Month: September 2017

Addressing Cadets About Racism Incident

Lt. Gen. Jay B. Silveria, superintendent of the U.S. Air Force Academy, addressed cadets on Thursday in a powerful speech about treating one another with “dignity and respect” after racial slurs were written outside five black cadet candidates’ dorm rooms.

 

The Sustainable Development Goals: Eliminating Poverty

Eliminating poverty tops the global goal list and remains one of the biggest challenges we face. Although many people are now better off than before, 18,000 children still die each day from poverty-related causes across the globe.

The good news is that as a result of exploding technology, this planet is now producing an unprecedented amount of wealth.  The bad news is that the wealth is being distributed very unfairly. Today, the top 1% now owns more wealth than the bottom 99%.  The 6 wealthiest people on the planet own more wealth than 3.7 billion people – half of the world’s population.

This growing gap between the very, very rich and everyone else is not only immoral, it is bad economics and leads to global instability.  When poor people around the world are unable to feed their children, or have to watch them die of preventable diseases, they will not – and should not – rest easy.

We need to focus international attention on global poverty and demand solutions from our elected officials.

It is unacceptable that huge multinational corporation escape trillions of dollars in taxation by resting their profits in tax havens around the world.

“This growing gap between the very, very rich and everyone else is not only immoral, it is bad economics and leads to global instability.”

It is unacceptable that Wall Street and giant financial institutions push for trade agreements that increase corporate profits while preventing sustainable economic development in developing countries.

It is unacceptable that the fossil fuel industry opposes the efforts of poor countries to move to sustainable energies like solar and wind.

It is unacceptable that the pharmaceutical industry forces countries around the world to pay unaffordable prices for prescription drugs while they make outrageous profits.

The reality is that today we are moving toward a global oligarchy in which a very small number of powerful corporate and financial interests exert enormous influence over the economic and political life of the planet. We must demand that our elected officials write policies in the interest of the vast majority of people. Listen to us, not the lobbyists.

The fact is that the worldwide disparity is getting more extreme every year, and it will impact all of us – even those on top. Nearly a century ago, the economic instability caused by a great concentration of wealth brought about one of the worst depressions in history, and for years the entire world suffered – from the bottom of the income ladder to the top. The next depression could be even worse, given the interconnectedness of today’s markets.

“We must revitalize democracy around the world, resonate the voices of the many rather than the few, and create a global economy which works for all the people of the world.”

Developing fairer policies on trade, health care, taxation, education and the environment with a goal toward ensuring that people have enough income to feed, clothe, house, and educate themselves and their families would be a big step toward eradicating poverty and the travesty of losing 18,000 children on a daily basis to poverty-related causes.

We must revitalize democracy around the world, resonate the voices of the many rather than the few, and create a global economy which works for all the people of the world.

The Importance Of Civil Discourse

Last week I became the Chair of The Sanders Institute (TSI), an initiative that grew out of the Bernie Sanders presidential campaign of 2016. While as a sitting senator, Sanders cannot be involved in the work of TSI, we are committed to elevating the issues on which he based his run for the White House.

TSI’s purpose, as defined in our mission statement, is to revitalize our democracy by fostering an informed electorate and advocating progressive ideas through civil discourse. The foundation of TSI’s effort will be built on a collection of remarkable founding fellows who will provide leadership on a range of economic, environmental, racial and social justice, and foreign policy concerns. They include such distinguished scholars and activists as: Harry Belafonte and Danny Glover; Robert Reich, Stephanie Kelton, Cornel West, and Jeffery Sachs; Bill McKibben, Ben Jealous and Michael Lighty; Tulsi Gabbard and Nina Turner; and Jane O’Meara Sanders, whose idea it was to launch TSI.

Of the matters we discussed at our first board meeting, what struck me as central to our mission was a collective commitment to civil discourse. Recent events have brought home just how vital it is to focus on changing the way we debate and challenging those who use personal attacks, harsh tactics, or vulgar language in an effort to stifle opposing points of view.

During last year’s presidential contest, Americans across the partisan divide were shocked by language and antics of then-candidate Donald Trump. He demeaned his opponents; defamed vulnerable minority communities; courted and emboldened extremist groups; and sometimes even incited his followers to violence.

There were those who hoped that once taking the oath of office Trump would change, but the language he uses in his daily tweets and off-the-cuff remarks at press events demonstrate that those hopes were in vain. As a result, there is clear evidence of a frightful coarsening of our discourse and an empowering of hate groups.

Our concern, however, is not limited to what Trump has done because we are seeing worrisome signs of harsh behavior and rhetoric among liberals and progressives, as well.

Last week, Hillary Clinton released “What Happened”, her account of why she lost the 2016 election. Because she unfairly included her tough primary contest with Sanders a factor that caused her to lose, Twitter exploded with ugly charges being hurled back and forth between supporters of both candidates. It may be useful to have a discussion of why Clinton lost, but insults and unfounded accusations make the exercise counterproductive and damaging.

If anything, the 2016 primary battle involved a principled debate over key aspects of domestic and foreign policy. Sanders challenged Clinton on issues like: the roots of income inequality and economic injustice; and the need to break the stranglehold that financial elites and corporate lobbyists have on health care, trade policy, the criminal justice system, and our political process, itself. He demanded that we think big and proposed goals like: increasing the minimum wage, ending trade deals that disadvantaged American workers, providing universal health care by expanding Medicare, and creating jobs by investing in infrastructure and renewable energy. Sanders also questioned foreign policies Clinton championed like the war in Iraq and the unbalanced US support given to Israel’s continued oppression of Palestinians.

