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Why Obama is Right on Health Care

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Marc H. Morial

On September 9, before a joint session of Congress, President Obama made his most detailed and impassioned case to date in support of legislation to fix our broken health care system and at long last make health insurance affordable and accessible to every American.

In summary, the President’s plan will provide more security and stability to those who have health insurance. It will provide insurance to those who don’t. And it will lower the cost of health care for families, businesses and our government.

If you have health insurance, the President’s plan will prevent insurance companies from denying you coverage due to a pre-existing condition. It will also put a cap on out of pocket expenses so people don’t go broke when they get sick. It will ensure that all Americans have access to free preventive services like mammograms, flu shots and diabetes tests to improve health and save money.

And it protects Medicare and closes the so-called prescription drug “donut hole” which has resulted in an average of $,4,080 in out of pocket costs for beneficiaries who reach a coverage limit and who lack another source of insurance.

If you are one of the tens of millions of Americans who don’t have health insurance, half of whom are people of color, the President’s plan creates a new insurance marketplace – the Exchange – that allows people without health insurance and small businesses to compare plans and buy insurance at competitive prices. It provides new tax credits to help individuals buy insurance and to help small businesses cover their employees. It offers new low-cost coverage through a national “high-risk” pool to protect people with pre-existing conditions from financial ruin until the new Exchange is created. And it offers a public health insurance option to provide the uninsured who can’t afford coverage with a real choice.

The President also sought to dispel a number of myths, lies and distortions that have fueled so much misinformation and confusion about his plan. The National Urban League shares his outrage at the deliberate attempts to defeat reform through the spreading of outright falsehoods. That is why on the morning of the President’s speech, I joined members of the Congressional Black Caucus and NAACP president, Ben Jealous in a Capitol Hill press conference to help set the record straight. We made it clear, as the President did later in the evening, that the plan would not create so-called “death panels” with the power to kill off senior citizens; coverage will not be extended to illegal immigrants; and no federal dollars will be used to fund abortions.

Finally the public option, which we strongly support, is not a “government takeover” as some have irresponsibly claimed. It would be an essential option to hold down costs. It simply increases competition. That is the very essence of capitalism.

America stands alone among industrialized nations in not affording its citizens comprehensive health insurance. We have been fighting this battle for over a century. Now is the time to get the job done.

Students Respond to President Obama's Speech

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I think President Barack Obama’s speech was very important to many people because he is right. The only way to success is through education, and the only way to getting an education is by going to school. The best way of being someone in life is by getting an education and achieving your goals. Getting an education enables you to get a great career and a better future.

Dropping out of school is a really bad idea it is not the right way to go. Drop outs need to wake up and make resolution, because no one can change them but themselves. Not having an education can get you nowhere but to the gutter. The best ways to succeed is by trying and never give up.

Everybody is good at something but you have to find what that is. We are the future.

Alan Sanchez

To president Obama your speech motivated me today. To know that even if I fail I can still succeed from my failures because you can make changes from your mistakes. It shows me that I can succeed and make it even if I fail, I can get right back up and keep going until I succeed.

And what got me thinking more about your speech, is when you said Michael Jordan got cut from his basketball team. He didn’t give up and he made varsity, and that why I will never give up and will try to go succeed in every thing I do.

Anthony Jackson

Your speech was very good and inspirational to me and I can see where you are coming from. Your speech made me think about a lot of things that I can be doing with my life. When you said that you came from a home without a father, I can see how that can be for someone to not have a dad because it is hard raising kids without a father. Because my dad had that same problem but he still made it and you made it to.

So it shouldn’t be too hard for anyone to get their education, because it is like you said all we have to do is listen to our parents and teachers. If we just do that than we can make a life for our selves, and we can become the next presidents or lawyers and get jobs and have our own business. I hope that your speech said something to somebody because it said something to me.

Daniel White

I think that your speech was for students who want to drop out and not go to school. And this speech was for them to open their eyes and realize that they need to go to school And have a better life by going to college and getting a good career by having a good job. And you said the way to do that is by being successful in life and that’s what inspired me the most. But I think your speech was too short not like other times that you had big speeches.

But it was alright with what you said and I think this is going to inspire a lot of students to be successful in school and I am sure that a lot of people would agree with me, you are going to be a great president of the United States because you are going to make a change in this country by inspiring students to stay in school and make a better life for themselves by being successful in the future so that what I thought about your speech.

Eric Trejo

I heard your speech today. And I think it was great. It really got me thinking about how my life was and the only way out of my old life is school. I also noticed that the way I was living was wrong and I could change my life. Like the other kids you mention in your speech. I just hope I do because I’m sick of the way I’m living my life.

