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Blog, Newsletter Articles: An Evening with Alan Grayson

by Adrienne Kirshbaum

Grayson

On the evening of April 8 at the Northbrook Pinstripes, a capacity crowd was treated to the wit and wisdom of U.S. Representative Alan Grayson.   The event was sponsored by The Coalition to Restore Democracy, a nonpartisan association of 25 member groups, each dedicated to improving government.  The driving force behind the gathering was that indefatigable activist Sharon Sanders of Northbrook.

Tenth Dems, a member of the Coalition, participated in the event.  Our founding chair, Lauren Beth Gash, was called to the podium to introduce Rep. Grayson.  In her remarks, she mentioned the several Harvard degrees that the congressman had earned, and the various successful careers he had forged in the private sector before becoming the U.S. Representative from Orlando, Florida.

We all know how broken our government is, and Rep. Grayson didn’t try to soften the facts.  But he leavened his remarks with humor that made the bitter news easier to swallow.  He spoke about the Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision and how that unfortunate action has affected the political landscape.  He told of how he took finance reform into his own hands and raised a prodigious amount of money by appealing to small donors giving $200 or less.  He urged his audience to get involved and fight to return our country to a place where everyone has a voice.  He declared that “money can’t vote,” and led the audience in an enthusiastic chant of that important truth.

Unlike many political events, “An Evening with Alan Grayson” featured really good food!  An impressive small-plates buffet included an array of delicious choices, from crudités to gourmet pizza.  At the evening’s end, those liberal icons Ben and Jerry provided ice cream cups in some of their most popular flavors so attendees could go home with a good taste in their mouths.

You can take a look at the speech on YouTube

Blog, Featured, Newsletter Articles: Why Our Restrictive Immigration Policy is Just Plain Wrong

immigration

by Barbara Altman

My strong opposition to the American policy that radically limits immigration has always been based on a combination of historical fact and my view of right and wrong.  After all, unless we’re full-blooded members of an indigenous tribe, every one of us can trace our ancestry to a land outside the borders of the United States. With the exception of those whose ancestors came here involuntarily as part of the slave trade, we can all find someone in our family tree who came to America looking for a better life.  Given these historical facts, who are we to tell the current crop of foreigners looking for a better life that they can’t come to “our country”?  It may strike you as naïve, but I long for us to live by the words inscribed on the Statue of Liberty and “lift the lamp beside the golden door.”

Generally, when I try to support these views with policy arguments, I can come up with only anecdotal evidence.  Look at all the immigrants who contributed to the ascendancy of this nation in the 20th century, I say – Albert Einstein, Enrico Fermi. Madeleine Albright, I.M. Pei, George Balanchine – the list is endless. And why, I’ve always asked, do we bring foreign students to the United States to study at our colleges and universities, only to make it impossible for them to remain in this country and apply that education to improving our nation?  Finally, I reason that, excepting those with nefarious intent, immigrants tend to be the cream of the society they’ve fled.  That is, it’s the very people who have the courage and the grit to risk everything to leave the familiar and travel to a foreign land where they may not even understand the language who have the most to offer their adopted country.

So imagine my delight to read the economic argument that supports my open-border bias in The New York Times Magazine for March 29.

According to economist Adam Davidson, writing in his weekly “On Money” column, those who oppose open borders in the belief that immigrants take jobs that otherwise would go to workers already in the United States have got it not just wrong, but actually backwards.  Jobs, Davidson explains, are not a “lump,” and employment is not a zero sum game.  Every new worker in the United States, just by being employed, stimulates the creation of additional jobs—jobs for the people who rent her an apartment, who check him out at the grocery store, who sell her a car and gas to run it, who teach his children…well, you get the idea.  Davidson says that it’s a fact that population growth stimulates economic growth and that, therefore, whether the population grows because birthrates increase or because of immigration, the result is essentially the same. Certainly, it stands to reason that if one of those foreign students we allow to remain in the United States starts the next technically innovative business, she will create innumerable new jobs for those of us already residing in this country.

