked outside the hearing room. Their chants of “Kill the bill, don’t kill us!” rocked the entire building, and it took more than three hours to arrest and remove all of them. Collectively, Monday’s protests resulted in 181 arrests.
With the bill’s failure, Republicans have lost their last best chance to repeal ACA, marking the end of an immediate threat to the health law, and dealing yet another blow to the Trump Administration’s agenda. Tuesday’s victory is the latest in a series of healthcare activist wins to protect ACA. The GOP has attempted to ram through various versions of TrumpCare since early spring, but has failed in the face of steep opposition from constituents in every state. With this win, the activists are now pushing hard for Congress to quickly pass a package of bipartisan fixes to the ACA, urging members of the Senate HELP Committee to introduce a bill in the coming week, as well as supporting renewed funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) and community health centers—vital programs which expire soon.
So, we know that they'll be back again. And, we'll be ready and waiting to greet and defeat the next bill whenever it comes back to life.
Until we embark to DC again, consider taking these simple actions here at home:
• Sign up to be a RAD Health Care Justice Voter to help move forward a vision for universal health care in Vermont.
• Text "Health" to (802) 881-0020 to be part of our RAD Rapid Responders network for Health Care Justice.
• Come to Winning the Fight for Universal Health Care: A Talk with Tim Faust (in Burlington, Oct. 7, 4-6 PM). Click for details.
It's time to let our elected officials know that we want more from them than just resistance to bad ideas coming down from Washington, but to enact a bold agenda that improves the lives of all Vermonters and all communities.
In just two years, Rights & Democracy members have helped to lead the discussion on some of the most pressing issues facing Vermont, and the nation, from pushing for universal health care, expanding voters' rights, raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour, and enacting paid family and medical leave insurance.
Now, we're asking you to join us in supporting a broad-based People’s Platform and begin urging legislators to start passing this platform during this upcoming session.
At two major Labor Day rallies in White River Junction and Middlebury, member leaders spoke about each plank of this People’s Platform, which include:
• Healthcare Justice: Implement an equitably and publicly financed system of health care as a human right for all as envisioned in Act 48, Vermont's 2011 health care law, and pass Universal Primary Care (H.248 and S.53).
• Racial Justice: Ensure the recommendations of the newly created Racial Justice Oversight Board are followed in order to address implicit racial bias in our criminal justice system and other state institutions in Vermont.
• Gender Justice: Protect women's right to control their own bodies and destinies, advance gender pay equity, and advance more equitable public accommodations for transgender people in Vermont. (H. 333).
• Clean water, clean air, and clean soils for all: Invest in the infrastructure and protections necessary to ensure these key human and environmental rights.
• Energy Democracy: Empower communities to move toward a 100-percent renewable energy economy while prioritizing opportunities for local ownership and democratic participation in shaping our just transition away from fossil fuels.
• Clean Elections: Stop the bribery by closing the revolving door between elected office and lobbying. Give every voter a voice by empowering voters to rank their top candidates to avoid “spoiler candidates”; and fix our broken public campaign finance system.
This platform reflects the work that our members and allies are doing in communities around the state.
We all know that it's not enough to simply keep playing defense against a disastrous national political agenda. We need to begin to channel that energy of resistance into making our communities stronger, resilient, and just.
This People's Platform addresses key, structural challenges that we must face make in order to create a better Vermont.
Join us by signing on and supporting this Platform, and sharing it with your friends and stay tuned for other ways in which you can help build the momentum to get these bills passed.
PS: It's getting close to the end of the year, and we have a busy year ahead to promote these important issues. If you're not a member yet, consider becoming one today and support the work of Rights & Democracy.
We have three simple ways to join and show your support:
Photo credits (top to bottom): Isaac Grimm, James Napoli, Isaac Grimm, Isaac Grimm
Are you fired up after attending one of our recent Labor Day rallies, Democracy Summer events, or other recent actions?
Looking for a way to have an impact on the politics of your town, your county, or your state?
This month, Vermont’s political parties are re-organizing, which means it’s the perfect time to get involved in a local party organizing committee and help to shape the direction of its policies, platform, and potentially build a base of power to run for office.
Vermont has four major political parties, and below you can find links to their events pages where you can find out when your town party committee is meeting.
Rights & Democracy members are often involved in a local, or county, party committee as well as one of our broad-based campaigns.
That’s because RAD members know that we must continue to organize not only around issues, but to build the necessary power to make our values reflected in our policies.
And, to move a broad-based People’s Platform through the Legislature – this session and beyond – our members’ voices should be reflected all of the state’s political parties.
