Monday, January 23, 2023
MD PPC Op-Ed on Gov. Moore and Ending Poverty
Wednesday, November 16, 2022
5 Policy Priorities for 2023
- Unjust cannabis laws and enforcement
- Sky-rocketing rents and evictions, few affordable housing options
- Burdens of medical debt
- Lack of affordable childcare and expired Child Tax Credit
- Injustices that harm immigrants in Maryland
Lastly, we had break-out rooms where people brainstormed ideas on actions the MD PPC can take over the next six months — starting with our plan to be present when the General Assembly convenes on January 11th.
Priority #1 — Injustices of Cannabis Laws and Law Enforcement
Priority #3—The spiraling burdens of medical and other debt
Priority #4—Lack of affordable childcare & the expired Child Tax Credit
Priority #5—Injustices that harm immigrants in Maryland
Undocumented people in our state are treated as if they are less than human: by landlords, by employers, and even by state agencies at times. For example, currently an undocumented person has no right to representation in immigration proceedings, even if they don't fully understand the process and have fled the threat of harm or death in their country of origin. As policies and legislation related to immigration reform are proposed in the 2023 Maryland General Assembly, we will support those which offer protections for undocumented people and a fair and reasonable path to citizenship.
Thursday, October 27, 2022
Term Limits and Informed Consent in Politics
View our Fact Sheet on Baltimore City question K
In politics and policy work, the same basic concepts should be applied. Voters, for example, should fully know the nature of who or what they are voting for. While the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign cannot recommend a vote; either for or against a particular candidate nor a ballot measure. We do believe that voter support is recommended. They should know the likely risks and benefits of voting for or against a particular candidate or ballot measure, and they should be aware of the context and broader implications of the direction they vote.
In the upcoming November 8 General Election, Baltimore City voters will be given an option to approve or reject an amendment to the city’s charter, via question K, that would limit elected officials to two terms (8 years) within a 12 year period, starting with those elected in 2024. While support for term limits often crosses lines of party and political ideology, few Baltimore City residents are aware how this question came to appear on the ballot.
Julian Sinclair Smith, Chairman, Sinclair Broadcasting Group (headquartered in Cockeysville in Baltimore County) paid $385,000 to People for Elected Accountability & Civic Engagement, an organization created for this purpose. Sinclair Broadcasting operates just under 200 television stations making up over 40% of the US local TV news market, including WBFF-TV Baltimore. During the collection of petition signatures, WBFF-TV (Fox 45) News frequently reported on the idea of recalling Mayor Brandon Scott.
The question becomes, why would Smith and Sinclair Broadcasting want to enact term limits in Baltimore City or drive the narrative of a mayoral recall? A 2019 study published in the American Political Science Review found that "stations bought by Sinclair … move the ideological tone of coverage in a conservative direction relative to other stations operating in the same market." In 2016, Smith notably met with former President Donald J. Trump, telling the future president, "We are here to deliver your message.” In the years since, this is most commonly heard in “must-run” segments, content all Sinclair-owned local stations are forced to air during prime viewing times.
If informed consent is applied to ballot question K, voters have the right to know exactly what they are saying “yes” to. They should be given a chance to weigh the possible risks and benefits of term limits on elected city officials and those of the alternatives to the term limits question K would enact. Most importantly, voting residents have the right to know who exactly created, funded, and supported this initiative.
Accurate, timely, and unbiased journalism is important in a functional democracy. But inaccurate, manipulative, and politically-biased reporting harms us nationally and locally. If term limits would benefit Baltimore City residents, local organizations who advocate for structural justice and help poor and low-wealth residents should be the ones to initiate, define, and champion that effort.
Tri-Chair of the Maryland Poor People’s Campaign
Tuesday, September 20, 2022
Worker's Rights, Right Now
Recently Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the 2001 groundbreaking work Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America, passed away. The premise of Nickel and Dimed is simple: can low-wage workers survive on what they earn? Ehrenreich researched her topic by living as a minimum wage worker, in different industries, for weeks at a time. Her conclusion was the following:
The fight for worker protections predates the U.S. itself...
In the 1930s unions became federally recognized, and the National Labor Relations Board was established. Unions flourished in the U.S. through the 1960s, but struggled as factories were moved overseas and Republicans, like Pres. Ronald Reagan in 1981, championed "deregulation" and took decidedly anti-union stances. Union membership declined steadily as jobs in union-heavy sectors, like manufacturing, decreased. Conservative states passed "Right to Work" legislation, heavily favoring the rights of employers over employees and making union membership less powerful.ii
Low-wage workers need more than just a living wage...
