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Obama Returns to White House for 1st Time Since 2017, Celebrates Obamacare Anniversary

About 21 million people are covered by the ACA, according to a recent analysis by the Urban Institute. Measures in the bill include protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions and an expansion of Medicaid, the public health insurance program that covers people with lower incomes and disabilities. Though the ACA was unpopular in its early days, data from the Kaiser Permanente Foundation show that 55% of Americans support the law today.

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Vice President Kamala Harris introduced former President Barack Obama at a White House press conference.
Vice President Kamala Harris introduced former President Barack Obama at a White House press conference.

By Brandon Patterson

Former President Obama returned to the White House this week for the first time since leaving office in 2017 to celebrate the 12th anniversary of the Affordable Care Act with President Joe Biden.

The ACA, passed in 2010 during Obama’s first term when Biden was vice president, is widely considered the crowning achievement of Obama’s administration, bringing affordable health insurance options to millions of Americans.

Obama, who maintains the close friendship with Biden developed previously in the White House, began his remarks by jokingly referring to “Vice President Biden” before giving Biden a hug. “That was all set up. My president, Joe Biden.” Obama was introduced by Vice President Kamala Harris. He received a standing ovation upon entry to into the press room.

“It’s fitting the first time you return to the White House is to celebrate a law that is transforming millions of lives because of you,” Biden said. “And I say because of you, you had a lot of help — staff, and I helped a little bit — but because of you. A law that shows hope leads to change, and you did that. Let’s be honest, the Affordable Care Act has been called a lot of things, but ‘Obamacare’ is the most fitting.”

About 21 million people are covered by the ACA, according to a recent analysis by the Urban Institute. Measures in the bill include protections for Americans with pre-existing conditions and an expansion of Medicaid, the public health insurance program that covers people with lower incomes and disabilities. Though the ACA was unpopular in its early days, data from the Kaiser Permanente Foundation show that 55% of Americans support the law today.

Republicans have repeatedly tried to repeal the ACA since it became law. The law survived challenges in the Supreme Court in both 2012 and 2015, though carveouts were made, including allowing states to opt out of the Medicaid expansion, which many Republican-led states have done.

Then in 2017, under former President Donald Trump, when Republicans also controlled both chambers of the Congress, Republicans came close to repealing it. But the attempt failed when three Republicans broke from the partly line, including the late Senator John McCain.

In the years since the Obama administration, Medicare for All, which would institute a national single-payer health care system where the government would serve as insurer for all residents, has become popular among progressives in the wake of the presidential campaigns of Senator Bernie Sanders and national organizing from progressive groups.

Recent political polling from Pew Research, Morning Consult and other polling firms have shown that most Americans support the proposal today. A March 2021 poll from Morning Consult found that 55% of Americans support Medicare for All.

Sources for this report were CNN, Morning Consult, Yahoo News.

Bay Area

Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern Lost Re-Election: But Mailer Falsely Invoking Latino Voice Bears Watching

Traditionally, PACs form to support a candidate with more money than allowed by the conventional political contribution means. It seems the group called United Latinos Vote (ULV) was created with the intention of not only donating thousands of dollars to the Ahern’s re-election but also falsely insinuating that the money came from Latinos.

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Since the early 1970s, numerous Oakland Latino groups have been actively involved in supporting campaigns that reflected our concerns and interests. Many times, while volunteering our time to campaign, we were successful in including our issues on candidates’ platforms.
Since the early 1970s, numerous Oakland Latino groups have been actively involved in supporting campaigns that reflected our concerns and interests. Many times, while volunteering our time to campaign, we were successful in including our issues on candidates’ platforms.

By Mariano Contreras

The results of the June 7 primary election sent a message to Sheriff Gregory Ahern: Alameda County residents wanted change and desired reform. Candidate Yesenia Sanchez, although outspent by Ahern, received 52.05% to his 32.28% of the vote and will now be Alameda County’s new sheriff.