In response, Clinton scoffed at Sanders big ideas, dismissing them as unrealistic. She argued, instead, for an incremental approach to addressing these same issues. The debates were heated and became personal, at times, but never did they sink to the level that was in evidence in last week’s Twitter wars.

The accusations made by Clinton, and amplified by her backers, that Sanders had hurt her chances to win are simply not true. He not only endorsed her, he vigorously challenged his supporters to follow suit, and then proceeded to do more than three dozen campaign events on her behalf. As he observed, his contest with Clinton was over. Now the choice was between Donald Trump and her, and he was committed to do all he could to help Clinton win.

There is a lesson here for Democrats as we approach the 2018 Congressional elections. Big ideas must be advanced and debated, but Democrats must not fracture as they debate. Polarizing hostile discourse will only breed more division while, at the same time, making real debate over issues less likely.

This past week, we saw yet another display of a lack of civility and the damage it can do to advancing an important policy debate. When protesters disrupted a press conference House Minority Leader, Nancy Pelosi, had convened to highlight the plight of young undocumented immigrants—the “Dreamers”—the tactics used by the demonstrators did more harm than good.

A few weeks ago, President Trump canceled an Obama-era program that had allowed Dreamers to secure work permits and remain in the US. Trump gave Congress six months to pass legislation to protect the 700,000 young people who had registered in the program.

Pelosi, a long-time champion of the Dreamers is supporting such an effort. Because Democrats are in the minority in Congress, they will need Republican support to pass any legislation. Pelosi, therefore, invited a group of Dreamers to tell their stories at the press event, believing that if they were known and heard, she could win support for the bill.

Her event was shattered by another group of protesting Dreamers who shouted down Pelosi and those who were to have spoken accusing them of being “sellouts” and demanding that instead of saving just the Dreamers, protection must also be secured for all 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US. While their concerns might be understandable, their tactics were not. And instead of civil discourse, their actions created chaos and recrimination.

Of course, we must advocate for comprehensive immigration reform and an end to mass deportations. That remains our goal. But because the clock is ticking and, given Trump’s deadline, only a little over 5 months remain before the 700,000 Dreamers lose their protection. In other words, we can and must continue to elevate the perfect, while fighting now to save the good. And we must do so without attacking allies and behaving in an uncivil manner.

This is why I am so pleased to be a part of the important work of TSI. We hope to continue on the track of informing the public about critical issues, challenging Republicans and Democrats alike to think big about solutions to our most pressing problems, and doing this while engaging in civil discourse. That, we believe, is the way forward.

Why We Must Raise Taxes On Corporations And The Wealthy, Not Lower Them

When Barack Obama was president, congressional Republicans were deficit hawks. They opposed almost everything Obama wanted to do by arguing it would increase the federal budget deficit.

But now that Republicans are planning giant tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, they’ve stopped worrying about deficits.

Senate Republicans have agreed to cut taxes by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, which means giant budget deficits.

Unless Republicans want to cut Social Security, Medicare, and defense, that is.  Even if Republicans eliminated everything else in the federal budget – from education to Meals on Wheels – they wouldn’t have nearly enough to pay for tax cuts of the magnitude Republicans are now touting.

But Republicans won’t cut Social Security or Medicare because the programs are overwhelmingly popular. And rather than cut defense, Senate Republicans want to increase defense spending by a whopping $80 billion (enough to fund free public higher education that Bernie Sanders proposed in last year’s Democratic primary, which deficit hawks in both parties mocked as being ridiculously expensive).

There’s also the cleanup from Hurricanes Harvey and Irma, estimated to be least $190 billion. And Trump’s “wall” – which the Department of Homeland Security estimates will cost about $22 billion.

Oh, and don’t forget infrastructure. It’s just about the only major spending bill that could be passed by bipartisan majorities in both houses. Given the state of the nation’s highways, byways, public transit, water treatment facilities, and sewers, it’s desperately needed. Trump campaigned on spending $1 trillion on it.

So how do Republicans propose to pay for any of this, and a big tax cut for corporations and the wealthy – without exploding the federal deficit?

Easy. Just pretend the tax cuts will cause the economy to grow so fast – 3 percent a year on average – that they’ll pay for themselves, and the benefits will trickle down to everyone else.

If you believe this, I have several past Republican budgets to sell you, extending all the way back to Ronald Reagan’s magic asterisks.

The Congressional Budget Office and the Joint Committee on Taxation don’t believe it. They realistically assume that the economy won’t grow over 2 percent a year on average over the next decade.

The Federal Reserve estimates the fastest sustainable rate of economic growth will be 1.8 percent, given how slowly America’s working-age population is growing as well as the slow rate of productivity gains.

But Trump has already made a fetish out of discrediting anyone that comes up with facts he doesn’t like, and other Republicans seem ready to join him.

Senator Bob Corker, a Tennessee Republican who sits on the budget committee, says he doesn’t want to rely on estimates coming from economists at the CBO and the Joint Tax Committee. He’d rather rely on supply-side economists outside government. “I do think it is time for us to have a real debate and to have real economists weighing in and we should take other things into account other than Joint Tax and C.B.O,” Corker said last week.

