• The GOP Is Taking the Texas Women's Health Crisis National

    Sep 1, 2015Andrea Flynn

    As of today, nearly three thousand low-income women in Texas will need to find a new place to get their breast and cervical cancer screenings, thanks to a decision by lawmakers to oust Planned Parenthood from the program that subsidized care for uninsured women. The new rule is just the latest reminder that reproductive health services that were once off-limits are now fair game in the GOP’s long and tireless battle against abortion.

    As of today, nearly three thousand low-income women in Texas will need to find a new place to get their breast and cervical cancer screenings, thanks to a decision by lawmakers to oust Planned Parenthood from the program that subsidized care for uninsured women. The new rule is just the latest reminder that reproductive health services that were once off-limits are now fair game in the GOP’s long and tireless battle against abortion.

    Wendy Davis launched Texas into the national spotlight in the summer of 2013 when she filibustered HB2, a law that placed sweeping restrictions on abortion providers and quickly closed 17 of the state’s 41 clinics that offered the procedure. In November the Supreme Court will decide if it will hear the case, and if it rules the law constitutional, seven more will close.

    Many of the restrictions included in HB2 have also been implemented in other states, reducing access to birth control, pap smears, breast exams, pregnancy tests, and abortion.

    But long before HB2 turned national attention to Texas, lawmakers had been busy dismantling the state’s reproductive health infrastructure. Between 2011 and 2013, they cut the state’s family planning budget by nearly two-thirds and established a tiered system that prioritized primary care centers, health department providers, and "crisis pregnancy centers,” leaving little to no funding for family planning clinics—the very entities for which the funding is intended. The state violated federal regulations by banning Planned Parenthood from its Medicaid Women’s Health Program (WHP) and forfeited the federal government’s 9:1 funding match. Governor Perry insisted the state could operate the program without federal support, but the results have proven otherwise: in 2013 the new WHP served almost 30,000 fewer women—and received more than 100,000 fewer claims for birth control—than it did in 2011 (before it lost Medicaid funding). In the wake of these vast changes, 82 family planning clinics closed, 49 more reduced hours, and 54 percent fewer clients were served. In response to public outcry, lawmakers increased funding in 2013, but many women remain left out.

    In a recent survey of providers in Texas, respondents reported that “they did not know what had happened to their former clients but suspected that they simply were not seeking reproductive health care.”

    Despite the mounting challenges to accessing care, Texas lawmakers added yet another barrier. For 20 years Planned Parenthood participated in the state’s Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening (BCCS) Program, and last year served 10 percent of the state’s patients who receive the subsidized services. Lawmakers intent on routing abortion—and Planned Parenthood—out of their state argued that clinics receiving BCCS funding “should not be facilities for performing abortions.” Texas lawmakers insist women can simply receive their care elsewhere, but that’s simply not the case, and it’s particularly troublesome given that the incidence of cervical cancer among Texas women is 17 percent higher than the national average. According to a new report from the National Latina Institute for Reproductive Health, Texas Latinas experience a higher incidence rate of cervical cancer than their white or Black peers, and those living in counties near the Texas–Mexico border—among the worst impacted by the regulations of the last four years—are 31 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer compared to women living in non-border counties.

    Aimee Arrambide, Director of Policy and Advocacy for the Texas Women’s Healthcare Coalition, said it’s hard to predict where the women who relied on Planned Parenthood for their cancer screenings will now go. “Even after the 2013 Texas Legislature restored funding to the Texas women's healthcare programs, the safety net of providers was already so devastated by the 2011 cuts and the exclusion of the most active providers, like Planned Parenthood, that it did not recover.” Rebuilding clinics and getting patients back into the fold is a long and complicated process, especially when new restrictions keep cropping up.

    Lawmakers in other states have followed the lead of their Texas colleagues in extending the battle against abortion access to a broad range of reproductive health services. Today Ohio and Michigan have developed tiered systems similar to that of Texas. Oklahoma and Kansas prohibit private family planning providers from receiving state and federal funding and seven other states prevent organizations that also provide abortion services from receiving funding.