A new generations is fighting for worker protections...
The future of labor organizing is here...
"These kids don't have a little brother working in the coal mine, they don't have a little sister coughing her lungs out in the looms of the big mill towns of the Northeast. Why? Because we organized; we broke the back of the sweatshops in this country; we have child labor laws. Those were not benevolent gifts from enlightened management. They were fought for, they were bled for, they were died for by working people, by people like us. Kids ought to know that."xii
Sunday, August 14, 2022
After Dobbs: Our Nation without Bodily Autonomy Rights
Why is bodily autonomy important?
- The fundamental human right of bodily autonomy (the bioethical principle on which the right to abortion rests) was formalized shortly after World War II’s Doctors' Trials, during which details regarding the medical experimentation, and consequent torture, done by Nazi doctors on nonconsenting, mostly Jewish, prisoners, came to light.i
- The history of bodily autonomy violations in the United States can easily be seen in the many instances of “experiments” run on non-consenting racial and ethnic minorities. The 40-year Tuskegee Syphilis Study promised treatment to Black men suffering from syphilis, but denied those men access to readily available penicillin regimens that resulted in 128 out of 400 dying from syphilis, 40 of their partners being infected, and 19 children born with fatal congenital syphilis.ii
- The Supreme Court’s 1927 ruling Buck v. Bell upheld the legality of forced sterilizations, mostly performed on minority women arbitrarily deemed mentally ill or disabled and women under legal conservator or guardianships. Because this decision was never formally overturned, thousands of people since have endured brutal sterilization procedures with no real legal recourse available.iii
- On June 24th, the Supreme Court upheld a highly restrictive Mississippi state law, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and 50 years of abortion rights.iv Thirteen states had previous “trigger bans” – legislation that were automatically enacted once the ruling became official. The three liberal justices, in their joint dissent, wrote, “As of today, this Court holds, a state can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions.”
What are the real, measurable consequences of Dobbs?
- A study published last year in Duke University’s journal Demography estimated that if the Supreme Court invalidated Roe v. Wade, triggering abortion ban laws in 13 states, pregnancy-related deaths would increase for all pregnant individuals by 21% over time. But because of structural, racial and economic inequalities in health care access and treatment, minorities would be disproportionately affected. For example, Black people were projected to experience a 33% increase in maternal mortality in the years after bans were enacted.v
- As many states’ abortion ban legislation carry heavy penalties for doctors accused of even assisting with termination of a pregnancy, health care professionals are erroring on the side of not providing care at all. Additionally, pharmacists who fall under the same vaguely written laws are often unwilling to dispense prescriptions for medications that reduce suffering during a miscarriage because they can also be used as abortifacients.vi
- Because of this, primary care and OB-GYNs are refusing to work in states with abortion bans. The ambiguity of the laws allow lawsuits to be brought against care providers, even those not performing abortions. Certain states' legislatures, such as Texas, have considered letting private individuals be “deputized” to bring civil lawsuits against people suspected of having or assisting with an abortion.vii
- Any person who could become pregnant but also takes prescription medications that are harmful or fatal to a fetus is faced with a new, unwelcome challenge without access to abortion care. This is particularly true for disabled persons, who are more likely to be victims of sexual violence, more likely to experience an unplanned pregnancy, and more likely to die during childbirth.viii It also threatens the lives of pregnant people who discover they have aggressive or late stage cancers. Most chemotherapy treatments are not compatible with fetal development and/or viability. But in states with restrictive abortion bans, those people are now forced to carry their fetus to term and begin treatments after birth.ix
A timeline of needless suffering:
- On June 30th, a ten year old child underwent a medical abortion in Indiana, after being raped in her home state of Ohio, which had a “trigger ban” that took effect once the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization ruling was made official. Republicans in Ohio’s General Assembly have a veto-proof majority and are expected to further restrict abortions, allowing for no rape/incest exceptions and possibly including language that would prohibit terminations after fertilization, thus eliminating some forms of birth control.x
- In July a Texas woman requested an abortion after miscarrying one of her twins at 15 weeks but was told her life wasn’t sufficiently endangered in order to receive the procedure. Weeks later, with sepsis and resulting kidney damage, she was allowed an abortion.xi
- In August a woman in Nebraska who previously assisted her 17 year old daughter obtain abortifacient medicines and induce an abortion, was charged with a felony because of Nebraska’s 20 week abortion ban. Prosecutors then waited until the daughter turned 18 a couple months later to charge her as an adult.xii
Where are forced-birth advocates focusing next?