Unfortunately for the Republican tax cutters who used to be deficit hawks, we already have real-world historical evidence of what happens after massive tax cuts. Ronald Reagan and George W. Bush both cut taxes on the wealthy and ended up with huge budget deficits.

Besides, there’s no reason to cut taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. If anything, their taxes should be raised.

Trump says we’re “the highest taxed nation in the world.” Rubbish. The most meaningful measure is taxes paid as a percentage of GDP. On this score, the United States has the 4th lowest taxes of any major economy. (Only South Korea, Chile, and Mexico ranking lower.)

American corporations aren’t overtaxed. After taking deductions and tax credits, the typical U.S. corporation today pays an effective tax rate of 24 percent. That’s only a tad higher than the average of 21 percent among advanced nations.

The rich aren’t overtaxed. The wealthiest 1 percent in the U.S. pay the lowest taxes as a percent of their income and total wealth of the top 1 percent in any major country – and far lower than they paid in the U.S. during the first three decades after World War II, when the American economy grew faster than it’s been growing since the Reagan tax cuts.

But we do have a deficit in public investment – especially in education and infrastructure. And we do have a national debt that topped $20 trillion this year and is expected to grow by an additional $10 trillion over the next decade.

What’s the answer? Raise taxes on big corporations and the wealthy. That’s what rational politicians would do if they weren’t in the pockets of big corporations and the wealthy.

National Nurses United Conversation With Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders

On Thursday September 21, Dr. Jane O’Meara Sanders (Co-founder, Fellow of the Sanders Institute) joined RoseAnn DeMoro of National Nurses United to talk about Medicare for All and the need for civil discourse.

 

 

TRANSCRIPT

DR. JANE O’MEARA SANDERS: I want to thank all of the nurses that are here today and around the world. You have been, forever a source of comfort and nurturing for all of your patients. I can’t thank you enough, from a personal standpoint and every single person across this room and across the country have had the experience of nurses being there to ease the pain and the stress. Beyond that, you have been an unbelievable source of progressive labor. You have made a difference. The nurses have been a beacon of leadership, doing the right thing, not settling and making incremental changes. You’re holding out a vision and holding other people accountable for it. The impact you have had has been amazing, and we will get Medicare for All thanks to you in large part. Last, but certainly not least, to the RN nurses who are going all over to Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands and all over – thank you. Everybody should know about the work you do.

One of the things people always ask me is how did you get into this, when did you become politically interested? Oddly enough, it started in healthcare. My dad was a teacher, and he fell and broke his hip. He was in the hospital for the better part of every year until I was 14. We just thought that was the way he was – my dad was ill, and it changed our life. My mom went to secretarial school to get anouther job. I had four brothers, the older two quit high school to support the family. My brother Benny became a blacksmith in Brooklyn. He just loved horses, my dad used to bring him to Prospect Park to ride horses when he was a little kid. He became quite well known as a trainer and came into quite a good living.

When I was 14, my dad was in the hospital again, and Benny asked the doctor to check him head to toe because there has to be an underlying problem. The doctor said the insurance wouldn’t pay for it, so we can only deal with the existing problem. Benny said, “you know I do that for my horses, and I’ll pay cash.” So he did. And they checked him out – and my dad wasn’t in the hospital for another ten years.

For me, that was my political awakening. If you had money, if you could afford to buy good insurance, you could have good health. And that to me just didn’t seem fair. So that has stuck with me forever, and my whole life I’ve been trying to do what’s fair, trying to even the playing field. And that’s why the Sanders Institute is starting. I founded the Sanders Institute with our son, Dave Driscoll, who reminds me a lot of my father and brother. He and I believe that we need to have a fair, level playing field. We launched at the People’s Summit on June 7th, and that was really successful, thank you so much, RoseAnn. The seminars that we put on there were very successful, and we are going to be increasing those across the country. We’ll talk about economics, healthcare, democracy, and we’ll be talking with our professors to determine what we should be expanding our thinking of. One of the first things we did was publish a report on Medicare for All. As a nonprofit, we can’t lobby for anything in particular, but there was no bill then. We published that report and went around to every Senate and House office and delivered them the report on Medicare for All.

We believe a vital democracy requires an informed electorate, civil discourse, and bold, progressive ideas. The mission of the Sanders Institute is to revitalize democracy by actively engaging individuals, organizations, and the media in the pursuit of progressive solutions to economic, environmental, racial, and social justice issues.

Another reason we set up the Institute is to serve as progressive counterweight to the conservative and moderate organizations that currently set the frameworks of the debate, and it’s very narrow. We’re not interested in discussing what they think is possible in today’s climate, we’re interested in if it’s right. We’re interested in creating a vision for the future and identifying the steps or leaps required to get there.

Because amid the nonstop, all-crisis-all-the-time tweet storm that is Donald J. Trump, thought itself – careful, critical, analytical thought – seems to be an endangered species.  At the Sanders Institute, we intend to counteract that. We choose to stay focused on our vision on the issues that affect people’s lives, rather than getting caught up in the scandals or interparty and intraparty squabbles.

