New Agreement Would Advance Healthcare, Tax Justice, and Climate Protections
August 1, 2022
On Wednesday, July 27, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Senator Joe Manchin (D-WV) issued a joint statement announcing an agreement on moving the fiscal year 2022 budget reconciliation process forward. This announcement was welcome after months of ups and downs in Senate negotiations since the House passed its budget reconciliation package last fall.
This new bill—the Inflation Reduction Act—addresses tax reform, prescription drug reform and healthcare costs, as well as climate change. If passed, this bill would be a huge accomplishment by beginning to require the wealthy and corporations to pay their fair share of taxes, while tackling the long-standing crises of healthcare costs and climate change.
Key tax provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:
- $313 billion in revenue raised from a 15% corporate minimum tax. This is critical to ensure that wealthy corporations pay taxes.
- $124 billion in revenue raised from better IRS tax enforcement. This provides the IRS with money to improve customer service systems as well as ensuring the wealthy pay what they owe.
- $14 billion in revenue raised from closing the carried interest loophole.
Key healthcare provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:
- Prescription Drug Pricing: The legislation empowers Medicare to negotiate prescription drug prices directly, ensuring that seniors get better deals on their medications, and caps Medicare beneficiaries’ out-of-pocket costs for drugs at $2,000 per year.
- ACA Premium Tax Credits: The Inflation Reduction Act extends enhanced Affordable Care Act premium tax credits for the next three years to enable working families and individuals support to pay for insurance through the exchange.
Key climate provisions in the Inflation Reduction Act include:
- Incentives for Consumers to Go Green: The legislation provides money for home energy rebates, consumer tax credits for energy-efficient homes and vehicles, and grants to make affordable housing more energy efficient. These measures would help reduce energy costs for families by more than 10% on average.
Unfortunately, this package leaves out high-level policy priorities for us at NETWORK including Medicaid expansion, paid leave, funding for affordable housing, expanding the Child Tax Credit, and more. However, given the political and time constraints, this bill will do a lot to advance economic justice and address other problems in healthcare and climate.
No Republican Senators support this bill, and one Senator, Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), is the only Democratic member who has not yet expressed her full support for the bill. Democrats need all 50 members of their caucus to vote “yes” to pass the legislation. Senate Democratic leadership is planning a vote on this package later this week.
We suffer when Congress fails to address the crises facing people and our planet
President Biden’s ‘Build Back Better Act’ would have reversed 40 years of trickle-down tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations, provided funds for healthcare, eased financial barriers to childcare and early education, invested in wildfire prevention and drought relief efforts, and more. The House passed the BBB plan, but the Senate did not.
Instead of taking moral action, the Senate prioritized the wealthy and corporations over the people and communities that would have benefited from the jobs and equitable access to life-giving resources that the transformative legislation would have provided.
Who would have benefited from BBB? Working people, school-aged children, Black and Brown people, tax payers, rural communities, the climate and ecological concerns, Tribal lands and citizens, college students, immigrants…all of us. Congress is in the final days of budget reconciliation negotiations for less impactful, piecemeal solutions as an alternative to BBB.
We lament the investments in affordable housing, support for children and families, and efforts to combat climate change missing from the budget reconciliation package. It is shameful that our country will suffer as a result of Congress’s moral failure. Join your lament with ours and sign the petition to lament the loss of transformative policy.
We invite you to sign our petition
Laudato Si Week Calls Us To Advocate For Our Whole Community
May 27, 2022
This is part three in a three part reflection on Laudato Si Week, which is May 22-29, celebrates the anniversary of Pope Francis’ encyclical on integral ecology and care for creation by inviting all people of goodwill and prayer and study to on how they can tackle the climate crisis.
The Catholic tradition affirms this interrelationality and calls us to honor our interdependence in holistic, grounded, ecological communities. One of the key principles of Catholic Social Justice is “Care for Creation.” In addition to conserving the Earth and curbing climate change, this principle calls us to critically examine how we live — how we encounter and treat living, breathing bodies and how we understand ourselves and what we need to live well.