iWikipedia contributors. (2022b, August 2). Doctors’ trial. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
iiWikipedia contributors. (2022a, June 21). Tuskegee Syphilis Study. Wikipedia. Retrieved August 11, 2022.
iiiVenkataramanan, M. (2022, July 24). She survived a forced sterilization. Activists fear more could occur post-Roe. Washington Post.
ivBarnes, R., & Marimow, A. E. (2022, June 25). Supreme Court ruling leaves states free to outlaw abortion. Washington Post.
vStevenson, A. J. (2021). The Pregnancy-Related Mortality Impact of a Total Abortion Ban in the United States: A Research Note on Increased Deaths Due to Remaining Pregnant. Demography, 58(6).
viHesse, M. (2022, July 22). One month in, abortion bans are hell on Earth. Washington Post.
viiRowland, C. (2022, August 6). A challenge for antiabortion states: Doctors reluctant to work there. Washington Post.
viiiVenkataramanan, M. (2022b, July 25). Their medications cause pregnancy issues. Post-Roe, that could be dangerous. Washington Post.
ixSekeres, M. A. (2022, July 28). Abortion ruling may restrict options for pregnant cancer patients. Washington Post.
xTrombly, B. M., & Bruner, T. C. (2022, July 21). Arrest made in rape of Ohio girl that led to Indiana abortion drawing international attention. The Columbus Dispatch.
xiGoodman, D. J., & Ghorayshi, A. (2022, July 21). Women Face Risks as Doctors Struggle With Medical Exceptions on Abortion. The New York Times.
xiiFunk, J. (2022, August 10). Nebraska woman charged with helping daughter have abortion. AP NEWS.
xiiiRoubein, R., & Beard, M. (2022, July 25). Antiabortion groups differ on the details over where to take their fight next. Washington Post.
Sunday, July 24, 2022
A Hungry Summer
The highest inflation in 40 years has made basic groceries unaffordable for many poor and low-wealth families. Food banks, to which people turn for help in these situations, are unable to keep up with demand now and since the start of the pandemic. Food insecurity – defined by the USDAi as “a lack of consistent access to enough food for an active, healthy life” – affects fully one-third of Marylanders, especially those living in Western Maryland, the Lower Shore, and portions of Baltimore County.ii
|Image credit: Maryland Food Bank Hunger Map 2021, https://mdfoodbank.org/hunger-in-maryland/|
How did it get this bad?
Factors that have helped and hurt:
- Stimulus checks issued during the first part of the pandemic helped many poor and low-income people, especially those who became unemployed or were unable to work because of in-person school and childcare being unavailable. The last of these checks were issued over 16 months ago and there have been no seriously considered proposals to issue any additionally.
- Unemployment relief provided through the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act) made it possible for many families to pay their rent/mortgage, buy basics like groceries, and keep financially afloat. However, these benefits ended in September of 2021, impacting up to 7.5 million people.ix
- The six months of Child Tax Credits, which provided monthly payments of $250 to $300 per child, ended in January of this year. Last November, President Biden's Build Back Better Act would have continued these payments. But after the bill passed in the US House of Representatives, Sen. Joe Manchin (D-WV) essentially killed the bill in the Senate by withdrawing his support, while all 50 Republican Senators opposed it.x As a result, an estimated 3.7 million additional children nationwide descended below the poverty line.xi
What can we do to change this harsh reality?
Here in Maryland, we can look to the MD Poor People’s Campaign Resolution to End Poverty in Maryland, including advocating for the Maryland General Assembly to resolve to:
- Raise the minimum wage to a living wage, expand unemployment insurance, and guarantee the right to form and join unions for all workers.
- Enact relief from student debt, housing debt, utilities debt, medical debt, and other household and personal debt that cannot be paid.
- Enact fair taxes on corporations and the wealthy, including by taxing investment income the same as income from work and otherwise making the tax code less punitive for poor and low-income people.
- In minority communities, prioritize green and socially beneficial industries, public health, public education, care work, public transit and roads, public utilities and community facilities, broadband access, sanitation and water services, climate resilience, sustainable food production and distribution as well as eliminating food deserts, libraries, and fire stations.
