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Imagining a New Social Order: Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin in Conversation

Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin discuss how the left can save the US from neoliberal excesses.Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin discuss how the left can save the US from neoliberal excesses. (Image: Jared Rodriguez / Truthout)

We live in an age of illegitimate neoliberal hegemony and soaring political uncertainty. The evidence is all around: citizen disillusionment over mainstream political parties and the traditional conservative-liberal divide, massive inequality, the rise of the “alt-right,” and growing resistance to Trumpism and financial capitalism. 

Yes, the present age is full of contradictions of every type and variety, and this is something that makes the goals and aims of the left for the reordering of society along the lines of a true democratic polity and in accordance with the vision of a socialist reorganization of the economy more challenging than ever before.

In this context, the interview below, with Noam Chomsky and Robert Pollin, which appeared originally in Truthout in three separate parts, seeks to provide theoretical and practical guidance to the most pressing social, economic and political issues facing the United States today. It is part of an effort to help the left reimagine an alternative but realistic social order in an age when the old order is dying but the new has yet to be born.

Noam Chomsky is professor emeritus of linguistics at MIT and laureate professor in the department of linguistics at the University of Arizona. Robert Pollin is distinguished professor of economics and co-director of the Political Economy Research Institute at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst. These two thinkers are pathbreakers in the quest to envision a humane and equitable society, and their words can provide a helpful framework as we strive — within an oppressive system and under a repressive government — to fathom new ways of living together in the world.

C.J. Polychroniou: Noam, the rise of Donald Trump has unleashed a rather unprecedented wave of social resistance in the US. Do you think the conditions are ripe for a mass progressive/socialist movement in this country that can begin to reframe the major policy issues affecting the majority of people, and perhaps even challenge and potentially change the fundamental structures of the US political economy?

Noam Chomsky: There is indeed a wave of social resistance, more significant than in the recent past — though I’d hesitate about calling it “unprecedented.” Nevertheless, we cannot overlook the fact that in the domain of policy formation and implementation, the right is ascendant, in fact some of its harshest and most destructive elements [are rising].

Nor should we overlook a crucial fact that has been evident for some time: The figure in charge, though often ridiculed, has succeeded brilliantly in his goal of occupying media and public attention while mobilizing a very loyal popular base — and one with sinister features, sometimes smacking of totalitarianism, including adoration of The Leader. That goes beyond the core of loyal Trump supporters…. [A majority of Republicans] favor shutting down or at least fining the press if it presents “biased” or “false news” — terms that mean information rejected by The Leader, so we learn from polls showing that by overwhelming margins, Republicans not only believe Trump far more than the hated mainstream media, but even far more than their own media organ, the extreme right Fox news. And half of Republicans would back postponing the 2020 election if Trump calls for it.

It is also worth bearing in mind that among a significant part of his worshipful base, Trump is regarded as a “wavering moderate” who cannot be fully trusted to hold fast to the true faith of fierce White Christian identity politics. A recent illustration is the primary victory of the incredible Roy Moore in Alabama despite Trump’s opposition. (“Mr. President, I love you but you are wrong,” as the banners read). The victory of this Bible-thumping fanatic has led senior party strategists to [conclude] “that the conservative base now loathes its leaders in Washington the same way it detested President Barack Obama” — referring to leaders who are already so far right that one needs a powerful telescope to locate them at the outer fringe of any tolerable political spectrum.

The potential power of the ultra-right attack on the far right is [illustrated] by the fact that Moore spent about $200,000, in contrast to his Trump-backed opponent, the merely far-right Luther Strange, who received more than $10 million from the national GOP and other far-right sources. The ultra-right is spearheaded by Steve Bannon, one of the most dangerous figures in the shiver-inducing array that has come to the fore in recent years. It has the huge financial support of the Mercer family, along with ample media outreach through Breitbart news, talk radio and the rest of the toxic bubble in which loyalists trap themselves.

While Trump keeps the spotlight on himself, the “respectable” Republican establishment chips away at government programs that benefit the general population.

In the most powerful state in history, the current Republican Party is ominous enough. What is not far on the horizon is even more menacing.

Much has been said about how Trump has pulled the cork out of the bottle and legitimized neo-Nazism, rabid white supremacy, misogyny and other pathologies that had been festering beneath the surface. But it goes much beyond even that.

I do not want to suggest that adoration of the Dear Leader is something new in American politics, or confined to the vulgar masses. The veneration of Reagan that has been diligently fostered has some of the same character, in intellectual circles as well. Thus, in publications of the conservative Hoover Institution at Stanford University, we learn that Reagan’s “spirit seems to stride the country, watching us like a warm and friendly ghost.” Lucky us, protected from harm by a demi-god.

Whether by design, or simply inertia, the Republican wrecking ball has been following a two-level strategy. Trump keeps the spotlight on himself with one act after another, assuming (correctly) that yesterday’s antics will be swept aside by today’s. And at the same time, often beneath the radar, the “respectable” Republican establishment chips away at government programs that might be of benefit to the general population, but not to their constituency of extreme wealth and corporate power. They are systematically pursuing what Financial Times economic correspondent Martin Wolf calls “pluto-populism,” a doctrine that imposes “policies that benefit plutocrats, justified by populist rhetoric.” An amalgam that has registered unpleasant successes in the past as well.

Meanwhile, the Democrats and centrist media help out by focusing their energy and attention on whether someone in the Trump team talked to Russians, or [whether] the Russians tried to influence our “pristine” elections — though at most in a way that is undetectable in comparison with the impact of campaign funding, let alone other inducements that are the prerogative of extreme wealth and corporate power and are hardly without impact.

The Russian saboteurs of democracy seem to be everywhere. There was great anxiety about Russian intervention in the recent German elections, perhaps contributing to the frightening surge of support for the right-wing nationalist, if not neo-fascist, “Alternative for Germany” [AfD]. AfD did indeed have outside help, it turns out, but not from the insidious Putin. “The Russian meddling that German state security had been anticipating apparently never materialized,” according to Bloomberg News. “Instead, the foreign influence came from America.” More specifically, from Harris Media, whose clients include Marine Le Pen’s National Front in France, Benjamin Netanyahu in Israel, and our own Donald Trump. With the valuable assistance of the Berlin office of Facebook, which created a population model and provided the needed data, Harris’s experts micro-targeted Germans in categories deemed susceptible to AfD’s message — with some success, it appears. The firm is now planning to move on to coming European races, it has announced.

Nevertheless, all is not bleak by any means. The most spectacular feature of the 2016 elections was not the election of a billionaire who spent almost as much as his lavishly-funded opponent and enjoyed fervent media backing. Far more striking was the remarkable success of the Sanders campaign, breaking with over a century of mostly bought elections. The campaign relied on small contributions and had no media support, to put it mildly. Though lacking any of the trappings that yield electoral success in our semi-plutocracy, Sanders probably would have won the Democratic Party nomination, perhaps the presidency, if it hadn’t been for the machinations of party managers. His popularity undimmed, he is now a leading voice for progressive measures and is amassing considerable support for his moderate social democratic proposals, reminiscent of the New Deal — proposals that would not have surprised President Eisenhower, but are considered practically revolutionary today as both parties have shifted well to the right [with] Republicans virtually off the spectrum of normal parliamentary politics.

Offshoots of the Sanders campaign are doing valuable work on many issues, including electoral politics at the local and state level, which had been pretty much abandoned to the Republican right, particularly during the Obama years, to very harmful effect. There is also extensive and effective mobilization against racist and white supremacist pathologies, often spearheaded by the dynamic Black Lives Matter movement. Defying Trumpian and general Republican denialism, a powerful popular environmental movement is working hard to address the existential crisis of global warming. These, along with significant efforts on other fronts, face very difficult barriers, which can and must be overcome.

Bob, it is clear by now that Trump has no plan for creating new jobs, and even his reckless stance toward the environment will have no effect on the creation of new jobs. What would a progressive policy for job creation look like that will also take into account concerns about the environment and climate change?

Robert Pollin: A centerpiece for any kind of progressive social and economic program needs to be full employment with decent wages and working conditions. The reasons are straightforward, starting with money. Does someone in your family have a job and, if so, how much does it pay? For the overwhelming majority of the world’s population, how one answers these two questions determines, more than anything else, what one’s living standard will be. But beyond just money, your job is also crucial for establishing your sense of security and self-worth, your health and safety, your ability to raise a family, and your chances to participate in the life of your community.

Building a green economy in the US generates roughly three times more jobs per dollar than maintaining our fossil fuel dependency.

How do we get to full employment, and how do we stay there? For any economy, there are two basic factors determining how many jobs are available at any given time. The first is the overall level of activity — with GDP as a rough, if inadequate measure of overall activity — and the second is what share of GDP goes to hiring people into jobs. In terms of our current situation, after the Great Recession hit in full in 2008, US GDP has grown at an anemic average rate of 1.3 percent per year, as opposed to the historic average rate from 1950 until 2007 of 3.3 percent. If the economy had grown over the past decade at something even approaching the historic average rate, the economy would have produced more than enough jobs to employ all 13 million people who are currently either unemployed or underemployed by the official government statistics, plus the nearly 9 million people who have dropped out of the labor force since 2007.

In terms of focusing on activities where job creation is strong, let’s consider two important sets of economic sectors. First, spending $1 million on education will generate a total of about 26 jobs within the US economy, more than double the 11 jobs that would be created by spending the same $1 million on the US military. Similarly, spending $1 million on investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency will create over 16 jobs within the US, while spending the same $1 million on our existing fossil fuel infrastructure will generate about 5.3 jobs — i.e. building a green economy in the US generates roughly three times more jobs per dollar than maintaining our fossil fuel dependency. So full employment policies should focus on accelerating economic growth and on changing our priorities for growth — as two critical examples, to expand educational opportunities across the board and to build a green economy, while contracting both the military and the fossil fuel economy.

A full employment program also obviously needs to focus on the conditions of work, starting with wages. The most straightforward measure of what neoliberal capitalism has meant for the US working class is that the average wage for non-supervisory workers in 2016 was about 4 percent lower than in 1973. This is while average labor productivity — the amount each worker produces over the course of a year — has more than doubled over this same 43-year period. All of the gains from productivity doubling under neoliberalism have therefore been pocketed by either supervisory workers, or even more so, by business owners and corporate shareholders seeing their profits rise. The only solution here is to fight to increase worker bargaining power. We need stronger unions and worker protections, including a $15 federal minimum wage. Such initiatives need to be combined with policies to expand the overall number of job opportunities out there. A fundamental premise of neoliberalism from day one has been to dismantle labor protections. We are seeing an especially aggressive variant of this approach today under the so-called “centrist” policies of the new French President Emmanuel Macron.

What about climate change and jobs? A view that has long been touted, most vociferously by Trump over the last two years, is that policies to protect the environment and to fight climate change are bad for jobs and therefore need to be junked. But this claim is simply false. In fact, as the evidence I have cited above shows, building a green economy is good for jobs overall, much better than maintaining our existing fossil-fuel based energy infrastructure, which also happens to be the single most significant force driving the planet toward ecological disaster.

It is true that building a green economy will not be good for everyone’s jobs. Notably, people working in the fossil fuel industry will face major job losses. The communities in which these jobs are concentrated will also face significant losses. But the solution here is straightforward: Just Transition policies for the workers, families and communities who will be hurt as the coal, oil and natural gas industries necessarily contract to zero over roughly the next 30 years. Working with Jeannette Wicks-Lim, Heidi Garrett-Peltier and Brian Callaci at [the Political Economy Research Institute], and in conjunction with labor, environmental and community groups in both the states of New York and Washington, we have developed what I think are quite reasonable and workable Just Transition programs. They include solid pension protections, re-employment guarantees, as well as retraining and relocation support for individual workers, and community-support initiatives for impacted communities.

The single most important factor that makes all such initiatives workable is that the total number of affected workers is relatively small. For example, in the whole United States today, there are a total of about 65,000 people employed directly in the coal industry. This represents less than 0.05 percent of the 147 million people employed in the US. Considered within the context of the overall US economy, it would only require a minimum level of commitment to provide a just transition to these workers as well as their families and communities.

Finally, I think it is important to address one of the major positions on climate stabilization that has been advanced in recent years on the left, which is to oppose economic growth altogether, or to support “de-growth.” The concerns of de-growth proponents — that economic growth under neoliberal capitalism is both grossly unjust and ecologically unsustainable — are real. But de-growth is not a viable solution. Consider a very simple example — that under a de-growth program, global GDP contracts by 10 percent. This level of GDP contraction would be five times larger than what occurred at the lowest point of the 2007-09 Great Recession, when the unemployment rate more than doubled in the United States. But even still, this 10 percent contraction in global GDP would have the effect, on its own, of reducing carbon dioxide (CO2) emissions by precisely 10 percent. At a minimum, we would still need to cut emissions by another 30 percent within 15 years, and another 80 percent within 30 years to have even a fighting chance of stabilizing the climate. As such, the only viable climate stabilization program is to invest massively in clean renewable and high energy efficiency systems so that clean energy completely supplants our existing fossil-fuel dependent system within the next 30 years, and to enact comparable transformations in agricultural production processes.

The “masters of the universe” have made a huge comeback since the last financial crisis, and while Trump’s big-capital-friendly policies are going to make the rich get richer, they could also spark the next financial crisis. So, Bob, what type of progressive policies can and should be enforced to contain the destructive tendencies of finance capital?

Pollin: The classic book Manias, Panics, and Crashes by the late MIT economist Charles Kindleberger makes clear that, throughout the history of capitalism, unregulated financial markets have persistently produced instability and crises. The only deviation from this long-term pattern occurred in the first 30 years after World War II, roughly from 1946-1975. The reason US and global financial markets were much more stable over this 30-year period is that the markets were heavily regulated then, through the Glass-Steagall regulatory system in the US, and the Bretton Woods system globally. These regulatory systems were enacted only in response to the disastrous Great Depression of the 1930s, which began with the 1929 Wall Street crash and which then brought global capitalism to its knees.

