People’s Policy Project Releases Bold Pro-Family Plan

Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project has authored a new paper offering a comprehensive set of pro-family policies, as progressives and Democrats increasingly turn to this important subject:

The seven benefits in the paper are:

  1. Baby box. Three months before the birth of a child, each family will receive a box that contains essential items like clothes and bottles with the box itself doubling as a bassinet.
  2. Parental Leave. Families will receive 36 weeks of paid leave for the birth of a child. In single-parent families, the sole parent is entitled to all 36 weeks. In two-parent families, each parent is entitled to 18 weeks but may transfer up to 14 weeks to the other parent. The paid leave benefit will be set equal to 100 percent of earnings up to the minimum wage and 66 percent of earnings beyond the minimum wage. All recipients will be entitled to benefits equal to at least the minimum wage but no more than the national average wage.
  3. Free child care. After the parental leave period, children will be entitled to a spot in a free public child care center. Parents who wish to care for their children at home can opt out and receive a home child care allowance equal to the per-child wages of child care workers. For example, if public child care workers are tasked with caring for four kids at a time, then the home child care allowance would be equal to one-fourth of the pay of child care workers.
  4. Free pre-k. From age 3 to 5, children will be entitled to spot in a free pre-k center.
  5. Free school lunch. Public child care centers, public pre-k centers, and public k-12 will all provide free school lunches.
  6. Free health care. Everyone below the age of 26 will be entitled to free health care through the Medicare system.
  7. Child allowance. Parents will receive $300 per month for every child they are caring for under the age of 18. This benefit will replace the child tax credit, child and dependent care tax credit, dependent care flexible savings accounts, 529 accounts as used for elementary or secondary school, and head of household filing status. It will also mostly replace the earned income tax credit.

You can read the full paper here.

A Glimmer of Hope in the Struggle to Contain the Deadliest Ebola Outbreak

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently declared two West African nations—Senegal and Nigeria—free of the Ebola virus.

This encouraging news of the successful containment of imported cases of Ebola is tempered by worrying figures. More than 10,000 cases—all but 27 of them have occurred inside Sierra Leone, Liberia, and Guinea—have been reported in eight countries, including the United States and, more recently, Mali. There have been nearly 5,000 deaths, according to the latest figures from the WHO. The uncoordinated and slow nature of the response to the epidemic have come under heavy criticism, most recently by the US ambassador to the UN Samantha Power, who called out countries for not following up on their commitment to send doctors, beds, and reasonable financial support. Meanwhile, the widespread panic (read here Fear-bola) that ensued prompted measures such as travel bans, which severely curtail efforts to beat the disease.

To be clear, we should be optimistic, but we should also be cautious because Nigeria and Senegal remain at risk of additional imported cases as long as the situation doesn’t improve in neighboring countries. Yet, this new development is much needed to provide a nuanced narrative on the Ebola situation in West Africa as a region. What is beyond a doubt is that we ought to use these cases in containing a formidable foe as an inspiration to galvanize our efforts—on the domestic and international front—to contain what has been dubbed “an international [not African] public health emergency.”

Rapid response, early detection, and nationwide public awareness

The first case of Ebola in Senegal was confirmed on August 29th in a young man who had travelled to Dakar, by road, from Guinea, where he had direct contact with an Ebola patient. I had been living in Dakar since July 1st and received the news on the day I travelled to Chad. With the rapidly deteriorating situation in neighboring countries, I feared an increase in the rate of infection in densely populated Dakar.

The Senegalese government’s response was swift and included identifying and monitoring 74 close contacts of the patient, prompt testing of all suspected cases, stepped-up surveillance at the country’s many entry points, and nationwide public awareness campaigns. The patient was treated and recovered from the Ebola virus.

The government’s swift response coupled with awareness-raising efforts, such as the use of apps to provide relevant information to the public about ways to avoid contracting the virus, were vital in preventing an Ebola outbreak in Senegal.

Institutional backing in containment efforts and engagement with the civil society

Nigeria also recorded an imported case of Ebola in late July when an infected Liberian man arrived by airplane into Lagos, Africa’s most populous city. The man, who died in the hospital a few days later, set off a chain of transmission that infected a total of 19 people, 7 of whom died.

Through effective coordination of the response, the Nigerian government established an Emergency Operations Center and repurposed technologies and infrastructures from international partners to help find cases and track potential chains of transmission.

