Why the United States Needs a Woman in the Presidency

Even had Hillary Clinton prevailed in the 2016 presidential contest, the United States would still have arrived late to the promotion of a woman to the highest executive office. And since Clinton lost, the United States has yet to enter this game. In 1960, Sri Lanka became the first country to be governed by a woman, but this was hardly a sea change because women did not enjoy more widespread success until the 1990s.

More than three-quarters of all female presidents and prime ministers have arrived in office in the last two decades, and the female ranks have grown faster since 2010. Nevertheless, the numbers have contracted in recent years. Currently, only six percent of all executives in power around the world are women; and a remarkable 61 percent of the world’s countries, including the United States, have never been governed by a woman.

Why has the U.S. failed to elect a woman to the presidency? In my research, I engage this question by examining global patterns of women’s executive office holding. In addition, I assess what happens when women are prevented from taking the helm, why it matters, and how this shortfall can be changed.

Why Female Executive Leadership Matters

The dominance of the American Presidency and the masculine traits often associated with and assumed necessary for office holders in American executive institutions pose significant challenges for women. What is more, many issues, like military and foreign affairs, are seen as masculine issues and often associated with the Presidency. Add to this the short supply of women legislators, governors, and presidential candidates (usually no more than one woman competes for a major party nomination) and it becomes difficult to imagine the executive glass ceiling cracking anytime soon.

What difference does it make that the United States has yet to elect its first woman president? Most basically, it matters because the election or appointment of a female executive facilitates women’s political empowerment. Overall, women executives create important opportunities for all women in society. Specifically, women leaders can propose and implement policies that promote gender equality and empower many more women.

Although we must take into account important factors in addition to gender – such as partisanship, party dynamics in the legislature, and the executive’s institutional authority to propose and advance legislation – women executives can in one way or another facilitate policies favorable to women’s advancement. And they can advance other women to power in cabinet positions, judgeships and the like.

Finally, when women hold presidencies or prime ministerships, they influence the public’s attitudes by providing important symbols of female political empowerment. The reality of women in power challenges prior presumptions about politics as a “man’s world” – and this change in the sense of what is appropriate and possible in itself helps create a more equitable society.

Ways Forward

How can the United States and other lagging countries finally have a female leader?   The following steps could help.

  • To expand the pipeline, create more programs that prepare a diverse array of women to run for office at all levels of government.
  • Increase the active recruitment of female candidates for offices at all levels by politicians, civic groups, and other leaders.
  • Change institutional structures that constrict the political pipeline – for example, by instituting new party rules that require women’s representation on nominating ballots, at political conventions, and in appointive government offices.
  • Build institutions that facilitate collaborative governance and women’s political inclusion, such as multi-party parliamentary systems where slates of officeholders can be designated without each having to win the popular vote directly.
  • Heighten awareness of the sexist attitudes and stereotypes women still face in politics and create programs to combat such discrimination.
  • Organize and advocate around issues especially relevant to women – including sexual harassment and violence, pay equity, reproductive rights, paid family leave, and women’s political incorporation. Place such concerns squarely on the policy agenda and make sure they are advanced, not just issues disproportionately relevant to men.
  • Support organizations that mobilize rising numbers of unmarried, millennial, and minority voters, who often back more progressive women candidates and issues.

In 2016, Hillary Clinton lost to an unqualified and deeply flawed Donald Trump, despite the advantages she had in fundraising, family ties to power, name recognition, party support, and vast political qualifications. Had Clinton won, her path to the White House would not have been especially revolutionary, given her standing as the wife of a former president. Still, a win for her would have allowed the United States to join the company of the 74 countries that have had at least one woman in their executive.

In the future, given the high visibility of the U.S. presidency on the world stage, a woman serving in this office could signal to the world that females belong at the center of the democratic political sphere and might also stimulate enhanced levels of public engagement in politics worldwide.

Achieving full political empowerment for women takes more than electing a female president, but the difficulties women have faced in achieving presidential power in the United States reveal that women the world over still have a way to go to overcome their political marginalization.

The time for a woman in the highest U.S. office will surely come all the same. Although the highest glass ceiling remains unbroken in the world’s most powerful nation, it is not impenetrable – just as it is not unbreakable in other countries around the globe.

How Hillary Changed Politics for Women

Hillary Clinton’s first interview after the election with CNN on May 02, 2017

She didn’t win the election and we have not yet seen the first female president, but Hillary Clinton’s legacy is still strong and extremely important. Hillary made history the moment that she won the Democratic Party nomination for president, and that will not soon be forgotten.

In the past, women have made strides in politics and have slowly but surely gotten us to where we are today. Hillary Clinton winning a major party nomination, though, is the biggest step women have taken in politics in a long time (arguably ever) and it opened a lot of doors for the women of the future.

Women in Politics Before Her

Hillary Clinton isn’t the first female to run for president — though she has been the most successful.

In 1872, Victoria Woodhull became the first woman to run for president. This was almost 50 years before women even had the right to vote. Since then, some other women have taken the risk and run for president, but have not been met with much success. Shirley Chisholm was the first black woman to run for president in 1972, Geraldine Ferraro was the first woman to be put on a major party ticket in 1984 and eventually, Sarah Palin was on John McCain’s ticket in 2008.

Many of these women were met with ridicule, many were not taken seriously at all and some were somewhat effective but still came up short. Still, each time another female stood up and decided to run for president, women made strides in politics.

Both Chisholm and Palin were put on the ticket in the hopes of generating enthusiasm about a female in The White House, not necessarily for their political expertise. This is where Clinton is different. She served as both a US senator and as Secretary of State and certainly has the experience to hold the presidential office.

Even though Trump claimed that she played the “woman card”, Clinton’s political background proves that she was not using her gender to get ahead. She was simply fit for the job and decided to go for it. This is something that young women can aspire to.

Clinton’s Legacy

Nobody can say for sure whether or not Hillary Clinton is done with politics. She may try to run for president again in 4 years, and many people probably wouldn’t be at all surprised. But even if she stepped out of the political arena for good, her resume is sufficiently impressive and her legacy is solid.

Some people feel as though Trump winning the presidency means that Obama’s legacy and Clinton’s hard work was all for nothing. This is not true.

Clinton – and Sanders for that matter – rallied a huge group of supporters behind the Democratic Party. These supporters believed in the message of the Democratic campaign, that we are stronger together. Trump won the presidency, but these people didn’t magically start believing in his hateful rhetoric and abrasive campaign tactics.

Young girls all across the country watched Hillary Clinton fight against Trump in debates, rallies and ultimately the polls. Seeing her name in headlines and watching her fight for what she believes in showed young girls that it is possible to achieve big dreams and even run for president as a woman. Clinton showed the next generation of women that gender does not matter.

Furthermore, Clinton’s campaign got women more interested in politics. More women were following the campaign and voting because of Clinton’s empowering presence. And after Trump’s victory, more women feel motivated to run for a political office in order to make change happen.

This is Clinton’s legacy. Through her hard-fought battle, she showed the women of America that they are capable of stepping up and making changes, regardless of their gender.

Still With Her

Trump’s success has not made Clinton and her supporters go away. The men and women who believed in Clinton’s message and believed in a female president are still out there. They’re the people you see on the news participating in marches to let Trump know that they are not happy with how he is running the country.

There’s no question that future presidential campaigns will involve women and eventually, we will have our first female president. Trump is simply a reminder of everything we are fighting for – equality and kindness for all.

The campaign that Clinton ran – stronger together – is still being played out. It’s just happening in a different way than many of us hoped it would.

Clinton reflects on election loss (Full event)

Why Feminism is Still Important For Social Workers

PHOTO BY LORIE SHAULL

Feminism continues to be a fraught issue with fractures within the community of feminists, as well as women in general. Yet, feminism is more crucial than ever given the diversity of challenges women are now facing. Feminism has become a focal point again recently largely as a result of the Presidential election and the response from it. This is clearly important for social workers as well, from the perspective of human rights and social justice, as well as from a policy perspective.

The role of feminism came to the forefront during the Presidential election for various reasons, most obviously because for the first time a woman became the Presidential candidate for a major political party in the United States. The treatment and response by the media to a female candidate, in comparison to a male candidate, was highlighted by various commentators. This included incessant references to the candidate’s clothing and appearance, the sound of her voice, and the dichotomy of seeming too harsh or cold vs. too weak.

