Category Archives: Policy Update

Interfaith Healthcare Coalition Urges a Vote on Alexander-Murray Bill

Interfaith Healthcare Coalition Urges a Vote on Alexander-Murray Bill

Lucas Allen
October 25, 2017

This week, NETWORK joined the Interfaith Healthcare Coalition in sending a letter to the Senate Majority and Minority leaders endorsing the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017 negotiated by Senators Alexander and Murray and urging Congress to pass it without delay. The full text of the letter can be read below or downloaded as a PDF:


Dear Majority Leader McConnell, Minority Leader Schumer, Chairman Alexander, and Ranking Member Murray:

We write to you as religious organizations, congregational denominations, and faith traditions about the need to take quick, bipartisan action to stabilize the individual health insurance market. Our scriptures affirm our moral responsibility to ensure all may live with dignity and the opportunity to recognize their full potential. Access to affordable, quality health care should not and cannot be a privilege; it is a requirement rooted in faith to protect the life and dignity of every person.

We are encouraged and supportive of the Bipartisan Health Care Stabilization Act of 2017 negotiated by Senators Alexander and Murray and urge Congress to pass it without delay.
Our faith communities appreciate the value of open dialogue across difference. It is past time for Congress to move away from the partisanship and divisiveness that has plagued this issue and instead move forward in a collaborative and bipartisan manner. The individual market and those who rely on it to purchase coverage are facing instability and rising premiums, and this bill can provide relief. We call on Congress to quickly pass this bill to:

  1. Continue the Cost Sharing Reduction payments for two years to help provide multi-year stability. These payments are crucial for stabilizing the marketplace and they help people with low incomes afford copayments, deductibles, and other health care expenses;
  2. Restore funding for ACA outreach, education, and enrollment; and
  3. Streamline the section 1332 state waiver process to give states meaningful flexibility while maintaining guardrails to protect low income people, those with serious health conditions, and other vulnerable populations.

While this bipartisan package does not address all our concerns regarding access to quality, affordable health care in this nation, it represents a necessary and constructive first step to address the immediate problems within the individual market. We urge you to pass it without delay and are praying for your success.

Sincerely,

American Muslim Health Professionals
Bread for the World
Disciples Center for Public Witness (Disciples of Christ)
Evangelical Lutheran Church in America
Faith that Heals Ministries, Tennessee Conference United Methodist Church
Franciscan Action Network
Friends Committee on National Legislation
Hadassah, The Women’s Zionist Organization of America, Inc.
Islamic Society of North America
Leadership Conference of Women Religious
Methodist Federation for Social Action
National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd
National Council of Churches
National Council of Jewish Women, Inc.
NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice
Pax Christi USA
PC(USA) Office of Public Witness
Sisters of Mercy of the Americas’ Institute Justice Team
Society of St. Vincent de Paul, National Council of the United States
The Episcopal Church
Union for Reform Judaism
Unitarian Universalist Association
Unitarian Universalist Women’s Federation
United Church of Christ, Justice and Witness Ministries
United Methodist Church – General Board of Church and Society

Prioritizing Communities Recovering from Disasters

Prioritizing Communities Recovering from Disasters

Kaitlin Brown

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.

President Trump and Speaker Ryan Craft Immoral Tax Plan

President Trump and Speaker Ryan Craft Immoral Tax Plan

GOP Tax Framework Would Provide Huge Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, Hurt Working Americans
Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 4, 2017

The Trump Administration and Republican Congressional leadership recently unveiled new principles for the upcoming tax debate titled “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.” Supporters of this framework have made big promises about protecting the middle class and promoting growth, but the plan fails to deliver on those promises.

The proposed cuts are simply not designed to benefit middle-income and low-income families. In fact, the plan actually calls for raising the tax rate for low income Americans, the only group to receive a tax increase. Huge benefits flow, instead, to those who are doing the best in our economy and need assistance least – wealthy Americans and multinational corporations. The Republican tax framework would lower tax rates and carve out new loopholes to accompany the significant array of tax shelters that already exist, allowing the wealthy and big corporations to continue using legal means to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. This is wrong for our nation.