Also, according to Davidson, an influx of workers at the low end of the wage scale makes the economy work more efficiently.  He gives examples using the construction industry, arguing that everyone is better off if the skilled craftsmen on the job aren’t also the workers hauling and sweeping.  Haulers and sweepers can be paid less per hour than skilled workers, and employing them will free up the higher-earning skilled workers to focus on the tasks that demand their skills.

So my wish is that we stop expending political energy on thinking of ways to stop immigration and start focusing on the best way to open up our country to immigrants—while weeding out criminals and anyone else intending us harm, of course.  It turns out that not only would such a policy constitute a return to fundamental American ideals, but it would also be good economics.

Blog, Newsletter Articles: Two Iconic Illinois Democrats …

by Mark Rosenberg, M.D.

On Monday evening, April 13, Tenth Dems University presented a program at the Highland Park Public Library featuring former Illinois Senator Adlai Stevenson III.  Speaking before a full auditorium, Senator Stevenson recalled his years in the United States Senate as a much less partisan time in which legislators could work together for the benefit of the country.  Since leaving the political arena, he helps to lead the Stevenson Center on Democracy in Mettawa, whose mission is to provide forums for the exploration of issues important to the American people.

Two iconic 1Sen. Stevenson also talked about sustaining our democracy by engaging young people in civic activities, which is the purpose of the Mikva Challenge.  Brian Brady, the Mikva Challenge’s Executive Director, talked about this program—spearheaded by former 10th District Congressman Abner Mikva—and its success in encouraging young people to participate in the political process.

Amanda Loutris, now a Tenth Dems intern, and Pawan Sajnani, both students at Stevenson High School, recounted their experiences as Mikva Challenge participants.  The enthusiasm of these youngsters was inspiring, as was a short film showcasing students whose lives have been enriched by the program.

During the Q & A that followed the formal presentation, Tenth Dems volunteer Kiki Richman remarked, “Working on a campaign is a great experience and young people gain valuable skills from that exposure.  They learn they can make a difference.”

The Mikva Challenge has reached over 6,000 young people in the city of Chicago and hopes to expand to more suburban schools, including those throughout the 10th District.

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Blog, Featured, Newsletter Articles: Congress Watch: Dold and Kirk Vote To Gut Medicare and Other Health and Social Programs, Increase Defense Spending, and Lower Taxes on the Wealthiest Americans

by Ronald Altman

Congress went home for another two-week vacation after the House passed a budget on a 228-199 party-line vote. If enacted, the House budget would gut the past 80 years of social legislation. The Senate passed the same budget with a 52-46 mostly party-line vote (Senators Cruz and Paul didn’t think it went far enough).

This reactionary budget did not receive a “yes” vote from a single Democrat in either house of Congress. Both Illinois Senator Mark Kirk and 10th District Congressman Bob Dold voted “yes.”

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Since the 2010 midterm election results returned the Republicans to power and made John Boehner Speaker, deficit hawks led by Representative Paul Ryan have longed to take a hatchet to Democratic priorities. Until this year, Senator Harry Reid and a Democratic majority in the Senate had stood in the way of their plans. In fact, Congress has been so dysfunctional during the Obama administration that no budget bill has passed both houses since 2008.

But now the Republicans have their majority in both houses of Congress. Although the final Authorization and Appropriation Acts that will outline the severity of the damage remain to be passed, we can be sure that if this budget were enacted ours would become a radically different country.
Here are just some of the Republican budget priorities:

Conversion of Medicare from an Entitlement to a Refundable Tax Credit. Since passage in 1964, the Medicare Act has provided health insurance to Americans 65 years of age and older. This would change under the Budget Act of 2015. Those under age 56 in 2015 would not ever receive traditional Medicare benefits. Instead, they would receive a fixed refundable tax credit that they could use toward paying for health insurance purchased on the open market.

Dold and Kirk’s votes for this budget were votes to destroy Medicare.

