Tuesday, February 6, 2018

When Abortion Is A Homicide of Self-Defense

Fear, even unfounded fear, is used regularly as justification for homicides committed in self-defense.
In response, innovative police courses are empowering officers to better negotiate fear.
In the same way, our society needs to better resource parents — women, in particular — to navigate the genuine fears of raising children in America.
I’ll lose my job.
I can’t afford daycare.
No one can help me.
If I don’t work, my other children can’t eat.
I was raped.
I don’t have health insurance.
I can’t raise a special needs child.
My husband is abusive.
My parents will kick me out.
I’m afraid my child would just be lost and abused in a broken foster care system.
Abortion doesn’t need to be a homicide of self-defense.
Through better resources for parents, we can help remove the fear.
Read the rest over at FemCatholic.

Thursday, February 1, 2018

SOTU 2018

This isn't hard-and-fast political commentary.

You don't have to read this.

I'm an American, middle-class, suburban, Catholic housewife and SAHM who heard her president speak about the State Of The Union and decided to write out some thoughts.

You don't have to read this.

You don't have to read this. 

Without further warning or ado:

1. Honoring American Heroes

I loved how President Trump highlighted, throughout his address, the lives of everyday Americans in their successes, sorrows, and heroism -- a Coast Guard first responder during Hurricane Harvey, a forest firefighter in California, a little boy who created a national movement to honor veterans' graves, a police officer who adopted a baby in need, parents of victimized children, veterans. It felt very Americana and helped to personify the issues he addressed. 

2. Quoting the African American unemployment rate does not negate the legitimate reality of minority race issues in our country. 

Yes, it's great that black people have jobs (albeit at lower wages than white people), but it doesn't mean our country no longer has ingrained white privilege, systemic racism, or disproportionately higher police violence against people of color.

Secondly, minority unemployment rates did not suddenly start to decrease when President Trump took office in 2017. These rates have been decreasing steadily since 2010. The African American unemployment rate was cut in half during President Obama's presidency.

And finally, President Trump undermined the attempt to frame himself as a minority advocate when he dismissed NFL players who choose to kneel and pray during our national anthem as unpatriotic. Anthem protests are a completely normal practice in free countries worldwide. 

3. The increased standard deductions and child tax credits are nice, unless they're temporary. 

Surprisingly, our family doesn't come out too far ahead with the new tax reforms.

With so many kids, the increased standard deduction ($24,000 for married couples) doesn't counter the removed personal exemptions ($4,000 per person). The doubled child tax credit ($2,000 per child) should make up the difference from 2018 - 2024.

However, if standard deductions and child tax credits return to current levels in 2025 -- as Congress approved in the recent tax reform -- our tax burden will increase by $28,000, while our tax credits decrease by $5,000. 

Bader Tax Exemptions, Deductions, and Credits 2017 - 2025 (not adjusted for inflation)
That said, I believe in America, I believe in our government, I believe in taxes, and I'm more than happy to pay into our country, even if our taxes increase astronomically in 2025.

Nonetheless, I'm uncomfortable with either turnout of this tax reform: 1) Extending unsustainable credits and deductions for citizens in 2025 seems fiscally irresponsible. 2) Significantly increasing taxes for citizens in 2025 to protect corporate tax cuts seems, well, pretty shitty.

4. Removing the penalty for the individual mandate is good. But we're missing the bigger issue. 

Yes, it's inane to fine people for not having the money to purchase health insurance. And that's what the individual mandate was -- a slap in the face to people who couldn't afford our country's unconscionable health insurance premiums.

Since we recognize that the average person can't afford these premiums, and since we've (rightly) removed the insult-to-injury fine that resulted from their inability to fulfill the individual mandate, what are we doing now to make health insurance affordable for these people? Sure, they no longer have to pay a fine. But they still don't have health care. 

I understand it's year one for President Trump. I do hope, in the next three (seven?) years, he remembers his campaign promise to replace Obamacare, not just pull the plug of our failing lifeboat and walk away.

Returning to pre-ACA health care in America is not a solution to health care in America.

5. "I will not stop until our veterans are properly taken care of, which has been my promise to them from the very beginning of this great journey."

I applaud President Trump's actions to improve VA medical care.