Income and wealth inequality is one of the greatest social and moral challenges facing our country, and tax policy is a significant driver of that inequality. Increasingly, Americans are living in two starkly different economic realities – one that is thriving with access to good services and vibrant communities and one where people struggle to get by with little to no investment in their communities. Catholic Social Justice calls us to live in solidarity with each other as one community. Therefore, we have an obligation to ensure that our tax code generates reasonable revenue for responsible programs that support our community.

Catholic Social Justice also requires us to make a preferential option for those experiencing poverty. Prioritizing those with the greatest need must be done so that all are able to meet their basic needs and live in community. We can begin to mend the income and wealth gap by requiring everyone to pay their fair share of taxes. President Trump’s framework, if enacted, will expand the gap between those of living with ample means and those struggling to provide for their families.

Supporters of this tax plan claim that a “trickle down” approach will boost the economy and help American workers, but evidence suggests this is not the case. Today, corporate profits are near record highs and corporate taxes are at record lows. Many corporations pay little to nothing in taxes due to existing tax loopholes. While cutting U.S. corporate rates would make U.S. corporations more profitable, there is no evidence that these cuts would boost employment or wages for American workers. Further, while the effective federal tax rates for the bottom 80 percent of households have fallen dramatically since 1979, inequality persists. The key problem that Congress should focus on addressing for the middle class is near-stagnant pay.

The history of trickle down policies shows that huge tax cuts for the wealthy will increase the federal deficit and force cuts to vital programs that all Americans depend on.  Right now, Congress is considering two bills that provide a roadmap for the risks this tax plan presents.  The House is considering a budget resolution bill which would make huge tax cuts while slashing $4.4 trillion in spending over 10 years to entitlement programs including: Medicaid, Medicare, TANF, SNAP, SSI, college aid, and tax credits for low-income workers. It also cuts $1.3 trillion over 10 years in housing assistance, K-12 education, child care, and other programs. In this bill, 2027 funding for federal programs would drop to 44 percent below their FY 2010 levels, taking inflation into account – the lowest level since before the Great Depression.

The second bill, a budget resolution in the Senate, would allow for a loss of 1.5 trillion dollars in revenue loss over 10 years.  While this bill does not explicitly call for the same cuts outlined by the House, increasing the deficit now will enable Congress to call for entitlement cuts in the near future. We must act now to stop Congress from passing damaging budget resolutions and unjust tax legislation.

Time for Congress to Pass Legislation for Dreamers

Time for Congress to Pass Legislation for Dreamers

Mehreen Karim
September 18, 2017

In the wake of President Trump’s decision to rescind DACA, we must urge our members of Congress to pass legislation that will keep Dreamers safe. There is no time to waste while Congress navigates multiple bills concerning the fate of DACA recipients. After assessing the bills currently on the House and Senate floor, NETWORK has evaluated the varying implications of the Dream Act, the RAC Act, and the Bridge Act. Stay in the know about these legislative pieces:

BRIDGE Act

The BRIDGE Act is a House bill that provides a temporary extension of DACA’s protections. As the most conservative bill on the floor, the BRIDGE Act provides no pathway to citizenship, but legalizes DACA’s original protections for another three years. We at NETWORK support solutions to the danger Dreamers currently face, but we cannot let Congress place a Band-Aid of a bill on our deeply fractured immigration system. Dreamers deserve a permanent and long-term pathway to living a life of dignity in the U.S.

RAC Act

While the RAC Act provides similar pathways to citizenship as the Dream Act (described below), it narrows the pool of recipients by allowing only those who arrived before the age of 16 and have been in the U.S. for five years. They are granted paths to citizenship either through working, going to school, or joining armed services. However, these individuals must stay in conditional status for five years—no exception. In this aspect, the Dream Act proves more efficient in that Dreamers would be eligible for a green card after being in school or work for some time.