At two major Labor Day rallies in White River Junction and Middlebury, we rolled out our People’s Platform that offers a bold agenda to improve the lives of all Vermonters and all communities. That platform includes:
Fair Pay:Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour (H 93, S 40)
Healthcare Justice:Implement an equitably and publicly financed system of health care as a human right for all as envisioned in Act 48, Vermont's 2011 health care law, and pass Universal Primary Care (H.248 and S.53)
Justice for Families: Enact paid family and medical leave (H 196 and S 82)
Protect Workers by strengthening enforcement against worker misclassification (S. 73)
Clean water, clean air, and clean soils for all - Invest in the infrastructure and protections necessary to ensure these key human and environmental rights
Decarceration- Support reforms to our criminal justice system to end systemic racial bias and enable a humane approach to justice
Energy Democracy:Empower communities to move toward a 100-percent renewable energy economy while maintaining local autonomy and democratic participation in shaping a just transition away from fossil fuels.
If we are serious about building power and affecting change, that means we must have an electoral strategy, at all levels, which includes building and training our members to run for office. RAD is holding its next Movement Politics training in Manchester on October 14th. If you’re interested, fill out this registration form and we’ll be in touch.
photo: Bernie Sanders speaking at our Middlebury Labor Day Celebration. Photo by Adam Franco
The Burlington Rights & Democracy Organizing Team issued the following statement in support of Burlington's striking teachers:
Rights & Democracy stands in solidarity with members of the Burlington Education Association as they go on strike in response to yet another imposed contract that fails to attract and retain the best teachers for Burlington’s kids.
We believe the teachers are at the heart of a healthy community, as they nurture our children today and help to shape the leaders of tomorrow. They deserve to be heard, valued, and believed.
Burlington residents highly value their teachers as proven by repeated investments in school budgets, in neighborhood schools, and ensuring that children in Vermont’s most diverse school district have a top notch education. That community investment is now at risk, which could impact the city’s efforts to attract and retain new families and businesses.
By imposing working conditions on its teachers for the second year in a row, the Burlington School Board has become one of only seven boards in the history of Vermont to take this step more than once. In fact, most boards have never used the option.
In roughly two years, around 100 teachers have left the district for neighboring schools – a sign that the district is experiencing a crisis of confidence in its leadership.
The BEA has offered to compromise on its original salary offer, and has agreed to changes in working conditions at the high school as part of its effort to help close the achievement gap. However, the board seems insistent on imposing too many non-teaching duties on elementary school teachers, limiting their ability to provide professional services to students.
It’s time for the Burlington School Board to act on the behalf of its residents, to listen to their award-winning teachers and give them the tools and supports they need to educate the city’s students.
It’s time to not just get back to the table, but it’s time to remove the imposition and strike a deal with BEA that is in the best interests of the community.
Moving forward, RAD believes that we need to look more critically at how we fund our education system in Vermont. Communities should not be divided, and fighting over crumbs in order to provide the necessary resources to hire and retain the teachers we need, and provide the services that our children deserve.
We commend the district for providing meals to students during the strike, but we would urge the Board and district administration to refrain from using temporary staff to provide services that would otherwise be conducted by BEA members and teaching staff.
We encourage RAD members to look for ongoing updates on BEA's website and find out how you can stand in solidarity with Burlington’s teachers and support them.
There are additional pickets today, including a major picket from 2-3 PM at Edmunds Elementary and Middle Schools on Main Street.
Photo by Jess Kell
At Labor Day celebrations in White River Junction and Middlebury, Rights & Democracy (RAD) and U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders will join forces to announce a People’s Platform to bring about change in Washington, DC, as well as here in Vermont.
This summer, Our Revolution launched "Summer of Progress" by working with dozens of grassroots organizations to back the #PeoplesPlatform, a progressive policy agenda that it used to lobbying members of Congress to support during their August recess.
Given the current makeup of Congress and the White House, this national People’s Platform must be replicated at the state level as many efforts, including the struggle for universal, publicly financed health care and addressing climate change, will likely first gain traction at the state level.
As part of our Democracy Summer Town Hall tour, RAD held events throughout Vermont to promote bold ideas that legislators can get behind when they return to Montpelier in January. Resistance isn’t enough, however, we need our elected officials to take bold steps to put legislation on Gov. Phil Scott’s desk for him to either veto, or join with Vermonters to:
Raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour;
Create a universal health care system in Vermont, with a first step being Universal Primary Care;
Enact paid family and medical leave insurance;
Improve worker protections, including stronger enforcement against worker misclassification;
Invest in the infrastructure and protections necessary to ensure clean water, clean air, and clean soils for all; and,
Empower communities to move toward a 100-percent renewable energy economy while maintaining local autonomy and democratic participation in shaping a just transition away from fossil fuels.
So, join Bernie, RAD, and your neighbors for some food, fun, music, and a call to action to bring about true, lasting change.