The current administration won’t be around forever, we’re working to create more of a dialogue with the people that put him there or are fighting him now to bring people together – not to the center, but to find out why do people want what they want? We believe in civil discourse. I don’t believe that all the people that voted for this administration believe the things he espouses. We need to pay attention to the issues to bring people together on a common ground that doesn’t just say, “Okay, from the left, from the right, let’s go to the center.” That’s what you’ll hear from the media, and it’s exactly the wrong way to go about it. There is no left, there is no right, there is right and wrong. There is coming together to say government works for the people. Thank you.”

Big Oil Will Have To Pay Up, Like Big Tobacco

Here is a message to investors in the oil industry, whether pension and insurance funds, university endowments, hedge funds or other asset managers: Your investments are going to sour. The growing devastation caused by climate change, as seen this month in Texas, Florida and the Caribbean, are going to blow a hole in your fossil-fuel portfolio.

Not only will the companies you own suffer as society begins to abandon fossil fuels in earnest, they will also be dragged through the courts here and abroad for their long-standing malfeasance and denial of what they have done to the world.

Climate change deniers, mainly politicians in the pay of the oil industry, protest that there is no proof that destructive storms and floods are the result of human-induced global warming. Who can say that a Hurricane Harvey or Irma wouldn’t have occurred in the past? Such a defense – the cynical shrug – will not play for much longer, either in the court of public opinion or in courts of law in the United States and abroad. The risks of climate-related disasters are real and rising, and soon it won’t matter politically or legally that any particular event might have occurred even without human-induced global warming.

The issue is of probability, not certainty. Of course, there have been weather-related disasters in the past. But global warming makes us more vulnerable to these events. Scientists emphasize that hurricane damage, for example, may rise for three reasons: higher sea levels (due to warming) cause larger storm surges; warmer oceans add energy to hurricanes; and warmer air holds more water vapor that can cause torrential downpours.

Insurance companies know that climate risks are rising, scientists know it, and an increasing number of investors know it. And more of the general public knows it, too. In climate science, the link between specific events like Harvey and Irma and the general rise in risk due to global warming is called “attribution.” It’s a problem we grapple with in many contexts. When a miner gets lung disease, a homeowner with asbestos insulation develops a rare cancer, or a smoker succumbs to lung cancer, we can never be sure that the particular case was linked to coal dust, asbestos or cigarettes.

But the courts have been ready to read the probabilities, and hold companies liable for damages when the likelihood of causation is high enough. The courts have also linked liability with the standard of care exercised by the defendant. When a company understands the risks but ignores them, or even worse, lies about them, the court or jury is far more likely to agree to a large claim.

The tobacco companies relentlessly misled the public about their products. Some oil companies have done the same about climate change. ExxonMobil, for example, knew internally for decades that its products contribute to global warming, according to a peer-reviewed Harvard University study published last month, but publicly downplayed the linkages and the resulting risks (Exxon denies this).

The Koch brothers, owners of refineries and oil pipelines, have manufactured doubts about climate science and spent vast sums to oppose decarbonization policies and to elect politicians to do the same.

But the science of climate attribution is rapidly becoming more sophisticated, leaving the oil industry more exposed than ever.

Consider, for example, the World Weather Attribution (WWA) project. This is an effort by a consortium of scientific institutions, including the University of Oxford Environmental Change Institute, the Royal Netherlands Meteorological Institute, the University of Melbourne and the Red Cross Red Crescent Climate Centre. This project has recently shown, that human-induced climate change dramatically raised the likelihood of the record-breaking heat wave in western Europe this summer. The team found that climate change “made the intensity and frequency of such extreme heat at least twice as likely in Belgium, at least four times as likely in France, Switzerland, the Netherlands, and central England and at least 10 times as likely in Portugal and Spain.”

The project is now analyzing whether human-induced global warming raised the likelihood of the rainfall brought by Harvey.

American politics has long been manipulated by Big Oil, with massive campaign financing as well as backroom lobbying not seen by the public. The federal government and oil states like Texas have been as derelict as the companies, and could well find themselves also as defendants in cases brought by Americans and others who are hit by climate disaster.

Many Caribbean islands were devastated by Irma, and their leaders are appealing for aid. Soon, the cries around the world will change to a call for “compensation” or “civil damages” instead of just aid.

When climate justice comes — and it will — those who have been in denial will pay a heavy price. And those who have invested in companies that behaved recklessly and irresponsibly will share the heavy losses on that day of reckoning.

Pivotal Moment In American History: Sen. Bernie Sanders Unveils Medicare-For-All Bill With 15 Co-Sponsors

On September 13, 2017, Senator Bernard Sanders introduced S.1804 – a bill to establish a Medicare-for-all health insurance program, with 15 co-sponsors. Sanders Institute Fellow and Director of Public Policy for National Nurses United spoke with Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! on the pivotal piece of legislation. According to a June poll by the Kaiser Family Foundation, some 53% of Americans support a national health care plan.

UPDATE: As of September 14, 2017, there are now 16 co-sponsors for S.1804.

 

 

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is slated to introduce universal healthcare legislation today, aimed at expanding Medicare coverage to include every American. In a New York Times op-ed published today, Sanders wrote, “This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?” Fifteen senators have already signed on as co-sponsors. The introduction of the Medicare for All Act comes after Republicans repeatedly failed to push through their legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans’ efforts sparked sustained grassroots protests, led by disability activists and healthcare professionals. We speak with Michael Lighty, director of public policy for National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association. National Nurses United has long advocated for a Medicare-for-all system.