But the contest gave rise to a disingenuous new Political Action Committee (PAC) that worked for the re-election of Ahern. On May 10, a group called United Latinos Vote (ULV) spent $40,000 on a mailer supporting Ahern’s re-election. The Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) contributed $25,000, making them the largest donor to this PAC.

Traditionally, PACs form to support a candidate with more money than allowed by the conventional political contribution means. It seems ULV was created with the intention of not only donating thousands of dollars to the Ahern’s re-election but also falsely insinuating that the money came from Latinos.

But investigation shows that the ULV PAC has no record of ever speaking in favor or against police reform in Oakland or supporting any other local and/or Latino campaigns.

Safe neighborhoods, peaceful streets, and accountable police departments have always been priorities for Oakland Latinos. In pursuing public safety, we have also presented a diverse spectrum of sentiments and ideas based on principle and truth.

Since the early 1970s, numerous Oakland Latino groups have been actively involved in supporting campaigns that reflected our concerns and interests. Many times, while volunteering our time to campaign, we were successful in including our issues on candidates’ platforms.

As a result, we formed advocacy groups made up of longtime activists and initiated candidate forums that spoke to our Latino community. The Latino Task Force began out of this effort, and we have involved ourselves in every election cycle since the 2016 general election. We have a history and connection to Oakland.

What has ULV done in Alameda County? What have they done in Oakland?

Alameda County’s Latino population borders 23% and, by many accounts, was not friendly to an Ahern re-election. It was most opportune and worrisome that a “Latino” PAC accepted money from a group blind to Latino issues when a formidable and qualified Latina candidate decided to run for sheriff.

The OPOA has never shown any interest in addressing issues important to Latino officers such as the lack of high-ranking Latino officers or the disproportionate discipline of Latino officers in the Oakland Police Department.

Now OPOA wanted to conveniently ally itself with a new and suspect Latino group that ignores many years of opposition to the broken, heavy-handed Sheriff’s Department and the brutal mismanagement of the county’s Santa Rita Jail.

We reject this devious and failed attempt at misleading the Latino electorate! Our effort to engage our community should be grounded in trust, involvement, and knowledge of our issues, not opportunistic gamesmanship.

Mariano Contreras is a member of the Latino Task Force.

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Business

Groups Unite to Oppose Landmark California Mental Health Legislation

“With broad support from California’s state Senate, CARE Court is one step closer to becoming a reality in California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, “I am also grateful to have the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Downtown Association, and 21 local chambers of commerce join our ever-expanding CARE Court coalition, which includes a diverse group of supporters focused on tackling the challenge of severe mental illness that too often leaves individuals on our streets without hope.”

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The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.
The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles, California Black Media

Senate Bill (SB) 1338, also known as the CARE Court Program, is attracting growing resistance as it makes its way through the legislative process. Some legal advocacy and civil rights groups say the law would negatively African Americans and other minorities.

The proposal, introduced in February by Senators Tom Umberg (D-Santa Ana) and Susan Talamantes Eggman (D-Stockton), would create a supportive alternative to the criminal justice system in California for people who are mentally ill or suffering from Substance Abuse Disorder.

Focused on the state’s unhoused population, SB 1338, would mandate treatment for people diagnosed with mental illnesses. About 40% of homeless adults and children in California are Black, a number nearly seven times higher than the total percentage of Blacks (5.6%) in a state with about 40 million people.

Opponents of the legislation say SB 1338 dangerously expands judicial power and empowers the criminal justice system to commit people to mental health treatment that is sub-par – and often against their will. There is also the potential for misdiagnosis, they warn.

“CARE Court promotes a system of involuntary, coerced treatment, enforced by an expanded judicial infrastructure, that will, in practice, simply remove unhoused people with perceived mental health conditions from the public eye without effectively addressing those mental health conditions and without meeting the urgent need for housing,” read the Human Rights Watch’s (HRW) opposition letter.