Of course, the big Wall Street players always hated being regulated and fought persistently, first to evade the regulations and then to dismantle them. They were largely successful through the 1980s and 1990s. But the full, official demise of the 1930s regulatory system came only in 1999, under the Democratic President Bill Clinton. At the time, virtually all leading mainstream economists — including liberals, such as Larry Summers, who was Treasury Secretary when Glass-Steagall was repealed — argued that financial regulations were an unnecessary vestige of the bygone 1930s. All kinds of fancy papers were written “demonstrating” that the big players on Wall Street are very smart people who know what’s best for themselves and everyone else — and therefore, didn’t need government regulators telling them what they could or could not do. It then took less than eight years for hyper-speculation on Wall Street to once again bring global capitalism to its knees. The only thing that saved capitalism in 2008-09 from a repeat of the 1930s Great Depression was the unprecedented government interventions to prop up the system, and the equally massive bail out of Wall Street.

An effective regulatory system today would be one guided by a few basic premises that can be applied flexibly but also universally.

By 2010, the US Congress and President Obama enacted a new set of financial regulations, the Dodd-Frank system. Overall, Dodd-Frank amount to a fairly weak set of measures aiming to dampen hyper-speculation on Wall Street. A large part of the problem is that Dodd-Frank included many opportunities for Wall Street players to delay enactment of laws they didn’t like and for clever lawyers to figure out ways to evade the ones on the books. That said, the Trump administration, led on economic policy matters by two former Goldman Sachs executives, is committed to dismantling Dodd-Frank altogether, and allowing Wall Street to once again operate free of any significant regulatory constraints. I have little doubt that, free of regulations, the already ongoing trend of rising speculation — with, for example, the stock market already at a historic high — will once again accelerate.

What is needed to build something like a financial system that is both stable and supports a full-employment, ecologically sustainable growth framework? A major problem over time with the old Glass-Steagall system was that there were large differences in the degree to which, for example, commercial banks, investment banks, stock brokerages, insurance companies and mortgage lenders were regulated, thereby inviting clever financial engineers to invent ways to exploit these differences. An effective regulatory system today should therefore be guided by a few basic premises that can be applied flexibly but also universally. The regulations need to apply across the board, regardless of whether you call your business a bank, an insurance company, a hedge fund, a private equity fund, a vulture fund, or some other term that most of us haven’t yet heard about.

One measure for promoting both stability and fairness across financial market segments is a small sales tax on all financial transactions — what has come to be known as a Robin Hood Tax. This tax would raise the costs of short-term speculative trading and therefore discourage speculation. At the same time, the tax will not discourage “patient” investors who intend to hold their assets for longer time periods, since, unlike the speculators, they will be trading infrequently. A bill called the Inclusive Prosperity Act was first introduced into the House of Representatives by Rep. Keith Ellison in 2012 and then in the Senate by Bernie Sanders in 2015, [and] is exactly the type of measure that is needed here.

Another important initiative would be to implement what are called asset-based reserve requirements. These are regulations that require financial institutions to maintain a supply of cash as a reserve fund in proportion to the other, riskier assets they hold in their portfolios. Such requirements can serve both to discourage financial market investors from holding an excessive amount of risky assets, and as a cash cushion for the investors to draw upon when market downturns occur.

This policy instrument can also be used to push financial institutions to channel credit to projects that advance social welfare, for example, promoting investments in renewable energy and energy efficiency. The policy could stipulate that, say, at least 5 percent of banks’ loan portfolios should be channeled to into clean-energy investments. If the banks fail to reach this 5 percent quota of loans for clean energy, they would then be required to hold this same amount of their total assets in cash.

Finally, both in the US and throughout the world, there needs to be a growing presence of public development banks. These banks would make loans based on social welfare criteria — including advancing a full-employment, climate-stabilization agenda — as opposed to scouring the globe for the largest profit opportunities regardless of social costs…. Public development banks have always played a central role in supporting the successful economic development paths in the East Asian economies.

Noam, racism, inequality, mass incarceration and gun violence are pathologies that run deep inside American society. How would a progressive government begin to address these problems if it found itself in a position of power in, say, the next decade or so?

Chomsky: Very serious problems, no doubt. In order to address them effectively, it’s first necessary to understand them; not a simple matter. Let’s take the four pathologies in turn.

Racism certainly runs deep. There is no need to elaborate. It’s right before our eyes in innumerable ways, some with considerable historical resonance. Current anti-immigrant hysteria can hardly fail to recall the racist immigration laws that at first barred [Asians] and were extended in the 1920s to Italians and Jews (under a different guise) — incidentally, helping to send many Jews to gas chambers, and after the war, keeping miserable survivors of the Holocaust from US shores.

Of course, the most extreme case for the past 400 years is the bitter history of African Americans. Current circumstances are shameful enough, commonly held doctrines scarcely less so. The hatred of Obama and anything he touched surely reflects deep-rooted racism. Comparative studies by George Frederickson show that doctrines of white supremacy in the US have been even more rampant than in Apartheid South Africa.

The Nazis, when seeking precedents for the Nuremberg laws, turned to the United States, taking its anti-miscegenation laws as a model, though not entirely: [Certain] US laws were too harsh for the Nazis because of the “one drop of blood” doctrine. It was not until 1967, under the impact of the civil rights movement, that these abominations were struck down by the Supreme Court.

And it goes far back, taking many strange forms, including the weird Anglo-Saxon cult that has been prominent for centuries. Benjamin Franklin, the great American figure of the Enlightenment, pondered whether Germans and Swedes should be barred from the country because they are “too swarthy.” Adopting familiar understanding, he observed that “the Saxons only [are] excepted” from this racial “defect” — and by some mysterious process, those who make it to the United States may become Anglo-Saxons, like those already accepted within the canon.

The national poet Walt Whitman, honored for his democratic spirit, justified the conquest of half of Mexico by asking, “What has miserable, inefficient Mexico … to do with the great mission of peopling the New World with a noble race? Be it ours, to achieve that mission!” — a mission accomplished by the most “wicked war” in history, in the judgment of General-President U.S. Grant, who later regretted his service in it as a junior officer.

Coming to recent years, Henry Stimson, one of the most distinguished members of the FDR-Truman cabinets (and one of the few to oppose atomic bombing) “consistently maintained that Anglo-Saxons were superior to the ‘lesser breeds’,” historian Sean Langdon Malloy observes in his book, Atomic Tragedy: Henry L. Stimson and the Decision to Use the Bomb — and again reflecting not-uncommon views, asked to have one of his aides reassigned “on the slight possibility that he might be a Hebrew,” in his own words.

The other three maladies that you mention are also striking features of US society — in some ways, even distinguishing features. But unlike racism, in all three cases, it is partially a contemporary phenomenon.

Take inequality. Through much of its history, the US did not have high inequality as compared with Europe. Less so, in fact. That began to change in the industrial age, reaching a peak in 1928, after the forceful destruction of the labor movement and crushing of independent thought. Largely as a result of labor mobilization, inequality declined during the Great Depression, a tendency continuing through the great growth period of regulated capitalism in the early postwar decades. The neoliberal era that followed reversed these trends, leading to extreme inequality that may even surpass the 1928 peak.

Mass incarceration is also period-specific; in fact, the same period. It had reached high levels in the South in the post-reconstruction years after an 1877 North-South compact gave the South free rein to institute “slavery by another name,” as Douglas Blackmon calls the crime in his study of how the former slave-owning states devised techniques to incarcerate much of the Black population. By doing so, they created a renewed slave labor force for the industrial revolution of those years, this time with the state, rather than private capital, responsible for maintaining the slave labor force — a considerable benefit to the ownership class. Turning to more recent times, 30 years ago, US incarceration rates were within the range of developed societies, a little towards the high end. By now they are 5 to 10 times as high, far beyond those of any country with credible statistics. Again, a phenomenon of the past three decades.

The gun cult is also not as deeply rooted as often supposed. Guns were, of course, needed to conduct the two greatest crimes of American history: controlling slaves and exterminating [Native Americans]. But the general public had little interest in weapons, a matter of much concern to the arms industry. The popular gun cult was cultivated by gun manufacturers in the 19th century in order to create a market beyond governments. Normal capitalism. Methods included concoction of “Wild West” mythology that later became iconic. Such efforts continue, vigorously, until the present. By now, in large sectors of the society, swaggering into a coffee shop with a gun shows that you are really somebody, maybe a Wyatt Earp clone. The outcomes are sobering. Gun homicides in the US are far beyond comparable countries. In Germany, for example, deaths from gun homicide are at the level of deaths in the US from “contact with a thrown or falling object.” And even these shocking figures are misleading. Half of suicides in the US are with firearms, more than 20,000 a year, amounting to two-thirds of all firearm deaths. 

Turning to your question about the four “pathologies” — the four horsemen, one is tempted to say — the questions virtually answer themselves with a careful look at the history, particularly the history since World War II. There have been two phases during the postwar period: regulated capitalism through the ’50s and ’60s, followed by the neoliberal period from the late ’70s, sharply accelerating with Reagan and his successors. It is the latter period when the last three of four pathologies drove the US off the charts.

During the first postwar phase, there were some significant steps to counter endemic racism and its devastating impact on the victims. That was the great achievement of the mass civil rights movement, peaking in the mid-1960s, though with a very mixed record since. The achievements also had a major impact on the political system. The Democratic Party had been an uneasy coalition, including Southern Democrats, dedicated to racist policies and extremely influential because of seniority in one-party states. That’s why New Deal measures [were] largely restricted to whites; for example, household and agricultural workers were barred from Social Security.

The alliance fell apart in the ’60s with the fierce backlash against extending minimal rights of citizenship to African-Americans. The South shifted to Republican ranks, encouraged by Nixon’s overtly racist “Southern strategy.” The period since has hardly been encouraging for African Americans, apart from elite sectors.

Government policies could go some way towards ameliorating these social pathologies, but a great deal more is needed. Such needs can only be fulfilled by dedicated mass popular activism and educational/organizational efforts. These can be facilitated by a more progressive government, but, just as in the case of the civil rights movement, that can be only a help, often a reluctant one.

On inequality, it was low (by comparative standards) during the period of regulated capitalism — the final era of “great compression” of income as it is sometimes called. Inequality began to increase rapidly with the advent of the neoliberal era, not only in the US, though the US is extreme among developed societies. During the tepid recovery from the Great Recession of 2008, virtually all gains went to the top few percent, mostly 1 percent or a fraction thereof. “For the United States overall, the top 1 percent captured 85.1 percent of total income growth between 2009 and 2013,” an Economic Policy Institute Study revealed. “In 2013 the top 1 percent of families nationally made 25.3 times as much as the bottom 99 percent.” And so, it continues. The latest Federal Reserve studies show that “The share of income received by the top 1 percent of families rose to 23.8 percent in 2016, up from 20.3 percent in 2013. The share of the bottom 90 percent of the distribution fell to 49.7 percent, the lowest on record in the survey’s history.” Other figures are grotesque. Thus, “Average wealth holdings for white families in 2016 were about $933,700, compared with $191,200 for Hispanic families and $138,200 for black families,” a product of deep-rooted racism exacerbating the neoliberal assault.

The gun culture, too, has expanded rapidly in recent decades. In 1975, the NRA formed a new lobbying arm — a few years later, a PAC — to channel funds to legislators. It soon became one of the most powerful interest-group lobbies, with often fervent popular participation. In 2008, the Supreme Court, in an intellectual triumph of “originalism,” reversed the traditional interpretation of the Second Amendment, which had previously respected its explicit condition on the right to bear arms: the need for “A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State….” That provision was understandable in 1790. There was almost no standing army. The world’s most powerful state was still an enemy. The slave population had to be controlled. And the invasion of the rest of what became the national territory was about to be unleashed. Not exactly today’s circumstances.

Since 2008, our “constitutional right to bear arms,” as declared by the right-wing Roberts Court, has become Holy Writ.

There are many contributing factors to the sharp break between the two postwar periods — neither [of] which began to approach what is surely possible in the richest society in world history, with incomparable advantages.

One leading factor is the financialization of the economy, creating a huge bloc of largely predatory institutions devoted to financial manipulations rather than to the real economy — a process by which “Wall Street destroyed Main Street,” in the words of Financial Times editor Rana Foroohar. One of her many illustrations is the world’s leading corporation, Apple. It has astronomical wealth, but to become even richer, has been shifting from devising more advanced marketable goods to finance. Its R&D as a percentage of sales has been falling since 2001, tendencies that extend widely among major corporations. In parallel, capital from financial institutions that financed business investments during the postwar growth period now largely “stays inside the financial system,” Foroohar reports, “enriching financiers, corporate titans, and the wealthiest fraction of the population, which hold the vast majority of financial assets.”

During the period of rapid growth of financial institutions since the ’70s, there seem to have been few studies of their impact on the economy. Apparently, it was simply taken for granted that since it (sort of) accords with neoliberal market principles, it must be a Good Thing.

The failure of the profession to study these matters was noted by Nobel laureate in economics Robert Solow after the 2008 crash. His tentative judgment was that the general impact is probably negative: “the successes probably add little or nothing to the efficiency of the real economy, while the disasters transfer wealth from taxpayers to financiers.” By now, there is substantially more evidence. A 2015 paper by two prominent economists found that productivity declines in markets with rapidly expanding financial sectors, impacting mostly the sector most critical for long-term growth and better jobs: advanced manufacturing. One reason, Foroohar observes, is that “finance would rather invest in areas like real estate and construction, which are far less productive but offer quicker, more reliable short-term gains” (hence also bigger bonuses for top management); the Trump-style economy, palatial hotels and golf courses (along with massive debt and repeated bankruptcies).

