Tag Archives: Long Island protest

Long Island Activists Mobilize to Save Obamacare, Push for Single Payer in NYS

Ron Widelec of Long Island Activists and Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-LI 3) at a packed rally to save Obamacare and support universal health care, Huntington, Long Island, NY © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

Hundreds rallied at the Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Huntington (UUFH), under the aegis of Long Island Activists, to strategize how to save Obamacare from Republicans who are moving swiftly to repeal it and replace it with something that is far more costly, would knock tens of millions off health insurance, would raise taxes for middle class and working Americans, and essentially be more costly for less care. But the Long Islanders went an extra step: to demand single-payer – that is, Medicare for All – beginning with New York State.

The rally was one of 150 across the country last weekend with some coordination of Bernie Sanders’ Our Revolution group.

The activists jammed a main room, overflowed the overflow room, and were lined up outside, producing a kind of echo-effect to cheers and boos inside the hall.

Long Island Activists rally for universal health care, Huntington, Long Island, Feb. 25, 2017.

“Something feels wrong. Public policy in no way reflects public opinion,” said Ron Widelec, a member of the steering committee of Long Island Activists (LongIslandActivists.org).

“We live in the richest country in history, yet 20 million go without health insurance, tens of millions have insurance but can’t afford to use because the deductibles so high – choosing between feeding children or going to a doctor when not feeling well. These are unacceptable choices in a country this wealthy…

“These are life-or-death situations. That’s why people are out here. It turns out, if you try to take away people’s health care, get angry and show up. Tens of thousands die without access to health care, or can’t afford access so that is the same as not having access. People die if they can’t afford an Epipen.

The Affordable Care Act (Obamacare) was not perfect because it was designed to appease conservatives. Indeed, the framework came out of the right-wing think tank, The Heritage Foundation, and was first implemented by Republican Governor Mitt Romney in Massachusetts. Elements such as a public option or a Medicare buy-in were omitted in order to satisfy so-called moderate Republicans like Susan Collins of Maine, who nonetheless voted against the ACA.

“Many members of Congress are dedicated to the idea they can make the situation even worse . Our position is clear: health care is a human right,” he declared to boisterous cheers.

“While no one thinks ACA perfect, it did things we need to fight for,” Widelec said. “ACA didn’t go far enough – a human right doesn’t have co-pays or deductibles.

“On the federal level, there is very little we can do with Congress. We know Republicans want to overthrow ACA… We have to fight to protect Obamacare and put pressure even on those too cowardly to hold town halls [like Long Island Congressmen Peter King and Lee Zeldin].

Long Island Activists rally for universal health care, Huntington, Long Island © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

But while progressives all along wanted universal health care – that is, single-payer or what is termed Medicare for All – the most immediate goal is to preserve the key elements of Obamacare: covering young people on their parents’ plan until age 26; pre-existing conditions; no lifetime caps; a cap of no more than 20% of the premium going for non-patient spending , and minimal standards for what insurance policies cover – which turns out can only be offered if there is a mandate so that healthy people purchase insurance; otherwise, deductibles or copays or premiums are so high, they are unaffordable.

“It’s not true that the Republicans don’t have a plan,” warned Doreen DiLeonardo, who hosts a progressive radio show. Indeed, the plan that was exposed by Politico is essentially the 2015 bill introduced by then Congressman Tom Price, now the Secretary of Health & Human Services.

According to Politico, the Republican plan would rescind the unpopular individual mandate, subsidies based on people’s income, and all of the law’s taxes. It would significantly roll back Medicaid spending and give states money to create high risk pools for some people with pre-existing conditions. Instead of subsidies to help people with low incomes afford health insurance, it would give tax credits based on age rather than income. That means that multi-millionaire Rex Tillerson, former CEO of Exxon-Mobil and now Trump’s Secretary of State would get a bigger tax credit than the 30-year old who works at Starbucks. In any case, tax credits mainly benefit wealthier people. Meanwhile, the other big Republican idea is for Health Savings Accounts, which once again, benefit wealthier people, while those who are barely affording food and rent will be unable to stash away money in untaxed accounts. (See: Exclusive: Leaked GOP Obamacare replacement shrinks subsidies, Medicaid expansion)

What Democrats point to, though, are provisions that would wind up taxing middle class and working class families for the health insurance benefits they get from their employers, while at the same time ending taxes on the wealthiest Americans that funded the Obamacare subsidies.  

“If it were such a good plan, they wouldn’t be hiding it,” DiLeonardo said.