Sadly, many female candidates are forced to endure humiliating treatment that their male counterparts would not experience. The list of demeaning comments made against Hillary Clinton goes on and on which also impacted the Republican female presidential candidate. President Donald Trump infamously commented on Carla Fiorina’s looks stating, “Look at that face!.. Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?!” These demeaning, misogynistic attitudes and comments were pervasive this election season.

As a result, there has been a strong backlash to what many views as a war on women. This has culminated in the Women’s March, which was estimated to have had three times as many people in attendance than at the Presidential Inauguration. The momentum has continued with more women taking up the call to run for office. International Women’s Day, held on March 8th, also held more significance this year as the Women’s March organizers highlighted the day with calls for strikes from women, and for women to wear red in acknowledgment of the challenges women face.

Yet, there are many naysayers that feel that these efforts are women playing the victim. Some women are vocal that these efforts do not represent them. Political policy impacts all women, and the advantages we enjoy now came from blood, sweat, and tears. This includes the continued fight for equal pay, women’s ability to advance in the workplace, paid maternity leave, and better childcare options—these issues are universal. Aside from this, there is the continued victim blaming of those who have experienced rape on college colleges and a lack of substantial follow-up on the part of the police. Many of those who are prosecuted are given a slap on the wrist, as was the case with Brock Turner.

Sexism and assault of women in the military continue, where most recently nude photos of a female Marine have been posted online. Intimate partner violence and murder of women by husbands or boyfriends are frighteningly pervasive. Seven trans women have already been murdered in 2017 and 27 were killed in 2016.

Furthermore, women and girls continued to be sexually exploited through human trafficking networks. This is due largely in part because our society condones selling women and the demand persists. Until recently children who were caught prostituting, some as young as 10, were prosecuted in court instead of viewing them as a victim in need of help. Even today not all states have yet adopted Safe Harbor laws, viewing “child prostitutes” as culpable in some way.

Worldwide women continue to experience gender-based violence. In Pakistan, Saba Qaiser was shot in the head and left for dead by her father as part of an honor killing. She miraculously survived but saw no justice as she was pressured by the community to forgive those who shot her, letting them off the hook legally. India is experiencing a rape crisis, with 34,000 cases reported in 2015. 200 million girls and women alive today have experienced female genital mutilation. Rape continues to be used as a weapon of war, including in Syria and Iraq, by ISIS militants.

Now is not the time for inaction or denial. Clearly, we still have a long way to go to achieve social justice for women in the United States and worldwide, and these issues have a direct connection to social workers and those we serve. The silencing of Elizabeth Warren on the Senate floor has ignited a new rallying cry, “never the less she persisted”– and so should we all in this fight for fairness, equality, and justice.

The Presidential Policy Series: Women’s Reproductive Health

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Sex has been a major talking point for this presidential race, from the unprecedented situation of the first female candidate from either major party running for President to the numerous accusations regarding Donald Trump’s treatment of women. But how do the candidates differ on issues related to women’s reproductive health? Women’s reproductive health has historically been a particularly divisive issue between the Democrats and Republicans.

Women’s Reproductive Health in the United States

World Health Organization’s definition of women’s reproductive health relates to “adequate sexual health, available contraception methods, and treatment for sexually transmitted diseases.” Women’s reproductive healthcare includes preventative services, testing and treatment for STIs, contraceptive use, well-woman gynecological exams, assisted reproductive technologies, abortions, prenatal care and hysterectomies. The most serious complication of women’s reproductive health is maternal and infant mortality.

From 1900 to today, there have been major advancements in women’s health. In 1991, Congress passed the Women’s Reproductive Health and Medicine Act of 1991. However, women’s reproductive health remains a hotly contested subject. From how to conduct sexual education for adolescents to the national debate on abortion, the United States government does not take a progressive approach to making holistic women’s reproductive healthcare available for all women. Many low-income women, those with limited education, and people of color are disproportionately more likely not to have adequate access to women’s reproductive healthcare. The implementation of the Affordable Care Act significantly expanded coverage for reproductive services for many American women.

Clinton’s Policies on Women’s Reproductive Health

Hillary Clinton has advocated on behalf of women her entire political career. As President, she will work to ensure that Planned Parenthood is fully funded so that the “essential health and reproductive care that Planned Parenthood provides women” continues to be available for women across the socioeconomic spectrum. Secretary Clinton also supports abolishing the Hyde Amendment that prohibits the use of federal funds for abortions. Clinton co-sponsored the Freedom of Choice Act, that sought to declare “that it is the policy of the United States that every woman has the fundamental right to choose to bear a child; terminate a pregnancy prior to fetal viability; or terminate a pregnancy after viability when necessary to protect her life or her health” (Congress.gov). Clinton also advocates instituting mandated 12-weeks paid leave for both parents to stay with their newborn (or adopted) children once they join the family.

Trump’s Policies on Women’s Reproductive Health

Trump’s main policy point on health care is to repeal the Affordable Care Act. On July 22nd, 2015, Trump came out to the Christian Broadcasting Network in support of the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act that bans abortions after 20-weeks (Christian Broadcasting Network). In 1999, he made a contradictory statement saying that he is “very pro-choice”. In the third presidential debate, Trump most clearly outlined his current views on women’s reproductive health. He supports federal ban on partial-birth abortion and stated that “in the ninth month, you can take the baby and rip the baby out of the womb of the mother.” This description has widely been discredited as inaccurate by the Guttmacher Institute.

One of the few policy agreements between Trump and Clinton is to implement mandated paid leave for new families. Trump and Clinton disagree about the amount of time: Trump promotes a six week paid leave “for new mothers before returning to work” while Clinton promotes 12 weeks of paid leave.

Conclusion: Clinton Champions Women’s Reproductive Health

Clinton has established herself as a champion of women’s reproductive health, both by supporting the availability of a variety of women’s health services and by encouraging increased federal and state funding for the services. Trump does not have a detailed policy plan for women’s reproductive health.

The Presidential Policy Series: Combatting Drug Abuse

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The Presidential Policy Series has been exploring where the Democratic and Republican nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump stand on a variety of healthcare policy issues. We examine how already the presidential nominees plan to address our country’s largest healthcare epidemic—addiction.

Across the country from small, rural towns to large cities, drug abuse has been on the rise. The most recent National Survey on Drug Use and Health in 2013 estimated that approximately 22.7 million Americans needed treatment for a drug or alcohol problem, yet only 11% of these people were able to actually receive treatment. Nearly eight out of nine people who are struggling with addiction fail to gain access to the care they need. It’s a frightening statistic, especially as 7,800 individuals above the age of 12 try a new drug every single day.

While drug use has long been an issue, it has gotten worse in recent years. More people died from drug overdoses in 2014 than in any other year on record. The majority of those drug overdoses were the result of opioids, prescription painkillers, or heroin.

What policy proposals have the two candidates announced to address America’s drug epidemic?

A ‘Bold Plan’ to Tackle Drugs

Hillary Clinton is proposing a “bold plan” to prevent, treat, and support recovery from drug abuse. As part of her plan, Secretary Clinton vows to launch a $10 billion initiative that will work with state and local governments to focus on prevention and educate communities on how to intervene early to prevent addiction. She has also announced new initiatives to work with providers to aid prevention and ensure that opioid painkillers are being administered more appropriately by requiring new training and monitoring programs.

For those suffering from addiction, Clinton wants to expand inpatient and outpatient services, increase the number of specialty-trained providers, and ensure insurance is not a barrier to receiving treatment. She also plans to make naloxone, the rescue drug for opioid overdose, accessible to every first responder. Finally, she plans to increase investment in programs that divert people to rehabilitation instead of prison for low-level and non-violent drug offenses.

Stronger Borders to Decrease Drug Availability

To date, Donald Trump has expressed no discernable, coherent policy around resolving the drug crisis. He has mostly focused his attention on calls for tighter border security; one of the side effects, ostensibly, being a reduction in the availability of drugs that are being illegally smuggled into the country. To our knowledge, his only stated position on prescription drug reform has been a liberalization of pharmaceutical overseas imports, which we will cover in the next article in the series.