    Republicans at the federal level have followed suit. In 2011 the GOP proposed eliminating Title X, the national family planning program started in 1970 by President Nixon and then-Congressman George H.W. Bush (marking the first of such efforts in the program’s 40-year history). Today funding for Title X is 70 percent lower 1980 levels (accounting for inflation), and House Republicans again proposed eliminating Title X in June of this year, while Senate Republicans proposed further funding cuts. The GOP has voted 55 times to overturn the Affordable Care Act—which has dramatically improved reproductive health coverage—and it shut down the government in opposition to the law’s requirement that employers and insurers cover all FDA-approved methods of contraception. In recent weeks Republicans have lined up to decry the heavily doctored Planned Parenthood videos and demand the organization be stripped of its federal funding. Last week Jeb Bush, a GOP presidential hopeful, argued that Planned Parenthood is not “actually doing women’s health issues.” 

    Texas lawmakers might have blazed the trail in steamrolling reproductive health access, ignoring the cost to the health and lives of their constituents, but it’s clear that others are eager to follow the same path, methodically whittling away at the reproductive health infrastructures on which so many individuals have long relied – particularly poor women, women of color, young men and women, and members of the LGBT community.

    Texas governor Greg Abbott said in his inaugural speech. “As goes Texas, so goes America.” Unfortunately for women and families, that certainly seems to ring true.

    Andrea Flynn is a fellow at the Roosevelt Instittue, where she researches and writes about health and economic issues that impact women and families. Follow her on twitter at @dreaflynn.

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  • Why the NYU Community Is Coming Together to Demand Reform

    Aug 28, 2015Eugenia Kim

    College students across the country are rallying around issues ranging from rising student debt to divestment to sexual assault. These movements become stronger with each new campus group that adds its voice to the national collective, demonstrating that there is power in numbers. Yet while it is important to highlight national problems at the university level, these student groups would also benefit from collaborating to address problems within institutions.

    College students across the country are rallying around issues ranging from rising student debt to divestment to sexual assault. These movements become stronger with each new campus group that adds its voice to the national collective, demonstrating that there is power in numbers. Yet while it is important to highlight national problems at the university level, these student groups would also benefit from collaborating to address problems within institutions. What if we took each campus in isolation and asked whether and why that campus’s student groups were dissatisfied with their school’s administration?  

    At the Roosevelt Institute @ New York University, we launched a Rethinking Communities project advocating for NYU to be a responsible anchor institution by investing $500,000 in two local community development banks. NYU has subsequently denied our request, citing an internal policy that it has refused to show us. This process has taken two years.

    We have tried being conciliatory, working within NYU’s policies and bureaucracy. Meanwhile, NYU Divest has been working for years to be able to ask our Board of Trustees to divest from the fossil fuel industry, and has supplemented these efforts with demonstrations and protests. The Student Labor Action Movement (SLAM), frustrated with university bureaucracy, has launched multiple campaigns against the administration to promote social justice, from sit-ins to protests. These are only a handful of student groups at NYU working to create a change in our university’s policies, representative of the various tactics employed to get the university to acknowledge our presence—to simply listen.

    Small contingents of dissatisfied student groups have formed, each focused on their own very specific issues. While these siloed groups may contribute to national causes, they remain small student groups with little power against a large bureaucracy and administration.

    After struggling for years individually, we have formed a coalition, Whose NYU?, to create spaces where faculty, student groups, and community members can harness the collective power that we have built. We come together because we embrace learning from one another, sharing tactics, skills, and relationships. Our purpose is not to oppose authority but to demand a voice, a seat at the table. Disparate student groups are uniting with faculty and community groups to express their dissatisfaction with our administration, and engaging with union and community members who feel bullied by NYU’s administrative decisions.

    On September 1, 2015, this coalition of student groups, faculty, and community members will gather in Washington Square Park to demonstrate our collective solidarity and strength in numbers. Our use of myriad organizing tactics across a range of issues, policy proposals, and requests demonstrates that the problem lies not with us, but with an administration that is neither representative nor responsive to the people whose voices most need to be heard—its students, faculty, and community.

    How can an administration that purports to act on our behalf know what is in our best interests if it does not listen to us? Indeed, how can it be wedded to scholarship, teaching, and research, as it promises on every campus tour, informational brochure, and school website? We are denied information about the institution of which we are a part. We have unanswered emails and blown-off meetings when we ask for help. We are not allowed in the room for major decisions about the university or even told when or where these decisions are made. The result is a student and alumni body that is struggling with unforeseen fees, faculty who are tired of being pushed around, and a community that is being pushed out with NYU’s expansion plans and rising costs because of NYU’s real estate monopoly. The current decision-makers at NYU have failed to deliver on the necessary ingredients of a quality education: transparency, good governance, and academic collaboration between administrative departments and students.