This means reflectively asking ourselves: What does it mean to live in ecological community?
Luckily, ecological community exists all around us – in the interactions between plants and animals (including humans) outside your window, for example, but also among humans anytime we help one another and work for our mutual flourishing. Alternatives to the alienation of our present structures are already in practice, modeled by those who choose, as best they can within damaging systems, to live out ecological harmony. Through even small acts of connection, we participate in our common ecosystem life, and thereby resist systems of destruction and disconnection.
Promoting ecological justice policies, especially as they arise in NETWORK’s Build Anew agenda, embody Catholic Social Justice in their care for the earth and its inhabitants. These policies include ending fossil fuel tax subsidies, guaranteeing clean, safe drinking water as a right in all communities, updating water infrastructure and protecting watersheds, restoring ecosystems, instituting widespread renewable energy access, and developing other green infrastructure and natural solutions. They include curbing the ongoing conversion and destructive development of land (especially Native lands), and supporting green economies, localized agriculture, and responsible and integrated land stewardship.
As we enact other social and economic policies, we have a responsibility to make equitable ecological impact a key consideration. Dr. Kate Ward writes that in a just economy, “The environmental costs of economic production, which impact human health and livelihood, would be borne equitably when they cannot be eliminated.”
The same goes for environmental benefits, which we must equitably share. Our economic restructuring, including with the recovery package, must center ecological impact while prioritizing equity and community needs – because protecting the most vulnerable communities necessarily means protecting the land, air, and water on which they depend.
But above all, we are called to adopt an integral ecological orientation in our advocacy work and in the way we envision a just society. This means taking an ecosystems-view: highlighting our interrelationality, rooting more deeply in the land, and working from and in communities to conserve and promote mutual flourishing. It means taking seriously our interdependence with and embeddedness in all of creation, and letting that realization transform our politics.
Additionally, we can never discuss ecological justice without speaking of colonialism. Colonialism operates in large part via the stealing and destruction of the lands, waters, and wildlife on which Indigenous peoples’ livelihoods and cultures depend. Native Americans and First Nations peoples have sustainably inhabited and skillfully stewarded North America for millennia. It is impossible to truly respect and honor Native communities without also respecting and honoring their rights to land access, inhabitation, protection, and stewardship. Ecological justice means ensuring that economic development does not further burden Native communities with environmental destruction, and that our policies cease the ongoing usurpation and poisoning of Native lands.
Regardless of our issue area or community role, we are called to see that building thriving communities requires not domination over but harmony with the Earth. Because in an ecological sense, justice means the fullness of all God’s holy creation in integrated community.
Virginia Schilder, a graduate student attending divinity school in Massachusetts, completed a one-year fellowship with NETWORK’s Communications team in early May 2022.
Unnecessary and Harmful: The Security Bars and Processing Rule
February 17, 2022
While the preposterous Title 42 expulsion policy and ‘Remain in Mexico’ policy continue at the border, we are very concerned that the Biden Administration would install yet another Trump Era policy – Security Bars and Processing Rule.
In December 2020, one of the Trump Administration’s last acts on immigration was to propose the Security Bars and Processing Rule to go into effect in 2021. This rule would label asylum seekers a “danger to the national security of the United States” merely because they transited through or come from a country with a communicable disease, or exhibit symptoms “consistent with” such disease. This is ANY communicable disease ranging from the flu, to cholera, to HIV AIDS — not just COVID-19. Under the rule, covered asylum seekers would be barred from refugee protection in the United States. Which violates both U.S. law and international treaty obligations; all but ensuring their deportation to persecution or torture.
The Biden administration extended the period of comment in 2021 so that it didn’t go into effect then. However, now it is closing the comment period on February 28th, and advocates fear that the administration will then work to make the rule permanent.