This plan is moving swiftly, she warned.

Assemblyman Charles Lavine is a sponsor of a single-payer health plan in the New York State legislature © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The Republicans’ “destructive, nihilistic policy will ruin the ACA,” Assemblyman Charles Lavine, who has sponsored universal health care in the State Assembly, said. “They attempted to ruin it from beginning, based on lies. Each and every one here today, superheroesque, survivors of the ‘massacre at Bowling Green’, we know 20-30 million Americans would lose insurance, we know the tragedy that will flow from that – we will return to days preexisting conditions rob people of access to health care. You’re on your own. Lifetime caps – if someone had serious condition, cut off, no more insurance., – when that happens we all pay one way or another for their treatment. Women will pay more for identical coverage, young adults up to 26 no longer on parents’ coverage, you’re on your own.

“We know the lies being told. Trump said ACA robbed people of their insurance. We know that is just another lie. More than 20 million were able to get insured because of ACA, we now have a record low percentage of uninsured people, 10.9%.

“Trump said some plans were canceled [using this to accuse Obama of lying about ACA]. But that’s because they  were deficient, illusory plans. What Trump and his confederates want to do, is to allow New Yorkers to go into market and buy insurance from other states. NYS is not going to allow that to happen. We will demand (because NY controls insurance product) that any insurance product sold here has to provide minimum requirements, or else people will get ripped off. Those are the kind of policies people lost because of ACA.”

Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa lied when he said Obamacare would create death panels that would pull the plug on grandma. But a century ago, the worldwide flu epidemic killed off 50 to 100 million people, and bodies were piled up on street corners in Chicago waiting for the city to pick them up, people were on their own, too.

“That’s not that long ago – a blink in time of human history. We stand together you rebellious Americans to demand the human right of health care, and we stand together (big applause). This is a fight for our families, our communities. We are 36 years since the first days of Reagan Administration into a philosophy that says government isn’t the solution, it’s the problem, your enemy. You and I will fight for our families, communities, and damn well we stand up and fight for our government.”

Recalling that President Theodore Roosevelt, a progressive who busted up trusts and created the first national parks, whose home at Sagamore Hill is just a few miles from where this rally is taking place, Ron Widelec  said, “Once republicans were progressives, put in policies that helped people, now they are wedded to the invisible hand of the American market, not noticing, it is a hand around throats of American people. We will fight back.”

Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-NY3) addressing the Long Island Activists health care rally in Huntington: “Mend it don’t end it. Fix the problems.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Newly elected Congressman Tom Suozzi, who has pledged to support universal health care once Democrats take back Congress (and held a packed town hall this past week in which support for ACA was a key issue), said “I believe in health care as a human right. This is a matter of life-and-death for many families now. We have to do a couple of things: protect ACA is the first thing. There is great energy behind that. But we need to improve upon ACA because there are problems – insurance companies, drug companies had too much say in writing ACA and we’re paying the price. Mend it don’t end it. Fix the problems.”

Next:  New Yorkers Mobilize for Single Payer Health Care

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin

 

Long Islanders Join Statewide Rallies for Climate Action, Tell Schumer to ‘Resist Trump’

Long Islanders join statewide rallies for climate action to tell Senator Schumer to act as a leader and ‘Resist Trump’ © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Long Islanders join statewide rallies for climate action to tell Senator Schumer to act as a leader and ‘Resist Trump’ © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

By Karen Rubin, News & Photo Features

“Resist Trump” was the chant by some 300 environmental activists who rallied outside Senator Charles Schumer’s Long Island office in Melville during a statewide day of action, February 2. Similar rallies were being held at all eight of Schumer’s offices throughout New York State to demand that he show bold leadership to protect public health and the environment by telling Senators to use every tool at their disposal to challenge the corporate takeover of our democracy and reject Trump’s nominees and policies that would decimate the climate and the environment.

“Schumer’s announcement on January 30 that he will vote against several Trump nominees is a sign that he is hearing the message coming from the grassroots. Voting against oil and gas insiders is just the first step to resisting Trump’s anti-environmental agenda—bigger battles over drastic EPA budget cuts, clean air regulations, climate change, and fossil fuel drilling are on the horizon,” stated Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch, the leading organizer of the Long Island rally.

Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch: “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Eric Weltman of Food & Water Watch: “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“Donald Trump has wasted no time in setting out a clear agenda that threatens fundamental environmental protections. With clean air and water under attack, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer must lead his colleagues in standing strong against Trump’s science-denying Cabinet appointments and his climate-destroying plans,.