Dream Act

Unlike the RAC and BRIDGE Acts, which are solely House bills, both the Senate and House are looking at versions of the Dream Act. NETWORK places its full support behind the bipartisan Dream Act as it provides a long-term path to citizenship and safety for a much greater population of Dreamers. Both the RAC and Dream Act grant Dreamers conditional status, however, the Dream Act grants protection to anyone who’s been in the US since they’ve been 17 or younger and has lived here for four years. Better yet, Dreamers on conditional status can get green cards after they’ve been in college for a certain amount of time or have been employed for at least 75 percent of the time they’ve had a work permit.

SUCCEED Act

The SUCCEED Act is a new bill introduced in the Senate that would disadvantage Dreamers considerably more than previous proposals. The SUCCEED Act is a partisan bill that endangers Dreamers and their families instead of protecting them. In order to be eligible for the SUCCEED Act, participants must meet unfeasible requirements that inconvenience Dreamers in every aspect of their path to citizenship. Under the SUCCEED Act, a Dreamer would have to wait a total of 15 years to become a citizen—at the very least. Additionally, this bill imposes an arbitrary cap on Dreamers that have lived in America for more than 20 years. Even though these are the individuals with the deepest ties to their lives here, they would be subject to deportation. The SUCCEED Act widens the potential for families to be torn apart as it limits the ability of Dreamers to legally sponsor their family members for residency. Under this bill, Dreamers must have waited 10 years in conditional status before they attempt to sponsor family members for permanent residency. The SUCCEED Act and its cosponsors, Senators Thom Tillis (R-NC), James Lankford (R-OK), and Orrin Hatch (R-UT),  have no evidence nor intention of protecting Dreamers. Their partisan bill merely employs harsh provisions meant to cause difficulty and fear for Dreamers and their families.

Competing Healthcare Visions

Competing Healthcare Visions

Lucas Allen
September 15, 2017

On September 13, two visions of healthcare were on display in the U.S. Senate. Senators Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Dean Heller (R-NV), and Ron Johnson (R-WI) introduced yet another attempt to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which would take health coverage away from tens of millions of Americans by cutting Medicaid and ACA funding. On the same day, Senator Bernie Sanders (D-VT) and 16 Democratic cosponsors introduced “Medicare for all” legislation, which after a four year transition would create a national health insurance system that would cover all people in the U.S.

The Medicare for All Act of 2017 is an aspirational bill that reflects a moral vision of healthcare as a right, not a privilege or a consumer good available to those who can afford it. It would expand Medicare to all ages and broaden the benefits to include comprehensive vision and dental care with zero premiums, copays, and deductibles for all. With Republican majorities in the House and Senate opposing the bill, it has no chance of passage in the near future. As an organizing tool and a messaging bill, however, the bill is a welcome addition that shows one way our nation could guarantee quality, affordable healthcare for all.

The new ACA repeal proposal led by Senators Cassidy and Graham would do quite the opposite. Under the familiar guise of state flexibility, it would replace the ACA’s marketplace subsidies and Medicaid expansion funding with a shrinking block grant. In addition, it includes a per-capita cap on Medicaid that would increasingly cut the program over time. While it has not yet been analyzed by the Congressional Budget Office, it is likely that such deep cuts would cause millions to lose health coverage over time. After months of partisan repeal attempts have failed and given way to bipartisan conversations, this return to a harmful repeal proposal is unfortunate. The Cassidy Graham bill does not appear to have the votes to pass at this time, but it is important to remain vigilant.

With the number of uninsured Americans at an all-time low of 28.1 million, policies that would set us back and cause more to go uninsured are not acceptable. We must mend the gaps in access to healthcare so that everybody has access to the quality, affordable healthcare they need to thrive. As Pope Francis said, “health is not a consumer good, but a universal right, so access to health services cannot be a privilege.”  The Medicare for All Act reflects this moral vision of healthcare as a right, but the latest ACA repeal bill does not.

Trump Administration Announces ACA Funding Cuts

Trump Administration Announces ACA Funding Cuts

Lucas Allen
September 1, 2017

On August 31, the Trump administration announced that they will slash funding for enrollment assistance, outreach, and education for the Affordable Care Act by 90%. This sabotage of the ACA marketplace will result in fewer people signing up for coverage under the ACA and higher premiums for those who do.