In part for related reasons, though productivity has doubled since the late ’70s when finance was beginning to take over the economy, wages have stalled — for male workers, declined. In 2007, before the crash, at the height of euphoria about the grand triumphs of neoliberalism, neoclassical economics and “the Great Moderation,” real wages of American workers were lower than they had been in 1979, when the neoliberal experiment was just taking off. Another factor contributing to this outcome was explained to Congress in 1997 by Fed Chair Alan Greenspan, when testifying on the healthy economy he was managing. In his own words, “Atypical restraint on compensation increases has been evident for a few years now and appears to be mainly the consequence of greater worker insecurity.” Insecurity that was, as he noted, markedly increasing even as employment prospects improved. In short, with labor repressed and unions dismantled, workers were too intimidated to seek decent wages and benefits, a sure sign of the health of the economy.

The same happened to the minimum wage, which sets a floor for others; if it had continued to track productivity, it would now be close to $20 an hour. Crises have rapidly increased as deregulation took off, in accord with the “religion” that markets know best, deplored by another Nobel laureate, Joseph Stiglitz, in a World Bank publication 20 years ago, to no effect. Each crisis is worse than the last; each following recovery weaker than the last. None of this, incidentally, would have come as a surprise to Marxist economists, who pretty much disappeared from the scene in the United States.

Despite much lofty rhetoric about “free markets,” like other major industries (energy, agribusiness, etc.), financial institutions benefit enormously from government subsidy and other interventions. An IMF study found that the profits of the major banks derive substantially from the implicit government insurance policy (“too big to fail”), which confers advantages far beyond the periodic bailouts when corrupt practices lead to a crash — something that did not happen during the earlier period, before bipartisan neoliberal doctrine fostered deregulation. Other benefits are real but immeasurable, like the incentive to undertake risky (hence profitable) transactions, with the understanding that if they crash, the hardy taxpayer will step in to repair the damage, probably leaving the institutions richer than before, as after the 2008 crash for which they were largely responsible.

Other factors include the accelerated attack on unions and the radical reduction in taxes for the wealthy, both natural concomitants of neoliberal ideology. Another is the particular form of neoliberal globalization, particularly since the ’90s, designed in ways that offer very high protection and other advantages to corporations, investors and privileged professionals, while setting working people in competition with one another worldwide, with obvious consequences.

Such measures have a mutually reinforcing effect. As wealth becomes more concentrated, so, automatically, does political power, which leads to government policies that carry the cycle forward.

A primary goal of the neoliberal reaction was to reverse the falling rate of profit that resulted, in part, from growing labor militancy. That goal has been achieved with impressive success. The professed goals, of course, were quite different. And as always, the reaction was buttressed by ideology. One staple has been the famous thesis of Simon Kuznets: that while inequality increases in early economic development, it begins to decrease as the economy reaches a more advanced level. It follows, then, that there is no need for redistributive policies that interfere with the magic of the market. The Kuznets thesis soon became conventional wisdom among economists and planners.

There are a few problems, however. One, as [American University economics professor] Jon Wisman observes, is that it wasn’t a thesis, but rather a conjecture, very cautiously advanced. As Kuznets explained, the conjecture was based on “perhaps 5 percent empirical information and 95 percent speculation, some of it possibly tainted by wishful thinking.” This slight qualification in the article was overlooked in a manner not uncommon when there is doctrinal utility in so doing. Other justifications fare similarly.

One might almost define “neoliberalism” — a bit cruelly, but not entirely unfairly — as an ideology devoted to establishing more firmly a society based on the principle of “private affluence, public squalor” — John Kenneth Galbraith’s condemnation of what he observed in 1958. Much worse was to come with the unleashing of natural tendencies of capitalism in the neoliberal years, now enhanced as its more [brutal] variants are given virtually free rein under Trump-Ryan-McConnell Republicanism.

All of this is under human control, and can be reversed. There are many realistic options, even without looking beyond short-term feasibility. A small financial transaction tax would sharply reduce the rapid trading that is a net loss to the society while benefiting a privileged few, and would also provide a progressive government with revenue for constructive purposes. It’s common knowledge that the deterioration of infrastructure has reached grotesque proportions. Government programs can begin to address these serious problems. They can also be devoted to improving rather than undermining the deteriorating public education system. Living wage and green economy programs of the kind that Bob Pollin has developed could go a long way toward reducing inequality, and beyond that, creating a much more decent society. Another major contribution would be [an equitable] health care system. In fact, just eliminating the exorbitant patent protections that are a core part of the neoliberal “free trade agreements” would be a huge boon to the general economy — and the arguments for these highly protectionist measures are very weak, as economist Dean Baker has shown convincingly. Legislation to put an end to the “right to scrounge laws” (in Orwellian terminology, “right to work laws”) that are designed to destroy unions could help revive the labor movement, by now with different constituencies, including service and part-time workers. That could reverse the growth of the new “precariat,” another matter of fundamental importance. And it could restore the labor movement to its historic role as the leading force in the struggle for basic human rights.

There are other paths toward reviving a vital and progressive labor movement. The expansion of worker-owned and managed enterprises, now underway in many places, is a promising development, and need not be limited to a small scale. A few years ago, after the crash, Obama virtually nationalized a large part of the auto industry, then returning it to private ownership. Another possibility would have been to turn the industry over to the workforce, or to stakeholders more broadly (workers and community), who might, furthermore, have chosen to redirect its production to what the country sorely needs: efficient public transportation. That could have happened had there been mass popular support and a receptive government. Recent work by Gar Alperovitz and David Ellerman approaches these matters in highly informative ways. Conversion of military industry along similar lines is also quite conceivable — matters discussed years ago by Seymour Melman. [There are all] options under progressive initiatives.

The “right to work” legislation that is a darling of the far right will probably soon be established solidly by the Roberts Court now that Neil Gorsuch is in place, thanks to some of Mitch McConnell’s more sordid chicanery in barring Obama’s nominee. The legislation has an interesting pedigree. It traces back to the Southern Christian American Association, an extreme racist and anti-Semitic organization that was bitterly opposed to unions, which its leaders condemned as a devilish contrivance in which “white women and white men will be forced into organizations with black African apes.” Another enemy was “Jewish Marxism,” the “Talmudists” who were planning to Sovietize the world and were already doing so in the US through the “Jew Deal,” known elsewhere as the “New Deal.”

An immediate objective of moderately progressive policy should be to sharply cut the huge military budget, well over half of discretionary spending and now expanding under the Republican project of dismantling government, apart from service to their wealthy/corporate constituency. One of many good reasons to trim the military budget is that it is extremely dangerous to our own security. A striking illustration is the Obama-Trump nuclear weapons modernization program, which has sharply increased “killing power,” a very important study in the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists reported last March. Thereby, the program “creates exactly what one would expect to see, if a nuclear-armed state were planning to have the capacity to fight and win a nuclear war by disarming enemies with a surprise first strike.” These developments, surely known to Russian planners, significantly increase the likelihood that they might resort to a preemptive strike — which means the end — in case of false alarms or very tense moments, of which there are all too many. And here, too, the funds released could be devoted to badly needed objectives, like quickly weaning ourselves from the curse of fossil fuels.

This is a bare sample. There’s a long list.

The United States spends more money on health care than any other nation in the world, yet its health care system is highly inefficient and leaves out millions from even basic coverage. What would a socialized health care system look like in the US, and how can the opposition from the private insurance sector, big pharma and the medical industries in general be overcome?

Chomsky: The facts are startling. It’s an international scandal, and not unknown. A recent study by the US-based Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan health policy research group, found that once again, as repeatedly in the past, the US health care system is the most expensive in the world, far higher than comparable countries, and that it ranks last in performance among these countries. To have combined these two results is a real triumph of the market. The roots of the achievement are not obscure. The US is alone in relying on largely unregulated private insurance companies. Their commitment is to profit, not health, and they produce huge waste in administrative costs, advertising, profit and executive compensation. The government-run component of the health system (Medicare) is far more efficient, but suffers from the need to work through the private institutions. The US is also alone in legislation barring the government from negotiating drug prices, which, not surprisingly, are far above comparable countries.

These policies do not reflect popular will. Poll results vary, depending on how questions are formulated, but over time, they show considerable, often majority support for a public health system of the kind found elsewhere. Usually, Canada is the model because so little is known about the rest of the world, though it is not ranked as the best. That prize has regularly been won by the British National Health Service, though it, too, is reeling under the neoliberal assault. When Obama’s [Affordable Care Act] was introduced, it included a public option, supported by almost two-thirds of the population. It was unceremoniously deleted. Popular opinion is particularly striking in that [it] receives so little mainstream support, even articulation; and if even brought up, is usually condemned. The main argument against the far more successful systems elsewhere is that adopting their framework would raise taxes. [However, single-payer usually results in] cutting expenses considerably more and benefitting the large majority — so the experience of other countries indicates, [as does] US Medicare.

The tide may be turning finally. Sanders has received considerable support, even within the political system, for his call for universal health care to be achieved step-by-step in his plan, by gradual extension of Medicare and other means. The temporary collapse of the fanatic seven-year Republican campaign to destroy “Obamacare” may provide openings as well — temporary collapse, because the extremist organization in power has means to undermine health care and are likely to use it in their passionate dedication to destroying anything connected to the reviled Black president…. Nevertheless, there are new openings for some degree of [reason], which could greatly enhance people’s welfare, as well as improving the general economy.

To be sure, there will be massive opposition from private power, which has extraordinary influence in our limited class-based democracy. But it can be overcome. The historical record shows that economic-political elites respond to militant popular action — and the threat of more — by endorsing ameliorative measures that leave their basic dominance of the society in place. New Deal measures of social reform are one of many illustrations.

Bob, you produced recently an economic analysis for the backing of a single-payer bill in California (SB-562) and worked on Bernie Sanders’s proposal for universal health care, so what are your own views on the previous question?

Pollin: A socialized health care system for the US — whether we call it “single-payer,” “Medicare-for-All” or something else — should include two basic features. The first is that every resident … should be guaranteed access to decent health care. The second is that the system achieves significant overall savings relative to our existing system through lowering administrative costs, controlling the prices of prescription drugs and fees for physicians and hospitals, reducing unnecessary treatments and expanding preventive care.

In our study analyzing the California single-payer proposal, we estimated that providing decent coverage for all state residents — including, in particular, the roughly 40-45 percent of the state’s population who are presently either uninsured or who have inadequate coverage — would increase total costs by about 10 percent under the existing system. But we also estimated that operating the single-payer system could achieve overall savings in the range of 18 percent relative to the existing system in the areas of administration, drug prices, fees for providers and cutting back on wasteful service delivery. Overall then, we found that total health care spending in California would fall by about 8 percent, even with the single-payer system delivering decent care for everyone. My work on the Sanders’s Medicare for All bill is ongoing as of now, so I will hold off on providing estimates of its overall impact.

Let’s consider how transformative the California-type outcomes would be. Under single-payer in California, decent health care would be established as a basic human right, as it already is in almost all other advanced countries. Nobody would have to forego receiving needed treatments because they didn’t have insurance or they couldn’t afford high insurance premiums and copays. Nobody would have to fear a financial disaster because they faced a health care crisis in their family. Virtually all families would end up financially better off and most businesses would also experience cost savings under single-payer relative to what they pay now to cover their employees.

How can the opposition from the private health insurance sector, big pharma and the medical industries in general be overcome? It obviously will not be easy. Health care in the US is a $3 trillion business. Profits of the private companies are in the hundreds of billions, even while most of the funding for our existing health care system comes from the federal, state and local government budgets. As one example of how to respond to this political reality, we can learn from the work of the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. The nurses’ union has been fighting for single-payer for over 20 years. They bring enormous credibility to the issue, because their members see firsthand how the health and financial well-being of especially non-wealthy people in the US suffer under our current system.

There is no secret as to how the nurses’ union fights on behalf of single-payer. They believe in their cause and are highly effective in the ways they organize and advance their position. The basics are as simple as that.

Noam, higher education in the US is a terribly expensive affair, and hundreds of billions are owed in student loans. First, do you think that a system of free higher education can coexist alongside tuition-charging universities? Secondly, what could and should be done about student debt?

Chomsky: The educational system was a highly predictable victim of the neoliberal reaction, guided by the maxim of “private affluence and public squalor.” Funding for public education has sharply declined. Tuition has exploded, leading to a plague of unpayable student debt. As higher education is driven to a business model in accord with neoliberal doctrine, administrative bureaucracy has sharply increased at the expense of faculty and students, developments reviewed well by sociologist Benjamin Ginsburg. Cost-cutting dictated by the revered market principles naturally leads to hyper-exploitation of the more vulnerable, creating a new precariat of graduate students and adjuncts surviving on a bare pittance, replacing tenured faculty. All of this happens to be a good disciplinary technique, for obvious reasons.

For those with eyes open, much of what has happened was anticipated by the early ’70s, at the point of transition from regulated capitalism to incipient neoliberalism. At the time, there was mounting elite concern about the dangers posed by the democratizing and civilizing effects of 1960s activism, and particularly the role of young people during “the time of troubles.” The concerns were forcefully expressed at both ends of the political spectrum.

At the right end of the spectrum, the “Powell memorandum” sent by corporate lobbyist (later Supreme Court Justice) Lewis Powell to the Chamber of Commerce called upon the business community to rise up to defend itself against the assault on freedom led by Ralph Nader, Herbert Marcuse and other miscreants who had taken over the universities, the media and the government. The picture was, of course, ludicrous but it did reflect the perceptions of Powell’s audience, desperate about the slight diminution in their overwhelming power. The rhetoric is as interesting as the message, reminiscent of a spoiled three-year-old who has a piece of candy taken away. The memorandum was influential in circles that matter for policy formation.

At the other end of the spectrum, at about the same time, the liberal internationalists of the Trilateral Commission published their lament over “The Crisis of Democracy” that arose in the “terrible” ’60s, when previously apathetic and marginalized parts of the population — the great majority — began to try to enter the political arena to pursue their interests. That posed an intolerable burden on the state. Accordingly, the Trilateral scholars called for more “moderation in democracy,” a return to passivity and obedience. The American rapporteur, Harvard professor Samuel Huntington, reminisced nostalgically about the time when “Truman had been able to govern the country with the cooperation of a relatively small number of Wall Street lawyers and bankers,” so that true democracy flourished.