Traditionally, the GOP has supported stricter drug legislation with many legislators at the national level opposing the legalization of marijuana and speaking out against the improper prescription of painkillers, which often leads to the opioid abuse. Many Republicans support in-school education programs targeted at preventing and delaying substance abuse among children and adolescents. Unlike Democrats, who have come out strongly against the War on Drugs, the GOP continues to support harsher penalties, such as jail time and mandatory minimums, to deter drug use.

The growing drug epidemic across the United States is a serious domestic issue that the next President will have to address. In our opinion, opioid and prescription drug abuse is one of the most troubling drug crises our nation has ever faced and poses a more insidious threat than drugs illegally smuggled across our borders. Healthify encourages continued, bi-partisan efforts to educate, prevent, and delay drug consumption among children and seek to promote greater access to rehabilitation and treatment for substance abusers.

The Presidential Policy Series: Prescription Drugs

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.
Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump are tightening their grips on the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

The Presidential Policy Series share where the Democratic and Republican nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, stand on healthcare policy.

This presidential campaign season, there has seemingly been more discussion about the perceived health of each candidate than their actual views on healthcare. The focus on healthcare policy has been unfortunately limited, except for one issue—the rising costs of prescription drugs.

Last year, Turing Pharmaceuticals, a New York-based pharmaceutical company founded in 2015, ignited uproar when the company raised the price of a 62-year-old drug from $13.50 to $750 per tablet, overnight. The company’s CEO Martin Shkreli rose to notoriety not only for his tone-deaf defense of the price increase but also for his thoroughly unedifying testimony in front of the House Committee on Oversight and Reform earlier this year. More recently, the makers of the EpiPen have been under fire for raising the price of their life-saving allergy treatment from $100 to $600 over the course of the past decade.

Drug prices are rising to new highs despite displeasure from insurance companies, consumers, and lawmakers alike. In fact, pharmaceutical prices have risen nearly 10% on average in the past year. With the rising prices of prescription drugs, more patients are finding it challenging to manage their chronic conditions and pay for their necessary medications. According to a Consumer Reports survey, “one of out every four people facing higher drug costs were also unable to afford medical bills or medications; one in five said they missed a payment on a major bill.”

Both Republicans and Democrats agree that action is required to control prescription drug hikes, but they can’t quite agree on how to go about it. The 2016 candidates’ plans highlight the difference in party views.

Increased Regulation

In general, Hillary Clinton’s prescription drug plan calls for increased regulation. Clinton plans to use the government’s bargaining power to lower drug costs and promote competition. As part of her plan, Secretary Clinton will make drug companies accountable to lower costs. She plans to fine manufacturers that raise prices dramatically and vows to put a stop to excessive marketing and profiteering by denying tax breaks. Instead, she wants funds devoted to research and development and will incentivize companies to do so with taxpayer support.

To improve competition, Ms. Clinton wants to help bring more generic drugs to the market. Her plan states she will work with the FDA to clear out the backlog. Recently, application backlogs have led to the delay of up to three or four years before generic manufacturers can even win approval to make generic versions of drugs without patents. Hillary Clinton will also work to prohibit delay arrangements that protect patents and keep generics off the market, and she supports importing drugs from abroad.

Finally, Ms. Clinton plans to cap what insurers can charge consumers in out-of-pocket costs for medications. Under her plan, insurance companies will be forced to abide by a monthly limit of $250 on covered out-of-pocket prescription drug costs.

Increased Competition

Most Republican’s had the same reaction to Clinton’s plan on prescription drugs, “more regulation, more controls, more restraints,” according to Senator Orrin Hatch, chairman of the Finance Committee, which holds jurisdiction over many of the drug pricing issues.

In principle, Republicans are opposed to creating more government regulation. Rather than putting constraints on the private sector, the G.O.P. believes the key to solving the drug price issues is through initiatives that help to drive competition and improve the speed to which new drugs can enter the market.

Donald Trump echoes those beliefs. In his healthcare plan, he vows to remove the barriers to entry that prevent manufacturers from providing safe and cheaper products. Specifically, he notes that allowing consumers access to imported prescription drugs from abroad will bring more options to enhance competition. Mr. Trump also believes that to make any significant positive changes in addressing these issues, lawmakers need to step away from special interests.

While both candidates agree something must be done, the main difference separating Clinton and Trump is just how far they believe the government should go in controlling the costs of prescription drugs. We mind there are many causes behind the increase in prescription drug prices. We applaud efforts to make generics and prescription imports more widely available to consumers. One of the biggest impediments, however, to negotiating prescription drug prices is Medicare, which is prohibited from negotiating drug prices by an act of Congress.

The Presidential Policy Series: Disability Rights

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The Presidential Policy Series covers where the Democratic and Republican presidential nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, stand on healthcare policy issues.

Although it seems like our country’s two main political parties are as polarized as can possibly be, there actually has been a few health issues that both Republicans and Democrats have historically agreed on. Disability rights have traditionally been one such example.

Going back to 1990, the monumental Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA), which was authored by Democratic Senator Tom Harkin, passed by an overwhelming margin in the Senate and the House. President George H.W. Bush, a Republican, signed the act into law and applauded the bipartisan effort of Republicans and Democrats. Eighteen years later, President George W. Bush, also a Republican, followed in his father’s footsteps when he signed expansions of the ADA into law after receiving approval a Democrat-controlled Congress.

However, this long-standing trend of bipartisanship support has been questioned of late. In 2012, Senate Republicans blocked the United Nations Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities treaty, despite a broad, bipartisan coalition. Republicans were split, and the Senate was unable to obtain the necessary two-thirds of votes to ratify the treaty. On top of that, this presidential campaign has only added to the uncertainty. Hillary Clinton has made disability rights a focus of her campaign, promoting her policy agenda in speeches and commercials. Whereas Mr. Trump has been criticized for making insensitive remarks and actions of those with disabilities, calling for less “political correctness.”

While disability rights are taking center stage with the two main candidates presenting different views, future bipartisanship still remains a likely outcome based on previously recorded party positions.

Republicans call for policy that supports the inherent rights of individuals with disabilities. The G.O.P. platform vows to support those rights by guaranteeing access to the necessary tools and education to “compete in the mainstream of society.” Republicans support increased access to education and competitive employment, and vehemently oppose non-consensual withholding of care or treatment of those with disabilities.

Democrats’ position on disability does not differ all that much from Republicans. They support “equal access, equal rights, and equal opportunities to make a life for themselves and to contribute to their communities.” Democrats support Secretary Clinton’s agenda, which vows to fulfill the promise of the ADA and continues to expand the opportunities for individuals with disabilities, especially improving access to meaningful and gainful employment, as well as housing in integrated community settings.

For the benefit of the more than 50 million Americans with disabilities, let’s hope we follow in history’s path with policy that both parties can agree on.

Disability Law, Policy and Civil Rights Movement

The Presidential Policy Series: Affordable Care Act

Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump clinched the Democratic and Republican presidential nominations.

In less than 18 months, the field of candidates vying to win the 2016 presidential election has narrowed from over two dozen contenders to two major opponents. Now, with fewer than two months before Election Day on November 8th (remember to vote!), we’re exploring the Republican and Democratic candidates’ positions on healthcare policy.

The Presidential Policy Series, we will share where the Democratic and Republican nominees, Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump, respectively, stand on healthcare policy. In this post, we will be discussing the most divisive healthcare issue, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, commonly referred to as the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

The ACA, colloquially known as Obamacare, has been hotly debated for over six years. Advocates and opponents of the law often fall along party line. The law, which represents the largest regulatory change to the industry since Medicare and Medicaid were introduced in 1965, was designed to bring quality and affordable health care to everyone by transforming delivery to focus on value and expanding insurance coverage.

Budget Busting

From a party standpoint, the Republican Party platform views the plan as a “Euro-style bureaucracy to manage unworkable, budget-busting, conflicting provisions.” Many conservatives believe it has raised insurance premiums, increased deductibles, and inflated drug prices while limiting an individual’s access to care within narrow provider networks. Republicans have long called for the law to be repealed, and Mr. Trump, despite previously expressing support for the individual insurance mandate, has fully endorsed a repeal of Obamacare.

