Friday, June 29, 2012


The Court's cramped view of Medicaid expansion means that low income people will bear the individual mandate 'tax' disproportionately. Upholding the requirement that individuals buy private insurance while allowing states to opt out of Medicaid expansion is the worst possible outcome. Achieving universal coverage by compelling low income Americans to purchase private insurance will protect health industry profits at the expense of people most in need of health care for all.

The precise consequence of the Court's ruling on Medicaid expansion is not yet knowable, as states have the right to accept the federal terms of expansion.  States that do accept Medicaid expansion will cover people whose incomes fall below 133% of the poverty line, including people who are categorically excluded under most state Medicaid programs today -- individual adults between age 19 and 65.

But as 26 states challenged the Medicaid expansion provision of the Affordable Care Act,  it is reasonable to anticipate that some states will opt out the Medicaid expansion program now that they have the right to do so.  HALF of the 32 million people the Affordable Care Act promised would achieve health care coverage were slated to secure their coverage through expanded Medicaid. A sizeable subset of the 16 million who would have been covered under expanded Medicaid may be opted out by their states, depending on where they live.  This pulls the legs off the structure of "universal coverage" under the Affordable Care Act, leaving economically vulnerable people, disproportionately of color, out in the cold world of medical impoverishment.

In the worst case, 16 million low wage workers who do not have health insurance where they work will be forced into the health care exchanges where they must obey the individual mandate to buy insurance.  A system of hardship exemptions and graduated, income-based subsidies and rebates will attenuate some of the economic burden that befalls low income American -- assuming the subsidies are fully funded and that the current funding formula stands.  But this won't mitigate the fact that the currently uninsured -- overwhelmingly because they cannot afford insurance -- will be the most vulnerable, unequal participants in the new system.

For a critical consideration of the inequality effects of the Supreme Court's Obamacare decision, see:

For a discussion of the attitudes of states toward Medicaid expansion, see:

For a general review of the Obamacare decision, see:

For an example of how the health insurance subsidies will be calculated, see:

Friday, June 22, 2012


Title IX was enacted as part of the Education Act Amendments of 1972.  Its promise was simply this:  educational institutions, programs, or activities that receive federal funds may not discriminate on the basis of sex.  The promise applies to all levels of education, from elementary schools to undergraduate colleges, professional schools, and vocational programs.
Enactment of Title IX was one of the first policy victories of the 2nd wave women’s movement, and as such was the focus of controversy.  The Washington Post and New York Times opposed it in editorials; college presidents decried it; college football coaches demeaned it; and many members of Congress tried to figure out ways to weaken it.
The attack on Title IX intensified soon after it became law. The loudest assault came from the male athletics lobby – the NCAA, and legions of college football fans.  Although Title IX was not enacted with women’s athletics primarily in mind, the male sports establishment certainly predicted correctly that under Title IX, women would flourish as athletes.
Despite their fierce efforts, naysayers lost their legislative battle to undermine Title IX by limiting its scope.  As a result, educational opportunities for girls and women expanded exponentially, dramatically opening up whole fields of endeavor.
The most obvious barriers to women's full and equal educational opportunites began to disappear with Title IX's passage. But Title IX's champions knew that inequalities run deep, permeating school practices and peer cultures. Title IX advocates anticipated that the road to full equality would be slow going and that navigating that road successfully would require never-ending vigilance to ensure that implementing regulations are not diluted, that compliance is robust, and that girls and women throughout the educational process know their rights and remedies.
The history of Title IX over forty years is really the story of millions of bold and resilient girls and women who have enforced Title IX by their actions -- by resisting exclusion; demanding fairness; exposing sexual harassment; and challenging educational institutions to change because of the contributions of women.
So, kudos --  and thank you -- to everyone who has dared to struggle for equality. Title IX will continue to be important only if it continues to advance that struggle. Going forward, we must all hone Title IX to pierce and transform the culture of educational institutions, to dispel stereotypes that impede women's incorporation on equal footing, and to undermine the gross disparities in money and other resources that make it difficult for many girls and women to pursue the opportunities that Title IX assures.