So thanks to you I’m staying in school and actually trying hard. And to think I was going to drop out, but now I know there’s no point in doing that. I’m thinking about going to college. I want to go to University of California San Diego to become either a graphic designer or a business man. So thanks for the inspiration I look forward to a good future and meeting you someday to thank you personally.

Fernando Arellano

I really liked your speech you gave about education. I really think that you made people think about dropping out and not finishing school. That speech really made me think about what I want to be in life. I think it is important to be some thing in life. I want to be a policeman one day and that speech made me stay in school and do better in my studies.

I am happy that they elected you president. Now that your president people are really looking up to you with your speeches and all the things your doing for us but now that you are looking toward the kids and me people will really appreciate what you’re doing for this country around the world. The parents won’t have to worry about their kids future and education.

Francisco Moreno

Board Remarks on President Barack Obama

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By Lewis Vanderzyl  --

I feel compelled to comment on the current controversy over the President’s remarks to American students. That controversy raises important issues in two vital areas of American life, education and the meaning of freedom.

Those who attack the President refer to him as a socialist, communist, and fascist. These characterizations are so ridiculous they almost defy comment. In our schools we try to teach “critical thinking” and encourage students to look for evidence to support generalizations. In the case of these charges there is no definition of what the labels mean or evidence to support their accuracy.

It takes little knowledge of history to realize socialism, communism, and fascism were terms in more general use a generation or two in the past. The theories supporting each of them are not only mutually exclusive, their proponents were often engaged in life or death struggles to determine which would dominate. Fortunately, none of them were successful. To maintain that these disparate ideologies could be embodied in one man is nothing short of preposterous.

There are many elements which are necessary for the functioning of a free society. Certainly one of the most important of which is the willingness to respect the views of people who differ from you. In a large diverse nation such as the United States there are a wide range of opinions on almost any issue. If we expect our opinion to be heard, we must also be willing to listen to the opinion of others. We just might learn something in the process. Those who would disseminate falsehoods, fear, and fanaticism are undermining the very basis for a free society.

Lewis Vanderzyl is the Vice-President for the Riverside Unified School District Board of Education.

SEIU To Congress: Mark Labor Day With Pledge To Bring Affordable Healthcare, Labor Reform

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As Congress looks ahead to the first Labor Day without the guiding hand of Massachusetts Sen. Edward M. Kennedy, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) called on Congress to mark the holiday with a renewed pledge to bring affordable healthcare and meaningful labor law reform to working families.

“This Labor Day, nothing is more critical to working families—and we could do no greater honor to Senator Kennedy’s memory—than passing the sort of health insurance reform that would make him proud. The bottom line is simple: we cannot restore economic balance and bring prosperity to all Americans without drastically bringing down healthcare costs and ensuring that all Americans are guaranteed quality, affordable healthcare,” said SEIU International President Andy Stern. “And we cannot do it without Congress’s leadership.”

On Labor Day weekend, SEIU will participate in large-scale events across the country to call for healthcare reform, including this Saturday, Sept 5, when thousands will gather in Indianapolis, and on Monday, when SEIU will join with President Obama in Cincinnati.

The events are merely the latest actions from the nation’s largest healthcare union, whose 2.1 million members have played a leading role in bringing healthcare to the forefront of the Congressional agenda and the national debate. Since recess began, SEIU members and activists have participated in more than 300 town halls and hundreds of other events—from candlelight vigils to neighborhood canvasses.

“If we don’t solve our national healthcare crisis, we will put the American Dream permanently out of reach for millions of Americans,” said SEIU Secretary-Treasurer Anna Burger. “Working with President Obama and leadership in Congress, we have made great strides for working families. But the skyrocketing costs of healthcare, if not addressed immediately, threaten to virtually eliminate the other gains we’ve made.”

SEIU’s leadership in the healthcare debate can be traced back to the early days of the 2008 election, when SEIU hosted the first presidential forum on healthcare—ensuring that every serious Democratic primary candidate had a serious healthcare reform proposal. Post-election, SEIU’s Change that Works campaign has mobilized thousands of people across 35 states to keep the pressure on lawmakers to keep their campaign promises to reform our healthcare system.

SEIU is also continuing its fight for meaningful labor law reform. On September 10, nearly 300 progressive activists from across the country will fly to Washington to lobby on the Employee Free Choice Act. The law would allow workers to bargain with their employers for job security, better healthcare and retirement benefits. Since President Obama took office, SEIU members have made great strides towards restoring the American Dream for working families, including.

Helping President Obama pass the historic State Children’s Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) legislation, covering nearly 11 million children; Passing the Act Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act and executive orders that leveled the playing field for all workers;  Shedding light on corporate irresponsibility by continuously revealing just how big banks helped drive our economy into the ground with failed financial models that make CEOs richer at the expense of shareholders, workers, and our economy.