A particular concern of the Trilateral scholars was the failure of the institutions responsible for “the indoctrination of the young,” including the schools and universities. These had to be brought under control, along with the irresponsible media that were (occasionally) departing from subordination to “proper authority” — a precursor of concerns of the far-right Republican Party today.

There is no economic reason why free education cannot flourish from schools through colleges and university.

The right-liberal spectrum of concerns provided a good indication of what was to come.

The underfunding of public education, from K-12 through colleges and universities, has no plausible economic rationale, and in fact is harmful to the economy because of the losses that ensue. In other countries, rich and poor, education remains substantially free, with educational standards that rank high in global comparisons. Even in the US, higher education was almost free during the economically successful years before the neoliberal reaction — and it was, of course, a much poorer country then. The GI bill provided free education to huge numbers of people — white men overwhelmingly — who would probably never have gone to college, a great benefit to them personally and to the whole society. Tuition at private colleges was far below today’s exorbitant costs.

Student debt is structured to be a burden for life. The indebted cannot declare bankruptcy, unlike Trump. Current student debt is estimated to be over $1.45 trillion, [more than] $600 billion more than total credit card debt. Most is unpayable, and should be rescinded. There are ample resources for that simply from waste, including the bloated military and the enormous concentrated private wealth that has accumulated in the financial and general corporate sector under neoliberal policies.

There is no economic reason why free education cannot flourish from schools through colleges and university. The barriers are not economic but rather political decisions, skewed in the predictable direction under conditions of highly unequal wealth and power. Barriers that can be overcome, as often in the past.

Bob, what’s your own response to the question I posed above?

Pollin: Student debt in the US has exploded in the past decade. In 2007, total student debt was $112 billion, equal to 0.8 percent of GDP. As of 2016, total student debt was [more than] $1 trillion, equal to 5.6 percent of GDP. Thus, as a share of GDP, student debt has risen approximately seven-fold. As of 2012, nearly 70 percent of students left college carrying student loans, and these loans averaged $26,300.

The rise in student debt reflects a combination of factors. The first is that the private costs of attending college have risen sharply, with public higher education funding having been cut sharply. Average public funding per student was 15 percent lower in 2015 than in 2008, and 20 percent lower than in 1990. The burden of the public funding cuts [has] been worsened by the stagnation of average family incomes. Thus, in 1990, average tuition, fees, room and board amounted to about 18 percent of the median household income. By 2014, this figure had nearly doubled, to 35 percent of median household income.

Despite these sharply rising costs, college enrollments have continued to rise. There are many good reasons for young people to go off to college, open their minds, develop their skills and enjoy themselves. But probably the major attraction is the fact that income disparities have increased sharply between those who go to college versus those who do not. This pattern corresponds with the stagnation of average wages since the early 1970s that we discussed [previously]. The reality under neoliberalism has been that, if you want to have a decent shot at a good-paying job with a chance for promotions and raises over time, the most important first step is to get a college education. The pressures to go to college would be much less intense if working-class jobs provided good pay and opportunities to advance, as was the pattern prior to the onset of neoliberalism.

Virtually all student debt in the US is now held by the federal government. It would therefore be a relatively simple matter to forgive some, if not all of it. This would enable young people to transition much more easily into creating their own households and families. At the same time, if the government is going to enact a major program of student debt forgiveness, it should be at least equally committed to relieving the heavy mortgage debt burdens still carried by tens of millions of non-affluent households in the aftermath of the 2007-09 financial crash and Great Recession. Similarly, the government should also be at least equally committed to both lowering the costs of college education in the first place, and [supporting] better wages and work opportunities for people who do not attend college.

The blueprint for a progressive US that the two of you have sketched out requires that a certain course of political action is carried out … which includes educating the masses in getting from here to there. How is this to be done, especially given not only the peculiarities of American political culture, but also the balkanization of progressive and left forces in the country?

Chomsky: The answer is both easy and hard. Easy to formulate (and familiar), and hard to execute (also familiar). The answer is education, organization [and] activism as appropriate to circumstances. Not easy, but often successful, and there’s no reason why it cannot be now. Popular engagement, though scattered, is at quite a high level, as is enthusiasm and concern. There are also important elements of unity, like the Left Forum, novel and promising. And the movements we’ve already mentioned. Significant efforts are underway, such as those alluded to briefly [before], and there’s no reason why they cannot be extended. While the left is famous for constant splits and internal disputes, I don’t think that’s more so now than in the past. And the general mood, particularly among young people, seems to me conducive to quite positive changes.

It is not idle romanticism to recognize the potential that can be awakened, or arise independently, in communities that free themselves from indoctrination and passive subordination.

I don’t feel that there is anything deep in the political culture that prevents “educating the masses.” I’m old enough to recall vividly the high level of culture, general and political, among first-generation working people during the Great Depression. Workers’ education was lively and effective, union-based — mostly the vigorous rising labor movement, reviving from the ashes of the 1920s. I’ve often seen independent and quite impressive initiatives in working-class and poor and deprived communities today. And there’s a long earlier history of lively working-class culture, from the early days of the industrial revolution. The most important radical democratic movement in American history, the populist movement (not today’s “populism”), was initiated and led by farmers in Texas and the Midwest, who may have had little formal education but understood very well the nature of their plight at the hands of the powerful banking and commercial sectors, and devised effective means to counter it….

I’ve been fortunate enough to have seen remarkable examples elsewhere. I recall vividly a visit to an extremely poor, almost inaccessible rural village in southern Colombia, in an area under attack from all sides, where I attended a village meeting that was concerned with protecting their resources, including irreplaceable water supplies, from predatory international mining corporations. And in particular. a young man, with very little formal education, who led a thoughtful and very informed discussion of sophisticated development plans that they intended to implement. I’ve seen the same in poor villages in West Bengal, with a handful of books in the tiny schoolroom, areas liberated from landlord rule by Communist party militancy. The opportunities and, of course, resources are vastly greater in rich societies like ours.

I don’t think it is idle romanticism to recognize the potential that can be awakened, or arise independently, in communities that free themselves from indoctrination and passive subordination. The opportunities I think are there, to be grasped and carried forward.

Pollin: I think it is inevitable that leftist forces in the US would be divided, if not balkanized, to some extent. Among the full range of people who are committed to social and economic equality and ecological [justice] — i.e. to some variant of a leftist vision of a decent society — it will always be the case that some will be more focused on egalitarian economic issues, others around the environment and climate change, others on US imperialism, militarism and foreign policy, others on race and gender equality, and still others on sexual identity.

I certainly do not have the formula for how to most effectively knit all these groups together. But I do think we can learn a lot from the major successes out there. The 2016 Bernie Sanders presidential campaign is a first obvious example. Another is the California Nurses Association/National Nurses United (CNA/NNU) that I mentioned [before]. This is a union, fighting first for the well-being of its members, who are overwhelmingly women, with a high proportion being women of color. At the same time, CNA/NNU has been in the forefront of campaigns for single-payer health care and even the Robin Hood Tax on speculative Wall Street trading.

There are other progressive organizations that have proven track records of success. One is the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy (LAANE), which has long been active around both living wage and other worker rights issues, as well as community economic development and environmental justice. A more recently formed coalition is NY Renews, which is comprised of 126 organizations in New York State who have come together to advance a serious program in the state to both dramatically reduce greenhouse gas emissions and expand good job opportunities. The Washington State Labor Council — part of the AFL-CIO — has also been committed and innovative in bringing together coalitions of labor and environmental groups.

The US left needs to learn and build from the achievements and ongoing work of these and similar groups. In fact, as Margaret Thatcher used to say, “there is no alternative” — if we are serious about successfully advancing a left alternative to the disasters caused by 40 years of neoliberal hegemony.

Editor’s note: This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.

Will: Will Alabama settle for Moore of the same?

George F. Will is a columnist for the Washington Post Writers Group. Email: georgewill@washpost.com.

But for the bomb, the four would be in their 60s, probably grandmothers. Three were 14 and one was 11 in 1963 when the blast killed them in the 16th Street Baptist Church, which is four blocks from the law office of Doug Jones, who then was 9.

He was born in May 1954, 13 days before the U.S. Supreme Court’s Brown v. Board of Education school desegregation decision. He was 16 when he attended, at Birmingham’s Legion Field, the Alabama Crimson Tide vs. University of Southern California Trojans football game, in which USC’s Sam Cunningham, an African-American all-American, led a 42-21 thumping of the home team, thereby advancing the integration of the region through its cultural pulse, college football. Roll Tide.

As a second-year law student Jones cut classes to attend the 1977 trial of one of the church bombers, “Dynamite Bob” Chambliss. In 2001 and 2002, as U.S. attorney, Jones successfully prosecuted two other bombers. Was there resentment about this protracted pursuit of justice? No, he says as he nurses with tea a voice raspy from campaigning, because after 9/11 intervened, punishing domestic terrorism was not controversial.

Today, this son of a steelworker stands between Roy Moore — an Elmer Gantry mixing piety and cupidity: he and his family have done well financially running a foundation — and the U.S. Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions.

Moore campaigns almost entirely about social issues — NFL protests, the transgender menace — and the wild liberalism of Jones, a law-and-order prosecutor and deer and turkey hunter who says he has “a safe full of guns.” Jones’ grandfathers were members of the mineworkers and steelworkers unions: Birmingham, surrounded by coal and iron ore, was Pittsburgh — a steel city — almost before Pittsburgh was. He hopes economic and health care issues matter more.

Evangelical Christians who embrace Moore are serving the public good by making ridiculous their pose as uniquely moral Americans, and by revealing their leaders to be especially grotesque specimens of the vanity — vanity about virtue — that is curdling politics.

An embarrassment

Another public benefit from the Moore spectacle is the embarrassment of national Republicans. Their party having made the star of the “Access Hollywood” tape president, they now are horrified that Moore might become 1 percent of the Senate. Actually, this scofflaw, twice removed from Alabama’s Supreme Court, once for disobeying a U.S. Supreme Court ruling, is a suitable sidekick for the president who pardoned Joe Arpaio, Arizona’s criminal former sheriff. Even after Donald Trump conceded that Barack Obama was born in America, Moore continued rejecting such squishiness.

Absentee ballots are already being cast. Assuming that the Republican governor does not shred state law by preventing the election from occurring Dec. 12, Republicans’ Senate majority might soon be gone. It has been 21 years since a Democratic Senate candidate won even 40 percent of Alabama’s vote. It has, however, been even longer — not since the George Wallace era — that the state’s identity has been hostage to a politician who assumes that Alabamans are eager to live down to hostile caricatures of them.

An Integrated Research On Global Blood Therapeutics: Is Voxelotor The Answer For Sickle Cell Disease?

Back on Oct. 17, 2017, we had the honor to sit down with Decision Analytics (“DA”) in an interview regarding Spectrum Pharmaceuticals (NASDAQ:SPPI), a firm that focuses on the innovation and commercialization of cancer drugs. The discussion cued readers in the upcoming data for a stellar tyrosine kinase inhibitor for cancer treatment, poziotinib (which turned out positive). Spectrum shares rallied over 36% the following day. Altogether, the stock helped Integrated BioSci Investing, marketplace subscribers gained over 160% thus far. At the end of the discussion, we asked DA for his best recommendation for 2017 (and Global Blood Therapeutics came up). In the past 52-weeks, Global Blood Therapeutics (NASDAQ:GBT), a bioscience that focuses on the innovation of medicine to treat blood diseases, rallied over 91%. Since DA’s recommendation back on Oct. 17, the stock had gained $8.30 to trade at $41.20 during the Nov. 16 after-hours trading session (this equates to over 25% gains for subscribers). Let’s see what DA stated about this firm.

I believe Global Blood Therapeutics (NASDAQ:GBT) is the most undervalued among biotechs. They are leading in sickle cell disease, have a drug that could have curative potential, have not shown any tolerability or safety issues, and have peak sales estimates of $2-3B from analysts, which I actually think are conservative. It’s crazy to me that with all the excellent clinical data to date that the company only has a market cap of $1.5B. The market is giving them about a 15% chance of success, whereas I think it’s higher than 80%. If the risk is a safety issue that would have probably shown up by now. This company could easily be 5x the current price by 2019. And, I anticipate a big move when they release the Phase 3A results sometime in the next several months.

Source: Dr. Tran BioSci (Adapted from Google Finance)

The robust share price appreciation is due to the stellar underlying science of its lead drug, voxelotor, a drug that is highly likely to deliver robust trial data for the treatment of sickle cell disease (“SCD”). Despite the promising development, we were initially reserved about the said drug, because it is a novel therapeutic in its own class (an – elotor or oxygen affinity modulator) so we were uncertain how it would affect the blood PH (as well as the oxygen binding curve of the blood protein hemoglobin). Since the primary value of this company resides in its clinical program to service SCD, we’ll focus on the underlying mechanism, the big picture of the aforesaid disease (and how voxelotor can serve this unmet medical need). Then, we’ll go over the HOPE trial as well as notable earning developments.

About Global Blood

Based in South San Francisco, Global Blood Therapeutics is innovating the sole molecule (voxelotor) for the treatment of SCD. The company is currently conducting two clinical trials, a phase 3 study coin HOPE for adults and teens with all genotypes of the aforesaid disease. The second study, HOPE-KIDS 1 is currently in the phase 2A (which is an exploratory study for the safety and efficacy). In order to fully appreciate the said medicine and its ramifications, as alluded, we’ll explore the underlying science of SCD in further detail.

Source: Dr. Tran BioSci (Adapted from GBT)

Underlying Science of SCD

Deoxyribonucleic acid (“DNA”) codes for amino acids (the building blocks in all proteins), and segments of DNA that code for particular proteins are called genes. Out of the 46 chromosomes, number 11 contains the genes for the hemoglobin beta subunits. Of note, a human has 23 pair of chromosomes (one of each pair comes from dad and the other comes from mom). People with one copy of the sickle beta globin gene (HbS) are carriers. Notably, carriers don’t have the disease, as two copies of HbS are need to have full blown SCD; however, carriers pass the HbS genes down to their kids which maintains it in the population. Interestingly, carriers has survival advantages in malaria. It is selected for people in India and Africa to have the trait, because the carriers have increased survival when they have malaria (and, malaria is highly prevalent over there). However, in the USA, where malaria prevalent is low, being a carrier has no added health benefit. as alluded, the survival advantage is also the reason HbS remains in the world population. In the US, about 100K Americans suffer from SCD – of which, there is one out of 365 African Americans and one out of 16,300 Hispanics.

