Nel's New Day

December 25, 2015

More Good News for 2015

Barack ObamaFinishing the seventh year of his two terms, President Barack Obama read off his Top Ten list of happenings in 2015 during his weekly address last week:

 

 

 

  1. The economy. Over the past 12 months, our businesses have created 2.5 million new jobs. In all, they’ve added 13.7 million new jobs over a 69-month streak of job growth. And the unemployment rate has fallen to 5 percent–the lowest it’s been in almost eight years.
  1. More Americans are getting health coverage. The rate of the uninsured in America dropped below 10 percent for the first time ever. In all, 17.6 million people and climbing have gained coverage as the Affordable Care Act has taken effect. And don’t forget, you can still sign up through January 31st at HealthCare.gov.
  1. America’s global leadership on climate change. Last week, in Paris, nearly 200 countries came together to set the course for a low-carbon future. And it was only possible because America led with clean energy here at home and strong diplomacy around the world.
  1. Progress in the Americas. We turned the page on an outdated, half-century old policy by re-establishing diplomatic relations with Cuba and reopening embassies in both our countries, allowing us to build greater ties between Americans and Cubans.
  1. Preventing the spread of nuclear weapons. We succeeded in forging a strong deal to stop Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. In fact, Iran has already dismantled thousands of centrifuges that enrich uranium.
  1. Standing strong against terrorism. Even as we continue to grieve over the attack in San Bernardino, we’re leading a global coalition and hitting ISIL harder than ever. In Syria and Iraq, ISIL is losing territory, and we’re not going to stop until we destroy this terrorist organization.
  1. A 21st century trade deal that makes sure our businesses can sell goods “Made in America” across the Asia-Pacific. The Trans-Pacific Partnership is the strongest, most pro-worker, pro-environment trade agreement in our history. And it means that America – not China, not anyone else – will write the rules of the global economy for the century ahead.
  1. A pair of Christmas miracles in Washington! This week, Congress passed a bipartisan budget that invests in middle-class priorities, keeps our military the strongest in the world, and takes the threat of shutdowns and manufactured crises off the table for 2016. Plus, I signed a bipartisan education bill into law to help our students graduate prepared for college and their future careers.
  1. Love won. No matter who you are, here in America, you’re free to marry the person you love, because the freedom to marry is now the law in all fifty states.

1.  And the number one reason I’m optimistic going into 2016: It’s you—the American people. All of this progress is because of you—because of workers rolling up their sleeves and getting the job done, and entrepreneurs starting new businesses. Because of teachers and health workers and parents—all of us taking care of each other. Because of our incredible men and women in uniform, serving to protect us all. Because, when we’re united as Americans, there’s nothing that we cannot do.”

In a year with all too many lows, there was a lot to be proud of and a lot of progress that was made. Love won, climate change was no longer ignored, and the economy just keeps getting better and better.

Charles Kenney described 2015 as “the best year in history for the average human being” despite the year’s tragedies and misery from poverty, disease, and malnutrition. He cites this progress toward better quality of life for the majority:

Violence in the United States. Recent FBI statistics show that the country has grown safer with fewer violent crimes and homicide rates. Beginning in 2011, Syria helped reverse longer-term progress toward fewer global battle deaths, and the Iran nuclear deal shows evidence that progress toward peaceful settlement of disputes is possible. The number of ongoing wars and battle deaths is far below those in the 1970s and 1980s and remain a minor cause of death worldwide. For example, rabies was responsible for three times as many deaths as terrorism in 2012.

Famine and pestilence. The proportion of the world’s population that is undernourished fell from 19 percent in 1990 to the current 11 percent.

Disease: Although about 11,315 people died from Ebola worldwide, the total of 29,000 cases from the outbreak are far fewer than the projected 1.4 million without the vaccine. A partially effective malaria vaccine also showed progress this year. Each year, 6.7 million fewer children under the age of five die each year compared to 1990 because of vaccines. According to news in August, not one case of polio was reported in Africa during the previous 12 months, leaving the disorder to exist only in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The past global killer, with 350,000 cases as recently as 1988, is close to eradication. Since 2000, worldwide cases of measles dropped by over two-thirds, keeping over 17 million people alive—again thanks to vaccination rates.