Thursday, April 19, 2012


For at least twenty years, low income mothers and their allies have urged lawmakers to recognize caregiving for one's own children as WORK.  If adopted, this principle would vastly improve low income mothers' access to and treatment within important safety net programs such as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families.  Urge your Member of Congress to sign on to this essential legislation!

Stark Introduces Bill to Recognize Low-Income Mothers' Care for Their Young Children as Work
Romney was Right: "All Moms Are Working Moms;" Our Laws
Should Reflect This Fact

WASHINGTON -- Today, Rep. Pete Stark (D-CA) introduced the Women's Option to Raise Kids Act (WORK Act), H.R. 4379, which would recognize that all parents who stay home to raise young children are, in fact, doing important and legitimate work. Original cosponsors of the WORK Act include Reps. John Lewis (D-GA), Gwen Moore (D-WI), Barbara Lee (D-CA), Jim McDermott (D-WA), Lynn Woolsey (D-CA), Janice Schakowsky (D-IL), Rosa DeLauro (D-CA), Carolyn Maloney (D-NY), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL), Eleanor Holmes Norton (D-DC), and Laura Richardson (D-CA).

Rep. Stark: "Mitt Romney was for ObamaCare before he was against it. Then, he was for forcing low-income mothers into the workforce before he decided 'all moms are working moms'."

"I think we should take Mr. Romney at his most recent word and change our federal laws to recognize the importance and legitimacy of raising young children. That's why I've introduced the WORK Act to provide low-income parents the option of staying home to raise young children without being pushed into poverty."

Why we need the WORK Act:
Current law does not count low-income stay-at-home parents who are raising young children as meeting the necessary Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF) work requirement. Current law also bans states from counting these individuals toward that state's work participation rate, which can result in financial penalties if not met.  This effectively bars low-income parents who choose to stay home to raise their young children from access to the financial support of TANF.

As reported by the New York Times and others, the TANF program has been particularly unresponsive during the economic downturn (see this chart from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities).  Today, TANF is only serving 27% of families living in poverty, compared to 68% when the program was enacted to great acclaim in 1996.  The result is that more children are being pushed deeper into poverty and destitution.  Congress needs to start fixing this problem to ensure that low-income families have access to needed assistance. The WORK Act is an important step in that direction.
What the WORK Act does:
The WORK Act would amend TANF law to recognize the critical job of raising children age three or younger as work. Under the legislation, low-income parents could work, receive job training, search for work, or raise their children until they are school-aged without fear of losing TANF support and being pushed deeper into poverty. This is the same option that wealthy families, such as the Romneys, enjoy.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012


Today is Equal Pay Day. For women in general to earn what men earned last year, they'd have to work 3.5 extra months.

Here are some facts about the wage gap and its consequences:

*  Overall, women earn 77cents on the male dollar. Black women earn just 62cents and Latinas only 53cents to every dollar men earn.

*  Lifetime wage gap = $720,000 less pay for women high school graduates; $1.2 million less for women college graduates; $2 million less for women professional school graduates.

* Most recent data show median earnings for women were $36,931 compared to $47,715 for men.

*  College-educated women earn 5% less than male peers the 1st yr out of school. After 10 yrs, they earn 12 percent less.

*  For Latinas with a BA in 2009, the mean yearly pay was $39,566 -- that's $31,720 less than white men.

*  The wage gap goes up with age. Women age 25-29 have yearly wage gap of $1,702. In the last five years of employment before retirement, the yearly gap jumps to $14,352.

*  The wage gap is bigger for single women. Single women earn only 57 cents for every dollar that married males earn.

 *  Women's lower earnings lead to a higher poverty rate for single mothers. 50% of single mothers have an income of less than $25,000/yr.