    If you are a resident of New York City frustrated with rising housing prices, please come to our rally. If you are one of countless college students across the country graduating with debt, please come to our rally. If you believe that colleges and universities should be beholden to their mission of creating a space for academic scholarship and transparency, please come to our rally. We believe in the power of building movements not by lifting up one voice or cause but by standing together and highlighting the intersectionality of all our issues. I hope you will believe with us on Tuesday, September 1, and show that we are stronger together.

    Eugenia Kim is a member of the Roosevelt Institute @ New York University and the Rethinking Communities Brain Trust.

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  • Why Mayor de Blasio's Broadband Push Needs to Go Further—and Faster

    Aug 27, 2015Matt LazoRobert Godfried

    On July 16, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new initiative to bring free broadband service to 16,000 New Yorkers living in five public housing developments in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx.

    On July 16, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a new initiative to bring free broadband service to 16,000 New Yorkers living in five public housing developments in the boroughs of Brooklyn, Queens, and the Bronx. In partnership with President Obama’s ConnectHome initiative, the de Blasio administration has committed an investment of up to $10 million dollars for five New York City Housing Authority (NYCHA) developments. Earlier this year they pledged $70 million to provide free and low-cost internet service for low-income communities. They will start with a demonstration project in the NYCHA’s Queensbridge North and South Houses, which together make up the largest public housing development in the nation.

    This is a groundbreaking and forward-thinking policy and one for which Moustafa  Elshaabiny and I advocated in 10 Ideas for Equal Justice, an undergraduate policy journal published by the Roosevelt Institute. We found that low-income New Yorkers find it difficult to access job opportunities, information resources, and vital social communications such as email and Facebook. They rely on public services such as libraries or a number of NYCHA- and nonprofit-run programs, such as Broadband Technology Opportunities Program and Digital Vans, to obtain Internet access. However, these services are usually time-limited or temporary and are often only available from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m, directly conflicting with the less-than-flexible work schedules of low-income residents. Therefore we called on the NYCHA to mandate that Internet service be provided for all residents of NYCHA Housing Developments via the Housing Quality Standards being implemented by the de Blasio administration.

    De Blasio’s policy aims to bring “Internet service of at least 25 Mbps [Megabits per second] for all residents” to the five targeted developments. His administration is setting the minimum according to the FCC Broadband Speed Benchmark. While this is an ambitious goal for a community that previously had no broadband access, it is not enough. It is important to note that there is no clarification as to whether the 25 Mbps is per resident or per household. Furthermore, this minimum service is far below the city’s average of 56 Mbps. While de Blasio stated that residents can pay for faster speeds, this undermines his goal of promoting internet equity at a minimum or free cost to low-income residents. In fact, de Blasio has emphasized that low-income residents cannot afford even a basic home broadband plan, hence his plan to provide it for free. It seems counterintuitive to suggest they can choose to pay for an upgrade.

    In my 10 Ideas entry, we called on the NYCHA to collaborate with the New York City Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications to determine the appropriate bandwidth requirement.Tenants would have the opportunity to directly communicate their digital needs, such as daily hours needed for online homework, to NYCHA. NYCHA can also hold open forums or conduct surveys to better understand tenant’s broadband width need.  This method would be superior to that currently being used by the de Blasio administration, as it would allow residents to determine what bandwidth actually meets their needs.

    Another concern with the plan laid out by the de Blasio administration is that although Sprint is named as the provider, the specifics of the contract have not yet been made clear. As a result, we don’t know how the city plans to finance the continuous service cost, or how it will insure that Sprint maintains the broadband infrastructure and services. The contract should incorporate safeguards against broadband service deterioration and regulations that encourage keeping up to date with the latest broadband services demand.

    In the modern age, internet access is the great equalizer. Yet the Department of Information Technology and Telecommunications reported that 36 percent of households below the poverty line do not have Internet access at home. Our city leaders now recognize that this contributes to a “homework gap” and economic immobility, as low-income residents rely on limited public services for job searches and educational resources. In other words, the internet is a critical service, not a luxury. We must recognize as a society that we cannot address inequality without first bridging this digital divide.

    Matt Lazo is the Policy Change coordinator for Roosevelt @ CCNY and a 10 Ideas author. Robert Godfried is a member of Roosevelt @ Columbia and Roosevelt's 2015 Summer Institute.