6. It would be great if manufacturing jobs returned to the United States. 

I would love to see car factories and manufacturers established all over the country. Hard work, manual labor, and a good day's work are as American as apple pie.

Unfortunately, our family can say from experience, livable wages, sick pay, health insurance, pensions, and 401(k) options are not as American as apple pie -- unless you're working a union gig.

To return manufacturing jobs to the American-Dream-supporting staple they once were, we either need a government-regulated market (legislated worker protections, including health insurance, livable wages, and retirement plans) or we need unions.

7. YES, let's lower the cost of prescription drugs. Now, about that swamp.

I am so glad President Trump is addressing the issue of medical costs, in this case, prescription costs, in America.

President Trump's statement on prescription drugs during the SOTU
That said, it's a little disconcerting to see a former pharma exec appointed to the top healthcare oversight position in our country. Alex Azar has experience, competence, and networks within our national healthcare system, which could serve him well in this position. I hope his former profit-driven role as president of pharmaceutical giant Eli Lilly will not be a conflict of interest in pursuing affordable prescription drugs for Americans.

8. Rebuilding our crumbling infrastructure

Pleeeeeeeease no more toll roads. Seriously. Can't we figure out how to have roads without turning everything into a for-profit venture? Remember when the Dallas North Tollway was going to stop charging tolls, once it was paid for?

9. Vocational Schools

Yes! While we're helping younger workers find a path forward toward better jobs through education and training, let's figure out the student debt crisis and make all of this education and training affordable.

It seems incongruous to say this after removing the student loan interest deduction in recent tax reform, but based on President Trump's mention of the need for job training and "great vocational schools," maybe we are headed toward a period of re-training and development for American workers. I hope so.

President Trump's SOTU statement on vocational schools
10. Paid Family Leave

It was an afterthought tacked onto a non-sequitur statement about vocational schools -- perhaps some insight into where it falls as an administration priority -- but the importance of paid family leave did make it into the SOTU!

Then there was a sweeping camera move to successful mom and businesswoman, Ivanka Trump, our dedicated leader on this front.

Please, somebody, recognize how paid family leave can help stabilize families in America, and figure out a way to make this happen.

11. Prison Reform

Wow! This was out of left field! I sat up and listened more closely, as soon as it was mentioned, but after half a sentence, the topic turned to illegal immigration.

But, wow. Seriously. No one's talked about this, and it's a serious issue, and President Trump said he's going to address it THIS YEAR.

Can you imagine the positive future for our country, if we could reform our criminal justice into a system that helps former inmates return to society in a positive, supportive, welcoming way?

Yes, let's do it!

SOTU Statement on Prison Reform
I'm wary of this prison reform occurring through a for-profit prison system. A private system that profits from increased incarceration and bare-bones social work doesn't seem equipped for quality reform measures.

12. On Latino immigrants and violence

I think Senator Kamala Harris best expressed my concerns about President Trump's emphasis on gang violence during the SOTU:

"MS-13 is an example of some of the worst of criminal gang behavior. To equate that with Dreamers and DACA was completely irresponsible, and it was scapegoating, and it was fearmongering, and it was wrong."

MS-13 makes up only 1% of criminally-active gangs in the United States. Yes, they are dangerous. Yes, that is 1% too much. Yes, they should be imprisoned for their crimes, if they're U.S. citizens, or turned over to law enforcement in their home countries, if they are undocumented immigrants.

However, the vast majority of undocumented immigrants in our country are safe, well-meaning people. They are not dangerous. They are less likely to commit a crime than a person born in the U.S.

As an aside, when we penalize sanctuary cities -- whose law enforcement does not pursue deportation of law-abiding undocumented immigrants -- we increase unreported gang violence. If we want undocumented immigrants to participate in keeping our cities safe, we need them to feel safe reporting crime. If law-abiding undocumented immigrants fear deportation, crime in their neighborhoods will go unreported, which will only intensify and spread local crime.

13. Should we build the wall?

I'm coming around on this one.

If we can get a path to citizenship for 1.8 million people who are stuck in limbo in a country that they call home, let's do that. This isn't a hard choice for me.

No matter how someone feels about the wall, $25 billion divided by 1.8 million is $13,889. That's a cheap ransom to give someone a life, and to give generations after them a future in America.