*   17.2 million women lived in poverty in 2010.  25% of Latinas and 24.6% of Black women were poor as compared to 14.5% of women overall.

*  In 2010 Latina & Black single mothers poverty rates were 50.3%and 47.1%, vs 15.1% for the population as a whole. The poverty rate for female-headed families w/kids was 40.7% overall.

*  Mothers earn 7% less per child than childless women.

*  50% of single mothers have an income of less than $25,000/yr.

*  The poverty rate for single mother families is 3X that of other families.

*   3/4 of homeless families are single mother families.

*   Wage gap produces a wealth gap. The median wealth of white single moms w/kids under 18 is $6,000. Latina & Black single mothers have median wealth of $0.

*   At current rate of progress it will take 45 yrs to close gender wage gap.  How long will it take to End Poverty?

Friday, September 9, 2011

THE PAYROLL TAX CUT: Talk about a Ponzi Scheme!

Is President Obama trying to kill Social Security without explicitly saying so?  He put Social Security "on the table" for consideration by his Deficit Commission -- even though Social Security has not contributed to creating or sustaining the deficit/debt in the first place.  He kept Social Security on the table when he made a deal to delegate deficit reduction authority over entitlements to an undemocratic Super Committee.  Now, in a speech reportedly about jobs, he proposed to extend and increase the ill-considered FICA tax cut he embraced last December -- a tax cut that directly undermines the financial integrity of Social Security.

According to the White House Fact Sheet on "The American Jobs Act" ( the FICA tax holiday for workers will be increased to a 50% reduction, lowering it to 3.1%.  Under the 2010 tax deal, the payroll tax for workers was reduced from 6.2% to 4.2%.  In addition to expanding the tax cut for workers, the President proposes to extend the FICA tax holiday to employers by cutting in half the employer's share of the payroll tax through the first $5 million in payroll. 

Big questions about the wisdom, efficacy, and implications of a tax-based jobs strategy need to be debated.  Even bigger questions about the consequences of the payroll tax holiday in particular need to be answered.  These questions are not just about the relationship between payroll tax cuts and job growth.  They are about the future of Social Security.

The FICA/payroll tax goes into the Social Security Trust Fund.  This is a dedicated fund currently worth $2.6 trillion, which has been built up over time through employee and employer contributions, along with accrued interest.  Current and future Social Security beneficiaries receive benefits from this fund.  No general revenues are involved.

Under the payroll tax cut initiated in the 2010 lame duck tax deal, the revenue loss to the Trust Fund from the payroll tax holiday is made up through compensatory payments into the Trust Fund from general revenues. The President proposes to continue this scheme -- deepening a relationship between Social Security and general revenues (read deficit) that did not exist until the December 2010 tax deal.  This will make Social Security increasingly vulnerable to demands for "reform."

In the worst case, Congress could choose to enact the payroll tax cut without actually appropriating revenue compensation for the Trust Fund.  This would mean that the payroll tax cut directly depletes the Trust Fund, creating financial/actuarial problems far sooner than the currently anticipated shortfall date of 2036.

But even if the Trust Fund receives full revenue compensation -- for both employer and employee contributions -- Social Security will be jeopardized.  That's because the resources in the Trust Fund will be increasingly comingled with general revenue funds -- and, hence, increasingly connected to the deficit.

The government has borrowed from Social Security to pay for other things (through IOUs, bonds, etc). It does need to use general revenues to make good on borrowed funds. But this is a debt owed TO Social Security, not a debt caused by Social Security. This is a debt owed to the millions of workers who have contributed to the Social Security system through the payroll tax. However, now that general revenues are contributed to the Trust Fund to offset the cost of the tax holiday, some people will undoubtedly claim that Social Security has become a drain on the national treasury.

