By Nathalie Baptiste | Aug 24, 2015
Last week, I wrote about Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’s lack of policy proposals regarding women’s rights. Over the weekend, the campaign updated its website to include several new policy initiatives. Sanders’s new plan for fighting for women’s rights is expansive, and the most detailed in the Democratic field.
If elected president, Sanders would only nominate Supreme Court justices who would protect Roe v. Wade and the right to family-planning services, especially important in the wake of last year’s Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby decision, which set a dangerous precedent for privately owned corporations who wish to deny their employees birth control.
Sanders’s new platform also vows to expand funding for Planned Parenthood, the Title X family-planning program, other initiatives that protect access to abortion and contraception, as well as the Women, Infants, and Children supplemental nutrition program, which provides federal grants to states for food, health-care referrals, and nutrition education for low-income mothers and their children. The Sanders campaign says he is working on a plan to make child care and pre-kindergarten available to all families, regardless of income.
Sanders zeroes in on the “international embarrassment” of being the only major country that doesn’t guarantee paid leave to workers, by calling for employers to provide at least 12 weeks of paid family and medical leave. “It is not a family value to force the mother of a newborn baby to go back to work a few days after she gives birth because she doesn’t have the money to stay home and bond with her baby,” reads the new policy proposal, which he calls a real “family value” (a jab to Republicans).
On the wage-discrimination front, Sanders would sign the Paycheck Fairness Act and raise the minimum wage. Since women make up two-thirds of all minimum-wage workers, increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour by 2020 would boost the wages of more than 15 million women—and help close the gender pay gap. Women also make up more than two-thirds of tipped minimum-wage workers who have been making $2.13 an hour, before tips, since 1991—Sanders wants to raise those wages to $15 an hour by 2023.
While expanding Medicaid in all states would provide health care for millions of low-income women, Sanders wants to take it a step further and enact a “Medicare for All” single-payer system. According to the campaign, women pay more for health-care expenses than men and pay a greater portion out of their own pockets.
Sanders also plans to expand Social Security. A 2013 study conducted by the National Women’s Law Center found that elderly women had fallen even deeper into poverty, partly due to cuts to Social Security Administration funding. The majority of Social Security recipients are women, and they receive smaller checks than their male counterparts. Thirty percent of elderly women rely on Social Security for 90 percent of their income, compared to only 23 percent of men. Any cuts to Social Security would devastate the economic well-being of elderly women.
Critics of Bernie Sanders often point out that he’s only comfortable talking about economic issues—but releasing this new policy platform is a step in the right direction. And in the most recent polling in New Hampshire, Sanders is 7 points ahead of the presumed Democratic nominee, Hillary Clinton. Clinton—whose website right now only has a passing mention of affordable child care and nothing on reproductive rights—better watch out.
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By Nathalie Baptiste | Aug 05, 2015
It’s been 50 years since Lyndon B. Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act into law, guaranteeing blacks the right to vote after decades of disenfranchisement. The landmark legislation came at a crucial time in American history; the civil rights movement was in full swing and progress was slowly being made. But in 2015, voting rights are again under an unprecedented assault.
In 2013, the Supreme Court ruled that the section of the VRA requiring that certain states with a history of voter discrimination seek preclearance with the federal government before making changes to their voting laws, is no longer necessary.
Tomorrow is the 50th anniversary of the law and Democrats are commemorating it by advocating for its renewal. The Obama administration is trying to make progress on voting rights and has been discussing strategies on how to move forward with legislators. On Thursday, the president will participate in a video teleconference with citizens to speak about the importance of restoring the law. Congressman John Lewis, who marched for voting rights in his youth and was present at the signing of the law, will join Obama, Attorney General Loretta Lynch and other voting rights advocates in calling for a restoration of the VRA in the wake of an unparalleled assault on the right to vote in recent years.
Since 2010, 22 states have made it harder to vote. In 2015, 113 bills that would restrict voting access have been introduced or carried over from last legislative session in 33 states. Next year, the presidential election will take place with 15 states enforcing stricter rules than they did during the 2012 election.
In Texas, strict laws about IDs—accepting concealed carry permits but not state-issued college IDs—have made it harder for college students (who vote for Democrats in droves) to vote. Reducing the amount of early voting days and a ban on same-day registration effectively disenfranchised thousands of North Carolinians in 2014.
Democrats have been saying that the onslaught of new voting laws is designed to make it harder for their base—racial minorities, the elderly, and young people—to vote. But Republicans claim that the new laws are intended to fight voter fraud—even though it’s nearly nonexistent.
The Voting Rights Act of 1965 is considered a turning point in the civil rights movement, signifying change in a country that had long discriminated against blacks. Now, with the 2016 presidential election season under way, Republicans want to erode that hard-won progress.
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