If you'd like to make a donation to help us cover the costs of these events, we have three easy ways to donate:
Thanks, see you on Labor Day!
Are you the next Bernie Sanders?
A lot more people around the country know about Vermont today than they did just a few years ago.
Even though Bernie’s not running for president (at least not yet), Rights & Democracy is attracting national attention in Vermont for building the political revolution on a local level and you can not only help us make it happen, but be the change we're seeking.
Just take a look at this recent article on Truthout: “Thousands of Bernies? Progressive Groups Aim to Build a Majority From the Bottom Up.”
In it, journalist Michael Corcoran highlighted founding RAD Board member Ali Dieng’s recent city council victory in Burlington’s Ward 7 special election.
“One recent success story has advocates excited. Ali Dieng, born in Mauritania and raised in Senegal, pulled off a victory in a special election in June for a seat in the city council in the typically conservative New North End district in Burlington, Vermont (which is also the district where Bernie and Jane Sanders live) ... After building a strong coalition including members of both parties, he had a decisive victory and became the only non-white member of the council and the second new American (he came to the US in 2007) to serve on the body.”
RAD’s Political Engagement Director Isaac Grimm was quoted in the piece saying,
"When we started the organization … we had conversations about what kind of movement we needed to build and what people saw in themselves as their role in this movement, Ali was one of the first people who said he could imagine running as a grassroots candidate and then actually stepped up and did it. [This] is exactly the formula we need to have the people's movement take power in this country: a multiracial, multigenerational, people's platform of issues aligned with the political revolution that Bernie's campaign inspired.”
The movement inspired by Bernie’s campaign is founded on the belief that we must continue to organize—not only around issues, and not only in reaction to Trump's attacks. We must organize to build the necessary power to make our values reflected in our policies.
As we head into the 2018 election cycle, RAD will be holding Movement Politics trainings to build a shared analysis and skill set for progressive champions to run (or support) powerful electoral campaigns so we can take back power in our state house and enact a political agenda that puts people and the planet over profits. If you’re not sure what we mean by Movement Politics, click on the link above and learn more.
"RAD has clearly helped progressive candidates win elected offices in Vermont, and their command of the resources available to candidates is stunning."—RAD trainee Andrew Sullivan.
If this date doesn’t work, and you're thinking of running for office or taking a leadership role in supporting electoral campaigns just fill out this registration form and we’ll let you know when our next training is scheduled.
As members of Congress returned home for August recess, Rights & Democracy held a listening session with Vermont seniors at the Champlain Senior Center in Burlington to discuss the impact of the national GOP ‘s health care agenda and hear seniors’ concerns, thoughts, hopes, and ideas.
Sixty percent of people who receive vital care and services through Medicaid are older adults 50 years of age and older and people with disabilities.
In 2017, Medicaid provides coverage for 27.7 million adults, 10 million people with disabilities, and 5.8 million seniors. In addition to covering most people in nursing homes, Medicaid also covers the majority of home care, which ninety percent of people prefer to an institution.
Gutting Medicaid would not only threaten the ability of older adults to age at home with dignity, it could eliminate one in three home care jobs, cruelly take away healthcare from the people who care for others, and shift caregiving responsibilities onto more adult children, putting their own jobs and financial security at risk.
In Vermont specifically, approximately 200,000 Vermonters depend on Medicaid for their medical care including 22,300 Vermont seniors. Thirty thousand Vermonters are “dual eligibles” or individuals (seniors or people with disabilities) entitled to both Medicare and some level of Medicaid benefits.
The majority of Republicans in Congress recently voted in favor of bills that would not only have repealed the Affordable Care Act and eliminated new Medicaid coverage for 11 million people, but would also have radically restructured the 52-year old Medicaid program that funds two-third of long-term services, including nursing home and in-home care for seniors and people with disabilities.
Although Republicans failed to pass their Medicaid proposals as part of ACA repeal, and though roughly two-thirds of Americans oppose cuts to Medicaid, President Donald Trump and House Republicans accelerated their assault with a federal budget proposal that includes even deeper cuts to Medicaid than those in their repeal bill, as well as significant changes to Medicare. These cuts are part of a package that would at the same time provide trillions in tax breaks to millionaires and corporations.
Rights & Democracy was joined by Senator Bernie Sander’s Director of Health Policy Kathryn Becker Van Haste as well as state legislators from Chittenden County to listen to seniors and discuss efforts in Vermont and nationally to protect their health care. Burlington Reps. Selene Colburn and Brian Cina attended the session with more than 30 seniors. Cina is the lead sponsor of the Universal Primary Care bill.
The event was part of a national day of action jointly sponsored by Caring Across Generations (CAG) and Health Care for America Now (HCAN).