“We urge you to reject this bill and instead to take a more holistic, rights-respecting approach to address the lack of resources for autonomy-affirming treatment options and affordable housing,” the letter said.

SB 1338 unanimously passed in three Senate committees before the full State Senate approved it in May.

The legislation is currently making its way through the Assembly, where the Committee on Judiciary is reviewing it.

“Given the racial demographics of California’s homeless population, and the historic over-diagnosing of Black and Latino people with schizophrenia, this plan is likely to place many, disproportionately Black and Brown, people under state control,” HRW’s letter continued.

Some members of the California Association of Mental Health Peer Run Organizations share HRW’s opinion, claiming that the program would “disproportionately affect people of color by imposing another unnecessary court process on an already overloaded and biased system.”

SB 1338 does, however, have support from various California-based organizations.

“With broad support from California’s state Senate, CARE Court is one step closer to becoming a reality in California,” said Gov. Gavin Newsom, “I am also grateful to have the California Chamber of Commerce, the California Downtown Association, and 21 local chambers of commerce join our ever-expanding CARE Court coalition, which includes a diverse group of supporters focused on tackling the challenge of severe mental illness that too often leaves individuals on our streets without hope.”

Jennifer Barrera, president and CEO of the California Chamber of Commerce, expressed her support for the bill.

“The California Chamber of Commerce and our colleagues from throughout the state are pleased to support Governor Newsom and his vision to provide support for those suffering from severe mental illness and substance use disorders through the newly proposed CARE Court plan,” she explained.

Barrera says that CARE Court is a thoughtful, measured response to the tragedy of untreated mental illness impacting thousands of individuals. California employers have a clear stake in seeing the success of CARE Court as many business owners and their employees experience, first-hand, the impacts of inadequate policies that fail to address the needs of those individuals suffering on our streets and in our communities.

Disability Rights California (DRC) is also voicing its opposition to SB 1338.

“CARE Court is antithetical to recovery principles, which are based on self-determination and self-direction,” read the DRC’s opposition letter. “The CARE Court proposal is based on the stigma and stereotypes of people living with mental health disabilities and experiencing homelessness.”

DRC proposes an alternative solution to the problems CARE Court is attempting to address.

“The right framework allows people with disabilities to retain autonomy over their own lives by providing them with meaningful and reliable access to affordable, accessible, integrated housing combined with voluntary service,” read the letter.

The HRW expressed concern about how the program might impact personal rights.

“In fact, the bill creates a new pathway for government officials and family members to place people under state control and take away their autonomy and liberty,” HRW warns.

About a month before Umberg and Eggman introduced SB 1338, Gov. Newsom foreshadowed the bill’s arrival in his January budget proposal.

“We are leaning into conservatorships this year,” the governor said. “What’s happening on the streets and sidewalks in our state is unacceptable. I don’t want to see any more people die on the streets and call that compassion.”

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Antonio‌ ‌Ray‌ ‌Harvey‌

Inflation Worries Grow as California Legislature Approves State Budget

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed. “We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

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If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.
If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

By Aldon Thomas Stiles and Edward Henderson, California Black Media

Diane Lanette Barkum is an in-home care provider and mom of three. She commutes about 40 minutes every workday between the Riverside County cities of Lake Elsinore, where she lives, and Moreno Valley, where she works.

Over the last few months, Barkum says she has been stressed and scraping by, struggling to balance sharp increases in the cost of gas and food with making enough money to pay for other expenses.

“What worries me most about rising prices is that they’ll continue to rise, making it more difficult for low-income working parents to be able to support their families,” she said.

Terence Henry, who lives in Patterson in the Central Valley, used to drive 77 miles to the Bay Area to make deliveries as an independent contractor. He says the high cost of gas forced him to give up the job late last year and opt for only making local runs.

“It used to cost me about $50 each way to fill up the tank to get to Oakland, San Francisco and other cities,” he said. “It just was not worth it anymore. I was losing money.”