Normal Versus Sickle Hemoglobin

Hemoglobin (Hb) is a blood protein found inside the red blood cells (“RBC”) that picks up oxygen from the lung (and carries it to all tissues in the body). It consists of 2 subunits alpha, 2 subunits beta. Inside the beta subunits, there are 146 amino acids. Notably, the amino acid at the 6th position of the beta subunit, glutamic acid is substituted with valine in SCD. As follows, Hb molecules exist in single unit whether they’re picking up oxygen from the lung or releasing it to tissues. In contrast, sickle (abnormal) hemoglobins (HbS) exist in single units when they’re carrying oxygen, but they have a tendency to bind to each other forming long chains (i.e. polymerize) in an oxygen deprivation state.

Asides clumping into long lines, 14 strands stack on top of each other like beads to constitute long bundles. These bundles then stretch the RBC, thus turning its normal disk shape into a sickle-like farm tool. Normal RBCs can easily pass through blood vessels. In contrast, when HbS polymerize they cause the RBC to deform and become more rigid (which makes it difficult for them to go through the blood vessel). Ultimately, this reduces blood flow rate, thereby leading to oxygen deprivation throughout the body (a state known as hypoxia).

Additionally, hypoxia disrupts the electron transport chain (“ETC”). In other words, the absence of oxygen (acting as the final electron acceptor in ETC) causes the process to be halted. Consequently, the body now relies on glycolysis to make energy: pyruvates turn to lactates, which is converted into lactic acid. The buildup of lactic acid causes muscles to burn as well as disrupts the body’s pH.

Symptoms, Diagnosis, And Treatments

Symptoms of SCD are headaches, cold hands and feet, pale skin, chest pain, yellow eyes and skin, leg ulcers, and dizziness. Usually, signs don’t show until the infants are over four months old – by then, blood samples are collected for examination. If the result shows HbS, a second blood test is carried out to complete the diagnosis. At first, acetaminophen, nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (“NSAID”) are used to treat mild pain. If the patient shows no improvements, narcotics might be needed (narcotics can be used in combinations with either acetaminophen or NSAID itself).

That aside, patients are recommended to change their daily routine in managing SCD. For instance, having good nutrition is important, as it boosts the immune system for fighting infection. Specifically, patients are recommended to consume foods (rich in folic acid) which enhances RBC production. Patients are also advised to drink plenty of water, avoid exercising too much and having excess emotional as well as physical stress. Furthermore, blood transfusions are utilized to stop further complications. Hydroxyurea helps reduce the need for blood transfusions. However, repetitive transfusions cause a plethora of complications, thus necessitating better treatments. What we are most interested in is the drug-in-development, Voxelotor that inhibits the binding of Hbs to improve oxygen flow.

Treatment Costs And voxelotor Market

The treatment costs for SCD is high due to associated complications, hospital admission, physician fees, clinic and ED visits, and diagnostic procedures, and outpatient consultations. The average annual care for an adult can go over $200K. In term of lifetime spendings, over $8M will be spent (assuming that the person lives to be roughly 50 years old). Given the costs associated with treating SCD are huge, Global Blood Therapeutics can charge a premium for voxelotor. Policymakers will be unlikely to oppose the efficacious solution to a condition that incurs substantial health care spending. Altogether, the demand for better SCD treatment is robust with the estimated peak sales of Voxelotor to be around the $2B to $3B ballpark.

HOPE Trial

Commenced in 2016, the HOPE trial is a phase 3 randomized, multicenter, placebo-controlled study of roughly 400 patients with SCD. The patients either take voxelotor (at two different dosages, i.e. the experiment arms) or the sugar pill (the control). After 24 weeks, the primary endpoint (changes in Hb) is measured. Secondary endpoints include the total days of symptoms exacerbation and SCD symptoms score. Estimated to complete in June 2019, the outcomes of this study can have major ramifications to this investing thesis.

Source: Dr. Tran BioSci (Adapted from Global Blood Therapeutics)

Based on our mechanism of action analysis of Voxelotor (and its applications to the underlying science of SCD as written above), we initially feel reserved to state our claim regarding the drug’s safety. We theorized that because the drug causes an increased Hb’s oxygen binding capacity, which may reduce the unloading of oxygen that, in and of itself, can potentially lead to unforeseen short-term consequences. Interestingly, the company issued, on Nov. 13, that the Independent Data and Safety Monitoring Board (“DSMB”) for the said study reviewed the data (and confirmed that it’s safe).

This first DSMB review, which opens up enrollment to younger patients, is an important milestone for the HOPE Study and we are encouraged that this independent committee has determined that voxelotor continues to be well tolerated,” said Ted Love, M.D., President, and CEO. “The opportunity to include adolescent SCD patients in the HOPE Study is a great step forward as we believe voxelotor has the potential to be a disease-modifying therapy that is needed in all age groups who suffer from this devastating disease. We remain on track to announce top-line data for our HOPE Study in H1 2019, and we look forward to providing an interim update on our ongoing HOPE-KIDS 1 Study at the upcoming American Society of Hematology Annual Meeting in December.

Earning Highlights

For the third quarter, Global Blood Therapeutics posted the losses of $28.6M ($0.66 per share) versus $21M ($0.58 per share) for the same period a year prior. This is normal for a developing bioscience firm, as much cash is needed to fund innovation. There is no approved product yet for sales to generate positive earnings. What investors should focus on is whether there is adequate cash to fund operations. As of Sept. 30, the company significantly improved its cash position (by 27%) to $259.4M, from $197.3M for the similar period. As alluded, the firm will spend more money with the advancement of the HOPE trial. And, the current cash supply is more than adequate to fund the mentioned trial to completion.

Another Q3 highlight is that the World Health Organization approved GBT-440 to be named as voxelotor. The – elotor designate the molecule as a new therapeutic class (an oxygen affinity modulator). Of note, investing in a new therapeutic class tends to pay off big if the data shows positive results in the future. That aside, the FDA also granted the rare pediatric disease designation for Voxelotor as a treatment for SCD: this is important because it enabled the company to charge a premium pricing to ensure that their arduous innovation efforts are properly compensated.

Potential Risks

The key risk to investing in Global Blood Therapeutics is the outcome of the HOPE trial. We noted in another article that while the stellar data for the single patient on voxelotor could foretell the positive outcomes of the HOPE trial, this can be tricky (as it is tough to gauge the trial results by the single patient alone). If HOPE fails to meet its primary outcome, it is most likely that the stock will tumble over 80%. On the contrary, the stock will highly likely increase over 100% if data results turn out to be positive. Based on our assessment, the drug has over 60% chances of passing the aforesaid trial. In addition, voxelotor (even if approved in the future) may not generate significant sales. However, this is a small risk due to the lack of stellar treatment option (and the robust demand for novel SCD treatments).

Conclusion

Jonathan Faison also believes that Global Blood Therapeutics is a conviction buy. According to the expert,

Readers who are interested in the story and have done their due diligence should initiate a pilot position in the near term. Those who already own stakes are encouraged to add to them on weakness if they are looking to fill out their positions. I continue to expect positive returns in light of upcoming presentations and results from the first portion of the pivotal study, as well as a simple revaluation as Wall Street begins to realize that just maybe GBT-440 is the real deal. In the event of a large rise in the stock price, the ROTY model account might take partial profits but will likely still hold a significant stake through the data readout.

In all, our assessment falls in line with the aforementioned experts (Faison and Decision Analytics). Despite the 60% chances of positive results for its phase 3 trials, the market for Voxelotor is substantial. Moreover, the drug can also be potentially marketed at a significant premium. We also recommend a buy due to the gargantuan opportunity for this drug. If the trial proves positive (and the drug is approved), we anticipate that the stock can increase multiple folds over time. Last but not least, investors should note that Global Blood Therapeutics has only one molecule (so this investment isn’t for most bioscience investors who cannot afford significant risks). It is best used as a diversification (as one is looking for the next potential multibaggers).

Author’s Notes: This is an example of a detailed Integrated BioSci Investing, marketplace article.

Disclosure: I/we have no positions in any stocks mentioned, and no plans to initiate any positions within the next 72 hours.

I wrote this article myself, and it expresses my own opinions. I am not receiving compensation for it (other than from Seeking Alpha). I have no business relationship with any company whose stock is mentioned in this article.

What we now know about who struggles with student debt


(iStock)

Older African Americans and college students with children disproportionately bear the burden of education debt, according to a pair of reports released this week that researchers say show the need for more nuanced solutions from higher education.

Americans over age 50 collectively hold $247 billion in outstanding federal education loans, an amount that has grown threefold since 2003, policy analysts at the Urban Institute found. The impact of that debt differs depending on whether borrowers took out the loan for themselves or for family members, according to a report released Thursday by the think tank.

Using Federal Reserve data, researchers found borrowers who took out loans to pay for their own education are more likely to be behind on payments or say they feel financially insecure compared with those who borrowed on behalf of relatives.

Socioeconomics play an important role, with wealthier people more likely to hold education debt for a child or grandchild. Only 2 percent of all older adults earning more than $100,000 a year hold debt for their own education, but 13 percent have loans tied to their children or grandchildren.

The researchers found older African Americans are three times as likely to hold education debt for themselves compared to their white counterparts.

It is difficult to say exactly why this dichotomy exists, but Kristin Blagg, a research associate at the Urban Institute and co-author of the report, suspects persistent racial inequality is a contributing factor.

Demos, a liberal think tank, and the Institute on Assets and Social Policy at Brandeis University found African Americans are far more likely to have student debt, regardless of income. Black families, after decades of being shut out of traditional ladders of economic opportunity, have the fewest resources to cover the costs of college or to protect against the risk of borrowing.

Blagg points to a recent study from the Center for American Progress think tank showing nearly half of African American borrowers who started college in the 2003-2004 academic year defaulted within 12 years after entering school.

That study also found three-quarters of black borrowers who defaulted during that period dropped out of for-profit colleges. Black students have long filled the rosters at for-profit colleges, leaving Blagg to suspect that some of the debt held by older African Americans may be rooted in the popularity of such schools in the late 1980s and early 1990s.

“There were a lot of fly-by-night schools back then, and a lot of this debt may be really old debt,” she said. “This debt could just be continually rolled over, and low-income borrowers are struggling to pay it off.”

Understanding the complexities of debt among older borrowers could encourage more direct marketing of repayment plans designed to keep borrowers current on their loans, known as income-driven repayment plans, Blagg said.

While younger college graduates may be aware of income-driven repayment plans, Blagg said older borrowers may not be as familiar. Keeping older borrowers in good standing on their loans is especially important because defaulting could result in the federal government garnishing their Social Security.

Another report found that among college students with children, federal policy could help reduce defaults, according to Colleen Campbell, associate director for postsecondary education at the Center for American Progress. Almost half of those borrowers who began college in the 2003-2004 school year defaulted within 12 years of enrolling, based on data from the Department of Education. That’s double the rate of borrowers without children.

There are about 4.8 million undergraduates who have children and over half borrow to pay for college. Many of them are women of color, and most enroll in community and for-profit colleges. Only one-third of undergraduate students with children complete a credential within six years of enrolling. And those who drop out with student loans are at higher risk for defaulting.

“These students are not just likely borrowing more — and are more unprepared by their high schools — but enrolling in lower quality institutions or open access institutions that may not have the resources to support them,” she said.

Child care is critical in helping students with children complete their degree, but federal funding for campus-based child care has not kept pace with demand. What’s more, President Trump proposed eliminating the primary campus child care program, Child Care Access Means Parents in School, in his first budget. Senate lawmakers saved the program and maintained the $15 million funding, but advocates say that is not enough to meet the needs of students with children.

A survey of nearly 100 administrators at campus child care centers found 95 percent of centers at two- and four-year colleges maintained a waiting list with an average of 82 children, according to the Institute for Women’s Policy Research. That is if they actually had a child care center: Barely half of four-year state colleges and universities provide child care, compared with 55 percent in 2003. The decline is steeper at community colleges, where only 44 percent of schools offer services, down from 53 percent 14 years ago, according to the women’s policy institute. 

“When students don’t have access to child care, workforce development, affordable health care, all of those things affect their success,” Campbell said. “And they are ultimately affecting students we should be caring about the most because they need the opportunities that postsecondary education affords.”

Karmanos Cancer Institute presents its 2017 Heroes of Cancer

DETROIT , Nov. 16, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) — The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute presented its 2017 Heroes of Cancer at an awards ceremony held Nov. 15, recognizing champions in 15 award categories: individuals and organizations that inspire and raise awareness of cancer prevention, early detection and survivorship; and who help advance cancer research. Nearly 200 guests attended the evening reception held at the Max M. and Marjorie S. Fisher Music Center, in Detroit. Ann Delisi, radio/television personality and host of Ann Delisi’s Essential Music on WDET101.9 FM, served as emcee.

A photo accompanying this announcement is available at http://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/89a959eb-da2a-4e10-b665-f22a07125dc8

“This year’s event builds upon Karmanos’ long-time tradition of honoring those who distinguished themselves in the fight against breast cancer,” said Katrina Studvent, chief development officer, Karmanos Cancer Institute.

“Beginning with this year’s event, Karmanos Cancer Institute is honored to expand these awards to recognize those who continue to champion and advocate for survivors of all types of cancers.

“Heroes of Cancer recognizes the extraordinary achievements of those dedicated to making life better for all cancer patients and their families; advocate for early detection and prevention of cancer; and work towards one day eradicating the disease completely.”