Transcript

AMY GOODMAN: We begin today’s show in Washington, D.C., where Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is slated to introduce universal healthcare legislation today aimed at expanding Medicare coverage to include every American. In a New York Times op-ed piece published today, Sanders writes, quote, “This is a pivotal moment in American history. Do we, as a nation, join the rest of the industrialized world and guarantee comprehensive health care to every person as a human right? Or do we maintain a system that is enormously expensive, wasteful and bureaucratic, and is designed to maximize profits for big insurance companies, the pharmaceutical industry, Wall Street and medical equipment suppliers?” unquote.

Under Sanders’ legislation, all children under 18 and all adults 55 and older would qualify for Medicare during the program’s first year. The remainder of adults would be phased in over four years, until everyone is covered by Medicare. Fifteen senators have so far signed on as co-sponsors, including New Jersey Senator Cory Booker, Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, California Senator Kamala Harris. This is Senator Sanders speaking at the People’s Summit in Chicago in July.

SENBERNIE SANDERS: Think back five years ago. There was, at that point, widespread belief that the Affordable Care Act, so-called Obamacare, was about as far as we could go as a nation in healthcare. That’s about it. Past Obamacare, can’t do any more. Today, as you know, that view is radically changing. Nurses, thank you for your help on this. Today, all over our country, the American people understand that there is something profoundly wrong when we remain the only major country on Earth not to guarantee healthcare to all people as a right, not a privilege. And there is also something profoundly wrong when millions of Americans cannot afford the prescription drugs that their doctors prescribe. And what the American people from coast to coast are catching onto is the function of healthcare is to provide quality care to all people, not to make billions in profits for the insurance companies or the drug companies.

AMY GOODMAN: The introduction of the Medicare for All Act comes after Republicans repeatedly failed to push through their legislation to repeal and replace the Affordable Care Act. The Republicans’ efforts sparked sustained grassroots protests, led by disability activists and healthcare professionals.

For more, we go to Washington, D.C., where we’re joined by Michael Lighty, director of public policy for National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association. National Nurses United has long advocated for a Medicare-for-all system.

Michael, welcome to Democracy Now! Talk about what has happened just in the last two weeks, from zero senators co-sponsoring to—what are we at now? Fifteen and counting?

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Fifteen and counting, Amy. And it’s a beautiful day. It’s an exciting day for this movement to guarantee healthcare for all. We have literally seen, in the last two weeks, the ascension of this movement for improved Medicare for all. It’s something we haven’t really seen, even going back to the Hillarycare days, where this groundswell is organic. It’s a prairie fire across the country. We’ve seen, just one example, 2 million impressions on Twitter on RoseAnn DeMoro, our executive director’s demand for these senators to sign on to Senator Sanders’ bill. So, this groundswell—we had town halls in California this week. We’ve had hundreds of people come out demanding this reform. It is extraordinarily popular.

And I think we have overcome an amazing amount. The political establishment on the Democratic side, and certainly on the Republican side, did not want this to happen, and yet here we are. And it reflects the fact that Medicare for all, an improved Medicare for all, is more popular than the Affordable Care Act and more popular than the repeal of the Affordable Care Act. It works. Medicare works. And so, here we are. I think it’s really an amazing day. Americans should have a lot of hope, I think.

AMY GOODMAN: I wanted to go to just who is supporting this. Senator Sanders introduced single-payer healthcare three times before. This is the first time he’s had any co-sponsors. California Senator Kamala Harris was the first to sign on. That seemed to break the ice. And at last count, 15 Senate Democrats co-sponsored, including New Jersey’s Cory Booker, New York’s Kirsten Gillibrand, Richard Blumenthal and Chris Murphy of Connecticut, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Elizabeth Warren and Ed Markey of Massachusetts, Al Franken of Minnesota, Tammy Baldwin of Wisconsin, Sheldon Whitehouse of Rhode Island, Brian Schatz and Mazie Hirono of Hawaii. However, Democratic leadership has yet to jump on board. Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi have both declined to support the bill. So, talk about the significance and whether it matters whether the leadership leads or simply follows and gets on board if it gets support.

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, I think what’s extraordinary is that the majority of the Democratic caucus in the House has signed on to HR 676. Seventy percent of Minority Leader Pelosi’s constituents support improved Medicare for all. I think she just doesn’t get it. The only way to maintain the gains of the Affordable Care Act is to extend and build on that foundation by eliminating the insurance company premiums, deductibles and copays, and really guarantee healthcare for all through the Medicare system. That and the fact that she hasn’t signed on yet, I think it’s a matter of time.

AMY GOODMAN: So, Michael Lighty, lay out what you understand—and have you spoken to Bernie Sanders?—what you understand he’s doing today, what exactly this bill calls for.