A plethora of experts have already highlighted grave concerns that this rule is both fatally flawed and “xenophobia masquerading as a public health measure.” In their comments leading public health experts, including at the Columbia Mailman School of Public Health and Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and School of Nursing, found no public health justification for this sweeping ban. In a comment submitted by Physicians for Human Rights, Dr. Monik Jiménez of Harvard Medical School concluded that the targeting and classification of asylum seekers as a public health threat is “not based on sound epidemiological evidence.” Médecins Sans Frontières/Doctors Without Borders, a humanitarian organization with 50-years’ experience responding to disease outbreaks, characterized the rule as “counterproductive” and noted that “public health measures work best when they are inclusive. They fail when vulnerable people, like migrants and asylum seekers, are excluded.”
As the African Human Rights Coalition commented, the rule “exacerbates racist tropes and myths of immigrants as carriers of disease.” Deeply rooted in eugenics, this ideology echoes throughout this rule. Many LGBTQ groups and HIV advocacy and treatment organizations also expressed alarm that the rule, similar to the discriminatory immigration ban on individuals living with HIV that was finally lifted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in 2010, would discriminate “against individuals on the basis of immigration status [and the] countries in which the person has lived or traveled” and would put particularly vulnerable populations such as “women, people from the LGBTQ+ community, and people from ethnic or religious minorities at risk.”
The rule violates U.S. law and treaty obligations, including those adopted by Congress through its passage of the Refugee Act of 1980. The Congressional Hispanic Caucus stressed in its comment that the rule would have “devastating and senseless consequences” for asylum seekers and violate the clear intent of Congress, “reiterated over and over for four decades,” “that the United States provide a meaningful and fair path to protection for those fleeing persecution.” The American Bar Association and the Round Table of Former Immigration Judges, a bipartisan group of dozens of former immigration judges, similarly objected to the rule as inconsistent with domestic and international law.
We urge the administration to withdraw this unjustifiable, illegal, and harmful rule. The Departments have repeatedly paused the rule’s implementation due to ongoing litigation against a related regulation and as they are “reviewing and reconsidering” the rule and “whether to modify or rescind” it. The Departments now request comment on whether to further delay implementation. Ample time to study the legality and impact this baseless ban would have on asylum seekers has already elapsed. There is no need for additional delay. The administration can and must swiftly and completely rescind the rule.
President Biden Acts to Rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement
January 21, 2021
On the first day of the Biden-Harris administration, President Biden signed an executive order to rejoin the Paris Climate Agreement. This order reversed the 2017 Trump administration’s withdrawal from the Paris Climate Agreement. As NPR reports, “It will take 30 days for the U.S. to officially rejoin the agreement, but meeting its targets is going to be a taller order. The U.S. is the second-largest producer of carbon emissions, behind China, and has contributed more to global climate change over time than any other country.”
We at NETWORK applaud the Biden administration’s commitment to global solidarity, reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and confronting the realities of climate change. As Pope Francis says in his encyclical Laudato Si’, “Climate change is a global problem with grave implications: environmental, social, economic, political and for the distribution of goods. It represents one of the principal challenges facing humanity in our day.” (Paragraph 25)
We know that humans are intimately connected with all life on earth. Recent reports show that the global climate crisis has and will continue to disproportionately affect the most vulnerable unless bold action is taken. We look forward to working with the Biden administration to support bold actions that deepen our care for the Earth and for one another.
Voices from the Sunrise Movement: Local Activism Against the Mariner East Pipeline
February 12, 2019
I met two-year-old Brooke and four-year-old Jack in late June of 2018 on a scorching 91 degree summer day in Exton, Pennsylvania. Their bubbly laughs brought out the big sister in me and we chased each other around the yard. Then Danielle, their mom, and neighbor Ginny walked me and my housemates over to what I was really there to see. Not even 100 feet from where my game with Jack and Brooke had taken place, rows of endlessly long, beige sections of pipe lay in a fenced off strip of land, the pipes bending slightly as they sloped down the hill.
Ginny explained this was the Mariner East Pipeline Project, which included refurbishing a petroleum pipeline from the 1930s and the addition of two more pipes running across the state of Pennsylvania. Sunoco and Energy Transfer Partners poured over $4 billion into this project that was now years behind schedule due to painful, avoidable complications.