The Washington Post reports:

“The Trump administration is gutting federal funds that help Americans sign up for health coverage under the Affordable Care Act, cutting grants to grass-roots groups that assist with enrollment by 40 percent and slashing an advertising budget from $100 million to $10 million.

The announcement late Thursday afternoon, just nine weeks before the start of the fifth annual enrollment season, is the first indication of how an administration determined to overturn the health-care law will oversee the window for new and returning consumers buying coverage for 2018.”

Read more: Trump officials slash advertising, grants to help Americans get Affordable Care Act insurance

Once again, the Administration is putting politics above people rather than legislating for the common good. This decision will cause more people to struggle to access affordable healthcare and fails to mend the gaps in access to healthcare in our country.

September is the Month for Budget Bipartisanship

September is the Month for Budget Bipartisanship

Marge Clark
August 24, 2017

The House and the Senate will return to the Capitol on September 5 with serious tasks before them. There is not yet a federal budget for Fiscal Year 2018 (FY18), however members are proceeding to votes on funding all 12 appropriations bills without top line spending limits in either chamber. Current spending authority from the FY17 budget runs out on September 30, and additionally, the debt limit must be agreed to by September 29.

Members of Congress continue to work on tax reform, and they hope to use the reconciliation process to bypass the need for Democratic votes. If reconciliation is used, passage in the Senate needs 51 votes, rather than 60. Reconciliation, however, can only be used after a budget has been passed, the same in House and Senate. This is not looking promising. One escape from this requirement for Congressional leadership may be through use of the existing FY17 reconciliation approved for healthcare, which they were not able to use. This is possible if the parliamentarian is in agreement with the change.

The House has passed a package of four appropriations bills nicknamed the “security minibus” with hope of bringing an eight-bill “megabus” to the floor in early September. House appropriations bills exceed the defense spending caps set in a 2011 agreement by an additional $72 billion in defense spending for 2018. Nondefense spending is set at $4 billion below its cap of $515.7 billion. Surpassing the 2011 limits will trigger the sequestration process, unless there is a bipartisan deal to raise the caps – which has been done in previous years. The House will most likely pass appropriations bills along party lines – no need for any Democratic votes. However, Democrats continue to push for parity (that there be some increase in nondefense spending whenever there is an increase in defense spending). They have given up on an equivalent increase.

The House realizes its appropriations package would be very unlikely to pass in the Senate where it needs Democratic votes. The House bill, then, simply exists for the purpose of expressing the severity of cuts Republican leaders want to make to human needs assistance to the elderly, children, those unable to work, and people with physical and mental disabilities.

The Senate has yet to pass any appropriations bills. The appropriations committee has begun working on six bills, but none have gone to the Senate floor. Their bills are being set at current year spending levels. Even this would break the 20111 statutory cap by $2 billion (defense) and $ 3.8 billion (nondefense).

As previously mentioned, exceeding the caps triggers extreme, automatic across-the board cuts called sequestration, unless both chambers come together to form an agreement to raise the budget caps for FY18. This has been done in FY16 and FY17. It is unlikely that can be completed before the end of September, despite Speaker Paul Ryan’s assertion that talks with the Senate are happening, and that they will act before the deadline.

Appropriations are must-pass legislation. If there is not agreement by the end of September when the FY17 budget runs out, the options include a Continuing Resolution (CR) or a government shutdown. A CR could be put in place until December – which has frequently been done in recent years.

One issue contributing to the likelihood of a September 30 shutdown is President Trump’s insistence that funding for the southern border wall be included for FY18. If funding is not resolved through a CR, the border wall could also cause a shutdown in December.

Additional “must-pass” legislation includes raising the debt limit. It is clear that Congress cannot use accounting tricks to pay the bills any longer than September. We do not want to default on our debts as a nation. Treasury Secretary Mnuchin calls for a “clean” bill to raise the debt ceiling, meaning no spending or cost cutting demands attached. Members of Congress as less inclined to do this. The debt ceiling is a great place to put pressure on members to pass something that has split support and would be hard to pass.  It is possible that “the wall” would be attached to raising the borrowing limit – which cannot be put off past September 29, according to Mnuchin.

