Buried in Sunday’s Washington Post was a small notice of a study on senior citizens living in poverty. The numbers have plummeted from the late 1960s, according to a study of census data done by the Akron Beacon Journal.
27 percent of seniors were living in poverty more than 40 years ago, compared to only 9 percent today. There are 3.7 million seniors living in poverty today as compared to 5.2 million in 1969, while the number of seniors has more than doubled during that time, up to 40.6 million.
So who says President Lyndon Baines Johnson’s War on Poverty was a failure?
The reasons for this drastic reduction can be placed squarely on retirement programs like 401(k)s, Social Security and the establishment of Medicare in 1965. In addition, many continue to work post-65, many saw the tough times of the Depression and World War II and have been careful and frugal.
Another important change that I was involved in back in the 70s working for Sen. Frank Church, who was Chairman of the Aging Committee, involved the capital gains tax on the sale of one’s home. Congress passed an exemption for seniors who sold their homes and downsized, saving them substantial sums from taxes on their primary nest egg. Prices of homes had gone up and this change was crucial for many seniors and is still important today.
But there are still too many Americans, both young and old, living in poverty. Too many are without jobs, too many have jobs that don’t pay enough to raise a family and the future of pensions and retirement savings is far from certain. A new Kaiser study even indicates that additional health expenses could raise the percentage of seniors in poverty up from 9 percent to 15 percent.
And that is why the importance of the Affordable Care Act cannot be understated. Before Medicare, many seniors were one serious illness removed from bankruptcy. Today, the same is true for many Americans. The ACA, when it is fully implemented, will do much the same as Medicare to keep Americans out of poverty.
Here is what life was like before Medicare: The cost of health care for seniors kept many from having even basic hospital coverage. Only one in four had insurance that would cover 75 percent of a hospital stay, and half of all elderly Americans had no insurance at all.
The point is that when we look back at American life in the pre-Johnson era, the pre-Medicare era, we faced a daunting problem. We did much to solve that problem for the vast majority of seniors. Now, with the ACA, we can do the same for most Americans.
The president should clarify ‘Helms’ law to allow abortions for wars’ rape victims
By Brian Atwood and Peter Fenn, Published: February 13
Brian Atwood is chairman of global studies at the University of Minnesota’sHumphrey School of Public Affairs. He was administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development during the Clinton administration. Peter Fenn, a longtime Democratic political strategist, was a top aide to Sen. Frank Church (D-Idaho) from 1975 to 1981.
An 18-year-old Free Syrian Army soldier was jailed in the fall of 2012, and Syrian government troops brought his fiancee, sisters, mother and female neighbors to the prison. But this wasn’t a regular visitation, according to Women Under Siege, a group affiliated with the Women’s Media Center. Each of these women was raped in front of the prisoner.
Sexual violence is a primary reason women and girls are fleeing Syria, according to theInternational Rescue Committee. It is not new for rape to be used as a weapon of war, nor for pregnancies to result from those rapes. As many as 50,000 women and girls were raped in Bosnia; more than 250,000 were raped in Rwanda. Reports from the Central African Republic, the Democratic Republic of the Congo and South Sudan indicate that rape is increasingly being used as a weapon in those war zones. This horrific act is designed to terrorize and paralyze whole segments of society.
How did it come to pass that the United States, one of the world’s most generous providers of humanitarian assistance, would constrain its response to this gross violation of human rights? The answer lies in the morass of U.S. social-issue politics. So does the solution: In the midst of the decades-long disputes over abortion, a compromise was reached on exceptions that should apply equally to humanitarian operations.
The 1973 “Helms amendment” restricts the use of U.S. foreign assistance funds for abortions “as a method of family planning or to motivate or coerce any person to practice abortions.” The consequence of rape has nothing to do with family planning, as numerous legal experts outside government have rightly concluded. Historical and current political compromises have established three exceptions — rape, incest and life-endangerment — as cases in which U.S. taxpayer funds can be spent on abortion.
An executive order is needed to set the record straight: that what is done in humanitarian operations overseas is in line with the exceptions embodied in U.S. law.
The president has the authority to correct a long-standing misinterpretation of the Helms amendment. He should do so with full confidence that Americans would strongly support this action.
A national poll conducted last month by Lake Research Partners for the Center for Health and Gender Equity found that Americans overwhelmingly support such an executive order. Fifty-seven percent of respondents agreed that the president “should issue an executive order to allow foreign assistance to support comprehensive health care, including safe abortions for women in the cases of rape, incest, and when a woman’s life is in danger.”
Seventy-one percent agreed that abortion should be allowed in cases in which a pregnancy is a result of rape. Only 21 percent disagreed.
Thousands of rape victims die each year — in desperation, they seek to escape their trauma using dangerous means. Simply by applying a law correctly, the United States could join a growing number of donors responding to this pandemic. The shift would require no new law, only a presidential clarification that would allow government resources to be used when women request to end a pregnancy in cases of rape, incest or life endangerment.
This fundamental human rights issue can no longer be ignored. It deserves a presidential declaration that will right a long-standing wrong.
The president should correct a misinterpretation of the Helms amendment that apparently was based on avoiding a threat to family planning that no longer exists. It should be U.S. government policy to support the victims of one of the harshest war crimes imaginable.
I have to confess, I am not a collector. I don’t save stamps or coins or autographs. I don’t keep old programs from plays or ticket stubs. Well, not usually.
Seems that put away in an old wallet, long since forgotten, was the ticket stub to the Beatles very first concert in the U.S., 50 years ago today. The picture you see above is that ticket. I had just turned the ripe old age of 16 and went to the concert with my best friend, Forrest Church. That night, a couple of nerdy guys could even get dates!
