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Putting your mouth where the money is(n’t)

21 Jun

Four activists in Philadelphia are on Day Five of a hunger strike in support of funding for our public schools.

The mind boggles.

I hope they are getting good support and taking care of themselves, and that they stop when they need to.

(In case you haven’t been following the story, the city and state are currently in a massive showdown over hundreds of millions of dollars that’s being slashed from the district’s ~$3 billion budget. To call the situation catastrophic is probably not that far off. )

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Preaching it

13 Jun

A while back, I had the privilege of hearing Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor speak. At one point during her talk, she recalled her starting salary just out of law school — $17,000.

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Photo credit: Wikipedia.)

Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor (Photo credit: Wikipedia.)

She said, “That was more than my mother ever made.”

It seemed like a lot of money, she said. Then: “To some people, seventeen thousand dollars still IS a lot of money.”

It was a powerful moment. One of the nine most powerful judges in the world was acknowledging that poor people exist in the United States today — and that she actually understood what poverty could mean.

I thought of that today when I saw this video clip of State Senator Vincent Hughes’ recent speech in the state legislature on funding for education and healthcare.

Senator Vincent Hughes headshot

Pennsylvania Senator Vincent Hughes

Watch his passionate, informed speech now. Or take a look at the (long) excerpt below.

We have a solution in front of us that would help about a half a million people in Pennsylvania.

People who are working every day.  Many of them working two, three, and sometimes four jobs on a daily basis. They’re trying to make ends meet.

They’re not making a lot of money. They have drive, they have perseverance, they have faith — they have to have faith, because if they didn’t have faith, my best guess is they would not be able to make it through. They really wouldn’t.

They work every day. They’re cleaning bodies — of the infirm, the elderly, those who are sick, those who are disabled. They’re helping folks get to their job.

They’re providing security for us. Which is even more important on a daily basis as the level of violence seems to rise….

They work in our neighborhoods, they work in our communities. They do the work that just about all of us would not know how to do if we were asked to do it ourselves.

But all of us depend on these individuals. They work in this building. They service this building. They work every day. They’re real people with real lives.

The thing that they’re missing — because they’ve got everything else, they’ve got the drive, they’ve got the determination, they show up early. Very early.

They work the late shift, the overnight shift. They work the early shift. They take the early bus. Some of you may understand what that means. They put it in.

The thing that they’re missing, the thing that’s absent in their lives…is health insurance. The ability to go to a doctor and to get a problem taken care of.

Healthcare! We all know about it. Every one of us in this building — or at least those of us who sit in these grand chairs in this chamber, the 49, the 50 senators, the 203 House members, the folks in this administration, we. all. have. health insurance. We understand the value of that!

There are folks who I know who have a problem — but they’ve got insurance. That’s the first question. They’re taken care of.

But these individuals — there’s over a million of them in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania. They don’t have health insurance. But they work every day. They have a window of opportunity of a solution to their problem.

It’s right in front of us. It’s been provided to us. Plus the money to pay for it!

Four billion dollars a year, coming to Pennsylvania to provide health insurance to provide health insurance for about five hundred thousand working people in Pennsylvania.

And by the way, most of these working individuals are women. They’re heading families. They’re working every day. And they just need a little bit of help.

And the program is right there. It’s right within our grasp to take. It’s right there!

Three independent studies have said, “It is OK to do, Pennsylvania.” Over half the states in the nation have said, We’re going to take this program, we’re going to put it in place in our state, we’re going to make it work for our citizens.

And quite frankly it doesn’t just help those who don’t have insurance, it helps everyone, including those of us who have insurance, because it has the opportunity to lower our own personal rates, because everyone else is covered.

Right there in front of us. It’s like this glass of water. You’re thirsty — it’s right there in front of us.

It’s paid for. The water’s in the glass. The glass is sitting right there. It’s right there in front of us, but someone is pulling it away from us, not allowing us to have it.

The health insurance is there. The coverage is in place. Help is available for those who need the insurance.

But we keep getting stall tactics, day in and day out, from the front office, about why this cannot be done.

We got some smart people in Pennsylvania. Smart enough to know that if 25 other states could do it, surely we could do the same thing.