Funding of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) is also must-pass in September, as its authorization and funding run out at the end of September. This could also be used as a place to raise the debt limit.

August is quickly coming to its end, and the September 5 return of Congress is almost here. Since members have not really started negotiations over raising budget caps, lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, in both chambers are predicting a short-term continuing resolution. Most do not want to chance a shutdown, and they need more time to develop a final spending plan. Stay tuned!

Supporting Tax Policies that Benefit Women and Families

Supporting Tax Policies that Benefit Women and Families

Anna Chu and Jillian Edmonds
August 16, 2017

The Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress have promised to release a tax reform plan this summer, which is likely to include some of the largest tax cuts in decades. As elected officials debate tax reform, we must ensure policies that slash taxes for the wealthy few and big corporations under the guise of growing the economy do not become the new law of the land. The fallacy that tax cuts for the rich and corporations grow the economy has been the conservative talking point since Ronald Reagan first touted trickle-down economics, and has been widely discredited.[i] But not only is President Trump sticking to the same failed playbook of the past, the tax principles he released in April lack some of most important tax strategies that would help working families. For example, his principles do not mention expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an effective anti-poverty program which would greatly benefit working women and families. In 2013, the EITC lifted 6.2 million people – including 3.2 million children – out of poverty (when taking into account the indirect employment and earnings effects of the EITC, this number nearly doubles).[ii]

Although there are reports that President Trump is considering improvements to the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, those potential improvements alone do not mitigate the other troubling aspects of his tax plan. For instance, President Trump proposes reducing the corporate tax rate by 60 percent and getting rid of the estate tax, which impacts only the richest 0.2 percent of estates (including his own estate).[iii] Coupled with his budget, which guts crucial programs that provide basic living standards to low-income Americans, what emerges is a clear picture of the Trump administration’s economic policy—giving big payoffs for the wealthy few and big corporations, while pulling the rug out from everyday women and their families.

Tax Cuts for the Rich Just Make the Rich Richer

President Trump’s tax plan would be a massive giveaway to wealthy Americans and big corporations, and would harm women and families if enacted into law. He proposes slashing the top marginal individual tax rate to 35 percent and consolidating the current seven tax brackets into three. He also proposes slashing the corporate tax rate to an astoundingly low 15 percent. While he claims that such tax cuts would grow the economy and “create 25 million new jobs over the next decade,” this couldn’t be further from the truth. A Congressional Research Service analysis of the top tax rates since 1945 found little or no association between reducing taxes on the wealthy and increased savings, investment, or productive growth.[iv] A review of research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of the impacts of a 1993 tax hike and the 2001 tax cut also revealed that job creation and economic growth were actually stronger in the years after the 1993 tax increases than in the years following the 2001 tax cuts.[v]

Instead of creating jobs or economic growth, tax cuts for the rich just make the rich richer. An analysis of OECD countries found that there was no correlation between the top tax rates and economic growth, but there was a correlation between lower top tax rates and greater income inequality.[vi] The earlier CRS study also found that cutting the top tax rate concentrates wealth at the top of the income spectrum because it incentivizes higher pay at the top end of the scale and allows those people to keep more of that money. By cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations, President Trump’s tax plan will contribute to growing economic inequality in our nation, which harms both our current economy and future growth.

Tax Cuts Threaten Funding for Critical Programs

While women and families likely won’t get a fair shake in this upcoming tax plan, it’s not their only worry. President Trump’s tax principles work alongside his federal budget, which would cut programs that provide a basic living standard to low-income families. His budget proposes eliminating heating assistance for people in poverty, funding for meals for seniors, and several housing assistance. These cuts will affect women the most, potentially creating an even greater poverty gap between men and women. The Tax Policy Center found that cutting the corporate income tax to 15 percent would cost $2.4 trillion 10 years — and that number skyrockets to $4 trillion if the 15 percent rate applies to pass-through income.[vii]

Unless the White House plans to simply increase the deficit, these tax cuts must be paid for somehow. The Trump administration has claimed it would pay for these cuts by raising tax revenue from other sources and from economic growth, but the budget shows they are more than happy to slash critical programs that provide a basic living standard for women and families. President Trump’s budget proposes dismantling Medicaid as we know it and cutting its funding above and beyond the cuts in the ACA Repeal Bill. SNAP funding would be cut by nearly $200 billion over the next decade – which would result in many states making it more difficult for families to get food assistance..