In the Trump healthcare plan, he vows to repeal the ACA during his first day in the Oval Office and work with Congress to implement reforms that follow free market trades. He’s specifically mentioned modifying the existing law that inhibits the sale of health insurance across state lines, implementing health savings accounts and individual deduction for health insurance premium payments, requiring full price transparency, and letting states control Medicaid.

Rather than expanding Medicaid, Trump says he’d like to focus on policy that grows the economy and provides more jobs. As his health plan currently states, “the best social program has always been a job – and taking care of our economy will go a long way towards reducing our dependence on public health programs.”

Not Far Enough

Secretary Clinton, on the other hand, has vigorously defended the ACA and has expressed a desire to work with Congress to get legislation passed that would expand aspects of the ACA. Like most Democrats, Clinton believes the health law has been an important step toward the goal of universal health care, for which she has been a longtime advocate.

She introduced the unsuccessful Health Security Act in 1993, which was a comprehensive plan to provide universal health care to all Americans. She later helped create and pass the Children’s Health Insurance Program in 1997, which now provides coverage to more than 8.4 million children.

In the Clinton healthcare plan, she vows to continue these efforts to improve healthcare access.  Clinton plans to work with governors to continue the expansion of Medicaid on the state level and enroll more eligible Americans. She wants to further enact policies that will expand access to affordable health care regardless of immigration status.

Clinton has also called for the funding of primary care services at community health centers to double over the next decade and has expressed support for President Obama’s charge to triple funding for the National Health Service Corps, the government program that aims to address physician shortage in areas around the country. To address health costs, Clinton supports authoritative action to block or modify premium increases, capping prescription drug costs, and limiting excessive out-of-pocket costs for families.

Finally, Clinton has stated that she will pursue efforts to make a “public option” of healthcare possible, and expand Medicare by allowing individuals above the age 55 being able to buy into Medicare program.

What Will a Trump Presidency Mean for Americans

Photo Credit: www.donaldtrump.com
Photo Credit: www.donaldtrump.com

The Indiana, Nebraska, and West Virginia primaries have all ended, and Republican voters have made it clear who they want their presidential nominee to be – Donald Trump. In light of Trump’s crushing victory in the Indiana polls, Ted Cruz, a Republican senator from Texas and presidential hopeful, has reportedly dropped his presidential bid leaving Trump a clear path to earning the official Republican nomination at the party convention this June.

Seeing Trump this close to winning the Republican nomination is astounding in the least. Just under a year ago, when Trump announced his candidacy for president, various reporters, political insiders, and politicians from the right declared it impossible for this businessman from New York with no political experience to be successful on the campaign trail. Only recently have political analysts began to realize a Trump presidency could be looming in the future of the United States.

The reality of Trump being a viable presidential candidate has many social workers, counselors, physicians, and other helping professionals asking what a Trump presidency would mean for healthcare and mental health in our country. The answer to this question can be found by reviewing Trump’s views on these topics.

Trump on Healthcare

Healthcare remains one of the fastest-growing occupations in the United States with a projected total of 163,537.1 million people working in the healthcare sector by 2020. The Affordable Care Act (ACA), signed into law in 2010 by President Obama, has allowed citizens to access health services they may not have been able to afford before the legislation was made law. More people are receiving healthcare, more physicians, nurses, and other medical professionals are providing services, and employment in the healthcare sector still remains desirable as professionals continue to navigate and settle in to the new healthcare environment created by the ACA.

If elected president, Trump reportedly has plans to eliminate the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and create a new system.

“I would end Obamacare and replace it with something terrific, for far less money for the country and for the people,” said Trump

On the surface, a better system for less cost sounds great. However, in a healthcare environment still stabilizing from the most recent changes brought with the ACA, an upheaval of these new policies without a strategic replacement plan would be detrimental for professionals, their clients, and the healthcare workforce as a whole.

A quick look at Trump’s platform on healthcare policy reveals a plan to overturn the ACA, open up a free market insurance system, and allow people access to Health Savings Accounts (HSAs), but completely neglects to inform the public about how this plan will be enacted or what effects it might have on individuals and families who would lose their insurance coverage completely with the repeal of the ACA. The obscurity and lack of any evidential basis in his overall plans leaves healthcare professionals in the dark about how exactly this ‘new’ system would impact them and their clients.

Trump on Mental Health

Each year approximately 1 in 5 adults in the United States will experience mental illness. The current mental health workforce of social workers, psychologists, psychiatrists, and behavioral health specialists is unable to keep up with public need, subsequently causing 4,071 geographic areas in the country to be designated as having a severe mental health professional shortage. While many public leaders agree the deficit in the mental health workforce should be addressed, few seem to be actively doing anything to create such change.

Trump is no exception. In previous interviews and news reports Trump only brings up the lack of mental health service provision as being a significant issue in this country when addressing the wave of gun violence the country has experienced recently. If fact, the only reference Trump makes to mental health in his platform is cited in his views of Second Amendment Rights on how mental health issues should be addressed but should not impede citizens on their gun ownership rights. While Trump claims our country needs to fix the “broken mental health system”, he clearly lacks any willingness or concrete plans to do so.

So what exactly would a Trump presidency mean for healthcare and mental health professionals? From the look of it, we could expect to see (1) a significant increase in people who are uninsured or severely underinsured; (2) a decrease in access to needed health and mental health services; (3) a continued deficit in the mental health workforce; and (4) a system which overall is not adequately able to serve the people living here in the U.S.

Trump’s plan for the healthcare and mental health systems (or lack thereof) in this country doesn’t create any positive solutions to our current issues; making him unfit for the job of President of the United State of America. Our country needs a leader with a strategic plan to enact clear and concise legislation, to increase the effectiveness of our current systems, and to recognize the deficits and fill the gaps in service where needed.

As Americans who are concerned for the future of this country, we must set aside our assumptions, biases, and prior convictions to unite and vote for the candidate who is going to continue the progress we have worked so hard for. We must vote for the democratic candidate, and ensure we never have to experience a Trump presidency.

White Nationalism and The Co-Opting of Fear

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It used to be easy. The label of racist, sexist, or homophobic was a silencer on the weapon of the tongue. When a person stated views that were out of the politically correct spectrum, they paid a price professionally and publicly. However, with the rise of Donald Trump as the Republican nominee, there no longer appears to be a price for publicly embracing racist language and ideals.

Many have suggested the real problem, White Supremacy–that overt hatred for any non-white people–was institutionalized and invisible. White supremacy was lumped into the institutional mix with discrimination, prejudice, and inequality. Our policies, beginning with the civil rights act of 1964, set a precedent for addressing the institutional barriers to minorities. By 1988, the United States was addressing the individual white supremacist with censorship. But, silencing a sentiment has only resulted in the search for a new voice.

It has long been the recruitment tactic of white supremacist groups to focus on fears spawned by whatever “other” was present in a certain region. On the frontier west, the other was the Native American. In the cities, the other was the Blacks. In the southern-western border, the other was the Mexicans. But, something happened on a Tuesday night in November 2008, the worst fear came into the homes of many who had previously been silenced. It was no longer just a generalized fear of the other. It was the removal of an iconic White institution handed to a non-white. The fear moved from being offensive (in both ways) to being defensive, even despairing. Recruitment was no longer to mobilize. It was to defend against the further collapse of the Real America. Fear of the other became fear for the loss of a (White) way of life.

Empathy & Choice Architecture
The co-opting of fear changes the White Supremacist into the White Nationalist. The White Nationalist is not an institutionally-supported purveyor of hatred toward another race or creed. The white nationalist is a genuinely concerned individual who desires the best for his children and his people. Even if you are shouting for rights against the establishment, you are now the only one shouting. The rhetorical technique of the white nationalist is to claim victimization. And guess what, empathy demands that we listen.

This could be one reason for the inadequacy of our categorizations these days. The simple determination of whether a person is racist, sexist, or homophobic was never adequate as a basis for tolerance and appreciation of diversity. But, it worked in an institutional context to describe policies that systematically discriminated against specific groups based on some ethnocentric ideal.

As the unit of analysis moves to the level of the individual, categorizations will not be useful. Each individual is unique which comes with a unique set of concerns. Having children or not, levels of education, life goals, family connectedness, and a host of other characteristics form the profile of each person. Their choice architecture is built from this individualized profile, in the context of their immediate and social environment, impacted by the interactive effects that form their perception of self and the reality in which they live.

