Thanksgiving Week, 2017

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

The first Thanksgiving can be traced either to 1607 in Virginia, or to the Plymouth Plantation in 1621, where English settlers, the first immigrants, held a feast with welcoming natives to offer thanks for a successful harvest.

Now it’s our turn, so in this extraordinary year, 2017, I’m giving thanks for the following.

  • The friend who called a year ago to ask, “Do you want to march with me in January?” and also for the men and women to whom we extended the invitation who answered, “Count me in!” without a pause;
  • Family members who held down the fort, ordered the takeout, fed and walked the dog, cheered the marchers from home, and recorded the TV coverage, so we could later see the global energy of that day;
  • The men and women we’ve encountered this year who have shown the energy that can’t and won’t be held back, a “Yes, we can!” attitude so palpable and hopeful that remembering it lifts us again and again;
  • New friendships we’ve made in the network of common purpose–embracing, celebrating, and saving the institutions and services vital to our democracy;
  • The intelligent, capable, passionate speakers, who informed and engaged us at meetings and rallies;
  • Sister organizations with whom we’ve joined to build a louder and stronger political voice;
  • Community members who have opened their doors in friendship so that none of us is a stranger here;
  • Elected representatives who listen to constituents, who have tried to find solutions to benefit all of us;
  • The candidates who choose to leave their comfortable professions and homes to run for public office and make a difference in our communities; and
  • The Virginia voters who showed us how to flip seats to create a more accurate, more diverse, and stronger representation for the 21st century.

For these and so much more, I am thankful.

 


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.

Republican Tax Bill Up for Vote Any Day Now

By Janice Podolski, ACE Health, Education, and Welfare Team Member

 

Here we go again. The Republicans passed their budget resolution that cut $1.5 Billion from Medicare and Medicaid, dealing a blow to the elderly, the poor, and the sickest. Now they plan to pass their tax reform bill, officially called the “Tax Cuts and Jobs Act,” using the “Reconciliation” process that will only require fifty-one votes in the Senate. Vice President Mike Pence will be the tie-breaking vote.

Sound familiar?

It’s the same process the GOP used to try to pass their “Better Health Care Act,” which was meant to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act earlier this year, but, this time, they may actually win.

The House and Senate both are working on their own versions of the Tax Bill. Reportedly, House Speaker Paul Ryan believes he has the 218 votes needed to pass the House version of the Tax Bill, and he plans to bring it to the floor for a vote possibly on Thursday, November 16. If it passes, and the Senate approves their version of the bill, they will use a committee to reconcile the two bills into a single “Reconciliation” bill. If a reconciled bill passes both the Senate and House, it will move onto the president for his signature. President Trump wants this done before Christmas as his gift to his base and doesn’t seem to care what is really in it.

The House version eliminates the Major Medical Expense deduction, which allows taxpayers to deduct their unreimbursed allowable medical care expenses that exceed 10% of their adjusted gross income. The bill limits the deduction for property taxes to a maximum of $10,000 and on a primary home only. Only the interest on the first $500,000 borrowed to purchase a primary home would be deductible, and the bill eliminates deductions for interest on mortgages for second homes and home equity loans.

It also ends the deductions for income or sales taxes, as well as deductions for the interest on student loans. Teachers would no longer be able to deduct the cost of supplies they buy for their classrooms. The deduction for losses from floods, fires, or tornadoes that exceed 10% of the taxpayer’s adjusted gross income would be repealed. And there are many, many more cuts, eliminations, and repeals of deductions.

This bill hits the middle class hard.

Interestingly, the House Ways and Means Committee, which is the step before a bill goes to the House floor for a vote, approved a provision in this Tax Bill to do away with the “Johnson Amendment” of 1954 that forbids non-profit charities [501(c)(3)s], including churches, from endorsing political candidates.

Just think—when you open your next church bulletin or solicitation for your favorite charity you could see a line urging you to vote for Peter Roskam or other candidate(s).

The Senate is still “marking up” its version. And there are many differences, but you get the gist. Just today, the Senate has decided to include a repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s mandate that requires everyone to have health insurance.

They keep trying to repeal the Affordable Care Act bit by bit even if they have to try to hide it in a Tax Cut Bill. The plan is for the House Republicans to go first to try to push their version of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act through the House. Then the Senate will get their version through the Senate Finance Committee, which is the step before it goes to the floor of the Senate for a vote.

And so, the rollercoaster ride begins anew. Let’s hope it is at least that and not a slam-dunk that hurts the poor, the elderly, and the middle class while benefitting only the very wealthy and corporations.

We learned during the Reagan administration that “trickle-down economics” just does not work. Guess the Republicans didn’t get that memo.

Call your Congressmembers, whether Republican or Democrat, and voice your concerns regarding the Tax Cuts and Jobs Bill. And it is not too soon to voice encouragement for Senators Durbin (202-224-2152) and Duckworth (202-224-2854) to stand up for the people of Illinois in this fight.

 

Sources: The Washington Post, the Chicago Sun-Times, Politico, MSN News, and The Hill.