Justin Klamerus, M.D., MMM, president of Karmanos Cancer Hospital, also reiterated the importance of acknowledging those who champion for all cancer survivors. 

“Karmanos focuses solely on cancer and treats more than 200 types of this disease, which is why we are pleased to expand our Heroes recognition,” said Dr. Klamerus. “There are many who have supported Karmanos and those we serve, whether it be through philanthropy, community service or media stories; those who create research that paves the way to develop new treatments; employees whose expertise and compassion is felt by our patients; and those who have shown great courage in the fight against all cancers.

“As proud as I am of what we do at Karmanos, we know this fight to end cancer is a team effort. Progress happens because there are people working on this from all directions, including the Heroes we honor. It will take all of us working together to end cancer for good.”

About the Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute
Karmanos Cancer Institute is headquartered in Detroit, with 14 locations throughout Michigan. As part of McLaren, Karmanos is the largest cancer care and research network in the state. It is among the nation’s best cancer centers as one of the National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer centers in the United States and the only one located in metro Detroit. Karmanos cancer experts focus solely on cancer to prevent, detect and treat as well as eradicate all forms of cancer. Its long-term partnership with the Wayne State University School of Medicine enhances the collaboration of critical research and academics related to cancer care. For more information, call 1-800-KARMANOS (800-527-6266) or visit www.karmanos.org. Follow Karmanos on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube.

Following are the Karmanos Cancer Institute 2017 Heroes of Cancer

The Barbara Ann Karmanos Cancer Institute presented its 2017 Heroes of Cancer at an awards ceremony held Nov. 15, recognizing champions in 15 award categories. These individuals and organizations raise awareness of cancer prevention, early detection and survivorship; help fund programs to help cancer patients and their families; and help advance cancer research for those with all types of cancer. Following are this year’s inspiring Heroes.  

COMMUNITY SERVICE AWARDS
For assisting in efforts to reach the community with the importance of cancer early detection, cancer care, and/or survivorship at large in a volunteer capacity.

  • Individual: Craig Cook, of Oak Park

Craig Cook always has a smile on his face when he’s assisting patients at Karmanos’ Lawrence and Idell Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills where he volunteers weekly. Cook is there to help out wherever he is needed. Cook said it has been a lifelong ambition to volunteer with Karmanos because his grandmother was diagnosed with cancer in the 1970s. He also feels a strong connection to cancer patients after losing all four of his grandparents, his father and a good friend to the disease. He has made it his mission to help people and raise awareness about cancer. Throughout the past three years, Cook has logged nearly 1,600 hours of service. He has provided support and comfort to countless patients who are going through the most difficult time in their lives — keeping them company, assisting with wayfinding and providing refreshments. Cook is also very active with community events, where he staffs education tables to help raise awareness about early detection of cancer. Cook’s dedication and commitment to Karmanos patients exemplifies the meaning of community service.

“It has been a lifelong ambition to become involved with Karmanos since my grandmother was diagnosed with breast cancer in the early 1970s at Harper Hospital. Cancer has taken a huge toll on my family losing four of my grandparents, my father and a very dear friend who was treated at Karmanos’ Weisberg Treatment Center. It is with a great deal of pride that I represent Karmanos in clinic and in the community.” – Craig Cook

  • Organization: Karmanos Patient & Family Advisory Council, of Detroit

The Karmanos Patient and Family Advisory Council strives to make cancer patients’ experience the best that it can be, given the circumstances. By using their personal experiences to guide hospital leadership and staff, this diverse group of 15-20 survivors and patient family members work together to share ideas to help improve the care and services at Karmanos. The group began 19 years ago as one of the first in the nation and has had 61 members throughout that time. They have, time and again, referred individuals with cancer to Karmanos, entrusting Karmanos staff to take care of their neighbors, friends and loved ones. They have also provided constructive critique when their expectations weren’t met in order to make the experience even better for new patients. When applying for a position on this council, the theme that continually appears is that the patients have felt fortunate to get the care they received at Karmanos, whether for themselves or their loved one, and they want to help other patients who walk through the doors; to give them hope and help them along their cancer journey. Their ultimate goal is to make things as easy as possible on patients and their families, while also being cancer advocates in their local communities. Valerie Fred, MSA, BBA, operations support specialist at Karmanos, accepted the award.

“Over the last 19 years, I have had the honor of working with the 61 members who have been a part of the Patient & Family Advisory Council at the Karmanos Cancer Center. Not only have many of them battled cancer or taken care of someone who has, they have devoted hundreds of hours to improving the experience for those that follow them through the cancer journey. This award is humbly accepted in honor of the 61 heroes of the Karmanos Patient & Family Advisory Council.” – Valerie Fred, MSA, BBA

COMPASSIONATE CAREGIVER AWARDS
Honoring a health care professional whose treatment of cancer patients has been marked by exceptional technical skill, combined with sensitivity and compassion.

  • Steven Lagocki, RN, of Grosse Pointe Woods, Ambulatory Services, Karmanos Cancer Center

Most days, you will find Steven Lagocki in the Wertz Infusion Center at Karmanos Cancer Center in Detroit doing what he does best: caring for his patients. Lagocki was drawn to oncology nursing because he has always felt a connection to his patients. He loves working in an outpatient setting because of the bonds he forms with his patients and their family and friends. Lagocki is one of those rare individuals whose daily mission is to make people smile, especially while they undergo treatment. His patients describe him as full of positive energy, professional, knowledgeable and exceptionally caring. Many have said he treats them with kindness, love and compassion, as though they were members of his own family. Patients have dubbed him the “Port Whisperer” when others are not able to get a blood return needed for infusion. He makes a game out of the process to keep the patient calm and entertained. His colleagues and supervisors also recognize his talents and have singled him out for his hard work and dedication since joining Karmanos three years ago. Day in and day out, Lagocki exemplifies the essence of what this award recognizes – exceptional care he provides to Karmanos patients.

“I love being a nurse, and cherish the ability to make a positive impact in people’s lives.” – Steven Lagocki, RN

  • Andrea Sampson Haggood, MSN, RN, ANP, BC, of Ann Arbor, Karmanos Patient Services   

Andrea Sampson Haggood knew before leaving for college she would become either a nurse or an engineer because of her love of math and science. Fortunately for Karmanos Cancer Center, she chose nursing. The call to nursing became stronger at the University of Pennsylvania, which led her to earn a bachelor of nursing degree. Her 92 year-old mother is her role model who retired after 40 years of nursing. Her late father was a lawyer and always helped people, often offering his services pro bono. With loving and caring values instilled early on by her parents, she too wanted to make a difference and became a nurse. That was 37 years ago. She came to Harper University Hospital in the ‘90s and became one of the first board certified nurse practitioners. Over the years, she has cared for her patients both in outpatient and inpatient settings. Haggood is currently an inpatient nurse practitioner at Karmanos for general, thoracic and orthopedic surgical oncology. Perhaps it’s her love for caring for people, blended with her expertise and experience that makes her so good at what she does. One of the most rewarding aspects of her job is helping people through a difficult time and later seeing them after they’ve recovered from surgery. Her patients have been known to call Haggood to let her know how they’re doing. She has earned the respect of colleagues as well. Haggood is described as fiercely protective of those she cares for and always places their needs first.

“Nursing is more than a job for me. It is my mission: caring for the sick, promoting self-care/empowerment, and helping others envision what quality of life is for them as an individual and in their relationships with family, friends and other loved ones.” – Andrea Sampson Haggood, MSN, RN, ANP, BC

THE GERI LESTER COURAGE AWARDS
Honoring an individual whose battle with breast cancer has been an inspiration to family, friends and community. Stefany Lester Freeman presented the awards named after her late mother Geri Lester who lost her 20-year battle with breast cancer in 2003.

  • In Honor: Diana Gambino, of Macomb, breast cancer survivor

Diana Gambino is a teacher who enjoys getting her students in the Utica School District excited about learning. Never did she think one of her own life lessons would end up educating a community about breast cancer prevention and survivorship. In Sept. 2015, Gambino was taking a shower and noticed there was a change in her breast. She was in her early 30’s so she had not yet started having mammograms and had no history of breast cancer in her family. Gambino thought something wasn’t quite right so she made an appointment with her internist. She had a mammogram and then scheduled a biopsy. She never expected to hear that she had stage 3 breast cancer. She took some time to process this devastating news then started aggressively researching medical oncologists. She knew after meeting Dr. Lawrence Flaherty, medical oncologist at Karmanos Cancer institute, he was the physician she wanted to care for her. She also worked closely with Dr. Pamela Johnson, a breast cancer surgeon at Karmanos. Over a period of several months, Gambino had two separate mastectomies, chemotherapy and radiation, and also underwent reconstruction. She attributes her treatment success to the care and expertise of her Karmanos physicians and her medical team, family and friends, fellow teachers and her students and their parents who sent special notes, cards and drawings to lift her spirits and let her know that she wasn’t alone. Gambino made a conscious decision not to be silent about her disease. She felt if telling her story can educate others and raise awareness about this disease, then it’s worth it. And, that’s exactly what she has done. Gambino was asked to share her compelling story with print and broadcast media, including WDIV Local 4’s coverage of the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure this past May. She also did interviews with FOX Sports Detroit and CBS Radio, just to name a few, as part of Karmanos’ partnership with the Detroit Tigers Pink Out the Park event. She even got to throw out the ceremonial first pitch!   

“I am honored and humbled to receive this award. Courage comes in many forms and is shown daily as people face cancer. From those that may quietly go through their treatment process to others that choose to share their experiences, each individual is courageous and has the ability to teach, inspire and help others in countless ways.” – Diana Gambino

  • In Memory: Dawn Spencer, formerly of Southfield, founder of AugMe Foundation International. Accepting the award in her mother’s memory was Brooke Spencer, M.D.

Dawn Spencer was a remarkable woman who graced this earth for 55 years. She was diagnosed with breast cancer eight years before her passing in 2010. In those eight years, she was an inspiration to many and created the AugMe Foundation International to help other breast cancer survivors. She was born and raised in Cleveland, attended Ohio State University, and later she and her husband became the proud parents of a son and daughter. She and her family moved to Detroit, where Spencer pursued a successful career in media, marketing, advertising and sales. After 27 years of marriage, she became single and was diagnosed with breast cancer. It was then, she wrote, that she realized her purpose in life and began living a totally different and meaningful existence. She surrounded herself with a network of loving and giving family and friends. After a right breast mastectomy with wide margins, she was disappointed she was unable to have reconstructive surgery. She was given a prescription for a custom prosthesis.  Luckily, her insurance paid the $4,000 expense. She realized others in similar situations weren’t as fortunate to have this expense covered and would have to settle for something less desirable. At that time, custom prostheses were not covered by Medicare. That became the genesis of the AugMe Foundation International, which Spencer created in 2009. Through the Foundation, Spencer made it her mission to raise and administer funds for purchasing and distributing breast prostheses to breast cancer survivors, while fighting cancer herself! Today, the AugMe Foundation continues to be vitally important to breast cancer survivors. AugMe focuses its efforts on supporting survivorship by providing wigs and custom compression sleeves, items that can be out of reach for those with limited financial means or health insurance. Custom compression sleeves are a necessity for breast cancer survivors with lymphedema, a potential side effect of surgery, where lymph fluid builds up in tissues and causes swelling. Spencer’s rich legacy of strength, love and a determination to provide breast cancer survivors in need with better options, lives on. She left an indelible mark on this world. Her daughter Brooke Spencer, M.D., who became a radiation oncologist, serves as executive director of AugMe.

“I am honored to be the recipient of this award on behalf of Dawn Spencer, founder of AugMe Foundation International. Dawn gained authentic power and purpose through her experience with cancer which she used to help inspire others. Dawn made her transition seven years ago, however her legacy lives on through AugMe’s continued efforts to support breast cancer survivors and families.” – Brooke Sampson, M.D.

MAUREEN KEENAN MELDRUM HOPE AWARD
For unprecedented commitment, compassion and demonstrated leadership that engages, supports and inspires others in the fight to end breast cancer.

  • Testimony Sings, from metro Detroit

For years, Testimony Sings has used their voices to spread love throughout metro Detroit. Angela Bostic, Chandra Lewis, Keisha Lanae, Lori Waddles and Lori Wesby met as members of Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield and joined together as a choir of faith and immeasurable talent. They sing at church and community events around metro Detroit, where they are widely recognized for their inspiring and incomparable gospel music. The group has given their hearts and voices to the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure for many years, lifting the spirits of thousands at the annual Race and making special moments for honorees at other Komen Detroit events. During the Race Opening Ceremony, they are joined in song by hundreds of breast cancer survivors — an inspirational moment for everyone. Testimony is also there at the end of the Race, thanking everyone with their energetic and uplifting rendition of “Brighter Day.” The spirit they bring to a room is infectious. And when these ladies sing, hearts are lifted and hope abounds.

“We came together at Hope United Methodist Church in Southfield, Michigan more than 10 years ago and have been on a mission to spread the love and good news of a Great God and to touch lives and hearts — one person, one community at a time. We have been blessed to work with some of the greatest musicians in the City of Detroit and around the state. We want to leave everyone feeling a little better than they were after hearing us and give them hope to press on!” – Testimony Sings

LEADERSHIP AWARDS
For helping to bring about a society that encourages people to speak out about their illness, educate others about cancer and increase funding for cancer research.

  • Individual: Vernice Davis Anthony, RN, MPH, of West Bloomfield

Vernice Davis Anthony spent her entire career helping people. As a leader in public health for more than 50 years, she has touched and helped save many lives across metro Detroit and beyond. She has worked to help inform patients to help them gain access to better health care. Throughout her career, she has be an advocate for cancer prevention and early detection through community programs and outreach; pushed for the development of health centers for early detection; and helped to create tougher standards for mammography centers. She was previously the health officer of the Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion; director of the Greater Detroit Area Health Council; director of the Michigan Department of Public Health; and senior vice president of community health at St. John Providence Health System. Additionally, she was the honorary chair of the Sisters Network Incorporated 15th National African American Breast Cancer Conference held in Detroit. Anthony is a member of the Sisters Network Inc. Greater Metro Detroit Chapter. She has also been vocal about her own breast cancer diagnosis and journey.