Girls did outnumber boys at the Washington Coliseum and the screaming did drown out the music, for sure, but it didn’t matter. We knew all the words. We had been singing the songs for weeks and came off the excitement of the Beatles’ “Ed Sullivan Show” performance just two days before.
Forrest and I were into music and would line up to get the newest releases but we were also into politics. His father was a Senator, mine worked in the JFK White House.
The previous two months since Nov. 22, 1963 were pretty rough for our country and for two political kids growing up in Washington D.C. For our generation, the Beatles lifted us up, they helped give us an outlet, they provided us with a reason to be young again. The age of innocence was over with the events of Dallas, but we were still pretty young and pretty innocent.
Vietnam had not really begun to seriously enter our consciousness, the civil rights struggle was building, the turmoil of the 60’s was just starting.
The Beatles took the kids by storm but they also took the country and our parents by storm – we had protest music gaining in popularity with Dylan and Baez and Peter Paul & Mary; we had blues and rock ‘n roll and Presley, but the timing and staying power of the Beatles produced a wave that carried us out of the despair of Nov. 22. It lasted through the decade of the 1960s and, in fact, helped define the protests and the turbulence of that time.
A local D.C. disk jockey named Carroll James managed to get a copy of the hit record “I Want to Hold Your Hand” and played it incessantly on WWDC radio. He was the MC at the concert at the Coliseum on Feb. 11, 1964 and he played a big role in getting the Beatles to Washington.
Without Twitter, or Facebook, or cell phones, their music spread like a wild fire. Later, Carroll became a VoiceOver talent and did many of my political commercials up until his death in 1997. We loved talking about the “old” days when it all started.
I am glad we had the Beatles and I am glad we are able to celebrate them 50 years later. I am glad that they were a part of our generation’s coming of age and that they lifted us out of that tough time.
I am glad I still have that ticket and those memories of my best friend for nearly half a century, Forrest Church. He sadly didn’t reach the age of 64, but for the two us we will always have the Beatles. They made us feel young, when we needed it.
February 11, 2014, 03:03 pm
Two very big concerns for Republicans
By Peter Fenn
Republicans are licking their chops because they see the Affordable Care Act, or ObamaCare, as their ticket to winning the November 2014 elections. All their eggs are in that basket, and they assume the political climate will be similar to how it was after the disastrous rollout of last fall.
For some reason, they don’t believe they need a healthcare alternative plan, they don’t need to pass (or can’t pass) immigration reform, they don’t need to act on legislation to help create jobs, etc. In other words, all they need to do is to be the “Repeal Republicans” when it comes to the healthcare law to emerge victorious in November and take control of the Senate.A new CNN poll should cause them very real concerns on two very important fronts.
First, the Republicans’ difficulties with female voters are not going away. When asked “do you think the Republican Party generally understands the problems and concerns of women,” only 42 percent say yes and 55 percent say no. The same question for Democrats results in 63 percent saying yes and 33 percent saying no. That is a 21-point gap in favor of the Democrats.
Thus, whatever Republicans think they have been doing since the drubbing in 2012 is not working to improve their standing with women.
The second area is the crucially important question of who stands up for the middle class. GOP presidential candidate Mitt Romney’s “47 percent” comment has also not gone away, and the general perception of Republicans has not changed.
When asked “Do you think the policies of the Republican Party generally favor the rich, favor the middle class or favor the poor,” a full 69 percent believe Republicans favor the rich, 23 percent say they favor the middle class and only 3 percent believe they favor the poor. As for the Democratic Party, 30 percent say they favor the rich, 36 percent say they favor the middle class and 30 percent say they favor the poor.
Thus, for Democrats a total of 66 percent say they favor the middle class or the poor and those numbers are only 26 percent for Republicans, a gap of 40 percent. When 7 in 10 Americans believe you are the party of the rich, trust me, you have a problem.
Could Democrats strengthen their standing with the middle class? You bet. Should they be the “opportunity party”? You bet. Should they have a message for 2014 and beyond that they can do more for well-paying jobs, helping working families and strengthening the middle class? No question.
The bottom line is that the perception of the Republican Party on these two critical concerns, helping women and helping the middle class, is a serious issue for the party. And, from what I can tell, they are doing very little substantively to change that.
The Republicans just can’t get enough. More and more Lone Rangers are out there deciding that they will be in the klieg lights to respond to President Obama’s State of the Union Address.
The “official” responder, if that notion even still applies, will be Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers of Washington state. She will get the network air-time immediately following the president’s address to a joint session of congress. Since the Republicans have a serious and continuing “women problem,” this probably makes sense. Better than Mike Huckabee, right?
But, not to be out-done, Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, will be this year’s illustrious tea party responder. This will follow on the heels of Michele “looking at the wrong camera” Bachmann in 2011, Herman “the pizza man” Cain in 2012 and Kentucky Sen. Rand Paul last year, who will stay in the limelight and give another response this year all on his own.
And let’s not forget the pre-SOTU activities by Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas. He didn’t even want to wait for the speech to respond. Thus, a pre-emptive strike was his tactic du jour.
I get that political parties have trouble speaking with one voice, but this is ridiculous. Why put forth this collection of your worst spokespeople (I won’t pre-judge Rodgers) and muddle your message. I think this is called putting your worst foot forward.
The latest Washington Post poll shows that a miniscule 19 percent have confidence that Republicans will make the right decisions for the country. So my question is, why would Republican leadership allow this free-for-all?
To quote Republican Mark McKinnon from today’s New York Times:
“There is no clear leadership in the Republican Party right now, no clear direction or message, and no way to enforce discipline,” said Mark McKinnon, a veteran Republican strategist who has become an outspoken critic of his party. “And because there’s a vacuum, and no shortage of cameras, there are plenty of actors happy to audition.”
There you have it.