Moreover, strong public awareness campaigns, teamed with the early engagement of traditional, religious, and community leaders also played a key role in the successful containment of this outbreak.

The way forward for Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone

Analysts have pointed to the lack of resources needed to manage the infections, along with devastated healthcare systems in post-conflict societies, to account for the rapid spread of the disease in Guinea, Liberia, and Sierra Leone. While this holds true to an extent, it doesn’t wholly explain how a country such as the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) with its share of similar challenges has managed to contain previous Ebola outbreaks. While attention was rightly focused on West Africa and new cases in Europe and the US, another unrelated Ebola outbreak started in the Equateur Province in western DRC. Once the outbreak was reported to health officials in Kinshasa, the response was swift: a team that had contained numerous outbreaks in the past was brought in to respond. The main difference between the case in DRC and those in West Africa, even though we are talking about a different strain of the virus, was that this was the first time that the virus made an appearance in West Africa, making it difficult for severely affected communities and governments to adequately protect themselves.

However, the situation in West Africa is not without hope, even with this lack of experience. As a case in point, health officials in a Guinean town north of the capital Conakry initially thought that Ebola patients had typhoid fever. Following the death of these patients, it became evident that the Ebola virus was at-large. Yet the community came together to gain trust, banish rumors, and provide treatment to those in need. With the help of Medecins Sans Frontières and the WHO, health workers rapidly set up a treatment center rapidly and near the sick people. The town has been Ebola free since July. This is not an isolated case of survival. The powerful story of Fatu Kekula, a Liberian student who nursed family members back to health using the “trash bag method” after being denied access to a hospital also comes to mind.

While we await the availability of an Ebola vaccine and/or effective treatment, Nigeria and Senegal should be hailed for showing us the path to an Ebola-free world. This requires swift action from governments in coordinating containment efforts with the international community, while at the same time engaging with communities through influential figures to raise public awareness on how to avoid contracting the virus.

Around the Web

Check out these recent articles from around the web:

Mercy, Part I by Michael Sean Winters: “Most of us Christians grew up with the idea that the God of the Hebrews was an angry God. Certainly, many Christians have conceived him as such. But, Kasper sets out to destroy this myth and largely succeeds.”

Part II and Part III

Finding Faith in The Simpsons: The Top Five Theological Episodes of The Simpsons by Katharine Mahon: “But hidden inside this deeply flawed family and this caricature of American culture is a honest and rich depiction of family life in 1990’s America. The show explores moral dilemmas, spiritual crises, the love of spouse, parent, child, and sibling, as well as the testing of that love.”

Saudi Arabia continues its outrageous repression of human rights activists by Washington Post: “Saudi Arabia remains determined to shut the windows, close the doors and throw dissidents into solitary confinement.”

U.N. says pro-Russia rebels in Ukraine murder, kidnap and torture by Louis Charbonneau: “Pro-Russian rebels in Ukraine are guilty of a wide array of human rights abuses, including murder, abductions and torture, and are receiving a “steady supply” of sophisticated weapons and ammunition, according to a U.N. report obtained by Reuters.”

The Mental Virtues by David Brooks: “In fact, the mind is embedded in human nature, and very often thinking well means pushing against the grain of our nature — against vanity, against laziness, against the desire for certainty, against the desire to avoid painful truths. Good thinking isn’t just adopting the right technique. It’s a moral enterprise and requires good character, the ability to go against our lesser impulses for the sake of our higher ones.”

The Saint Who Taught Me to Worship by Timothy O’Malley: “The vocation of humanity is this kind of praise, a perfect praise in which every form of worship finds its end not in better, more sophisticated (and novel) worship that generates more and more emotion. But in that gift of self, which Christians call love. Worship is not about us, it is not about our affections. Instead, it is about becoming who God intended us to be: members of a symphony of perfect praise of the voice and the will alike.”

ISIS selling Yazidi women in Syria by Raja Razek and Jason Hanna: “Hundreds of Yazidi women abducted by ISIS have either been sold or handed out to members of the Sunni extremist group, according to an organization that monitors the crisis.”

Getting to the Crux of why Catholicism matters by John Allen: “In places such as the Philippines, corruption is a signature Catholic concern, and with good reason. Global Financial Integrity, a research organization based in Washington, estimates that corruption cost poor nations almost $6 trillion over the last decade, draining badly needed resources for education, health care, and poverty relief.”