Do I feel dissonance about this wall? Yes. By advocating for this political compromise, I feel like I am personally, with my own hands, laying the final brick myself. Behind that brick is another mother, just like me, whose only difference is she was born on the other side of that wall. And for that, she must watch her children suffer.

No, I'm not rejoicing about a wall, because those who will be hurt the most are the poor and the desperate. (Drug traffickers might be slowed, but they won't be stopped. As long as we fund prisons more than addiction therapy, business is just too lucrative to let a wall get in the way.)

For what it's worth, even with a wall, refugees can still run to the border, turn themselves into immigration authorities (as many already do), and beg asylum. I hope we hear them.

14. Merit-based visas over chain migration

We have lost the dignity of the working poor. Most immigrants who come to America are some of the hardest working people you will ever meet, whatever the skill level.

By instituting a merit-based visa system over a family reunification ("chain migration") system, our country is, once again, advocating for the powerful, the resourced, and the viable, for fear the rest are just too inconvenient or expensive to include.

(Immigration is a pro-life issue.)

15. Drug addicts need more than the incarceration of their dealers. 

It's only been a year, so it's hard to criticize lack of action regarding drug addiction, the opioid epidemic in particular. President Trump still has three (seven?) years to work on this.

As he describes in the SOTU, drug addiction is a very serious national problem.

President Trump, during the SOTU, on drug addiction
I appreciate the two-pronged approach to this: removing supply by stopping the dealers, but also removing demand by helping those addicted get treatment.

That's my real interest. Supply will end if demand ends. How can we make affordable, effective addiction treatment available to those who need it most?

Supply will end if demand ends.

16. Militarization and rebuilding our nuclear arsenal

Look, I'm no foreign policy expert. I wasn't even going to comment on this part of the speech.

President Trump, during the SOTU, on rebuilding our nuclear arsenal
Doesn't it seem incredibly hypocritical to rebuild our nuclear arsenal while demanding everyone else dismantle theirs? America, stop being such a f***ing bully. You're explicitly and harmfully telling people not to do exactly what we ourselves are doing. How can we sanction other sovereign nations who pursue nuclear arsenals while also building up our own stash? Dammit. Stop it. Geez, sometimes I look at my innocent little boys and want to beg their forgiveness for the inevitable future justice that will fall on us. If there's a nuclear holocaust and the world ends, we have done this to ourselves. Peace is not a phantasmagorical "magical" fairy tale. It is attainable. It is within our ability and leadership in the world to promote and pursue, today.

17. Is Guantanamo Bay our North Korea?

Shortly after his unsurprising announcement to recommission Guantanamo Bay for indefinite detainment of suspected international criminals, President Trump issued a harsh indictment against North Korea for detaining and arresting a student tourist, Otto Warmbier, who ultimately died from suspected prison abuse in North Korea.

Guantanamo Bay, to the rest of the world, is a place where the United States detains and tortured non-citizen suspects, without trial, in the name of protecting our nation. We are indefinitely holding captured suspects as prisoners, for decades, without trial, without charging them with any crime. Some might be innocent.

How would we view another nation who acted this way? China reportedly detains and kills political prisoners arbitrarily without justice, with stories from North Korea and Iran, as well. In President Trump's statement on the recent 20-week abortion ban, he says we don't want to be like these countries, specifically naming China and North Korea. As long as Guantanamo Bay remains open, America is just another fearful regime refusing the due process of justice to those it views as a threat.

This is complicated. It is a legitimate national security issue. But is it not a human rights issue as well? Is Guantanamo Bay who we are?

President Trump, SOTU 2018
18. Abortion 

Surprisingly (or maybe not surprising), abortion wasn't even mentioned. In an 80-minute SOTU address, the "pro-life" president failed to mention a pro-life agenda. Paid maternity leave, prison reform, and even vocational schools each got half a sentence. Even music and the arts -- whose presidential council has been effectively dissolved under President Trump -- got a mention. But nothing on abortion.

It wasn't for lack of a position. President Trump issued a pretty coherent statement just a few days earlier. He showed up at the March for Life.

He had such an easy target on this. He couldn't mention that nearly every Democrat in the Senate just voted against the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act days earlier?

The House had already passed it. All that had to happen for our country to have a 20-week abortion ban was for the Senate to approve this legislation.

Look, he's the deal-making president. He makes late night phone calls, cancels out-of-town trips, invites influential Democrats to the White House for private meetings, all in the name of passing controversial legislation (tax reform, for example).