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, this bill calls for a system where we literally take the healthcare industry model of revenue and profit and transform our healthcare into a system based on the morality of caregiving. And that is a fundamental difference, where, as he said in the clip that you showed, Amy, these healthcare players—the pharmaceutical companies, the insurance companies, hospital corporations, medical device manufacturers and, behind them all, Wall Street—are profiting on human suffering. And that is going to end, because we’re going to guarantee healthcare regardless of one’s ability to pay. Yes, everyone contributes, but the patient care that you get will be based upon what you need, not what you can afford. And that’s a fundamental transformation in the healthcare system in this country. And people are desperate for that security. Frankly, a third of the country or more has deductibles of greater than $2,000 a year. This bill eliminates that. The cost sharing that’s endemic to Medicare will be gone. And those are barriers to care. The insurance companies looking over your shoulder, if you’re a doctor or a nurse, when you’re caring for a patient or deciding how long they should stay in the hospital, that’s gone, that kind of interference. Doctors and nurses put in charge of healthcare, patients getting the care they need, people having real health security, that’s what Senator Sanders is doing today.

AMY GOODMAN: So, talk about the phasing in. I mean, we’re talking about Medicare for all, the idea that this extremely popular program of people 65 years and older have Medicare, just dropping that age to zero to include the entire population. But it’s not happening all at once.

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, it is important to recognize that part of the issue within healthcare is that we have a lot of people concentrated in Medicare who, of course, need a lot of services. So it’s a very good idea to include young people, who have less intense healthcare needs. So, putting zero—that is, at birth—to 18-year-olds in the plan is a really good thing to kind of stabilize the system initially, and then also cover those who are 55 and older. Those are the ones with the greatest need, who have the hardest time finding insurance that can actually cover what they need as healthcare. So those two things make sense. And that’s a huge chunk of the population. Then, when you get to between 18 and 55, you’re really dealing with the employer-based insurance system. And it’s appropriate to take some time to unwind that. We hear a lot about how invested people are or how complicated that might be. I don’t think it’s necessarily complicated, but it does take some time to unwind that system, that has been the basis of healthcare since World War II. So I think a few years to do that is perfectly reasonable.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to turn to President Trump speaking about healthcare in July during a lunch with Senate Republicans.

PRESIDENT DONALD TRUMP: We have no Democrat help. They’re obstructionists. That’s all they’re good at, is obstruction. They have no ideas. They’ve gone so far left, they’re looking for single payer. That’s what they want. But single payer will bankrupt our country, because it’s more than we take in, for just healthcare. So single payer is never going to work. But that’s what they’d like to do. They have no idea what the consequence will be. And it will be horrible, horrible healthcare, where you wait on line for weeks to even see a doctor.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Lighty, your response? Michael, your response? We’re talking to Michael Lighty, director of public policy for the National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association. I’m going to give it one more try to see if Michael can hear us. Michael, can you hear me?

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Yes, I can. Sorry.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to President Trump?

MICHAEL LIGHTY: I can hear you, Amy, yes.

AMY GOODMAN: Can you respond to President Trump? We’ll go to break. We’ll come back to you. Michael Lighty is—

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Well, respond to President Trump—

AMY GOODMAN: Yes, to respond to what he’s saying.

MICHAEL LIGHTY: Basically, President Trump has said he likes Australia. Well, this is very similar to the Australian system—no cost sharing, guaranteed healthcare for all, elimination of the role of the insurance companies. So, this is something that, in fact, President Trump should welcome. This is not the Affordable Care Act. This is not something that we’ve, obviously, instituted before, so it’s an opportunity for him to do something actually positive for the country and for everyone, as a whole. So I think that the—really, the opportunity here is to bring folks together. This is a publicly financed, privately delivered reform that actually represents kind of the best of what we can bring to this issue, because we’re going to be putting doctors and nurses in charge. That’s what we hear from the right all the time: We need doctors and nurses, clinicians in charge, and we need patient-centered care. Well, this is exactly it. This is the kind of great healthcare system that we could create in the U.S.

AMY GOODMAN: Michael Lighty, I want to thank you for being with us. Of course, we’ll follow up on this tomorrow, because Senator Bernie Sanders, the former presidential candidate, is introducing Medicare for all today, at least expected to. A couple of weeks ago, as usual, he had no co-sponsors. He’s introduced it a few times before. But today, just in the last few weeks, begun with Kamala Harris, the senator from California, one after another, Democratic senators signed on. And at last count, it’s 15 Democratic senators supporting the Medicare-for-all bill. Michael Lighty, director of public policy for National Nurses United and the California Nurses Association, thanks so much for joining us.

When we come back, the second meeting of the so-called election integrity commission takes place at Saint Anselm College in New Hampshire. We’ll get the latest. Stay with us.

Stop Talking Right Now About The Threat Of Climate Change. It’s Here; It’s Happening

For the sake of keeping things manageable, let’s confine the discussion to a single continent and a single week: North America over the last seven days.

In Houston they got down to the hard and unromantic work of recovery from what economists announced was probably the most expensive storm in US history, and which weather analysts confirmed was certainly the greatest rainfall event ever measured in the country – across much of its spread it was a once-in-25,000-years storm, meaning 12 times past the birth of Christ; in isolated spots it was a once-in-500,000-years storm, which means back when we lived in trees. Meanwhile, San Francisco not only beat its all-time high temperature record, it crushed it by 3F, which should be pretty much statistically impossible in a place with 150 years (that’s 55,000 days) of record-keeping.