Sinkholes formed inches from people’s homes, an underground freshwater aquifer that 15 houses relied on for clean drinking water was destroyed, and the soil, water table, and acres of natural land cleared for the job were damaged beyond repair. Ginny, a geologist by training, had been involved in the growing community of pipeline opposition since the beginning.
Danielle and Ginny met at a community meeting and became active in the Mariner East Resistance. It didn’t take long for Danielle to decide to run for Pennsylvania State Representative, to protect her children, her home, and the safety and dignity of her community being threatened by natural gas companies and corrupt politicians.
I was a native of the Philly suburbs just 40 minutes from Mariner East, hearing all of this for the first time. For years I lived and went to school 40 minutes from the pipeline intended to carry ethane, butane, and propane: three extremely volatile natural gas liquids undetectable if leaked, and terrifyingly easy to ignite. Danielle made the decision to run for office look easy; no one was standing up for her community, so she decided to do it herself.
For the next six months I lived with five other 20-somethings in subsidized housing and volunteered full-time to win Danielle’s election as a state representative. We learned together through countless conversations what Danielle’s community cared about. We listened to pipeline workers and NRA members, conservatives, liberals, independents, indignant non-voters, and everyone in between. We spent hours and hours with Danielle and Ginny combing the suburbs of southeastern PA, our shared mission coursing through my veins like fire, grounding me in purpose even when doors were slammed in my face.
One of the most humbling and rewarding moments of my time in Downingtown, PA was the night my housemates and I attended the public risk assessment presentation at one of the local high schools. The pipeline companies and the Pennsylvania Utilities Commission (PUC) had refused and ignored requests for a state environmental risk assessment, so the community members fighting for their lives decided to do it themselves. We walked in to the high school auditorium and immediately saw our friends from Food and Water Watch, gave hugs to the folks who recently were released from jail after our protest on the pipeline easement, shook hands with local state candidates, caught up with Danielle and Ginny, and beckoned the mayor of Downingtown to come sit by us. Over two hundred people filled the room and we never stopped catching the eye of someone we knew, worked with, or otherwise recognized. The community effort behind stopping Mariner East finally had a face. The cause for which many in the room had put their lives on hold or even at risk felt strong, capable, and worthwhile.
On November 6, Danielle Friel Otten won the election by 3,000 votes. My team of six 20-somethings had identified 5,000 supporters while knocking on doors – the margin of victory.
We successfully got a non-career politician, woman, activist, community leader into the Pennsylvania House of Representatives to replace an incumbent who had failed to represent his constituents’ best interests. Since then, Chester County launched a criminal investigation into the construction of Mariner East, while the PUC and Sonoco quietly opened the pipelines and began the transportation of the lethal natural gas liquids.
I don’t know what the future holds for Chester County’s safety at this point. Right now it feels a lot like trying to stop a powerful tidal wave. On the other hand, in lots of ways, we won. We met and inspired students at West Chester University, registered first-time voters, and rallied with thousands of people in DC, demanding a Green New Deal. The word “politician” has become a cringe-inducing word, but the woman I helped into that position exemplifies everything the job is meant to be. We, the people, the children, and the fighters of PA-144, are not up against our elected official anymore to build a world of justice and love. Finally, I witnessed honest representation, massive grassroots victory, and a growing hope for a future where true democracy reigns.
Olivia Freiwald grew up outside of Philadelphia and is now a sophomore at Tufts University studying Climate Organizing and Sustainable Development. Olivia was a fellow with the Sunrise Movement from June-November 2018, living and working full-time in Downingtown, Pennsylvania, and continues her involvement with Sunrise while in school.
Feature photo from Waging Nonviolence.
Faces of our Spirit-Filled Network: Fr. Terry Moran
Fr. Terry Moran
July 10, 2018
Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.
I am a Catholic priest, an associate of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace, and currently minister as the Director of the Office of Peace, Justice, and Ecological Integrity for the Sisters of Charity of Saint Elizabeth, a congregation of women religious, mostly in New Jersey, with some sisters in other states and in Haiti and El Salvador.
How did you first learn about NETWORK and what inspired you to get involved?