Also worth worrying about here is contagious political cowardice about "raising taxes."  The payroll tax holiday is framed as just that -- a holiday, ie, a short-lived break. But as we know from other tax cuts with built-in expiration dates, the planned end of a tax cut quickly becomes a "tax increase" in popular parlance.  There hasn't been much resolve to allow the years-long tax holiday for the rich to end.  When the time comes, will there be greater resolve to allow an end to the 2-year tax holiday for workers and 1-year tax holiday for employers?  Even when billed as a "middle class tax increase" and a "job-killing tax on business"?

Once the payroll tax basis of Social Security financing has been corrupted the future of Social Security will no longer be in doubt.  It won't have one.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Urge Your Congressmember to CoSponsor the Conyers Resolution Opposing Cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security

Oppose Cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security

Cosponsor H. Con. Res. 72
Clearly state that any legislative language approved by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not reduce benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients.
 Current Cosponsors (38):  Grijalva, Lee, Johnson (GA), Thompson, Al Green, Towns, Jackson-Lee, Woolsey, Schakowsky, Jackson, Clarke (NY), Richardson, Christensen, Honda, Waters, Davis (IL), Butterfield, Fudge, Lewis (GA), Cummings, Gonzalez, Kucinich, Filner, Wilson (FL), Bass, Stark, Hinchey, Clarke (MI), Cleaver, Bordallo, Frank, Gutierrez, Courtney, Nadler, Reyes, Olver, Cohen, Rush    

Dear Colleague:
As you know, the debt ceiling package that was recently signed into law by President Obama creates a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction.  This committee is tasked with improving the short-term and long-term fiscal imbalance of the Federal Government by identifying at least $1.5 billion in additional cuts.

The creation of the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction makes three of our country’s most vital safety net programs - Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security - targets for cuts.  Such cuts would be highly unpopular with the public and would weaken the health of our social insurance programs at a moment when the economy is reeling.  

Congress needs to go on the record and state its intent to preserve America’s safety net and social insurance programs.  The Super Committee needs to prioritize the preservation of Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security and focus on finding a means of balancing the budget that doesn’t harm working families. 

If you would like to cosponsor H. Con. Res. 72, please contact Michael Darner in my office at

John Conyers, Jr.

Expressing the sense of Congress that any legislative language approved by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not reduce benefits for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid recipients.
Whereas S. 365, the `Budget Control Act of 2011', creates a Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction tasked with providing recommendations and legislative language that will significantly improve the short-term and long-term fiscal imbalance of the Federal Government;
Whereas large majorities of Americans want to address the deficit in a way that preserves Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security benefits;
Whereas the Medicare program reflects the Nation's commitment to the health and independence of older Americans and Americans with disabilities by providing health care coverage to 42 million people;
Whereas Medicare safeguards beneficiaries and their families from the ruinous costs of medical treatments and prevents individuals from spending unmanageable proportions of their incomes on medical care or being pushed into poverty by their medical bills;
Whereas Medicaid provides a safety net for both low-income and middle-class families who may have family members stricken with catastrophic illness or injury or face prolonged infirmity in old age;
Whereas cuts to Medicaid would severely impact low-income families and individuals with disabilities, and curtail access to critical services, including nursing home and community care services;
Whereas cuts to Medicaid would limit the program's ability to provide women without health care coverage with prenatal, maternity, and postnatal care and hamper the United States efforts to prevent infant and prenatal deaths;
Whereas Social Security provides essential financial support to almost 55 million people in the United States, including more than 35 million retired workers;
Whereas Social Security provides modest benefits averaging $14,000 per year for retired workers, based on contributions paid into Social Security over a worker's lifetime of employment;
Whereas Social Security can pay full benefits through 2035;
Whereas Social Security has no borrowing authority, currently has $2.7 trillion in accumulated assets, and, therefore, does not contribute to the Federal budget deficit; and
Whereas the citizens of the United States deserve thoughtful and fair Social Security reform to protect current and future benefits and to ensure ongoing retirement security for seniors, protections for persons who become disabled, and benefits for the young children and spouses of deceased and disabled workers: Now, therefore, be it
Resolved by the House of Representatives (the Senate concurring), That it is the sense of Congress that—

