While many families are buying all the extra fixings to make Thanksgiving dinner special, 79 percent of low-income households in Feeding America’s client base report “purchasing the cheapest food available, even if they knew it wasn’t the healthiest option, in an effort to provide enough food for their household.” We also know from Feeding America’s report, Hunger in America 2014, that food insecurity has been on the rise since the Great Recession: one in seven Americans rely on food banks to see them through. Viewed by race, the results are even more startling: One in four African Americans relies on a food bank; one in six Latinos. Meanwhile, some 45 million Americans rely on food stamps. It’s 2015, and hunger is still a huge problem in America. And it’s a problem inextricably linked to larger issues of economic hardship. In fact, many Americans who work face food insecurity, with studies finding that a growing share of food stamp recipients participate in the labor force. This is part of a broader story of the difficulties that low-wage workers face in making ends meet. Earlier this year, a study found that about 48 percent of home health care workers are on public assistance, as are 46 percent of child care workers and 52 percent of fast-food workers. Another big category of hungry people are older and disabled Americans on fixed incomes that fall short every month.
Criminal justice reform is one area of philanthropy that’s been rapidly gaining steam. A number of top foundations want to see what can be done to bring down incarceration rates, and are putting up capital in a variety of ways to work on the problem.The Fall issue of Responsive Philanthropy, recently published by NCRP, takes a deep dive into the new funding for criminal justice reform, which—as Aaron Dorfman writes—cuts across a breadth of work now under way to change “policing, prosecution policies, reentry opportunities and more.”
Senator Whitehouse helps to focus the discussion on juvenile justice and what we can do to give all young people a chance.
From the Whitehouse Press Office:
Senators Offering Amendment to Protect Social Security in Budget
Washington, DC – As the Senate continues debating the Republican budget proposal this week, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) will offer an amendment to guard against potential efforts to cut Social Security benefits. The Democratic amendment would establish as “not in order” any budget proposals that would reduce Social Security benefits, increase the retirement age, or privatize Social Security.
Senator Whitehouse will speak on the Senate floor at approximately 4:00 p.m. to call up this amendment. Please tune in on C-Span 2 or online. The amendment was filed by Senators Ron Wyden (D-OR), Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and Debbie Stabenow (D-MI), in addition to Whitehouse.
“Social Security benefits are a solemn promise that our seniors have earned over a lifetime of work,” said Whitehouse. “Sadly, Republicans have made it their mission for decades to dismantle that promise, attempting to turn it over to Wall Street and cut benefits through misguided ideas like the so-called ‘chained-CPI.’ Our amendment would protect Social Security from these kinds of right-wing attacks and ensure that seniors can continue to count on the benefits they have earned.”
“Social Security is the most successful government program in our nation’s history. Through good times and bad, Social Security has paid out every benefit owed to every eligible American,” Sanders said. “The most effective way to strengthen Social Security for the future is to eliminate the cap on the payroll tax on all income above $250,000 so millionaires and billionaires pay the same share as everyone else.”
The amendment could come up for a vote on the floor as early as this afternoon or tomorrow.
Social Security is projected to remain fully solvent through 2033 and is not driving our current budget deficits. Senator Whitehouse has long argued that it has no place in short-term budget debates, and supports a long-term solution that would make the program solvent for future generations by asking the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share into the system.
Back in December, we wrote about the Rhode Island Foundation blazing a trail for health care reform by convening Rhode Island health care stakeholders and getting everyone to sign on to a reform agenda. A key plank of that agenda is expanding and developing “alternative reimbursement models that reward value and patient-centric care delivery.” Translation: let’s scrap fee-for-service.
A few weeks later, we learned that this movement may have a national impact, with the Obama administration borrowing much of the language and many ideas of the Rhode Island health care reform agenda. In January, the Department of Health and Human Services announced ambitious goals for moving Medicare payments away from traditional fee-for-service reimbursement.
Here in Rhode Island, the issue of hedge fund investing of pension dollars has been a source of much conflict and concern. Hopefully with so many financial experts now leading our state government (Tom Sgouros, Seth Magaziner, Gina Raimondo, I’m talking to you!) we can make sure that public pension dollars in Rhode Island are invested wisely.
Good news and more good news: Senator Whitehouse is looking for ways to put the middle class first, get billionaires to pay their fair share, and generate new revenues. Not for nothing, but sometimes I really wish Senator Whitehouse could have been Vice President with Obama. These are the reforms our country desperately needs. From the Whitehouse Press office:
Providence, RI – With President Obama and Republican leaders in Congress citing tax reform as a key area for bipartisan cooperation in the new year, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) today announced that he will introduce three bills to make the federal tax system fairer for middle-class families and small businesses. The package would end tax breaks and loopholes that benefit multi-national corporations and the highest earners, and is projected to generate over $300 billion in revenue over 10 years.
“Our tax code is riddled with giveaways and special deals for the biggest corporations and top earners, and that special treatment hurts hardworking Rhode Islanders,” said Whitehouse. “Multi-national corporations stash assets and profits abroad to avoid paying a fair share in taxes. Companies ship jobs overseas and get a tax break for doing it. And billionaires pay lower tax rates than their secretaries. These bills would help end this kind of special treatment for special interests, and generate hundreds of billions of dollars in revenue in the process.”
All three bills will be introduced tomorrow when the Senate is in session. Senator Whitehouse will fight to include these proposals in any tax reform package that moves through the Senate.
Whitehouse’s plan includes:
The Paying a Fair Share Act – The Paying a Fair Share Act would implement the “Buffett Rule,” ensuring that multi-million-dollar earners pay at least a 30 percent effective federal tax rate. The rule is named for legendary investor Warren Buffett, who has famously pointed out that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary. The bill, which includes language to preserve the incentive for charitable giving, would generate an estimated $71 billion over ten years.
The Offshoring Prevention Act – Currently, U.S. companies that manufacture goods abroad for sale here at home are allowed to defer payment of federal income tax – waiting to pay taxes on foreign income in years that minimize their tax liability. The Offshoring Prevention Act would require companies that send factories and jobs overseas to play by the same rules as ones supporting jobs in the U.S. The bill would generate an estimated $20 billion in revenue over ten years.
The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act – Estimates show that Fortune 500 companies hold roughly $2 trillion in offshore holdings to benefit from favorable foreign tax systems and bank secrecy. Championed in previous Congresses by retired Senator Carl Levin (D-MI), the Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act would close loopholes that allow multi-national corporations to avoid paying a fair share in taxes by moving assets and profits through intricate networks of offshore subsidiaries and bank accounts. This bill would generate at least $220 billion in revenue over ten years.
None of the bills prescribe uses for the revenue they would generate. It would be up to Congress to decide how the funds would be spent – anything from investments in infrastructure to deficit reduction.
Whitehouse has been a leader in the Senate on tax fairness issues. In addition to authoring the Buffett Rule and Offshoring Prevention legislation in previous Congresses, in 2013, he proposed a plan to replace strict austerity measures contained in the 2011 debt ceiling deal – the budget “sequester” – by closing tax loopholes that benefit the wealthiest Americans and big corporations, and he has spoken often of the injustices in our present tax code.