- Establish the right to food and food security—to have physical, social, and economic access to sufficient, safe, and nutritious food that meets food preferences and dietary needs for an active and healthy—should be realized for all Marylanders, regardless of where they live, their socioeconomic status, or race
- Strengthen the food and nutrition security safety net and expand access to food assistance programs to those who need them, regardless of citizenship or documentation status
On a national level, we can look to the Demands of the Poor People’s Campaign, including:
- The demand for the immediate implementation of federal and state living wage laws that are commensurate for the 21st century economy, guaranteed annual incomes, full employment and the right for all workers to form and join unions
- The demand for fully-funded social welfare programs that provide cash and in-kind assistance directly to the poor, including poor families, and an end to the attacks on SNAP, CHIP, HEAP, and other vital programs for the poor
- The demand for public infrastructure projects and sustainable, community-based and controlled economic initiatives that target poor urban and rural communities
- The demand that the wealthy and corporations pay their fair share of our country’s urgent needs around decent and affordable housing, free public education, a robust social safety net and social security, including the repeal of the 2017 tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations
- The demand that the nation and our lawmakers turn their immediate attention to passing policies and budget allocations that would end child poverty
Tuesday, July 5, 2022
A Supreme Court Majority that will Stop at Nothing
Is there an end point where the conservative majority of the current Supreme Court completes their quest to erode our basic rights? What does that look like?
The Supreme Court’s recent rulings have shown how far the 6-3 conservative majority are willing to erode a wide variety of fundamental rights in this country. It’s not simply about the power of states versus that of the federal government. According to these justices, it’s fine to allow states to restrict abortion but not restrict carrying handguns. It’s okay for the states to violate the sovereignty of Native lands defined by federal laws but not okay for the federal regulations to apply to industrial polluters in states that don’t favor that control. It’s acceptable for states to racially discriminate when redistricting, but it’s not acceptable for the federal government to discriminate against religious schools who want federal funds or school teachers who lead non-private, group prayers at public school events.
Disallowing States to Require Demonstrable Need by Gun Owners to Carry Handguns for Personal Protection - New York State Rifle & Pistol Assoc. v. Bruen
On June 23rd, the Supreme Court struck down a 100 year old New York state law requiring those desiring to carry handguns for personal protection to first show a need to do so. The conservative majority opinion echoes the National Rifle Association’s assertion that any restriction on gun ownership is a violation of the 2nd Amendment. This decision puts similar state laws in Massachusetts, California, New Jersey, Hawaii, and here in Maryland at risk. Based on historical studies on the effects of changes in gun laws over time, gun control advocates predict a higher number of handguns and handgun-related crimes to occur in urban areas.
Allowing States to Severely Restrict or Outlaw Abortion – Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization
On June 24th, the Supreme Court allowed a highly restrictive Mississippi state law to stand, effectively overturning Roe v. Wade and 50 years of abortion rights. Thirteen states had previously passed “trigger bans” – laws that were automatically enacted once the ruling became official. The three liberal justices, in their joint dissent, wrote, “As of today, this Court holds, a state can always force a woman to give birth, prohibiting even the earliest abortions.” The fundamental human right of bodily autonomy (the bioethical principle on which the right to abortion rests) was formalized shortly after World War II’s Nuremberg Trials, during which details regarding the medical experimentation, and consequently torture, done by Nazi doctors on nonconsenting, mostly Jewish, prisoners, came to light.
Elevating the Rights of Christians and Christian Institutions Above those of Other Citizens – Kennedy v. Bremerton School District and Carson v. Makin
The Constitution’s guarantees of free speech and religious exercise are tempered by the separation of church and state applied to government-funded entities like public schools and, differently, for private religious schools. On June 23rd, the Supreme Court struck down a Maine state law that disallowed Christian religious schools from participating in a state-funded voucher program. While religious schools provide alternatives to students, they also have the power to bar gay and transgender students and teachers, a practice prohibited in public schools by federal anti-discrimination laws. On June 27th, the Supreme Court ruled that a high-school football coach was improperly disciplined for leading a post-game prayer. The dissenting justices wrote, “Today’s decision elevates the religious rights of a school official, who voluntarily accepted public employment and the limits that public employment entails, over those of his students, who are required to attend school and who this Court has long recognized are particularly vulnerable and deserving of protection.”
Eroding the Sovereignty of Native Americans’ Lands – Oklahoma v. Castro-Huerta
On June 29th, the Supreme Court rolled back the rights of Native Americans, allowing states to prosecute crimes committed by non-Native people on tribal lands. The Muscogee (Creek) Nation released a statement, saying “This will have a ripple effect throughout Indian Country across the United States,” adding that “public safety would be better served by expanding Tribal authority to prosecute any crime committed by any offender within our reservation boundaries rather than empowering entities that have demonstrated a lack of commitment to public safety on Indian lands.”