“After 50 decades of serving this community and now living with cancer myself, I more than appreciate the honor of receiving this award. I know from personal experience the value of the work of cancer prevention, treatment and cure, and am glad that I have been able to provide service and leadership in my various positions and community work. I sincerely thank the Karmanos Cancer Institute and the other awardees for their compassion and commitment to saving so many lives.” – Vernice Davis Anthony, RN, MPH

  • Organization: Komen Tissue Bank at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center led by Anna Maria Storniolo, M.D., co-founder and executive director; and professor of Clinical Medicine, Indiana University Simon Cancer Center

When it comes to supporting worthwhile causes that impact communities for the better, women are often the first to step up and make a difference. Just ask Dr. Anna Maria Storniolo, professor of Clinical Medicine, and co-founder and executive director of the Komen Tissue Bank at Indiana University Melvin and Bren Simon Cancer Center in Indianapolis. Dr. Storniolo had an idea more than 10 years ago to create a tissue bank that would collect healthy breast tissue from volunteer donors, as well as blood samples and health history, to help conduct comparative research. Scientists had plenty of diseased breast tissue for research but, in order to really move the needle on breast cancer research, they needed to have a better understanding of how healthy breast tissue changes at different stages of a woman’s life, and from women of various cultural backgrounds. Studying normal tissue cells in women of different ethnic backgrounds and at different ages can show distinct differences or, in some cases, similarities, that can open the door to new discoveries and help in the development of targeted therapies. It can also help uncover insights as to why some women get breast cancer and others do not, and why some minority women get more advanced disease. There were no other tissue banks in the world collecting healthy breast tissue, so access to healthy tissue for breast cancer research purposes was very limited. Thanks to the determination of Dr. Storniolo, a patient advocate, and her dedicated team, and with the support of Indiana University, with major funding from Susan G. Komen, the Komen Tissue Bank at IU Simon Cancer Center launched in 2007. The tissue bank is the only normal breast tissue bio-repository of its kind in the world. Now, scientists across the globe have the tissue bank as a critical resource. Since 2007, the Bank has collected healthy breast tissue specimens from more than 5,000 women, and more than 10,000 have donated DNA and blood samples. The tissue bank has held 35 collection events around the country, including an event held at the Karmanos Cancer Institute in Sept. 2016. More than 189 women from metro Detroit – women of diverse cultural backgrounds and ages – came to Karmanos to donate their healthy breast tissue for the Komen Tissue Bank. Dr. Storniolo and her team were also there for the all-day collection event, witnessing the enthusiasm and spirit of Detroiters who generously donated part of themselves to help end breast cancer. 

“I accept this award on behalf of all of the staff of the Komen Tissue Bank. We are frankly stunned and humbled to receive this honor from Karmanos, especially because we are from outside your community. The real Heroes of Cancer are the tissue donors who so willingly gave of themselves to help eradicate the scourge of breast cancer. Thank you so very much.” – Anna Maria Storniolo, M.D.

MEDIA AWARDS
Recognizing outstanding media work that communicates important messages about cancer awareness.

  • Individual: Rochelle Riley, of Detroit, columnist, Detroit Free Press

An award-winning journalist known for her compelling commentaries around issues that impact us, Rochelle Riley, columnist at the Detroit Free Press, is a voice for many. She makes us think beyond what we thought we knew, starting a conversation and breaking down barriers to help make our community safer, stronger and healthier, and a place where we want to live, work and raise our families. Earlier this year, Riley featured the Detroit ROCS study in her column. Detroit ROCS, which stands for Detroit Research on Cancer Survivors, launched by Karmanos Cancer Institute and Wayne State University School of Medicine, is the nation’s largest study of African American cancer survivors. The study focuses on the four most common cancers – lung, breast, prostate and colorectal.  Each is marked by poorer survival rates among African Americans than whites. Karmanos wants to better understand the major factors contributing to health disparities in order to improve survivorship outcomes among African Americans. As well as recruiting cancer survivors, the study is including family members to understand how a cancer diagnosis affects the mental, physical and financial health of those providing care. Riley spent weeks gathering information and doing interviews to highlight this important study. Her column titled “Fighting cancer with black survivors – Unprecedented $9 million study to recruit metro Detroiters to help,” appeared on the front page of the Sunday newspaper on March 12.

Her informative column encouraged African Americans from Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties – home to 71 percent of Michigan’s African American population – to participate in the study. As of today, the Detroit ROCS study has recruited 615 African American survivors from metro Detroit and nearly half of those survivors have referred a caregiver. Riley’s column helped make this possible. Riley joined the Detroit Free Press in 2000 after working at The Washington Post, The Dallas Morning News and The Courier Journal, in Louisville Kentucky. She has been honored with numerous awards including a Pulitzer Prize in Local Reporting in 2009, a National Headliner Award, a National Scripps Howard Award, Associated Press-Managing Editors and Michigan Press Association, just to name a few. Most recently, she received the 2017 Pulliam Editorial Fellowship from the Society of Professional Journalists. Riley has authored, “The Burden: African Americans and the Enduring Impact on Slavery,” and she now hosts a weekday radio talk show on 910AM WFDF. 

“The real heroes in the fight against cancer are the patients who fight. But I’m humbled and excited to be recognized as I stand with them. And I encourage everyone, wherever you are, to stand with them, too.” – Rochelle Riley

  • Organization: HOUR Media, located in Troy

For the past 15 years HOUR Media – especially Hour Detroit and DBusiness magazines – have partnered with Karmanos Cancer Institute to support its signature fundraising events, Karmanos’ Annual Dinner and Partners Events, as well as share important health awareness information with its 423,000 readers. Whether it be offering calendar listings in magazines and its websites, e-blasts and newsletters to another 17,000 readers, or sending one or more of its talented photographers to capture each event, Hour Media has consistently supported Karmanos Cancer Institute’s mission to provide exceptional care to cancer patients as well as communicate the importance of supporting cancer research to help advance new treatments. For several years, Hour Media has also supported the Susan G. Komen Detroit Race for the Cure, locally presented by Karmanos for the past 26 years. Most recently, Hour Detroit featured a story highlighting innovative research underway at Karmanos in the lab of Dr. Wei-Zen Wei. The story explained the years it takes to move laboratory science to the clinic starting with clinical trials. Those clinical trials are critical for the advancement of new targeted therapies for different types of cancer, benefitting cancer patients worldwide. Accepting the award was Hour Media’s Director of Marketing and Events, Lauren Mohon.

“Hour Media is incredibly honored to receive the 2017 Heroes of Cancer Award and be able to help raise awareness for Karmanos’ continuous fight against cancer.” – Lauren Mohon

PHILANTHROPY AWARD
Honoring an individual and/or organization that has dedicated resources and talents to benefit the cause of cancer. 

  • Jeffrey and Beth Davidson, of Royal Oak

Leah A. Davidson was someone who wanted to give back to people in healing ways. Though she passed away from leukemia in 2011, her legacy of love and care lives on in the Leah A. Davidson Healing Arts Program at Karmanos’ Weisberg Cancer Treatment Center in Farmington Hills. Leah Davidson helped develop the program, which includes meditation, Reiki, massage, yoga, tai chi and art, music and pet therapy. Keeping her legacy alive is husband and wife Jeffrey and Beth Davidson. They were presented the 2017 Philanthropy Award in recognition of the establishment and commitment to furthering the Leah A. Davidson Healing Arts program’s legacy that supports more than 1,000 cancer patients annually with supplemental support. Kathleen Hardy, MSW, oncology social worker at Karmanos Farmington Hills, notes that Jeff Davidson, husband of the late Leah, and Beth Davidson have taken a strong leadership role in making sure that the Healing Arts program will continue in perpetuity. Hardy says they care deeply that so many families touched by cancer in our community will benefit from this program made available at no cost.

“Beth and I are so pleased to accept this award and we are very proud to support the Leah A. Davidson Healing Arts Program at Karmanos. We are happy that art, music and pet therapy have been added to the services already provided (massage, meditation, Reiki and yoga). Leah would have been proud to know that over 1,000 patients annually are helped through this program that she worked to develop. Beth and I are deeply grateful to Kathleen Hardy for her hard work and dedication to her clients, to us and to this program.” – Jeffrey Davidson

DR. MICHAEL J. BRENNAN SCIENTIFIC DISTINCTION AWARD
For demonstrated leadership in basic or clinical cancer research. The award was presented by Wei-Zen Wei, Ph.D., the Herrick Chair of Cancer Research at Karmanos Cancer Institute and professor, department of Oncology, Wayne State University School of Medicine.   

  • Anthony Shields, M.D. Ph.D., of Franklin, associate center director, Clinical Sciences, Karmanos Cancer Institute and professor, Department of Oncology, Wayne State University School of Medicine

Anthony Shields, M.D., Ph.D., is among the elite group of cancer specialists at Karmanos Cancer Institute who generate ground-breaking work that translates into improved ways of detecting cancer so that effective therapies can be given to fight the disease. Dr. Shields is being recognized with the Dr. Michael J. Brennan Scientific Distinction Award for his leadership in developing positron emission tomography (PET) imaging technology, specifically a radioactive drug known as a tracer, to monitor changes in tumor tissue. A PET scan is an imaging test that helps reveal how tissues and organs are functioning and is particularly useful in revealing or evaluating conditions, such as cancer, heart disease and brain disorders. Dr. Shields developed a special tracer, known as FLT, in 1998, to detect dividing cells. Since then, FLT has been used in studies around the world to measure and study tumor proliferation. Dr. Shields is respected by his peers and recognized as a distinguished leader in PET imaging and PET tracer studies. His development of novel PET tracers to measure tumor metabolic activities is listed in the History of Research Achievement at Karmanos Cancer Institute, with broad impact on cancer diagnosis and therapy.

“I am very honored to receive the Heroes of Cancer Michael J. Brennan Scientific Distinction Award for the work that my colleagues and I have been doing to develop new ways to image and treat cancer.  As always, we are inspired by our patients to improve our understanding of cancer and to find better treatments.” – Dr. Anthony Shields, M.D., Ph.D.

DR. GLORIA HEPPNER INNOVATIVE SCIENCE AWARD
Honoring an individual and/or organization that has proven success with innovative initiatives that help advance cancer research. This inaugural award was presented to Gloria Heppner, Ph.D., by Wei-Zen Wei, Ph.D., the Herrick Chair of Cancer Research at Karmanos Cancer Institute and professor, department of Oncology, Wayne State University School of Medicine. 

  • Gloria Heppner, Ph.D., of Grosse Pointe, retired associate vice president, Division of Research, Wayne State University  

Gloria Heppner, Ph.D., is a trailblazer in cancer research. Scientists around the world still refer to her work to advance the understanding and treatment of cancer. Last year, she was recognized by Cancer Research, the official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, for publishing one of the 48 most influential scientific articles in the 75-year history of the journal. In this article, she revealed the heterogeneous nature of cancer that sets the foundation of today’s treatment strategies. Dr. Heppner began her career in the 1960’s. She earned her undergraduate, graduate and PH.D. degrees from the University of California Berkley; did post-op research at the University of Washington in Seattle; and was associate professor of pathology at Brown University before moving to Detroit in 1979. Dr. Heppner was then hired as the chair of Immunology and later became scientific director, as well as professor of the Michigan Cancer Foundation, now known as Karmanos Cancer Institute. After several decades of incredibly innovative research, Dr. Heppner led research for Wayne State University by serving as the Associate Vice President for Research until her retirement last year. Dr. Heppner also mentored many junior scientists to become leaders in cancer research. Karmanos’ president and CEO Gerold Bepler, M.D., Ph.D., said, “Dr. Heppner has made an indelible mark on cancer research and we are fortunate to have her contributions, which have shaped what we know today about tumor biology, diagnosis and treatment. She exemplifies the research excellence for which the Michigan Cancer Foundation was known and the legacy Karmanos Cancer Institute carries on today and into the future.”

“What an extraordinary honor. The Karmanos Cancer Institute, and before that the Michigan Cancer Foundation, are known world-wide for innovation and quality. This has always been a team effort.” – Gloria Heppner, Ph.D.

RIBBON CHAMPION AWARD
An individual and/or group who demonstrates an unwavering commitment to improve education, screening and treatment of a certain type of cancer to encourage prevention while increasing survivorship and advocating to advance cancer research.

  • Prostate Cancer Advocacy Program, Karmanos Cancer Institute, Detroit. Accepting the award will be Elisabeth Heath, M.D. FACP, of Bloomfield Hills; and Isaac Powell, M.D., of Detroit.

Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths among males in the United States. One in seven men will be diagnosed with prostate cancer within their lifetime. African-American men have a nearly two-fold higher mortality rate compared to Caucasian men. African-American men often present with higher PSA levels and more advanced disease. The reason for this disparity is not well understood. So, how do you help raise awareness of the importance of prostate cancer screening among men who are often hesitant to go to the doctor or even start the conversation about their health? That’s been a mission of Karmanos Cancer Institute prostate cancer experts Dr. Elisabeth Heath and Dr. Isaac Powell for many years. Their commitment and determination to encourage men to be more proactive about their health helped fuel the creation of what would become one of the model advocacy programs in the nation. The Karmanos Prostate Cancer Advocacy Program – also referred to as PCAP – was created in 2009 and is led by Dr. Heath. Advocates are prostate cancer survivors and caregivers who volunteer their time to further strengthen Karmanos’ community-based education and outreach efforts, especially among African American men and their families. They talk about the risk of prostate cancer, stressing the importance of seeing a healthcare provider annually to help prevent the disease or detect it early when it’s most treatable. There are 10 advocates who have gone through extensive training to help educate the public. Advocates also work with Karmanos and Wayne State scientists to gain a better understanding of prostate cancer research and the elements needed for the grant process; and attend meetings with government officials to help encourage prostate cancer legislation. Recently, cancer experts from across the country gathered for a national prostate cancer summit hosted by Karmanos and witnessed first-hand the breadth and depth of PCAP and the engagement of its prostate cancer advocates.