The President’s desire to give huge tax cuts to wealthy people such as himself and take away critical programs that are lifelines for many women and families flies in the face of what his voters wanted and is a recipe for economic disaster. We can learn from what happened in Kansas, where massive tax cuts enacted in 2012 led to decreased revenue, underfunded schools, and cuts to services. Massive budget cuts won’t make America great again – but they are likely to hurt many people.

A Tax Plan that Actually Helps Women and Families

Our tax policies should help the most vulnerable Americans by improving family tax credits and raising enough revenue for programs and services that support struggling families, rather than giving more tax cuts and loopholes to the wealthy and corporations. To have a tax plan that actually helps working women and families, President Trump and Congressional leadership should consider abiding by the following principles:

  • Don’t give more tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.They should pay their fair share in order to have a tax system that works for all of us.
  • Tax policies shouldhelp the most vulnerable now. Tax reform should preserve — and improve — tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit that help families make ends meet.
  • Support progressive tax reforms that would raise needed revenue— and expand opportunity for a stronger future for everyone. Every year, special interest tax loopholes cost the federal government billions of dollars. That’s money that could be used to support struggling families and give them a chance for a better life.

A tax policy that supports women and children requires that everyone pays their fair share regardless of their income or political power. It allows the government to fully support families that need assistance when they are struggling, as well as fund public parks, clean air enforcement, and other government activities that benefit everyone. Rather than giving the wealthy and corporations the largest slice of the pie, a tax policy that supports women and children expands the pie for everyone, resulting in more opportunities that keep America great.


[i] CNN Money. “The ‘trickle down theory’ is dead wrong.” http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/15/news/economy/trickle-down-theory-wrong-imf/

[ii] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “EITC Boosts Employment; Lifts Many More Out of Poverty Than Previously Thought.” http://www.cbpp.org/blog/new-research-eitc-boosts-employment-lifts-many-more-out-of-poverty-than-previously-thought

[iii] CBPP. “Repealing Estate Tax Would Provide Windfall to Heirs of Wealthiest Estates.” http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/repealing-estate-tax-would-provide-windfall-to-heirs-of-wealthiest-estates

[iv] Congressional Research Service. “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic

Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945.” https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42729.pdf

[v] CBPP. “Recent Studies Find Raising Taxes on High-Income Households Would Not Harm the Economy.” http://www.cbpp.org/research/recent-studies-find-raising-taxes-on-high-income-households-would-not-harm-the-economy?fa=view&id=3756

[vi] Piketty, Thomas and Emmanuel Saez. “Top Incomes and the Great Recession: Recent

Evolutions and Policy Implications.” http://www.imf.org/external/np/res/seminars/2012/arc/pdf/PS.pdf

[vii] CNN Money. “A 15% corporate tax rate could be very expensive.” http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/24/news/economy/trump-corporate-tax-rate/

[viii] National Women’s Law Center. “Cutting Programs for Low-Income People Especially Hurts Women and Their Families.” https://nwlc.org/resources/cutting-programs-low-income-people-especially-hurts-women-and-their-families/

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Jeff Sessions is Wrong On Crime – Again!

Jeff Sessions is Wrong On Crime – Again!

Joan Neal
May 26, 2017

When Attorney General Jeff Sessions ordered federal prosecutors to seek the harshest penalties possible under the law for all drug crimes, he signaled he wants to send us back in time.  We tried that strategy and research has shown that it didn’t work.  Under the ‘tough on crime’ approach, during the War on Drugs in the ‘80s and ‘90s, the U.S. prison population soared and the costs of incarceration increased dramatically.  Why, then, would we want to go back to a system that failed to lower crime levels or to make us safer?  Such a policy is clearly wrong on crime.