That same hot weather broke records up and down the west coast, except in those places where a pall of smoke from immense forest fires kept the sun shaded – after a forest fire somehow managed to jump the mighty Columbia river from Oregon into Washington, residents of the Pacific Northwest reported that the ash was falling so thickly from the skies that it reminded them of the day Mount St Helens erupted in 1980.

That same heat, just a little farther inland, was causing a “flash drought” across the country’s wheat belt of North Dakota and Montana – the evaporation from record temperatures had shrivelled grain on the stalk to the point where some farmers weren’t bothering to harvest at all. In the Atlantic, of course, Irma was barrelling across the islands of the Caribbean (“It’s like someone with a lawnmower from the sky has gone over the island,” said one astounded resident of St Maarten). The storm, the first category five to hit Cuba in a hundred years, is currently battering the west coast of Florida after setting a record for the lowest barometric pressure ever measured in the Keys, and could easily break the 10-day-old record for economic catastrophe set by Harvey; it’s definitely changed the psychology of life in Florida for decades to come.

Oh, and while Irma spun, Hurricane Jose followed in its wake as a major hurricane, while in the Gulf of Mexico, Katia spun up into a frightening storm of her own, before crashing into the Mexican mainland almost directly across the peninsula from the spot where the strongest earthquake in 100 years had taken dozens of lives.

Leaving aside the earthquake, every one of these events jibes with what scientists and environmentalists have spent 30 fruitless years telling us to expect from global warming. (There’s actually fairly convincing evidence that climate change is triggering more seismic activity, but there’s no need to egg the pudding.)

That one long screed of news from one continent in one week (which could be written about many other continents and many other weeks – just check out the recent flooding in south Asia for instance) is a precise, pixelated portrait of a heating world. Because we have burned so much oil and gas and coal, we have put huge clouds of CO2 and methane in the air; because the structure of those molecules traps heat the planet has warmed; because the planet has warmed we can get heavier rainfalls, stronger winds, drier forests and fields. It’s not mysterious, not in any way. It’s not a run of bad luck. It’s not Donald Trump (though he’s obviously not helping). It’s not hellfire sent to punish us. It’s physics.

Maybe it was too much to expect that scientists’ warnings would really move people. (I mean, I wrote The End of Nature, the first book about all this 28 years ago this week, when I was 28 – and when my theory was still: “People will read my book, and then they will change.”) Maybe it’s like all the health warnings that you should eat fewer chips and drink less soda, which, to judge by belt-size, not many of us pay much mind. Until, maybe, you go to the doctor and he says: “Whoa, you’re in trouble.” Not “keep eating junk and some day you’ll be in trouble”, but: “You’re in trouble right now, today. As in, it looks to me like you’ve already had a small stroke or two.” Hurricanes Harvey and Irma are the equivalent of one of those transient ischaemic attacks – yeah, your face is drooping oddly on the left, but you can continue. Maybe. If you start taking your pills, eating right, exercising, getting your act together.

That’s the stage we’re at now – not the warning on the side of the pack, but the hacking cough that brings up blood. But what happens if you keep smoking? You get worse, till past a certain point you’re not continuing. We’ve increased the temperature of the Earth a little more than 1C so far, which has been enough extra heat to account for the horrors we’re currently witnessing. And with the momentum built into the system, we’re going to go somewhere near 2C, no matter what we do. That will be considerably worse than where we are now, but maybe it will be expensively endurable.

The problem is, our current business-as-usual trajectory takes us to a world that’s about 3.5C warmer. That is to say, even if we kept the promises we made at Paris (which Trump has already, of course, repudiated) we’re going to build a planet so hot that we can’t have civilisations. We have to seize the moment we’re in right now – the moment when we’re scared and vulnerable – and use it to dramatically reorient ourselves. The last three years have each broken the record for the hottest year ever measured – they’re a red flashing sign that says: “Snap out of it.” Not bend the trajectory somewhat, as the Paris accords envisioned, but simultaneously jam on the fossil fuel brakes and stand on the solar accelerator (and also find some metaphors that don’t rely on internal combustion).

We could do it. It’s not technologically impossible – study after study has shown we can get to 100% renewables at a manageable cost, more manageable all the time, since the price of solar panels and windmills keeps plummeting. Elon Musk is showing you can churn out electric cars with ever-lower sticker shock. In remote corners of Africa and Asia, peasants have begun leapfrogging past fossil fuel and going straight to the sun. The Danes just sold their last oil company and used the cash to build more windmills. There are just enough examples to make despair seem like the cowardly dodge it is. But everyone everywhere would have to move with similar speed, because this is in fact a race against time. Global warming is the first crisis that comes with a limit – solve it soon or don’t solve it. Winning slowly is just a different way of losing.

Winning fast enough to matter would mean, above all, standing up to the fossil fuel industry, so far the most powerful force on Earth. It would mean postponing other human enterprises and diverting other spending. That is, it would mean going on a war-like footing: not shooting at enemies, but focusing in the way that peoples and nations usually only focus when someone’s shooting at them. And something is. What do you think it means when your forests are on fire, your streets are underwater, and your buildings are collapsing?

Safety At Home And Abroad, From Terrorism To Food Security

Nothing is more important than the safety and security of the people of Hawaii and our country. As a member of the Armed Services and Foreign Affairs Committees, I am focused on keeping the American people safe from threats to our national security, environment, communities and fellow citizens.