Barkum says she hopes there is relief around the corner for people like her who are working hard, raising children and still unable to make ends meet.

Barkum and Henry are not alone. According to the Public Policy Institute of California, 27% of Californians say jobs, the economy and inflation are their top concern over housing costs and availability (12%) and homelessness (11%).

Across the United States, the inflation rate is 8.6% — up from 4.7% last year, according to the U.S. Department of Labor. And the American Automobile Association reports that the average price per gallon of regular gas in California has risen above $6. Several economists agree that the effects of inflation hit poor and working-class families the hardest.

In Southern California, the inflation rate in Riverside and San Bernardino counties in the Inland Empire has risen to 9.4%, according to the UCLA Anderson School of Management. That number is among the highest of increases in the country.

Last week, the California Legislature approved a record $300 billion-plus budget for the next fiscal year, the largest annual spending plan in the state’s history. The package includes a surplus of close to $100 billion dollars, half of which must be used to fund schools by law.

Included in the budget are plans to spend the other half. So far, legislators have allotted $8 billion in rebates to taxpayers. Another $1.3 billion has been designated for grants to small business and non-profit organizations. Another $600 million has been specified for tax credits to the lowest-income Californians.

While lawmakers – both Democrats and Republicans – and the governor’s office agree that addressing spiraling inflation is urgent, they have not reached agreement on how to provide relief to struggling families.

Anthony York, Newsom’s senior advisor for communications, said in a statement that the governor still wants “more immediate, direct relief to help millions more families with rising gas, groceries and rent prices.”

At the federal level, U.S. Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell approved a three-quarter (0.75) percentage point rate hike — the highest single percentage rate increase since 2008.

“African American-owned businesses and families are experiencing the damaging effects of inflation including the current interest rate increase instituted by the Federal Reserve Board.

“It is important for financial institutions to work with Black-owned businesses and their families to help navigate the rising cost of capital needed to operate and sustain all businesses,” said Timothy Alan Simon, board chair of the California African American Chamber of Commerce.

By statute, Newsom has until June 30 to veto the legislators’ budget bill or sign it into law.

If the governor approves the budget, it will take effect July 1, the beginning of the 2022-23 fiscal year. However, negotiations are expected to continue through the end of August as lawmakers hammer out final details.

During the public comment section of the Assembly Budget Committee hearing on June 13, Adrian Mohammed, an African American representative of the Bay Area Health Initiative spoke about the exclusion of a $500 million proposal to address Black housing and anti-displacement in the Bay Area in the budget the Legislature passed.

“We believe that this is an incredibly timely and incredibly necessary ask and we ask that you continue to work with us to get this to come to fruition,” Mohammed told lawmakers.

On June 15, Republican leaders held a rally at the State Capitol blasting their Democratic colleagues for their inaction on addressing the high cost of gas.

“Legislative Republicans are gathered here to remind Californians that it has been 100 days since the governor and the Democrats here in Sacramento promised California consumers relief on gas prices. One hundred days is far too long,” said Assemblymember James Gallagher (R-Yuba City). After 100 days, we are still waiting with no relief in sight. We need action now. We’ve been calling since January to suspend the gas tax.”

Senate Pro Tem Toni Atkins (D-San Diego) said the state’s wealth needs to work for hardworking Californians. She pointed to a provision in the budget that provides $200 rebates to working families earning up to $250,000 a year and $125,000 for single filers.

“We are focused on providing struggling families the relief they need to weather rising costs of fuel and groceries, investing ongoing funding in core programs and services, funding one-time infrastructure projects that will keep California moving for years to come,” she said.

Assembly Speaker Anthony Rendon (D-Lakewood) echoed Atkin’s optimism.

“We share a firm belief that our state is strongest when it cares for the weakest among us,” said Rendon. “Our budget proposal continues to lay the groundwork with infrastructure and other investments for future prosperity.”

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