The good news is that we can mathematically map this complexity in operational research. Those may be two words that you are not comfortable applying to social science issues or social activism, but math and research are critical to interventions that promote dignity and worth of each person. It is more evident now that labeling the oppressor and demonizing the group runs counter to progress. What we have missed is that the need has shifted from the institutional level to individual level in the co-opting of fear.

The Empathy Standard
Let us first begin with a clear understanding of empathy. Empathy is defined as an ability to feel as the other feels. It is often distinguished from sympathy, which is to feel for a person. Empathy is more holistically to be distinguished from prejudices. Prejudices are characteristic means of self-protection or self-defense. More holistically, empathy is the ability to see the choices of the other as reasonable.

This definition allows social workers to work with clients whose behaviors have proven reprehensible while valuing the dignity and worth of each person. Even more importantly, this definition of empathy enables social workers to track the mechanism employed in the choice behavior. Once the mechanism is understood, the decision points can be disrupted with new information, intervention, influence, or insight. The disruption offers an expanded choice set and may result in new behaviors.

Without empathy-inspired dialogue on a topic, prejudices turn to anger and an insistence on being heard. Without empathy expect violence, disrespect, and self-promotion over others as less-than.

The Co-Opting of Fear
Which is more powerful, hatred or fear? Hatred can motivate many intentional destruction of things that are disliked. But, fear creates more things to rail against from imagined visions of even unreasonable things that may be. Supremacy groups have long used fear as a way to recruit new members. This was more of an institutional approach that reached out to individuals. It provided a target for the generalized sense of despair and hopelessness felt by the impoverished. It galvanized and educated that generalized sense into a frenzy of hate. That was the utilization of fear.

Utilization of fear was defined by Lyndon B. Johnson in 1960:
“If you can convince the lowest white man he’s better than the best colored man, he won’t notice you’re picking his pocket. Hell, give him somebody to look down on, and he’ll empty his pockets for you.” LYNDON B. JOHNSON, 1960, remark to Bill Moyers, “What a Real President Was Like,” Washington Post, 13 November 1988

We see the results in a speech by Hillary Clinton. It typically takes some version of the following form:

Let’s be honest, for a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports that poverty, crime, and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege (June 20, 2015 speech to US Conference of Mayors).

The problem is that we, as social activists or individual citizens, have not fully understood the fallacy of that “twinge of fear.” This lack of understanding is what Jeb Bush is saying he wants to work against, “I don’t think Barack Obama has bad motives,” He said on the debut of the Late Show with Stephen Colbert, “We have to restore a degree of civility.” Bush should have stopped there.

The co-opting of fear means that you are no longer dealing with institutional “other sides” of any argument or system failings. The interactions are now personal. Many in the Colbert audience noted the shift. Immediately after Jeb Bush uttered “I don’t think Barack Obama has bad motives,” a few in the audience began applause. Bush continued before the applause took hold finishing with, “I just think he’s wrong on a lot of issues.” The applause stifled. Bush turned what sounded like a conciliatory, constructive tone into a personal attack almost immediately. He could have talked about “his policies,” or better “I disagree with the Affordable Care Act,” or even better, “The Affordable Care Act has 12 provisions that limit patient choice.” In a policy discussion, the policy should reasonably be central, not the individual discussants.

Over years of political correctness, hidden resentment, and what Elisabeth Young-Bruehl calls psychologizing-sociology rhetoric has moved to individual characterization. Fear generalized at the institutional level has moved and morphed into fear personified at the individual level. The co-opting of fear has reduced policy failures to personal failures. Governance has been reduced from a sociological construct to the “liking” of one personality over another. Speaking your mind and refusing the politically-correct response is heralded as honesty and courage however ignorant and erroneous. A quick example can be shown in polls. According to a CNN poll back in 2013, 46% of people asked were against Obamacare. Only 37% were opposed to the Affordable Care Act. Same law. But, reducing policy to a “do you like this person” question creates different choice behavior.

This causes a fundamental shift in the way we work to support tolerance and move toward the celebration of difference. No longer are people simply misinformed and their generalized sense manipulated by the institution. Many are now genuinely, and individually fearful for their livelihoods, their children’s opportunity, and their freedom. Imagined or not, this new reality does not respond to institutional changes. In fact, the institutional actions to level the playing field and erase the majority advantage are seen as further disenfranchising the individual.

The Empathetic Solution

Now, that reality is individual rather than institutional, the only solution is empathy. It is to see the complaints of each individual as valid and worthy of our attention. The empathy solution ensures that each individual is heard. It maps their process of reason, and compares their experience to what our policies intended. Without this empathetic analysis, by denying the voice of those who perceive themselves to be eventual minorities, we others become oppressors. People who feel silenced and who fear extinction will revolt in discontent.

They will rally behind someone successful who speaks the fear, gloom, and despair that they feel. And, others will support this movement. Their support is not because they know the origins of supremacy and ethnocentrism that birth the movement. They support because they are empathetic to–they see as reasonable–the cries of people who have been silenced and hushed because their views were not politically correct. They support because they are tired of having to clean up their language to express overreaches and erroneous implementations of laws meant to create equality. Empathy, my fellow social workers, is not based on our agreement with the other. It is our ability to see their reason and continue the often uncomfortable conversation toward a comfortable resolution.

The Governance Agenda: Black Lives Matter and Protest Politics

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The Black Lives Matter Movement has inserted itself into the 2016 Presidential Election. From its initial confrontation with Senator Bernie Sanders to a private meeting with former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the movement has become a presence. Not isolated to the Democratic Primary process, the Movement’s presence is visible in the Republican Primary as well. In various interviews, the Republican presidential candidates are asked for a response to the demands of the Movement.

With any protest movement, the Movement is speaking truth to power — those who are able to create access or erect barriers — forcing it be accountable to those over whom it has dominion. However, holding the powerful (political elites) accountable and achieving policy objectives should not be the end goal of the movement. There has to be an effort to move from protest to governance. And this is where social work and allied professions can provide support. I suggest that social workers who practice in the policy and community arenas can do two things. First, support Black Lives Matters in creating political institutions that can run and/or fund candidates who embrace critical race theory approach to governance. Second, produce scholarship that challenges the notion that economic populism (or more broadly the traditional progressive agenda) sufficiently addresses racial disparities.

Bayard Rustin, in remarking on southern demonstrators and their efforts to curb police brutality stated, “The most effective way to strike at the police brutality they suffered from was to get rid of the local sheriff.” This type political action requires organization. We recognize this as the traditional community organizing process. We identify the target system, the person who is in charge of said system, mobilize community residents and secondary targets, and create a list of demands. The result of this community organizing usually is the creation of permanent community-controlled institutions. These new institutions serve as guardians of the political gains that the community has won. However, as effective as this process has been, we need to move from community organizing/protest tactics to developing a political, economic, and social philosophy that translates into a governing agenda.

This concept is not new. The formation of the Congressional Black Caucus resulted from civil rights era activists becoming political actors. What we need today is the same translation of policy grievances into political agency. The TEA Party has transformed conservative politics through primary challenges, grassroots activism, and political action. With support, the Movement can transform progressive politics. Social workers can support activists in developing policy statements and analysis, forming and funding of political action committees, starting ballot initiatives, and running for political office. This list is not exhaustive, only suggestive of how our professional training in social justice can lend support to the Movement in the political arena. Moreover, the political arena is not the only place where our skills are necessary.

An element of power is the ability to control the narrative. The Movement is challenging the current narrative around policing. Through our scholarship, we can support the Movement by supplementing their anecdotal evidence with case study and empirical analysis. As researchers and academics, we can lend objectivity to the truth that the Movement speaks to power. Essentially, we can transform their grievances into scholarly analysis. A lot of this work is currently done. Professors have included an analysis of the events in Ferguson into their syllabi and peer-reviewed journals have created special issues on racial equity. The question now is how can we further professionalize this work. Specifically, where can we expand critical race theory in social work practice?