Weltman declared, “As the nation’s most powerful Democrat, Schumer must lead the resistance. He must vigorously oppose cabinet appointments, lead the charge against Trump’s plans to slash EPA budget, dismantle the EPA, resist plans for the Dakota and Keystone pipelines. He must motivate his fellow Democrats.

“Each day, we are sicker, more depressed, more fearful,” said Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org. “As difficult as these days have been, we are more worried about the days ahead. The small gains in climate action will be overturned, we will go back 70 years to the point of no return…

“Trump’s friends are not concerned about our future of the country or the planet. Their only god is profit. They are determined to frack more land, pollute more air. Make America Great Again? No, make a small group of millionaires even richer, plundering our lands.

Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org: “We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Lisa Oldendorp, National Grassroots Organizer for Moveon.Org: “We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“You may have said you are tired of fighting. That it’s hopeless. But you must continue to fight for environmental, economic, racial, social justice. Turn your anger into action for change…. A Small group of citizens can change the world. One person becomes a group, a group becomes a crowd. People power grows exponentially. Don’t tell me people’s protests don’t matter. They build consensus, a movement.

Long Island environmental activists tell Senator Schumer, “Resist Trump” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Long Island environmental activists tell Senator Schumer, “Resist Trump” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

“The anti-Trump movement already eclipses the Tea Party at its height by 20 points. Democrats are finding our voice. Dissent and protest is happening on a greater scale. The New York Times in an editorial said Democrats simply cannot play by the old set of rules now that the Republicans are playing by new ones. [Neil] Gorsuch doesn’t deserve confirmation [for the Supreme Court] because the process leading to his nomination was illegitimate.”

Democrats have to mobilize for the local elections in 2017, try to flip the House and/or the Senate and take more state positions in 2018.

“We’ve had a few weeks to mourn the election. Not it’s time to get off the pity pot and take action.”

Ryan Madden, sustainability organizer for the LI Progressive Coalition, said the Trump election is a Trojan horse for corporate interests. “Pruitt, Sessions, Perry – every one a threat to the climate, the environment and our institutions… Attacks against environment, climate have the worst impacts on folks with the least ability to do something about it.” It’s a matter of economic and climate justice.

Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club: “There is no alternate planet” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club: “There is no alternate planet” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Jane Fasullo of the Sierra Club said simply, “There is no alternate planet. You can’t eat or drink money – maybe you can burn it for heat. Schumer, do your job.”

Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky of Clean Air Water Soil declared, “We want leadership from Schumer… We thought fracking was over in New York State. It might be coming back.” The Navy was the responsible agency for cleaning up the Grumman plume at Bethpage, Trump wants to walk away from paying for clean up, he said.

Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky lead a new environmental advocacy group, Clean Air Water Soil © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Dave Denenberg and Claudia Borecky lead a new environmental advocacy group, Clean Air Water Soil © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

People carried signs such as “Tax Carbon. Trump Too.” “Tell the Con Man in Chief: You Can’t Fool Mother Nature. Take Climate Action.” A young boy held a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” Others urged Schumer to “Resist Trump” and “Be a Leader.”

Just two weeks into the Trump Administration, resistance to Trump already exceeds that of the Tea Party at its peak © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
Just two weeks into the Trump Administration, resistance to Trump already measureably exceeds that of the Tea Party at its peak © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

The group then marched through the parking lot to the front of Schumer’s Long Island office and a few of the leaders, who had appointments, hand-delivered petitions, reporting back  that they were well received. “We’ll be back,” he said.

The simultaneous actions took place at all eight of Schumer’s New York offices (Buffalo, Rochester,  Syracuse,  Binghamton,  Albany,  Peekskill,  Melville and Manhattan), as well as in Washington, DC.

A boy carries a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com
A boy carries a sign, “Please don’t break my planet.” © 2017 Karen Rubin/news-photos-features.com

Sponsoring organizations include: Food & Water Watch, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Sierra Club, NYPIRG, MoveOn, Long Island Activists, Reach Out America, Slow Food North Shore, iEatGreen, 350.org, Long Island Clean Air Water & Soil, Public Citizen, Greenpeace

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© 2017 News & Photo Features Syndicate, a division of Workstyles, Inc. All rights reserved. For editorial feature and photo information, go to www.news-photos-features.com, email editor@news-photos-features.com. Blogging at  www.dailykos.com/blogs/NewsPhotosFeatures.  ‘Like’ us on facebook.com/NewsPhotoFeatures, Tweet @KarenBRubin