And yet, it's like they're not even trying. No one attempted to dialogue with pro-life Democrats from red states that just might go for it. Did McConnell even make a phone call? Did this even come up in bipartisan conversation? No one hosted a press conference. No one held other controversial legislation ransom over it. No one tweeted about it. It's like they didn't actually care if a national abortion ban passed.

I have two theories here.

The first is that President Trump has realized that anti-abortion legislation is not the most effective way to decrease abortion in our country, so he's decided not to pursue an abortion ban at all. Instead, he's positioned himself as an advocate for family-friendly policies that make it easier to support abortion-vulnerable women and their children, such as paid family leave, healthcare for poor children, adoption tax credits, and a strong social safety net.

This theory would explain why President Trump shared the beautiful story of Officer Holets' family during the SOTU. One night, while on his shift, Officer Holets met a pregnant woman addicted to heroin. This mother wanted a better life for her baby, and the officer offered to adopt the heroin-addicted child.

My second theory is that Republicans only care about the image of supporting anti-abortion legislation to the extent that it demonizes their Democratic counterparts and woos pro-life voters. This would explain why President Trump and Republican senators put so very little effort into anti-abortion legislation, even when it's practically in the palms of their hands, while putting so much effort into courting pro-life voters.

I would hope that my first theory is the case, and that the pro-life movement across America would pick up similar causes, in the name of protecting the most vulnerable among us.

19. On Prince Kennedy and the Democratic Response 

Man, I want to hate this kid. I'm so over political dynasty families in America. No more Bushes. No more Clintons. No more Kennedys.

And at the same time, I like him. I read an article on him last year that quoted a bunch of Republican colleagues as liking him too. I'd link the article for you, but apparently, a lot of people have Googled this guy in the past two days, and I can't wade through the Google results. 

Anyway, his response read a bit like an idealistic beat poet at a coffee shop, especially the "We choose" anthem. But, then again, I like idealism, poetry, and coffee shops, so it resonated. 

His Spanish at the end wasn't rehearsed. It turns out the redhead from Massachusetts is fluent in Spanish. 

20. In Conclusion

Oh, America. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The Day Mitch McConnell Changed My Mind

Before I was even old enough to vote, my politics have been formed by a desire to protect those most vulnerable among us.

Since 1973, since legalized abortion, the most vulnerable population in our country has been and currently is, the unborn.

It's never bothered my conscience to be a single-issue voter, because the death of so many without a voice weighs heavily and constantly on my mind. 

A country with abortion rates as high as ours is a country that's lost its hope. When the thought of a new baby doesn't inherently mean a future full of hope, something is wrong.

Who is it that's lost their hope?

Statistically, it's women who are poor and racial minorities. The New York Times recently published an interview with Birth Choice of Oklahoma about the care and services they offer to women. And the majority -- 70 percent -- of women who come to this pro-life crisis pregnancy resource center don't speak English. Many are undocumented.

The founders of Birth Choice shared that, from its inception, they have "struggled to find support for women who feel too poor to have their babies."

The poor and racial minorities.

When the leader of the party I have always called "pro-life" tweeted this ultimatum, shrugging off a choice between two desperate, hopeless groups of people in our country -- coincidentally, the two groups who are most vulnerable to choose abortion instead of life for their children -- it was a moment of clarity for me.

I realized, this political party, with a historically pro-life platform -- the very leadership of this party -- can't trace how removing a successful healthcare program from the poor and legal protections for undocumented minorities directly drives the hopeless toward abortion.

This need to prioritize issues isn't new to me. There has always been give-and-take in government -- politicians I don't like who represent a platform I do like, a party that protects one group, but not another, the need to find sustainable funding.

But I'm not playing politics anymore. I'm not playing this guilt game of "vote Republican or abortion will never end in America."

I'm not bargaining vulnerable people groups anymore. Poor children in our country need healthcare AND undocumented child immigrants need legal protection. And I'm going to vote for candidates who believe this with me, who will push hard to find room in our national budget to make these things happen.

And in doing so, in voting for candidates who prioritize protections for poor children and racial minorities, among other vulnerable people groups, I believe I will also be voting for every baby -- poor, minority, disabled -- every baby, to be born into a future full of hope.