Civil and political rights: The number of electoral democracies—although not all fully “free”—is at an historic high at 125, up from 69 in 1989.  Peaceful and democratic transitions of power this year occurred in diverse places such as Burkina Faso, Tanzania, Myanmar, and Argentina. For the first time, women were permitted to vote and stand as candidates in Saudi Arabia’s local elections.

LGBT rights: The United States legalized marriage equality throughout the country last June, Mozambique decriminalized same-sex relationships in June, and Ireland legalized same-gender marriage. The number of global laws prohibiting sexual acts between consenting same-gender adults—92 in 2006—dropped to 75 this past year.

Wealth: The IMF forecast 4.0 percent growth for emerging and developing countries for 2015—slower than the 7-8 percent that they managed through much of the last 15 years but considerably ahead of population growth. For the first time, according to the World Bank, less than 10 percent of the global population lived in extreme poverty, on less than $1.90 per day, down from 37 percent as recently as 1990.

Globalization: Despite protests across Europe against refugees, German Chancellor Angela Merkel held to her country’s policy of enlightened self-interest toward migration flows. She tried to convince seven European countries to resettle as many as 400,000 refugees as part of her efforts to see the European Union admit at least 300,000 refugees from the conflict each year, and French President Francois Hollande reiterated a pledge to take in 30,000 refugees after the Paris attacks. World leaders agreed to “sustainable development goals” by 2030 to wipe out extreme poverty, reduce deaths of those under the age of five by millions each year, and guarantee all children go to school and learn while they are there.

Despite losses in reproductive rights in large parts of the United States, women made other gains:

The Supreme Court ruled that employers can’t discriminate against pregnant workers.

Women can now serve in all branches of the military.

California became the first state to put out guidelines for handling sexual assault on campus.

Jill HrubyThe appointment of Jill Hruby to head up Sandia National Laboratories makes her the first woman to head up one of three U.S. government labs that develops and maintains the U.S. nuclear arsenal.

The White House reinstated birth control access for working women with health insurance after the Supreme Court tried to remove it.

Oregon made getting birth control easier for women by letting pharmacies dispense contraceptives in a full-year supply.

The U.S. Treasury decided to put a woman on the $10 bill after being invisible for more than a century.

NepalNepal joined the countries that elected a woman for president, 54-year-old Bidya Devi Bhandari, bringing the total of the world’s 195 countries to 29 with female leaders.

The UK introduced a new rule to call attention to the gender pay gap, requiring companies to publish payment for men and women, including bonuses.

raffi freedman-gurspanThe first openly transgender woman of color ever takes her post at a job in the White House—Raffi Freedman-Gurspon–in the Presidential Personnel Office a few months ago is monumental.

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December 24, 2015

Good News for the Year End

Filed under: Progressives — trp2011 @ 11:33 PM
Tags: , ,

Good news—that’s what we need at the end of the year in which the media played up every egregious statement of Donald Trump, cheered by his audience and echoed by other GOP presidential candidates. For example, off-year elections have provided progressive victories in 2015 for people who want to move forward instead of backward into the Dark Ages:

Seattle passed “Democracy Vouchers”: To keep donations for city candidates from monopolized by the elite, the city will mail four $25 vouchers to each voter who can then sign and mail them to candidates or the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission (SEEC). Candidates must agree to follow certain rules, including participation in three debates and acceptance of lower contribution and spending limits. Candidates may not receive contributions from any person or company with at least $250,000 in city contracts or $5,000 in lobbying expenses. Elected officials and their tops aides are barred from lobbying the city for three years after leaving their City Hall jobs. The experiment is funded by property taxes equal to about $9 per year for a $450,000 property.

Seattle also passed a $15 minimum wage and successfully defended its “gun violence tax” on sellers of firearms and ammunitions. The money goes toward violence prevention programs and research. A companion measure requires gun owners to report lost and stolen firearms to police. Gun dealers “lose” tens of thousands (if not more) of guns a year that end up in the hands of criminals.

The state of Ohio voted to ban political gerrymandering.

Maine strengthened publicly funded elections in the state. Only 13 states provide public campaign financing, and only five open this to legislative hopefuls. Maine’s new law eliminates corporate tax breaks, raises allocations to the Clean Election system from $4 million to $6 million in each two-year budget period, and increases penalties for campaign law violations with new disclosure provisions. The original law in Maine in 1996 provided matching funds which the U.S. Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in 2011. The number of publicly-funded legislative candidates dropped from 81 percent in 2008 to 53 percent in 2014. Outside spending on Maine’s legislative races grew from $600,000 in 2008 to $3.6 million.