Urging the White House and Congress to quickly pass the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act.

Stepping Back from the Brink of a Deadly Injustice

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Benjamin Todd Jealous, NNPA Guest Columnist

After years of heartbreak and disappointment, Troy Davis is finally getting a chance to have evidence heard in his case after being denied a fair trial since he was arrested almost two decades ago.

It should never have taken the American justice system this long to act.

Troy Davis was unjustly convicted and sentenced to die in 1991 for the murder of Mark MacPhail, an off-duty policeman who was shot while working a second job as a security guard at a Burger King in Savannah, Ga.

There was no physical evidence linking Troy to the crime and seven of the nine witnesses recanted or contradicted their testimony, citing police coercion. One witness, a 16-year-old, said police threatened to hold him as an accessory to murder, warning that he would “go to jail for a long time and I would be lucky if I ever got out because a police officer got killed.’’ Of the two eyewitnesses who stuck to their stories, Sylvester “Redd’’ Coles was himself considered a suspect in the killing. The other initially told police he could not identify the shooter. Brenda Forrest, one of the jurors, summed it up: “If I knew then what I know now, Troy Davis would not be on death row. The verdict would be not guilty.’’

Yet the courts stubbornly refused to hear Troy’s claims of innocence. After numerous legal rounds the U.S. Supreme Court on Aug. 17, in a 3-2 decision, finally took the extraordinary step of ordering the U.S. District Court in Georgia to consider and rule on Troy’s claim of innocence – a directive the high court hasn’t issued in almost 50 years. But it’s not justice yet.

The standard of proof in the evidentiary hearing turns our criminal justice system on his head. Troy will be expected to prove his innocence rather than for the state to prove his guilt beyond a reasonable doubt. We hope that this unfair burden of proof does not once again deny Troy the fair hearing all Americans deserve.

Hundreds of thousands of people have rallied to Troy’s cause. There were the well known like former President Jimmy Carter and actor Danny Glover.

There were the unexpected like former FBI director William Sessions and conservative Congressman Bob Barr. And there were the people all over the world galvanized by organizations like ours and Amnesty International who signed petitions and raised the visibility of the injustice of Troy Davis. Our Georgia branch tirelessly fought in the trenches, knocking on doors, holding marches, preaching in Georgia’s churches to bring the travesty to the light .

Earlier this year, I met Troy. I left the meeting convinced of his innocence. During my visit, I couldn’t help but notice the faces of several of the guards who for noticeable moments dropped their stony countenance, clearly moved by Troy’s plight.

Later, as I was leaving, I encountered a woman in the prison parking lot who told me that a neighbor, a former Georgia prison guard, quit rather than be forced to march Troy to the death chamber.

This victory is a testimony to the best of our country: Troy’s individual perseverance and humble courage through an excruciating ordeal, the selfless dedication of his sister who despite breast cancer waged a relentless struggle to save her brother and the grassroots activism and the voices of hundreds of thousands of people who lifted up his cause. Finally it was the Supreme Court where enough justices decided to step back from the brink of insanity and say no to executing a man who is probably innocent despite Justice Scalia and Thomas’s insistence to the contrary. It’s almost as if there was a realization that the very soul of America is at stake when we have a criminal justice system where innocence is irrelevant even when a man’s life is at stake. It was also an implicit rebuke to the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996 that has deleteriously cut back on the rights of death row inmates to challenge their execution despite new evidence of innocence. More than 3,300 people continue to wither on our nation’s death rows, men and women who are almost universally poor, disproportionately African-American and frequently innocent. Since the U.S. Supreme Court reinstated capital punishment in 1973, 135 people in 26 states have been released from death row based on claims of innocence. And there simply is no way to discern how many of the more than 1,100 inmates executed since 1977 were not guilty of the crimes they were accused of committing. The Death Penalty Information Center lists several reasons for the appallingly large number of innocents on death row – eyewitness error, government misconduct by both the police and prosecution and the eliciting of false confessions, often from suspects with mental disabilities, sometimes resulting from police torture. It should come as no surprise to those familiar with the American justice system that a significant percentage of those languishing on death row are, like Troy, are African-American – 41.7 percent, according to the U.S. Department of Justice. Black folks make up less than 14 percent of the population.

It is a national disgrace. And it’s a reminder of the cruel consequences of racism.

There is a victory to celebrate in the Troy Davis case. After years of anguish he will finally have an opportunity to convince the courts of his innocence. But other men and women who are equally innocent are being robbed of any chance. Many of them will be executed by the state in our names. Our nation must be better than that. Let’s hope that the Supreme Court decision augurs a growing realization that we have to change.

Benjamin Todd Jealous is president and CEO of the NAACP.

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