Russia Is Burying Soldiers in Unmarked Graves Just to Conceal Their Role in Ukraine by Josh Kovensky: “The Russian government couldn’t care less about its dead soldiers. Paratroopers who have been killed in Ukraine are not receiving military funerals, nor are they being recognized for having died for their country. Rather, their graves have been kept unmarked.”

More Workers Are Claiming ‘Wage Theft’ by NY Times: “The lawsuit is part of a flood of recent cases — brought in California and across the nation — that accuse employers of violating minimum wage and overtime laws, erasing work hours and wrongfully taking employees’ tips. Worker advocates call these practices ‘wage theft,’ insisting it has become far too prevalent.”

What’s missing in the Ebola fight in West Africa by Jim Yong Kim and Paul Farmer: “To halt this epidemic, we need an emergency response that is equal to the challenge. We need international organizations and wealthy countries that possess the required resources and knowledge to step forward and partner with West African governments to mount a serious, coordinated response as laid out in the World Health Organization’s Ebola response roadmap.”

Siege of Iraqi town broken by CNN: “Iraqi security and volunteer forces have broken the siege of Amerli and have entered the town, retired Gen. Khaled al-Amerli, an Amerli resident and member of its self-defense force, told CNN on Sunday….The breakthrough came after the United States said it carried out airstrikes and dropped humanitarian aid in Amerli to protect an ethnic minority that one official said faced the threat of an ‘imminent massacre.’ Amerli is home to many of Iraq’s Shiite Turkmen.”

Right to Die, or Duty to Die? The Slippery-Slope Argument Against Euthanasia Revisited by Charles Camosy: “When euthanasia is legalized in cultures where the values of autonomy and consumerism hold sway, we soon end up with the kinds of deaths that almost no one wants. We also end up with a culture that almost no one wants – one that pushes vulnerable older persons, not just to the margins of society, but even to the point of dying in order to make space for the young, vigorous and productive.”

After Hobby Lobby: A Single-Payer Health Care Solution?

Millennial co-founder Christopher Hale has co-written a new article in Time. They write:

A person’s access to quality healthcare shouldn’t depend on who their boss is. And an employer shouldn’t be heavily fined if they don’t compromise their religious convictions in providing healthcare for their staff.

President Obama’s Affordable Care Act is a monumental first step in achieving a just and equitable American health care system that seeks first to serve those on the margins of society. But as we look towards the future, it’s necessary to consider major alterations or even alternatives to Obamacare to continue to advance healthcare reform.

The full article can be read here.

Bishop John Wester: Pro-life? Support Medicaid Expansion

Bishop John Wester of Salt Lake City has called out those who claim to be pro-life but oppose extending healthcare coverage to those who need it. In affirming the Church’s “Whole Life” approach to the sanctity of life, the bishop has taken a strong stand for human life and dignity by backing Medicaid expansion. He wrote:

In a state that proudly proclaims its pro-life beliefs, denying readily available healthcare coverage to thousands does not promote the sanctity and dignity of life. It is imperative that we as a state provide health care to our low-income working families who otherwise are unable to afford it….

Utah cannot proclaim itself a pro-life state so long as it refuses to provide access to basic health care coverage to a significant portion of its citizens.

He did not mince words or opt for bland false equivalencies, but called out those truly responsible for this immoral legislative behavior:

Right now an opportunity to protect the dignity and sanctity of human life in Utah is being squandered by legislators who refuse to act in a morally responsible manner.

In the name of politics, Utah Legislators continue to block tens of thousands of Utahns from access to healthcare coverage….

Despite all of the expert advice, Republican leadership in the Legislature refuses to accept the realities, the facts, the numbers, and asks for more studies…

Whatever games legislators want to play, they are doing so with people’s lives. While they push for political points, low-income Utahns continue to get sick; continue to suffer from treatable, preventable diseases that without treatment become catastrophic…

While there is a vocal minority that regularly expresses distrust of the federal government in general, legislators could be on the forefront explaining why such paranoia is insufficient to deny health care to our citizens.

Supporting Medicaid expansion is a no-brainer for people who are actually pro-life. It’s encouraging that Bishop Wester has delivered this message so clearly and powerfully.

Quote of the Day

Ambassador Samantha Power: “A woman in a poor country is still fifteen times more likely to die giving birth than her wealthier counterpart. That is just wrong: for any mother anywhere, a bank account should never spell the difference between death and life.”

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