Can we leverage communities of learning on critical race theory at various department, schools, and colleges into a respected think-tank on racial equity? The Movement is challenging mainstream society to see the challenges of those who are racialized as black (those excluded from full political, economic, and social citizenship) in the same manner that miners would see a canary i.e. a crisis in the black community is signal of imminent systemic failure. Our scholarship can assist that process.

The legacy of slavery in the United States is that the political elites used their power to create a racialized society. They allocated economic and social resources based on the biological fiction of race. In doing so, they rooted race into our social reality. If we are going to capitalize on the gains of the Civil Rights Movement, then we should embrace the call of the Black Lives Matter movement to make blackness visible in our society. By making race visible, where it is either willfully or unwittingly unnoticed, we can readily challenge its existence. We as social workers should engage in this process through political advocacy and/or scholarship.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ghQNvfJZv_k

Why the Hate for Hillary Clinton

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Having spent too many hours trying to understand the reasons for the incessant negative media output, I can find no rational explanation for why those in the media have taken a disliking to the Democratic frontrunner Hillary Rodham Clinton to put it mildly. She is simply hated because she is Hillary. Certainly most media types do not know her well enough to form a reasoned opinion and negative poll respondents have no clue about who she really is. I have never had a conversation with the former Secretary of State.

I probably have read more about her than most and I like her plenty. Then again, I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt. If I don’t know you, I assume you are reasonable until I have reason to believe otherwise. Think about it, if the media could cherry pick mistakes we have made in life, they could readily construct a narrative that would make anyone seem undesirable.

Like any politician, public person, or human being, Hillary Clinton has made her share of mistakes. The worst thing I have read or heard about the probable Democratic nominee is that she and Bill Clinton have made a lot of money and that it is possible that they may have done so by bending the rules or participating in unethical behavior. It’s called business as usual on the Hill. I call these speculations circumstantial hypotheticals with not much there.

New York Times readers are all too familiar with the many hatchet jobs America’s paper of record has inflicted on Bill and Hillary Clinton—beginning with the egregious Whitewater exposé. The investigation was based on a malicious New York Times article that former reporter Jeff Gerth later admitted was filled with errors that he blamed on his editors. Six years later after spending more than $50 million of taxpayers’ dollars, the Office of the Independent Counsel released a report declaring there was insufficient evidence to bring criminal charges against President Clinton and the First Lady.

There were Filegate, Travelgate, and now the overblown Emailgate and about a dozen or so other innuendos and speculations about Hillary Clinton misdeeds. It is understandable that people would believe something must be there, wondering why she is constantly accused of wrongdoing. She gets accused because she is hated and feared by many conservatives.

Now that Hillary Clinton is within striking distance of becoming the first woman President of the United States, her enemies are frantic in their desire to deny her this historic moment. Her detractors in the media are practically begging Joe Biden to enter the race, despite the emotional strain he is under dealing with the still fresh grief of losing his son Beau. I doubt if his candidacy will be a difference maker, but it could be disruptive if President Obama chooses to endorse a candidate. His press spokesman Josh Earnest has all but declared that choice would be the vice president.

I have been a big Hillary Clinton supporter since the days I stood on Broadway in upper Manhattan in the freezing cold handing out campaign materials for her Senate campaign. I knew about her then what I know now—that she has a passion for young people in distress that grew during her time working with Marian Wright Edelman and the Children’s Defense Fund. Hillary’s book, “It Takes A Village,” received rave reviews from top newspapers for her thoughtful advocacy on behalf of children.

Hillary Clinton is unarguably the most qualified candidate to run for President in my lifetime. Elected twice to the United States Senate, served on the Armed Forces Committee, Secretary of State, she has a lifetime of public service. She can only be disqualified on character issues. Dare we suggest that some of her attacks are motivated by sexism? That’s like suggesting some attacks on President Obama are motivated by racism. Haven’t we put both of those isms to rest?

I do not want a saint as President of the United States. I want someone in the Oval Office who is going to kick some butt on behalf of the 90 percent. I want someone who is going to fight tooth and nail to bring hope to the 40 percent who are struggling just to keep their heads above water. I want to see Hillary Clinton as the first woman President because she is a fighter. She can take the heat. If you don’t trust her, then hold her accountable. If she is bad as some make her out to be, make her a one term President. She is the best hope to beat the Republicans if Democrats rally around her, and that is priority number one.

Hillary Clinton Can Do Better on Race

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Hillary Clinton is currently using a rhetorical device otherwise known as an attempt to be “honest”, and it’s a call for us to be reflective about our own indifference to the racial divide. The problem is, former Secretary of State Clinton reinforces an irrational fear, masked in a logical fallacy, to justify an unsustainable ego defense. She meant well in the context of a larger discussion on race.

But, she could have engaged the same discussion by demonstrating the fear as irrational rather than leveraging the fear to elicit an emotional connection. Let’s apply the Social Work Next perspective to evaluate the rhetorical device. Our central question is one of Politics. How can policy and politics support empathy?

Exploring the Rhetoric
This speech was delivered July 23, 3015 in South Carolina. Some are attempting to use the clip without context to manufacture a Clinton gaffe. Presenting this as a gaffe, it would set up a narrative pitting open-minded Whites against other Whites using Black lives as the key factor in the decision point. Many may fall into that pit, but Social workers cannot.

If you took this position, it argues for Whites to advocate for and acknowledge that Blacks deserve to be treated as equals. Then, the other Whites should join the open-minded Whites and their action in creating a more tolerant United States. What this does is maintain the privilege of Whites as the center of the debate—the decision makers and the one group whose advocacy and opinion matters.

It also limits the debate to an individual level debate, one where each person needs to step up. The danger is to ignore mezzo and macro levels that also need attention. The danger is to miss the opportunity to ask a presidential candidate how he/she will legislate with the empathy necessary to create change. Policy should be the center of this debate leveraged by Justice for all, informed by Appreciation for all.

Clinton states in multiple events over the past month, some version of the following:

“Let’s be honest, for a lot of well-meaning, open-minded white people, the sight of a young black man in a hoodie still evokes a twinge of fear. And news reports that poverty, crime, and discrimination evoke sympathy, even empathy, but too rarely do they spur us to action or prompt us to question our own assumptions and privilege” (June 20, 2015 speech to US Conference of Mayors).

It’s still an inappropriate line. It could have been better. It serves to justify fear of Black males even while highlighting privilege.

Breaking down the Conceptual Semantics

The Social Work Next approach to this begins with the awareness of multiple systems levels: micro, mezzo, and macro. The individual or micro level is where much of this rhetoric resides. Rather than justifying the fear as a reminder to reflect with empathy and action, let us explore the fear as irrational.

The individual assessment would ask what biopsychosocial-spiritual-meaning experiences support the fear of Blacks. Only by addressing those fears at their origin, can the individual address the fallacy (most often) or the trauma (less likely) that supports the fear. The point at the individual level is that YOU have a choice regardless of the past or fear of the future. The risk in this moment is equal to the risk is all other moments.

At the mezzo level, we deal with institutions. What institutions support the idea that being Black is somehow threatening or precursor to harm? The solution is to move away from prejudice and determine the content of a person’s character no matter their race or clothing. The number of Blacks has no impact on your level of fear during a board meeting even if they all wore hoodies.

Let’s be clear, alley ways are scary no matter who is standing around in them. Anyone walking into a convenience store with a hoodie pulled over their head is going to raise your fear level. Remove the “being Black” offense from the evaluation of safety in context. Let us promote institutions that utilize the best in social engineering to support collaborative outcomes. You do that by moving away from social control and toward social capital. You know what I mean. “Protect and Serve” community policing versus “Stop and Frisk” raids and harassment.

At the macro level, we discuss environmental practice—the home for our discussion of politics. This is where we get into the depth of empathy. Empathy can begin with guilt. The problem here is that the guilt-to-empathy construct works at the individual level. The task is to expand the construct to the macro level, to collectively reflect, then politically act. What Clinton got wrong is that we don’t make this choice because of our guilt about our privilege or our fear of Blacks. We make the choice to create a politic of justice and appreciation because it serves our ends. The first level of empathy is to see ourselves or our children as the potential victim of unjust policy. The second level is to care that any other person would be subjected to such unjust policy without our ability to successfully navigate the system.