For too long, our country’s leaders have refused to meet and negotiate directly with North Korea, and have held onto failed policies that resulted in a nuclear-armed North Korea with intercontinental ballistic missiles that put Hawaii and the mainland squarely within range. President Donald Trump needs to meet with Kim Jong Un to conduct direct negotiations without preconditions, in order to de-escalate and ultimately denuclearize the peninsula. Until then, we must also invest in cutting edge missile defense technology. We must always be willing to sit down with our adversaries, not just our friends, to pursue all avenues of peace.

We must also recognize that decades of U.S.-led regime change wars have caused Kim to develop and tighten his grip on nuclear weapons to ensure his regime does not suffer the same fate of Gaddafi in Libya and Saddam in Iraq. We must, once and for all, end our policy of regime change wars and make a commitment that our country will end our efforts to overthrow the governments of Syria, Iran, Venezuela or other countries.

Tomorrow is the 16th anniversary of 9/11, and al-Qaeda is stronger than ever before, in part due to a CIA-led program I have long called to end. For years, the CIA provided U.S.-taxpayer funds, arms, and intelligence to armed militants allied with al-Qaeda, fighting to overthrow the Syrian government. While Trump recently ended this program in Syria, our taxpayer dollars and military assets are still being used by Saudi Arabia in Yemen to strengthen al-Qaeda and directly and indirectly kill hundreds of thousands of Yemeni civilians — including the resultant famine and diseases like cholera. We must end our support for interventionist wars that drain our resources and threaten our national security by immediately passing my bipartisan bill, the Stop Arming Terrorist Act.

Just as we fight for peace and security abroad, we must address threats that exist here at home. We must end the war being waged against our environment by those who place profits above people and our planet. I’ve introduced legislation that will build on the momentum already created by Hawaii’s leadership in clean energy by setting national clean energy standards, and investing in infrastructure that protects and preserves our precious water resources.

We must address the threat to our food security as Hawaii continues to import more than 85 percent of its food. In the 2018 Farm Bill, I’m working with Hawaii farmers to empower those growing food to feed our people, rather than more giveaways to big, agribusiness corporations.

We must end the failed and destructive war on drugs that has so devastated our families and communities. It has overburdened our criminal justice system, torn families apart and made criminals out of so many Americans. I’ve introduced criminal justice reform legislation, including a bill to legalize marijuana and take it off of the Federal Controlled Substances List.

We must pass legislation that permanently solves the crisis facing our DREAMers. Last week, I met with DREAMers on Maui who shared stories of being brought to Hawaii as young children, and who know no other home than Maui. Failing to fix this legislatively is a betrayal to them and their families.

We must end our destructive legacy of counterproductive regime change wars and nation-building overseas, and instead invest in rebuilding our communities here at home by overhauling our failing infrastructure, ensuring affordable housing is available to end our homeless crisis, invigorating our economy, strengthening our health care system, improving education, and creating a better future for us all.

Be Part Of The Solution

What Houston and the rest of the world are up against is physics. As we’ve heated the planet by burning fossil fuel, certain things have changed. Since warm air can hold more water vapor than cold air, for instance, the stage has been set for previously unimaginable rainstorms like the one that accompanied Harvey.

Houston may, with great creativity and at great expense, figure out a plan for how to deal with 50 inches of rain if it comes again. But that won’t solve the problem, because the world’s temperature continues to rise. Harvey showed how bad it can get now that the world’s temperature has risen about two degrees Fahrenheit. But that’s just the beginning. If we keep burning fossil fuels at current levels, we’re going to eventually raise the earth’s temperature at least six degrees. With each passing year the clouds will get more freighted with water, and the Gulf of Mexico, into which the bayous drain, will rise even higher. It’s a horrible dilemma.

But Houston does have one advantage over India, Nigeria, Yemen, and the other places that experienced disastrous floods the same week as Harvey. Because its major industry is oil and gas, Houston’s civic and business leaders could play a serious role in helping stanch the flow of carbon into the atmosphere. Harvey could be the wake-up call the city needs.

Imagine if Harvey convinced ConocoPhillips, Marathon Oil and other Houston-based companies to transition away from fossil fuels and toward renewable energy. Does this sound impossible? Well, last month Denmark announced that it had sold off its last state-owned oil company and would be using the cash to build more windmills. This wasn’t just the right thing to do, it was the smart thing. Anyone with a long-term view-which is precisely what’s needed in a time of rebuilding-can see that the sun and wind are the fuels of the future.

Texas already has substantial renewable assets, such as wind turbines. Harvey provides the perfect moment for energy companies to cash in their winnings from the fossil fuel age and head for the exits. Since solar energy now employs more people than coal, Google, Facebook and Apple combined, it’s almost certainly the right business decision.

I don’t expect this to happen. So far, the leaders of the fossil fuel industry have chosen climate denial, deceit and delay at every turn, in an effort to extend their current business model another decade or two. But when Superstorm Sandy barreled down Wall Street, it changed some minds-the cover of the next issue of Bloomberg Businessweek read “It’s Global Warming, Stupid.”

Clearly, Sandy helped turn the finance industry’s attention toward the future. There’s now more investment capital headed toward renewables than hydrocarbons.

Harvey gave Houston a bitter taste of what a warming world feels like. It will be interesting-and, given its economic power, potentially very important-to see what it makes of its current opportunity.