(1)    any deficit reduction plan put forward by the Joint Select Committee on Deficit Reduction should not balance the budget by eroding America's hard-earned retirement plan and social safety net;

(2)    Medicare's ability to deliver high quality health care in a cost-efficient manner should be strengthened and its benefits should be preserved for current and future retirees;

(3)    appropriate reform to strengthen Social Security's long-term outlook should ensure that Social Security remains a critical source of protection for the people of the United States and their families without further increasing the retirement age or otherwise decreasing benefits; and

(4)    Federal funding for the Medicaid program should be maintained so that senior citizens, poor and disabled children, and others with disabilities are able to gain and retain access to affordable health care.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

What Happened to Obama’s Passion? -

From Drew Westen's Op-Ed: "Like most Americans, at this point, I have no idea what Barack Obama — and by extension the party he leads — believes on virtually any issue. The president tells us he prefers a “balanced” approach to deficit reduction, one that weds “revenue enhancements” (a weak way of describing popular taxes on the rich and big corporations that are evading them) with “entitlement cuts” (an equally poor choice of words that implies that people who’ve worked their whole lives are looking for handouts). But the law he just signed includes only the cuts. This pattern of presenting inconsistent positions with no apparent recognition of their incoherence is another hallmark of this president’s storytelling. He announces in a speech on energy and climate change that we need to expand offshore oil drilling and coal production — two methods of obtaining fuels that contribute to the extreme weather Americans are now seeing. He supports a health care law that will use Medicaid to insure about 15 million more Americans and then endorses a budget plan that, through cuts to state budgets, will most likely decimate Medicaid and other essential programs for children, senior citizens and people who are vulnerable by virtue of disabilities or an economy that is getting weaker by the day. He gives a major speech on immigration reform after deporting a million immigrants in two years, breaking up families at a pace George W. Bush could never rival in all his years as president." What Happened to Obama’s Passion? -

And this is only a partial list of inconsistencies and doublespeak...

Monday, August 1, 2011

Bad Policy, Bad Process, Bad Faith -- Bad Deal

The Debt Deal certainly is better than the Boehner Bill, and better still than the Tea Party favorite, the Cut, Cap, and Balance bill.  But it is nonetheless bad policy, bad process, and bad faith. Arbitrary spending caps and across-the-board spending cuts are lazy, wicked, and destructive mechanisms that disguise glacial policy change. The proposed Super Committee and its fast-tracked decisions are anti-democratic and irresponsible -- both procedurally and substantively -- delegating plenary legislative authority from the many to the few.

The losers in this deal are the people -- especially the poor, the elderly, the medically vulnerable, and the jobless. This debt deal should put an end to Democratic excuse-making for President Obama's failure to end the jobs crisis and his willingness to put the social safety net at risk. In this debt deal, we have a Democratic President serving up to slaughter Medicare, Social Security, and Medicaid -- by the Super Committee, whose work must be approved as-is if across-the-board spending cuts or another default crisis are to be averted.

While the deal does not target Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security for immediate cuts, it does offer up Medicare for across-the-board cuts should the Super Committee fail to report a deficit reduction package, should the Congress reject it, or should the Congress kill a Balanced Budget Amendment. The White House says Medicare cuts will affect providers, not beneficiaries. But in the absence of Medicare-for-All or some other single payer system, cuts to Medicare providers inevitably will impose costs on beneficiaries, increasing numbers of providers who refuse to treat Medicare patients.

    Social Security and Medicaid are to be exempted from across-the-board cuts triggered by failure of the Super Committee.  But before we even get to across-the-board cuts, the Super Committee will be empowered to cut ("reform") Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid as part of its deficit reduction package.  

    This morning, a White House official reportedly lamented that some Democrats just don't see the need to reduce the deficit.  What a sad day when a Democratic White House snidely condemns policy makers who express legitimate dismay at a deal that will spread poverty and economic insecurity."