Policy-JusticeANDAppreciationPolitics of Change
As citizens, we are counting on our politicians to advance policy solutions. As social workers, we must educate a populous addressing a politic that lacks empathy. Clinton discusses empathy that leads to action, but only after justifying irrational thoughts. Reflection on assumptions and privilege is not enough. Many well-meaning people don’t have the energy and commitment for true empathy–understanding how my history makes my choices reasonable. And, how your insistence on my conformity criminalizes my existence. That is the point of #BlackLivesMatter. Not a redress to your privilege, but the assertion of my right to exist, under my own terms.

Use policy to grant me that right. Structure institutions that promote and bolster that right. Make equitably available the tools to defend myself and navigate the system.

In your speeches, structure your rhetoric to ensure a movement of justice and appreciation leading to empathy. Go beyond the guilt of having more, living outside stop-and-frisk zones, and living within successful school districts. Create, support, and enforce policies that provide equity of opportunity without asking me to become like you or more safe for you. I can’t change my color, but WE can change policy.

Afterward to the Social Worker
If you want to explore rhetoric and semantics further, may I suggest the following article as a starting point.

Complex speeches aren’t better speeches. In fact, they’re worse.

The most memorable lines in modern rhetoric—”Ask not what your country can do for you, ask what you can do for your country”; “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”; —are remembered precisely because they’re simple enough to understand, memorize, and talk about. Practically every modern sage of language—George Orwell, Steven Pinker, William Safire, Strunk & White—advises non-fiction writers to express themselves with simple language. Even if you like purple prose in your long-form narrative non-fiction, you’ll agree that it’s pleasing to hear complex policy points in clear sentences and parallelisms. (It’s hard to rule out that the dense language of the 19th century was pleasing and cogent in its own time.)

Read More

If you would like to explore the implications and the next steps for social work thought, keep reading this site, or you can do both.

Will Social Workers Embrace Hillary Clinton

U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves before she delivers her "official launch speech" at a campaign kick off rally in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid - RTX1GCOG
U.S. Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton waves before she delivers her “official launch speech” at a campaign kick off rally in Franklin D. Roosevelt Four Freedoms Park on Roosevelt Island in New York City, June 13, 2015. REUTERS/Brendan McDermid –

Saturday’s rally in Freedom Park on New York City’s Roosevelt Island provided Hillary Clinton with an opportunity to present ideas about what she will do to boost opportunity for prosperity for the poor and middle class. She spoke of four fights she will wage as President—getting the economy working for everyone, strengthening families, defending the country, and restoring integrity to the democratic process.

She vowed to support a constitutional amendment to undo the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision that allows unlimited money in the electoral process. She defined herself as a fighter who has been knocked down but not knocked out. She received criticism early in her public career beginning with the 1993 healthcare fiasco early in her husband’s presidency and the wasteful Whitewater investigation led by Ken Starr that cost taxpayers nearly $60 million. She is now embroiled in an investigation of her handling of email while Secretary of State.

The relentless attacks on Hillary Clinton’s character have taken its toll. There are many who literally despise her. She has admittedly made mistakes but has not been found guilty of any criminal wrongdoing. The voices that are loudest and heard the most are the haters. They wish she would go away. Take the money and run.

At 67 years old, why would she want to take on a Republican-led Congress? What is there to gain? She’s had the White House experience. She says she is seeking the Presidency because of her lifelong commitment to children and those less fortunate. There are millions of Americans who believe in Hillary Clinton and look to her for leadership and she will not abandon them.

Secretary Clinton is taking heat because of the millions she and Bill Clinton have amassed through their Clinton Global Foundation. There is nothing wrong with becoming rich in America as long as most people have a reasonable chance at success and you are not trying to destroy those chances by undermining unions and depressing wages.

Yet, both she and Bill missed opportunities to be magnanimous with their largesse instead of piling up huge sums of money for their personal use. Allegedly charging nonprofits huge fees for speeches seems a bit over the top. She needs to address this issue because it will not go away and while it may not prevent her from reaching the White House it puts a damper on her public support.

Should she be elected President—and the odds are truly in her favor because of the demographic makeup of the electorate during Presidential elections—she will have no magic wand that will bring about the sweeping changes she is proposing with her policy agenda. She will need an active and vibrant citizenry working with her and the Democratic Party to rebalance our political and economic systems to expand opportunities for prosperity.

She will need every supporter she can muster. Social workers should not just be part of the effort social workers should be leaders in the pursuit of a more egalitarian society. That means helping to register new voters, empowering individuals and communities to become more involved, getting people to vote, and running for elected office. Changing the system often requires changing people in the system.

Democrats have a nine point advantage over Republicans among Americans who identify with either party, 48 percent to 39 percent. Yet Republicans were able to win control over the Senate and control 31 state governorships. They are also in control of the State Senate in 35 states and the State House in 33 states. Republicans won 52 percent of the votes for the House of Representatives in 2014 but gained 57 percent of the seats. Hillary Clinton has pledged to rebuild state Democratic parties that were largely abandoned during the Obama presidency.

The next President of the United States may be in the position to nominate four Supreme Court justices over the course of two terms. That alone should motivate progressives not to sit idly on the sidelines but to be actively organizing and working to get more like-minded people to register and vote. It would be wonderful if Secretary Clinton was flawless but it’s enough for me to know that she wants to improve circumstances for the poor and middle class. I have no reason not to believe her other than the words of those who would like to see her fail.

President Obama, A Social Worker Is Your Ideal Poverty Czar

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Last week, President Barack Obama once again did the unusual by participating in a panel discussion as part of Georgetown University’s Catholic-Evangelical Leadership Summit on Overcoming Poverty. It was a rare setting for a sitting president but proved to be an interesting exchange of ideas with a couple of thought leaders on the subject of why so many (45 million below the poverty threshold) have so little in the land of plenty.

Moderated by Washington Post columnist E. J. Dionne, the discussion included Harvard professor Robert Putnam, and American Enterprise Institute’s president Arthur C. Brooks. Putnam’s latest book, “Our Kids: The American Dream in Crisis,” has renewed interest in the numbers of American children who are mired in poverty with bleak hopes for the future. Brooks has captured the imagination of many with his own brand of compassionate conservatism which sees free enterprise’s most important work as not generating wealth but creating opportunities for the poor.

It was a bold move for President Obama to put himself on the proverbial hot seat because his administration has garnered criticism from those who believe he could do more for the poor. This appearance prompted Martin Luther King, III to renew his call for a “poverty czar” to coordinate poverty reduction efforts across agencies. King was among those who called for the appointment of a poverty czar during the run up to the 2008 presidential elections. Candidate Obama was noncommittal then, however, candidate Hillary Clinton embraced the idea. Appointing a poverty czar this late in President’s tenure does not seem likely, yet those living below the poverty line can use all the help available.

What other profession equips you with the knowledge and skills needed to bring people together to address issues of great magnitude such as poverty? At the top of the list would be Oakland, California Congresswoman Barbara Lee, who currently chairs the Democratic Whip Task Force on Poverty, Income Inequality, and Opportunity. She is the co-founder and co-chair of the Out of Poverty Caucus and chair of the Congressional Social Work Caucus.Should the President decide to appoint someone as poverty czar, it would be wise to consider a social worker for the position. Who else would you appoint? Who better understands the many dimensions of poverty than a social worker?

Reducing and eliminating poverty has been at the forefront of Congresswoman Lee’s legislative agenda. One of the first bills she introduced in the 114th Congress in January was H.R. 258—the Half in Ten Act of 2015 that would establish a Federal Interagency Working Group on Reducing Poverty within the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) that would develop a national strategy to reduce the number of persons living in poverty in America by half within 10 years after release of the 2014 Census Report on Income and Poverty in the United States. She also sponsored H.R. 1305—the Income Equity Act of 2015 that would address escalating income inequality by denying employers tax deductions on excess compensation. However, Congresswoman Lee has much unfinished business as a Member of Congress and may wish to remain.

One might think retiring Senator Barbara Mikulski would consider taking on the challenge of being poverty czar but that’s probably not in the cards as newly-elected Republican Governor Larry Hogan could appoint a Republican as her replacement diminishing the Democrats very good chance of recapturing the Senate in 2016. Should the President look off the Hill, there are several highly qualified social workers who would fill the role of poverty czar.