I remember when NETWORK was founded and the excitement it generated in sisters who were friends of mine. NETWORK incarnated what we were talking about in theology after Vatican II – that the gospel compelled us to become involved in the political process, to build on our history of direct service by engaging in structural change.
What issue area are you most passionate about?
Climate change and learning how to foster a healthier human/Earth relationship is my greatest passion. Any other social issue is contingent on us facing the climate crisis. There can be no just human society on a dying planet.
How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?
In as many ways as possible: I send out regular action alerts on issues that are important to us; a monthly e-newsletter called JustLove; two ecospirituality groups that meet monthly; regular workshops and talks; a Facebook page; recently I distributed a refrigerator magnet with a graphic of our Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation (JPIC) priority issues so that the sisters think about them as they get their morning orange juice.
How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?
I come from a family in which political engagement was an important value so there’s a restlessness in my genes for a world that is more just, peaceful, and verdant.
How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?
My religious formation was in the early post-Vatican II days when “a faith that does justice” was shaking our sleepy 1950’s Catholicism. I’m very happy that Pope Francis is putting the social agenda of the gospel front and center again. I think his encyclical Laudato Si’ is the most compelling program available today for where the world needs to go.
Who is your role model?
Two people that are daily inspirations for me: Margaret Anna Cusack, the founder of the Sisters of Saint Joseph of Peace –the community of which I’m an associate. She was a 19th century Irish social justice advocate and prolific writer who drove bishops crazy. Her book Women’s Work in Modern Society (1875) was among the first to explore the role of women in economic life. I love her quote, “People make a lot of the sufferings of the Desert Fathers but they were nothing compared to the sufferings of the mothers of the 19th century.”
Another is Daniel Berrigan, SJ, who has been a mentor for me since I first met him on his release from prison in my hometown, Danbury, CT in 1972. His contemplative searching of the scriptures that led to a life of resistance to war has been a life-long model for me.
Right now, I am most inspired by my seven friends of the Kings Bay Plowshares action who entered the largest Trident submarine base in the world on April 4, 2018 and enacted the prophecy of Isaiah 2 by hammering and pouring blood on these instruments of mass destruction. I have their photo on my desk and often turn to it in the course of the day in gratitude and prayer. Their willingness to put their own lives and plans on hold and to risk prison for the sake of the gospel of non-violent resistance is tremendously inspiring to me.
Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?
“The world is violent and mercurial–it will have its way with you. We are saved only by love–love for each other and the love that we pour into the art we feel compelled to share: being a parent; being a writer; being a painter; being a friend. We live in a perpetually burning building, and what we must save from it, all the time, is love.”– Tennessee Williams
What social movement has inspired you?
Growing up in the 60’s, I’ve been deeply formed by my involvement in the peace movement and the women’s movement. I remember participating in the first Earth Day in 1970. Most recently I’m very inspired by Black Lives Matter, the leadership taken by young people against gun violence, and the work of an organization of Dreamers called Cosecha who are risking their own safety for dignity for all the undocumented.
What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?
That I haven’t lost my mind and have been able to keep going in the vile political climate in which we live.
What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?
Starting an organic garden on our motherhouse property. There is something healing about getting your hands in the dirt. Also working with a local organization to welcome a third refugee family.
Caring for Our Gift
April 20, 2018
“We have forgotten that we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies are made up of her elements, we breathe her air and we receive life and refreshment from her waters.” -Pope Francis, Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home.
To me, these words from Pope Francis’s 2015 encyclical Laudato Si: On Care for Our Common Home encompass the importance of incorporating environmental care and justice into faith. We are of the earth; we are made from the earth; we depend on the earth. In forgetting this, we lose sight of our duty and responsibility to care for the gift of earth which sustains us.
The first Earth Day in the United States on April 22, 1970 brought the idea of care of creation into the mainstream. When we celebrate Earth Day this year, we continue the fight to be responsible stewards of our home while also recognizing the additional issues into which environmental justice reaches. We cannot discuss responsible environmental care without acknowledging how environmental degradation first and foremost impacts those with the least privilege. This degradation is especially unjust because those contributing the most to it are the privileged of the world. Recognizing the connection between environmental justice and human justice brings new meaning to Jesus’s words, “Whatever you do to the least of my people, you do to me.” If we contribute to environmental degradation and allow disrespect toward our environment, we are hurting the most vulnerable among us and therefore the very Being who gifted us this Earth.