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  • Four Crazy Economic Ideas You Might Hear at Tonight’s GOP Primary Debate

    Aug 6, 2015Roosevelt Institute

    The Republican presidential candidates will have their first televised debate of the 2016 cycle tonight. Here's what they're likely to say about the economy:

    1. Cutting taxes on big corporations and top earners is the best way to grow the economy.

    The Republican presidential candidates will have their first televised debate of the 2016 cycle tonight. Here's what they're likely to say about the economy:

    1. Cutting taxes on big corporations and top earners is the best way to grow the economy.

    All the candidates on stage tonight at the GOP primary debate will express some flavor of “trickle-down economics”—the failed idea that low taxes for the most well-off is the best policy for economic growth. Through a series of policies implemented over the past 35 years, we have already tried this tax-cutting strategy—in fact, some would say we are still in the midst of a 35-year trickle-down experiment—and as a result economic growth and business investment have slowed while inequality has risen.

    To defend their position, Republican candidates will point out that America’s nominal corporate tax rate is among the highest in the world, but this is misleading. American corporations pay an effective tax rate of just 12 percent. Such a low rate could be justified if corporations were using the proceeds to fund productive investment, but the evidence does not support a connection between lower tax rates and higher investment. Today, U.S. corporations are holding more than $2 trillion sitting in offshore tax shelters, and a growing body of research shows that excess profits are used to enrich shareholders rather than improve a company’s long-term prospects for success.

    Taxes on top incomes have fallen precipitously, from nearly 70 percent in 1980 to 39 percent today. While top earners have benefited from lower rates and a growing share of deductions and have captured nearly all of the economic gains of the recovery, median wages and family incomes have stagnated.

    Thirty-five years of evidence is clear: the main result of cutting taxes at the top and for big corporations is more inequality, not more economic growth.

    2. Supply-side policies will make the economy grow at 4 percent and solve America’s economic problems.

    Jeb Bush and Chris Christie pledged to boost the economy to 4 percent growth. Historically, the United States has grown at an average annual rate of 2.9 percent, typically only growing above this trend when the economy is coming out of recession.

    As we’ve seen, growth is not synonymous with broadly rising economic wellbeing. U.S. economic growth from 1979 to 2007 certainly benefited the top 1 percent of households, who saw incomes increase by 275 percent; however, compensation for the median households increased just 15 percent over this time—largely because families are working more hours, not because wages are broadly rising. 

    The deck is stacked against candidates pledging 4 percent growth: The Congressional Budget Office forecasts that U.S. growth will slow to 2.1 percent by the end of the decade as the native-born labor force ages and shrinks. Not only is a 4 percent growth goal unprecedented in advanced economies like the U.S., but there is no credible way to reach 4 percent without building a more inclusive economy.

    3. The United States is nearing a Greek-style debt crisis and needs more spending cuts.

    The United States is not Greece. Greece’s main pitfalls were being part of a fundamentally flawed European monetary union, combined with Europe’s fundamentally flawed policy response to the financial crisis: sharp public spending cuts that plunged Greece’s economy into a tailspin, causing it to contract by 25 percent, and ballooned the debt burden, which is on track to exceed 170 percent of GDP by 2022.

    Yes, the United States has debt, but at an eminently manageable level. And unlike Greece, which does not control the euro, the United States issues government bonds in a currency over which it has monetary policy control. More importantly, it matters a lot what we spend borrowed money on: war and tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy, or investments in education, infrastructure, and science that would strengthen our long-run potential for growth.

    4. The Affordable Care Act and Dodd-Frank financial reform are crippling the economy and must be repealed.

    A well-functioning economy needs healthy people to drive innovation and growth and a well-functioning financial system that efficiently channels savings into investment without causing systemic crises. Before the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act, America lacked for both.

    The ACA extended health care to 16 million people and lowered health costs for those with public and private insurance. Repealing the ACA would cast millions out from the health care system, raise health care costs across the board, kill the hallmark improvements that ended restrictions on people with pre-existing health conditions, and increase federal budget deficits by $137 billion.

    Americans are still suffering the hangover of the financial crisis and housing market collapse that led to $8 trillion in lost household wealth, double-digit unemployment, and a taxpayer-subsidized bailout of the world’s largest financial institutions. Five years after Dodd-Frank, many new rules intended to prevent such a catastrophe from happening again are still yet to be implemented due to rampant opposition, such as the rule for corporations to publish CEO pay ratios.

    Photo by Gage Skidmore

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