Michael Sherraden, the George Warren Brown Distinguished University Professor at Washington University in St. Louis is director of the Center for Social Development and has done extensive research on asset development for the poor. Jane Waldfogel, professor of social work and public affairs at Columbia University, played a significant role in crafting policies that help cut Britain’s child poverty rate in half.

Social workers have provided significant leadership for the federal government, most notably Frances Perkins and Harry Hopkins who were key administrators for President Franklin Delano Roosevelt during the implementation of the New Deal. Social workers are uniquely trained to understand poverty and address it roots causes. If President Obama decides to appoint a poverty czar, he should have social workers at the top of his list.

Democrats Are In a Policy Funk

After losing the House in 2010 and now the Senate four years later, Democrats seem bereft of ideas about how to reconnect with the electorate. Democrats seem to have a grip on the White House and Hillary Clinton appears to be the odds on favorite going into 2016. Yet, with Republican policies blatantly favoring the rich, you have to wonder why so many middle class voters are casting votes for the GOP.

Republicans now hold majorities in both chambers of the legislatures in 29 states—their most since 1920—compared to just 11 states for the Democrats. In 23 states, Republicans control both chambers of the state legislatures and the governorship, compared to just six Democratically-controlled states. Republicans are now governors in 31 states including the very blues states of Maryland and Massachusetts, and President Obama’s home state of Illinois.

Quotes About Moving Forward 0001 (5)Republicans gained nine seats in the Senate in the 2014 midterms for a total of 54 seats, They picked up another 14 seats in the House to increase their majority to 247 to 188 over Democrats—their largest majority since 1928. Much of the Republicans hold on the House is due to gerrymandering.

However, only a strong appeal to the middle class can challenge their advantage, but questions remain on whether this recent surge is truly a swing to Republicans or a warning to the Democratic Party that it needs to get its act together. A recent essay in the New York Times by Thomas Edsall raised the question of whether the Democratic Party has failed working class whites.

Democratic support for affirmative action and comprehensive immigration reform turned off many working class white voters. Edsall argues that white working class voters see these policies as limiting their own prospects. Even though blacks had long been denied minimal opportunities because of Jim Crow laws and other state-sponsored constraints, whites viewed the gains of blacks as coming at their expense. For them, the economic pie is a zero-sum game.

Having fought successfully for New Deal policies, civil rights for African Americans, equal rights for women and gays, Democrats have spent recent years defending their achievements against the backlash of a Republican Party that grew in numbers as conservatives—particularly those in the south—fled the Democratic Party. In recent years Democrats have largely been seen as defenders of the social safety net—social security, Medicaid and Medicare, food stamps, unemployment insurance—all programs erroneously perceived to be benefiting more blacks than whites. While a larger percentage of blacks rely on the social safety net, far more whites are the recipients of these benefits, many of them in red states.

The Republican Party has branded itself as the party of low taxes and small government while enacting supply-side tax cuts that disproportionately benefits the wealth, policies that have only worsened income and wealth inequality. Economists differ on whether inequality slows economic growth. However, the preponderance of economic gains has gone to the wealthiest Americans while wages continue to stagnate, leaving the middle class with diminishing purchasing power. Democrats have offered few ideas for improving economic outcomes for middle class families outside of raising the federal minimum wage. They offer no broad vision of policies that would tilt more economic gains from the very top to the middle and the bottom quintiles. Americans want a social safety net, but only as a last resort. Nobody wants to depend upon it for their existence.

Though not by design, President Barack Obama’s presidency was the best thing that could have happened for the nation’s most wealthy. Republicans are able to place the blame on his administration for the economic malaise of the middle class while blocking his policies in the House and Senate. When the President or other Democrats try to remind Americans that the policies responsible for the nation’s economic woes preceded his time in office, he is chided as trying to avoid taking responsibility while blaming his predecessor. That Republicans were able to raise campaign contribution limits and weaken provisions in the Dodd-Frank bill during this last budget negotiation demonstrates how much they believe that they have the upper hand in the public relations war.

Future elections like most elections will be about what have you done for me lately and what will you do for me going forward. It is not just about getting people to the polls. The 2014 election should have taught Democrats that they must give voters a reason to vote for them. It is not just about keeping Republicans out of office, it is about electing Democrats with ideas and policies that will restore hope in the American dream for many who believe it’s nothing more than a myth.

Should Republicans Gain Control of the US Senate

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Should Republicans take control of the United States Senate there will be many political pundits faulting Democrats for their inability to get black voters to go the polls. Why won’t black voters go to the polls in large numbers? Well, it’s a non-presidential election which typically leads to low voter turnout by the party in the White House.

However, this year there is another subplot—black voters are disappointed with President Obama because they have been overlooked during his first six years. Former Harvard University professor Cornell West continues to be an ardent critic and excoriates the President’s record on black issues in his new book.

Dr. West and others point to efforts made by President Obama on behalf of other voting blocs. They rail about what he’s done for gays and lesbians because of his support for gay marriage and the significant legal battles won in recent years. However, the President’s support for same sex marriage was rather tepid during his first term in office. Some say he’s done more for Latinos with his commitment to immigration reform and his executive actions on behalf of Dreamers.

Yet, he passed on any further executive action and the numbers of immigrant deportees remain significantly high. It’s difficult to make the case that President Obama has completely ignored the concerns of black Americans with the aggressive actions taken on their behalf by Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department on the issues of voting rights and criminal justice reform. Did not the President recently launch “My Brother’s Keeper”, an initiative for boys and men of color?

In contemplating these “what have you done for me lately” propositions, it occurred to me that social workers might have some concerns as well. How are social workers feeling about the President? What should social workers expect from President Obama? It is well documented that African Americans and Latinos voted for President Obama in large numbers in both the 2008 and 2012 elections. In 2012, he received 71 percent of the Latino vote and 93 percent of the African American vote.

I have not found any data on the percentage of social workers who voted for President Obama, but I would believe that most social workers are progressive and that he received the majority of our votes. But we are not a large constituency, so why would Democrats care? At about three quarters of a million strong, social workers are not a voting bloc to be feared. However, with our skills at organizing and persuasion, we could easily be a force to reckon with. But right now, that’s potential.

Gay and lesbian voters have a clear agenda—equal rights, freedom to marry, and freedom from discrimination. Latinos have an agenda that is less clear but generally focused on finding a path to documentation if not citizenship for millions of undocumented immigrants. They have more social and economic concerns, but providing some peace of minds for millions in this country illegally is a high priority.

Likewise, the are many social and economic problems plaguing African Americans, from high unemployment, to disproportionate criminal justice involvement, to low performing schools. However, it is unclear where the President should begin. What are the priorities? What are the policy prescriptions? Someone should have been working on these before President Obama was elected.

There are many social and economic challenges awaiting the next President who just might be Hillary Clinton. Now is the time to set priorities and identify potential policy remedies. What do social workers want from the President? Which issues are most important? But understand, while the President might be willing to support our initiatives, he or she will not do all the work for us.

We must be willing to provide policy ideas, the political strategy and be willing to take the lead on getting things done. That is what lobbyists do. Of course some lobbyists are able to reinforce their agendas by spreading around money, but nothing prevents social workers from helping to draft bills and nothing stops us from working to get more sponsors.

MTV Fighting Human Trafficking and Modern Day Slavery

MTV Exit Live in Myanmar is a collaborative production with leading humanitarian foundations around the world who are fighting to end human trafficking and modern day slavery.

Myanmar also known as Burma is a small country in Southeast Asia that has been under military rule since 1962 until it began to transition into democracy last year.

On December 16, 2012, Jason Mraz will be the first international artist to perform at an open-air concert in front of the 2,600 year old Shwedagon Pagoda in Yangon. President Obama and Secretary of State  Hillary Clinton, also made history today because no sitting United States President has ever visited the country.

The President has lifted some economic penalties that have been levied against the country which is now allowing for new opportunities such as MTV Exit Live in Myanmar. The President has pledge to support Myanmar in their efforts towards democracy as well as an appointing an Ambassador. However, some human rights groups feel the country has done enough to warrant a presidential visit because of the hundreds of political prisoners being held and ethnic violence.

Simple Plan - This Song Saved My Life (Simple Plan + MTV Exit)

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