 


ACE Health, Education, and Welfare Team Member Janice Podolski is a retired faculty member from the Department of Pharmacology at Rush University Medical Center in Chicago. She was a registered nurse for fifty years and has a master’s degree in Nursing and Ph.D. in Physiology. She volunteers at Loaves & Fishes Community Services and with PADS in DuPage County. 

‘Equal Means Equal’ Illustrates Why We Need the ERA

 

By Beverly George, ACE Leader

 

“Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any state on account of sex.”

I went to see the documentary film, “Equal Means Equal,” last Wednesday night, presented by the League of Women Voters (LWV), Naperville and Will County chapters, at the Naperville Municipal Center.

This film is about the yet-to-be-ratified-and-only-two-states-away Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), and why passing it now should be foremost in the collective minds of American women and men.

Bonnie Grabenhofer from the National Organization for Women (NOW) and Michelle Fadeley of Illinois-NOW spoke before the film and offered a history of the amendment and its current status in the Illinois House and Senate. Nevada was the thirty-sixth state to ratify the ERA last March, and Illinois is one of the two states needed that hasn’t passed it yet, but remains one of the best chances for ratification. If Illinois passes it, there is a strong hope and belief that either Virginia, North Carolina, or Florida would be the thirty-eighth, and last required ratifying state.

What can we do right now to facilitate ratification in Illinois? Write or call your state senator and representative and urge them to ratify the ERA when it comes up for a vote in the next two weeks or in March after the primary.

 

‘What can we do right now to facilitate ratification in Illinois?
Write or call your state senator and representative and urge them to ratify the ERA when it comes up for a vote in the next two weeks or in March after the primary.’

 

The film covered more than the history of the ERA. It built a strong argument for it based on the unequal treatment of women in America that hasn’t stopped since Thomas Jefferson took pen in hand to write the familiar words of “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights . . .”

In 1972, the Equal Rights Amendment handily passed both the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, Richard Nixon quickly signed it, and on March 22, 1972, the amendment was sent to the states for ratification. Deadlines to get thirty-eight states to ratify were extended several times to 1982. See the national map here. Although taking several decades to be passed, the ERA should not have to start the ratification process over again, based on the historic precedent of the Madison amendment, which took 202 years to be ratified. It was submitted in 1789 and ratified in 1992.

Back in 1982, when it failed to get the required thirty-eight (it hit a wall at 35), new arguments had been raised and drowned it out, namely that women would be better off with individual laws passed to protect specific rights. But we know from recent laws, such as the Affordable Care Act and laws regulating power plant emissions, they are subject to subsequent administrations being on board with, or the Supreme Court interpreting said laws to function as they were intended.

In these political times, that’s not likely to happen. It is mandatory the ERA be a ratified constitutional amendment if we want to secure for women their equal rights under the law. Women were chattel then, and in many ways, we still are.

 

‘Women were chattel then, and in many ways, we still are.’

 

 

Health care plans for women typically come with premiums higher by 13%.

Women who defend themselves from sexual or physical abuse from their husbands very often go to prison. The argument of self-defense is weaker than the argument that a husband has a “right” to sexual relations. These women are often beaten into submission.

Sexual abuse and harassment is about power, whether in the home or in the workplace. Consider the taped bragging of President Donald Trump when he yammered on with Billy Bush on “Access Hollywood.” His wealth gave him power to grope women for his amusement, pleasure, and affirmation of power. A more recent example is Harvey Weinstein. He was exercising his power over women’s acting careers for his amusement, pleasure, and affirmation of power. Let the recent fortissimo #MeToo refrain play on.

Child sex trafficking in the United States affects young girls far more often than young boys. A case highlighted in the film centered on a 12-year-old girl who ran away from home and within three days, fell into the hands of a pimp who put her on the streets as a prostitute. When a 47-year-old male was apprehended with her, and because money had changed hands for sexual favors, the legal principle against an adult sexually assaulting a minor went out the window, and girl was charged with the act of prostitution and ultimately sentenced to jail for several years, while the 47-year-old male paid a nominal fine. If the circumstances of the crime and arrest had featured the 47-year-old male with a 12-year-old boy, would the outcome have been the same?

The documentary also covers the need for equal pay for equal work, known as the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The difficulty with lawsuits that claim discrimination in the workplace based on sex is the need to establish or prove intent to discriminate. These cases are not judged on a preponderance of evidence, which is easier to prove.

If you haven’t seen the documentary, I encourage you to see it ASAP. It’s showing at several LWV meetings around the suburbs. Check screening dates and times at http://equalmeansequal.com, and take your family, friends, and neighbors, male and female. Be aware that it is adult viewing.

One last word. All of us, women and men, need the Equal Rights Amendment in the Constitution. When General John Kelly held his press conference on October 19 defending Mr. Trump’s remarks to the widow of Sgt. La David Johnson, he went on to lament that when he was growing up, “Women were sacred, looked upon with great honor.”

My hope is that we not be held sacred nor put on a pedestal of honor. Just give us our equal rights under the Constitution, and we’ll take it from there.


ACE Leader Beverly George also is a member of Indivisible, the Naperville League of Women Voters, and the Citizens Climate Lobby. She also volunteers with her parish PADS group. A former chemist, George worked in clinical chemistry and hematology research at the Centers for Disease Control for six years and taught chemistry and freshman science at Naperville North High School for 20 years.