This order is a direct attempt to undo all of the progress the Obama Administration was attempting to make by focusing on rehabilitation of drug offenders, especially low level, non-violent offenders, and reducing the federal prison population, resulting in millions of dollars of savings in the federal budget.  In contrast, this ‘law and order’ policy will have exactly the opposite effect.  It will not stop – nor even slow down – the drug trade because it is not targeted and it will cost taxpayers more money.  ‘One-size fits all’ sentencing does not deter crime, save money, or make us safer.

But Jeff Sessions has been ‘wrong on crime’ for a long time.  As a Senator, he constantly opposed the growing congressional bi-partisan consensus on sentencing and prison reform, eventually, successfully blocking passage of any reform measure in the Senate.  Now, as Attorney General, he is seeking to institutionalize his outdated, ill-conceived policies that will only prolong the injustices already inherent in the criminal justice system.

History shows that mass incarceration, overcriminalization and prison warehousing have a disproportionately negative impact on communities of color and other marginalized groups.  Having a criminal record is a one-way ticket to intergenerational poverty.  It is an obstacle to employment, housing, education, healthcare and more.  It devastates families and is a drag on the American economy.  Jeff Sessions’ orders will insure that these conditions continue.

Thankfully, proponents of criminal justice reform across the board are still fighting for common sense reforms.  Both houses of Congress have bills pending.  Just this week, Senators Patrick Leahy and Rand Paul re-introduced the Justice Safety Valve Act which is aimed at restoring judicial discretion by giving federal judges the authority to impose sentences below the mandatory minimums when appropriate.  Reforms such as this will begin to restore fairness and equity.

The U.S. has the highest prison population of any country in the world.  This is not a distinction worthy of our values and identity as a proponent of freedom and liberty.  Our union is not yet perfect but we should always be working toward that goal.  Indiscriminately locking up people for long periods of time, no matter the severity of the crime, is unjust and immoral.  Our faith teaches us that there is always the possibility of rehabilitation.  The Attorney General’s approach to fighting crime denies the right of every person to be treated with dignity and respect.  It is inefficient, ineffective and un-American and we should do everything possible to turn it around.

NETWORK Statement on NAFTA

Renegotiating the North American Free Trade Agreement

Laura Peralta-Schulte
May 18, 2017

Download as a PDF.

When the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) passed almost a quarter of a century ago, proponents promised it would lead to job creation in North America, increased living standards for workers and protection of the environment. The current agreement has been beneficial to some, but reality shows the agreement falls woefully short of being the boon it was promised to be. NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice is committed to mending the gaps in income and wealth disparity, and it is clear that our trade agreements have been one of the drivers of that inequality, both domestically and abroad.

Some of the most adversely impacted communities are small farmers in the U.S., Mexico, and Canada. In Mexico, for example, we have seen population losses in the countryside and increased food insecurity. In the U.S. and Canada, there are fewer farmers left to work the land as industrial agriculture takes over production. Rural dislocation has been a leading cause of migration from Mexico to the North because small farmers cannot support themselves at home. Trade policies like NAFTA widen the gaps between rich and poor.

Renegotiating NAFTA offers the possibility to address food insecurity, remedy the incentive that drives rural dislocation, and fix other problems. However, to do so, the Administration must seek changes that puts the needs of vulnerable communities first. To do so, there must be an open and transparent process so that all communities – not just the corporate community – have a seat at the table. We need a trade policy that puts people and the planet first.

Pope Francis reminds us that access to adequate food is a basic human right, one that people of faith are called by the Gospel to address. “We are in front of a global scandal of around one billion — one billion people who still suffer from hunger today. We cannot look the other way and pretend this does not exist… We need, then, to find ways by which all may benefit from the fruits of the earth, not only to avoid the widening gap between those who have more and those who must be content with the crumbs, but above all because it is a question of justice, equality and respect for every human being.”

Trade policy must address issues of inequality and the alleviation of poverty. A people first agenda means creating an environment where small farmers are not be forced to migrate to ensure that their families can survive, workers receive living wages, people have access to life-saving medicines, and the environment is protected from destruction.