Viewing care of creation through the lens of Catholic Social Justice makes it clear that this is an issue of justice we should be fully invested in. This is not an issue of political persuasion, but a component of human and environmental dignity that Catholics and non-Catholics alike should fight for. Unfortunately, today there are powerful individuals who claim to speak from a place of Christian morality while simultaneously expressing disdain toward the idea of environmental justice. The profession of respect for life and humanity these influencers make falls woefully short when it does not include clean water, air, and soil for every person on this earth. As fellow Christians, we must remind these individuals, and ourselves, that care of creation is a central component of our belief system.
Although working towards environmental justice can feel like a daunting challenge, for me it is a straightforward effort at its core. Care for creation simply means respect for our earth and by extension ourselves. We are a part of the earth, “we ourselves are dust of the earth; our very bodies made of her elements,” and we are stewards of humanity and the Earth. Let us become the stewards of our gift we are meant to be. Let us make our Creator, our Giver, proud.
Hannah Mullally is currently pursuing her Master’s of Science in Wildlife and Fisheries at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She earned her Bachelor of Environmental Science from Creighton University in 2016. Hannah aspires to work for a conservation non-profit organization where she can communicate the importance of environmental stewardship to the public and work to conserve the beautiful natural places of our planet. She also hopes to integrate environmental justice into her conservation work and advocate for the right of all people to live in a healthy world. When she is not working on research or advocacy, Hannah takes advantage of living near the Great Smoky Mountains by hiking, backpacking, and biking.
Prioritizing Communities Recovering from Disasters
October 24, 2017
In the past few months, natural disasters have ripped away the homes of many of our sisters and brothers in Florida, Texas, Puerto Rico, U.S. Virgin Islands, and California. Folks were left with limited time, just minutes in California, to pack up and flee to safety and are now returning to destroyed homes with few options. On conference calls with our housing partners working on the ground, I hear week after week about families in Puerto Rico going without electricity and clean water, and elderly folks in nursing homes in hurricane affected areas going without air conditioning. In Texas, people lined up overnight for D-SNAP (food stamps for those in disaster areas) only to be turned away for lack of identification. In Florida, low-income families and individuals were unable to afford the high cost of resort fees that came in addition to their FEMA hotel vouchers.
While these crises have unfolded, Congress moved quickly to pass the first of two supplemental disaster spending bills, and for this we are grateful. Right after Hurricane Harvey hit Texas in September, Congress passed a $15 billion aid package. This week, the House passed a $36.5 billion bill that is waiting to be voted on in the Senate. While this is a great start, it really is simply putting a Band-Aid on a much bigger problem. Experts expect more money will be needed down the road: Puerto Rico hasn’t been able to have damage assessments done to know how much money is needed, Texas alone has asked for $18 billion for recovery, and with wildfires still raging in California, the extent of the damage is not known.
So with this going on, and millions of people displaced, what has Congress decided to prioritize between now and the end of the year? Cutting taxes for the wealthiest corporations and individuals– a bill that would increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion– while also cutting crucial services for those most vulnerable. The budget plan voted on by Congress would be especially damaging for those affected by recent natural disasters, as it is focused on cutting crucial services for those most vulnerable, including SNAP and housing benefits, such as Section 8 vouchers. The tax bill that will quickly follow the budget, will add to our deficit by cutting taxes for the richest among us and corporations, while failing to supply any additional money to disaster relief and recovery.
As a person of faith, I think this is wrong. The need to care for the most vulnerable among us must take priority, and especially should not be neglected at the expense of tax cuts for the wealthiest. And while Congress has been bickering over the tax “reform” plan, many people in Puerto Rico are still without power and clean water, people in Texas and Florida are without stable, long-term shelter, and people in California are without entire cities. Our elected officials must do better to truly care for the most vulnerable among us.