Conversion of Medicaid to a Block Grant. Medicaid is a federal-state cooperative program with federal oversight and controls that pays for healthcare for needy aged, blind, and disabled people, as well as pregnant women and children. The 2015 budget bill would convert Medicaid to a federal block grant. A block grant is basically a fixed sum of money that the federal treasury doles out, with little or no oversight. The grantee state then uses the funds to pay for a portion of the costs of a series of programs, at the state’s discretion. Any remaining costs are the responsibility of the state, if it wishes to fund them.

Dold and Kirk’s votes for this budget were votes to deny healthcare to the poor, especially pregnant women and children.

Repeal of the Affordable Care Act. The budget bill fulfills the Republican dream of repealing Obamacare. It does not include any alternative for the more than 16 million Americans who have obtained health insurance through the Marketplace since 2014; it only instructs committees to find an alternative.

Without the Affordable Care Act, the more than 16 million enrollees would be thrown into the private health insurance marketplace without any of the current protections of Obamacare, or the subsidies that have made healthcare affordable to families earning less than four times poverty.

This would mark a return to the bad old days when Americans with any preexisting healthcare problem could not afford insurance, policies were subject to annual and lifetime payment limits, and policies often didn’t cover the full range of healthcare services.

Dold and Kirk’s votes for this budget were votes to deny more than 16 million Americans access to affordable healthcare.

Increased Defense Spending and Cuts to Social Spending. Over the past two years, the budget sequester that ended the 2013 government shutdown has reduced domestic and military spending equally and reduced the budget deficit from $1.33 trillion to $486 billion. The Republicans’ 2015 Budget Act raises defense spending to levels not seen since 2009. It then provides that spending for wars will be considered “emergency” off-budget spending, uncontrolled by the limitations of the sequester. At the same time, it cuts $2 trillion over the next 10 years from programs such as CHIP (children’s health insurance), food stamps, welfare, public transportation, and agricultural support

Dold and Kirk’s votes for this budget were votes to give priority to funding foreign wars over taking care of domestic needs.

Reduction of Tax Revenue. The 2015 Budget Act eliminates taxation of capital gains and dividends and lowers the maximum individual income tax rate to 35 percent. It also lowers the corporate tax rate to 25 percent and applies that lower rate to both normal C-corporations and so-called pass-through S-corporations. This means that self-employed individuals could lower their tax rate by 10 percent simply by forming a personal service or limited liability corporation.

Dold and Kirk’s votes for this budget were votes to reduce the taxes of the wealthiest Americans while offering no relief to wage earners.

A party’s budget proposals reflect the party’s priorities, and the Republicans’ 2015 Budget Act is no exception.  None of these priorities should be surprising; they all have been features of the Ryan budget for more than five years now.  What’s changed is that Ryan’s party now controls Congress.

Equally, the votes cast by congressmen and senators reflect the officeholders’ priorities.  By their support for this regressive, reactionary budget, Bob Dold and Mark Kirk have demonstrated that their priorities are not the priorities of voters in the 10th Congressional District, nor, we hope, of a majority of Illinois voters.

Both stand for reelection in 2016.  They must be defeated.

Blog: Rising Stars To Help Local Democrats Open New Office

Highland Park — On Saturday, June 6, from 4:00 pm – 5:30 pm, the Tenth Congressional District Democrats (Tenth Dems) will open its new office in Grayslake. It will be located on 20 N. Whitney St. in Grayslake, with the entrance off the alley. Additional parking is available in the lot on the corner. Guest speakers will include rising stars State Treasurer Mike Frerichs (newly-elected) and State Senator Daniel Biss, often mentioned as a possible candidate for statewide office. Refreshments will be served.

State Treasurer Mike Frerichs was inaugurated in January after serving four terms as a state senator from the Champaign area. In a difficult year for a lot of Democrats, Frerichs won statewide in one of the closest elections in Illinois history. Frerichs served in Springfield with State Senator Daniel Biss who represents parts of the 10th District. Biss previously served as State Representative.

Tenth Dems is a grassroots organization that elects Democrats at all levels within Illinois’ 10th Congressional District.

For more information or to sign up, visit tenthdems.org/rsvp, email events@tenthdems.org, or call (847) 266-VOTE (8683).