Limiting the Environmental Protection Agency’s Regulatory Power – West Virginia v. EPA
Also on June 29th, the Supreme Court ruled that the EPA had exceeded its authority in regulating the carbon emissions of existing power plants. These emissions are a chief contributor to climate change, and the ruling jeopardizes President Biden’s plan of the U.S. power grid running on clean energy by 2035, then making the US economy carbon-neutral by 2050. In a 6-3 vote, the conservative majority created a precedent where “The Court appoints itself — instead of Congress or the expert agency — the decisionmaker on climate policy. I cannot think of many things more frightening,” wrote Justice Elena Kagan in the dissent.
Diluting Black Votes through Racist Gerrymandering and Redistricting – Emergency Order
On June 28th, the Supreme Court granted a request by Louisiana’s Republican secretary of state, temporarily halting a lower court’s ruling and allowing a highly racially-gerrymandered Louisiana congressional district to remain during the 2022 midterm elections. Earlier, a federal judge rejected the Republican-drawn map for violating the Voting Rights Act, as it concentrated Black voters into two, majority-Black districts. Even though about one-third of the state’s population is African-American, decades of gerrymandering have given Republicans a solid majority in five out of six congressional districts.
In response, we demand a Moral Revolution:
- A lack of common sense gun laws in our country have resulted not just in increasing violence in our streets, grocery stores, churches, and schools, but the militarization of our police forces. The excessive amount of funds allocated to body armor, bullet-resistant shields, and higher caliber weaponry for use by law enforcement has not made us safer. We demand gun control, especially regulation of automatic, high magazine capacity, weapons. We also demand new local, state, and national budget priorities, so that social issues that exacerbate gun violence can be simultaneously addressed.
- In addition to violating the bioethical imperative of bodily autonomy as a fundamental human right, abortion restrictions and bans are an effective distraction technique used to keep poor and low-wealth communities at odds. In European countries where abortion is easily available, free of cost, and not stigmatized, the actual rate of abortions performed is roughly half that in the US, adjusted for population differences. Life-saving abortion access is a low-income person’s issue – one that crosses all political, racial, ethnic, religious lines.
- Christian nationalist organizations focus on issues like prayer in school, abortion, and gun rights that distort the national moral narrative, while ignoring the moral commitments enshrined in the U.S. Constitution. We have the right to ground our laws and public policies in a moral narrative that prioritizes and follows our deepest Constitutional moral commitments to justice. Faith is an important part of daily life for million of Americans. But our country was founded in part because of a desire to separate church and state, not favoring any one belief system. Eroding that separation opens the door to some of the abusive prejudices that exist in many organized religions infiltrating our public life.
- We demand that industries be held accountable for their air the pollution, as the poor live on the frontlines of climate change and bear the brunt of costs and impacts of climate volatility. We demand 100 percent clean, renewable energy and a public jobs program to transition to a green economy that will put millions of people in sustainable living wage jobs. Environmental terrorism is perpetrated every day by multinational companies who curry favor with sympathetic state or local leaders, and poor and low-wealth people are most likely to sicken and die because of this abuse.
- First Nations, Native Americans, and Alaskan Natives have a right to their political and cultural institutions, lands, and resources. We demand that Native people retain their tribal recognition as nations, not races, to make substantive claims to their sovereignty. Trespassing upon the federally-recognized statuses of Native Americans under the guise of enforcing the law is not a solution to the epidemic of missing and murdered Indigenous women or the violation of natural resources, like clean water, by various energy and development corporations.
- We demand the immediate full restoration and expansion of the Voting Rights Act, including an end to racist gerrymandering and redistricting. We demand and end to all voter suppression, that mostly targets people of color and poor and low-wealth people. Louisiana is just one of many states that have used the demise of the Voting Rights Act to force legislation creating extremely gerrymandered districts that ensure non-white voters are denied proper representation at every level of government.
Based on the Demands of the Poor People's Campaign
MD PPC Op-Ed on Gov. Moore and Ending Poverty
The following embedded page from The Baltimore Sun is an Op-Ed by the MD PPC on holding Gov. Moore to ending poverty in Maryland. Loading… ...
The following embedded page from The Baltimore Sun is an Op-Ed by the MD PPC on holding Gov. Moore to ending poverty in Maryland. Loading… ...
Recently Barbara Ehrenreich, author of the 2001 groundbreaking work Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America , passed away. The pre...
Poverty destroys lives, shatters dreams, and devastates and traumatizes communities. But in Maryland, the richest state in the Union, povert...