In its list of the seven most progressive victories of 2015, Think Progress included the achievements in Ohio and Maine as well as the following:

Workers are earning more: Nine states increased minimum wages by ballot measure and legislative victories, and Los Angeles, Chicago, San Francisco, and other cities joined Seattle in increasing minimum wages. Last summer, President Obama announced a new overtime rule to help almost five million workers.

ACA is here to stay and the uninsured rate is at an all-time low: The Supreme Court upheld the healthcare subsidies in the Affordable Care Act, bringing quality, affordable health insurance to over 16 million people. The uninsured rate has dropped below ten percent for the first time in decades. A GOP Congress has been unable to kill a healthcare law that is growing more and more popular. Of the 8.3 million sign-ups, about 2.4 million are new to the marketplace—one-third more than last year—and the 2.1 million people under 35 are nearly double last year’s numbers. Enrollment is not finished, and 9.9 million may be a part of the formerly dreaded “Obamacare.”

More voters (41 percent) approve of the ACA than those who oppose it (39 percent). By now only 20 states have not expanded Medicaid, including all the states in the South except Arkansas. Alabama and Louisiana are considering joining the Obamacare bandwagon, and Tennessee’s GOP governor is trying to convince his legislature that they should have it in that state.

The world unites to fight climate change: 195 countries agreed on a climate deal to cut greenhouse gas emissions in its attempt to limit global warming to well below two degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). President Obama’s Clean Power Plan is also designed to slow global warming, providing benefits of up to $93 billion in the next 15 years. His designation of six new national monuments permanently protects more than one million acres of public lands. By saving the Land and Water Conservation Fund, the president helps mitigate impacts on climate change on forests, wildlife, and waterways.

The high school graduation rate this year was the highest on record.

Despite GOP undermining the plan, the U.S. struck an historic Iran nuclear deal: Two and a half years of negotiations led to six world powers agreeing to put Iran’s nuclear program under international scrutiny and cut off the country’s pathways to a nuclear bomb.

The Supreme Court legalizing marriage equality.  

Popularity is growing for progressive ideas. Polls show that conservatives are beginning to agree with progressives on money in politics, education, trade, inequality, Social Security, and Medicare as well as taking on big banks. In The Atlantic Peter Beinart wrote in “Why America Is Moving Left”:

  • The Black Lives Matter movement has gained acceptance.
  • Income inequality dominates economic discussion.
  • LGBT rights are becoming mainstream.
  • The blogger movement is growing with Daily Kos becoming a leading Democratic voice and Occupy which “injected economic inequality into the American political debate.”
  • George W. Bush made conservatives look like idiots. (And now he has a great deal of help from the current crop of GOP presidential candidates!)Bernie Sanders’ candidacy is pushing Hillary Clinton left, and all three Democratic candidates are campaigning on the domestic threat of economic inequality.

Planned Parenthood achieved an amazing victory when the GOP didn’t include defunding the popular program in its omnibus spending bill. They claim that they will defund it next year, but their opposition only brings more support for the organization providing health care annually to 2.7 million women at 700 clinics.

After the release of the videos, two-thirds of U.S. voters opposed defunding the organization (removing funding for the health care that they give low-income people) and 52 percent of the voters in a poll approve of PP. After excessive media coverage of false videos regarding PP, it stayed more popular than the National Rifle Association, both political parties, Congress, and the Supreme Court.

The GOP is still a strong force because of its money, voter disenfranchisement, and gerrymandering in red states. At this time, these issues insulate GOP congressional members from the views of constituents and empower the right wing. The next election will show whether people continue to support people who vote against the interests of most people in the United States—or whether rigging voting computers changes individual votes.

As Peter Beinart wrote:

“There is a backlash against the liberalism of the Obama era. But it is louder than it is strong. Instead of turning right, the country as a whole is still moving to the left.”

You can follow his reasoning here.

For more good news, check out Slate’s report of positive news for every day in 2015—as they describe them “signs of progress in 2015, stories that made us feel grateful, optimistic, inspired, or awed.”

For just plain fun, check out these best viral videos!

Happy Holidays!

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