“I am extremely honored to receive this award.  It is a true privilege to work with our outstanding cancer advocates and I look forward to meaningful contributions in the future.” – Elisabeth Heath, M.D., FACP

“I am extremely honored to receive the Heroes of Cancer award for my many years at Karmanos Cancer Institute educating the community in collaboration with prostate cancer survivors as advocates as they shared their experience with this potentially lethal disease.” – Isaac Powell, M.D.

MEDIA CONTACT: Patricia A. Ellis, 313-576-8629 or cell, 313-410-3417

Your Reproductive Freedom Depends on Where You Live

Demonstrators protest in front of the Thompson Center to voice their support for Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights on February 10, 2017 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)Demonstrators protest in front of the Thompson Center to voice their support for Planned Parenthood and reproductive rights on February 10, 2017, in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo: Scott Olson / Getty Images)

When Alison Dreith joined NARAL Pro-Choice Missouri as executive director two years ago, she held no illusions about what lay ahead.

One of the most restrictive states for reproductive rights, Missouri at the time had only one abortion clinic (it now has three). “I knew the fight in the legislature would be defensive; nothing short of a miracle,” she said.

No time to wait for divine intervention, Dreith launched a campaign to win protection for women who faced employment and other discrimination as a result of their reproductive health choices — abortions, pregnancy, birth control. And borrowing a strategy from the LBGTQ movement, she took her argument not to the unsympathetic state Capitol but to the St. Louis City Hall. NARAL organizers visited thousands of homes in St. Louis as part of a full-on push that in February led the Board of Aldermen to pass an anti-discrimination ordinance.

That hard-fought municipal win is the kind of tactic necessary these days to protect women’s access to reproductive care. A new analysis by the National Institute for Reproductive Health finds that cities increasingly are playing this crucial role as the federal government grows more hostile toward women’s rights overall and conservative state legislatures erect more barriers to care. And cities such as St. Louis and Austin, Texas — progressive cities tucked in conservative states — must work twice as hard, NIRH says, to implement programs that elevate women and families.

“Cities are leading this resistance, and women and local elected officials are at the forefront of that fight,” said Andrea Miller, president of NIRH. Municipalities have long been the center for advances and innovation, Miller said, and “now more than ever we need that. We need local officials to stand up for their residents and be a counterweight to the daily dose of damage coming from D.C. and from many state legislatures, as well.”

Between 2010 and 2016, states have enacted more than 330 measures to restrict abortion access, constituting about a third of all such restrictions since the 1973 US Supreme Court ruling in Roe v. Wade made abortion legal, according to the Guttmacher Institute.

Working with advocates and activists, local lawmakers are green-lighting policies that create buffers around abortion clinics to protect clients and staff. And they are pushing back against a proliferation of so-called “crisis pregnancy centers,” which critics characterize as anti-abortion fake clinics.

NIRH’s new Local Reproductive Freedom Index measures the reproductive health, rights, and justice polices in 40 cities, highlighting the kinds of successes advocates and local policymakers have had in helping improve the lives and health prospects of residents, while setting standards for progress. Evaluated against 37 possible indicators — things such as clinic safety, support for parenting youth, abortion and contraception funding and a $15 minimum wage — not even the bluest cities in the bluest states got a perfect score. 

Naturally, those at the top, with 4.5 stars out of a possible 5, were resource-rich cities in more progressive states — places such as San Francisco, New York, and Los Angeles. Those on the bottom were mostly in conservative states and places where women are more likely to live in poverty.

Top-ranked San Francisco, for example, became the first city in the country to force crisis pregnancy centers to tell the truth. Jacksonville, Florida, with one star, was at the bottom. Until this year, it held the dubious distinction of being the largest US city without anti-discrimination protections for LGBTQ people. But after failed attempts in 2012 and 2016, the city council voted to enact an LGBTQ equality ordinance without the mayor’s signature.

The index demonstrates that reproductive justice work at the city level offers opportunities for progress; that is now not the case at the state level and especially the federal level.

A year ago when NARAL began its work in St. Louis, Missouri, Dreith expected Hillary Clinton would be the next president. As bad as things were for women in her state — which at the time had a Democratic governor and anti-choice Republicans controlling the Legislature — she never factored in Donald Trump. “We lost everything in November,” Dreith said. “Not only do we have a super predator as president, we now have a very, anti-choice governor with no previous political experience who is angling for a presidential run in the future.

“At every turn here in Missouri, women and families are under attack,” Dreith said.

Last year’s election swept Trump into office on a wave of divisive rhetoric, ushering in a conservative and at times misogynistic brand of policymaking nationwide.

The numerous allegations of sexual assaults against him notwithstanding, Trump — as candidate and now as president — has made no secret of his contempt for reproductive rights. He once declared there should be some sort of punishment for those who have abortions. He has supported defunding Planned Parenthood, calling it an abortion factory. He supported a ban on abortion after 20 weeks and last month reversedPresident Obama’s contraception-coverage guarantee.

While St. Louis earned just two stars, the average for NIRH’s index, the Midwestern city earned trailblazer status for its anti-discrimination work.

Dreith said her organization had been hearing — sometimes in whispered exchanges at rallies — from women who were fired or threatened with job loss after becoming pregnant or having an abortion. The problem was particularly common among those employed at Catholic institutions.

The ordinance that St. Louis passed includes a religious exemption so it does not extend protection to those workers, but it adds reproductive health decisions to the city’s anti-discrimination law. Dreith said Alderwoman Megan Green, who sponsored the measure, also added a provision to protect women facing housing discrimination.

Hailed by reproductive rights advocates nationwide, the measure immediately came under attack in Missouri. Republican Gov. Eric Greitens called a special session of the state legislature seeking to pre-empt it, saying he didn’t want St. Louis turned into an “abortion sanctuary city.” While he didn’t succeed in undoing what St. Louis had done, he did sign a measure that piled even more abortion restrictions onto the state. In May, several St. Louis Catholic groups sued the city over the new ordinance, despite the exemption they have.

Dreith is not deterred. NARAL, which now provides escorts for clients at some clinics, proposed a measure, now before the St. Louis Board of Aldermen, to create an 8-foot buffer around that city’s only abortion clinic. This week, the Columbia City Council unanimously passed an ordinance to add pregnancy protection to the city’s anti-discrimination laws. NARAL also wants to expand the anti-discrimination ordinance in Kansas City, another city that leans progressive.

“There are always things we can do on the local level to reinforce our values,” she said. “Local is where we live. We can at least create a pocket to move forward,” she said.

Political climates in municipalities everywhere have shifted since the federal Roe v. Wade decision four decades ago. Pamela Merritt, St. Louis-based co-director for the reproductive justice organization, Reproaction, said she grew up in the St. Louis area and returned in her 30s to a radically more conservative city.

That political climate makes the work her organization is doing to draw attention to the deceptive practices of crisis pregnancy centers and  the alarmingly high maternal and infant mortality rates among African-American women in the state that much harder. “The good news is that people are energized to organize and resist; there’s an appetite for that at a height I’ve not seen before,” Merritt said.

“Out there in the community I’m hearing from so many people: What can we do? I tell people, resistance is a stage; no one wants to live in a perpetual state of resistance. It sounds corny but people untied can do great things. We don’t want to rely on a regressive state legislature to wake up to reality.”

Rather than waiting for lawmakers, she’s been working with those who can directly effect change, health care professionals in hospitals who interact with these mothers. The work has involved urging doctors to look for signs of stress, training more doulas and urging more women to become doulas.

Elsewhere, progressive cities in some of the most hostile states for abortion rights are adapting similar strategies, NIRH’s Miller said. In Columbus, Ohio, citizens fought hard last year to pass a clinic-safety measure. Oklahoma City recently approved a resolution to protect its LGBTQ population from discrimination in housing.

“What we are hearing from advocates is how inspired they are by the prospect of being able to work and engage with local policy makers and elected officials…” Miller said. “These are people who live in their neighborhoods, in their communities; their kids might be in the same daycare.”

Sunday Show Preview: November 19th, 2017

kdpg A+Schools ReportEvery Friday afternoon, we provide a preview of the various Sunday morning political talk shows that are filmed and broadcast throughout the commonwealth.

Our hope is to alert readers to the important interviews and insights that each show in their region offers.

This Week in Pennsylvania

WHTM/Harrisburg-Lancaster-Lebanon-York – Sunday at 10am

WBRE/Wilkes Barre-Scranton-Hazelton – Sunday 630am

WTAJ/Johnstown-Altoona-State College – Sunday 630am

WJET/Erie – Sunday 10am

WDVM/Hagerstown, MD – Sunday 7am

WETM/Elmira, New York – Sunday 7am

We sit down with Mike Turzai, the latest candidate for governor. Is he too beholden to gas drillers? Does he have the temperament to be governor? We ask. He answers. We also have Acting Insurance Commissioner Jessica Altman talking about Open Enrollment of the Affordable Care Act. What you need to know and do and what’s different this year. She answers all of our health insurance questions. We also have our analysts, Chris Nicholas and Abe Amoros, discussing Turzai, the Lieutenant Governor’s race and the court rulings allowing redistricting lawsuits to move forward.

@Issue

NBC10-Philadelphia-11:30 a.m.

The middle class, everybody is talking about them these days, but just who are they? Is the middle class defined by income or is it something more?  You might be surprised by what the experts say.  The birds take on division rival Dallas, and today we discuss the team’s success and what it means for fans.  And stayin’ alive, a glimmer of hope for books and bookstores.  We’ll discuss who’s expanding locally and why it matters in your neighborhood.  Our host is NBC10s Rosemary Connors

Face the State

CBS21-Harrisburg-8:30 a.m.

This week on CBS 21’s “Face the State with Robb Hanrahan,” Lieutenant Governor candidate and Braddock Mayor, John Fetterman explains how he would use the office to push Governor Wolf’s agenda forward. CBS 21 Political Insider Mark Singel, a former Lieutenant Governor, provides insight into how the office works and lands a huge headline when he asks Fetterman if he would stay in the running if the Governor endorses another candidate. Join Robb, Mark  and Charlie Gerow for CBS 21’s “Face the State with Robb Hanrahan,” Sunday morning at 8:30.

InsideStory111917Inside Story

6abc-Philadelphia-11:30 a.m.

Host Monica Malpass Hosts and the Insider’s discuss a judge’s ruling that the Department of Justice cannot withhold Federal funds due to Philadelphia’s Sanctuary City status, the School Reform Commission voting to disband, rapper Meek Mill’s sentencing causing a national stir and a few familiar names announce their bids in the PA Governor’s race.  Plus we discuss the pros and cons to the PA legislature’s effort to ban non-disclosure agreements in sexual harassment cases.  Check out Inside Story at 11:30 AM.

Ajay Raju

Dom Giordano

Jim Eisenhower

Christine Flowers

KD/PG Sunday Edition

CBS2-Pittsburgh-8:30 a.m.

This Sunday morning@11:30am., on KDKA-TV’s “KD/PG Sunday Edition”, with KDKA-TV News Anchor Ken Rice and John Allison, Editorial Page Editor of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette:

On this week’s broadcast:

A report card – on the performance of students in the Pittsburgh Public Schools, with troubling, chronic disparities in student performances, by white and African-American students.

We’ll look at the results of a study, released by Pittsburgh’s  Community Alliance for Public Education – “A+ Schools” – talk about the impact of those disparities, on Pittsburgh’s future workforce, and discuss potential solutions, to the problems.

Our guests are James Fogarty – Executive Director of “A+ Schools”, Molly O’Malley-Argueta – Principal at Pittsburgh Allegheny Traditional Elementary Academy K-5, on Pittsburgh’s North Side, and Sala Udin – member-elect, of the Pittsburgh School Board, from District#3 (Hill District), former Pittsburgh City Councilman,  and former President & CEO of the CORO Center for Civic Leadership, in Pittsburgh.

Do not miss, this important broadcast – Sunday morning@8:30AM, on KDKA-TV’s “KD/PG Sunday Edition”.

Pennsylvania Newsmakers

WGAL Channel 8 (Harrisburg and Lancaster) Sunday, November 19th at 11:30 AM

WBPH (Lehigh Valley and Philadelphia) Monday, November 20th at 8:30 PM

WKBS 47 (Altoona) Saturday, November 25th at 9:30 AM

WPCB 40 (Pittsburgh) Saturday, November 25th at 9:30 AM

Pennsylvania Cable Network (PCN) Saturday, November 18th at 6:30 AM

This week’s Pennsylvania Newsmakers features Angela Couloumbis of the Philadelphia Inquirer, and Steve Esack of the Allentown Morning Call, who report on the candidates that have entered next year’s Governor and Lt. Governor’s elections. Then, W. Russell McDaid, President CEO of the Pennsylvania Health Care Association, joins host Terry Madonna for a discussion of the challenges families face with important long-term care decisions. Link here.

NICK PARADISE KENNYWOOD SBPThe Sunday Business Page

CBS2-Pittsburgh-6:30 a.m.

This Sunday morning @ 6:30, on KDKA-TV’s “The Sunday Business Page,” with KDKA-TV’s money & politics editor, Jon Delano:

On this week’s program:

A Pittsburgh-based company has been awarded a $100,000 grant, by the National Football League, to perfect a product that is designed to reduce the chance of concussion, in athletes – from elementary and secondary education – to college and professional sports.

We’ll talk with Vaughan Blaxter – CEO – and Kevin Lynch – Vice-President of the Bloomfield-based 2nd Skull – about their protective “beanie” – to soften blows, to players’ heads.

Then, we’ll hear the inspiring story of a Brazilian father’s struggle, to help his son battle a rare, metabolic, genetic disorder –  Maple Syrup Urine Disease” – or, MSUD – which leads to difficult physical and neurological problems – that can also result, in death.

Idario Santos moved his family to Pittsburgh, where Artur underwent a successful liver transplant, at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC, and is now thriving, at Pioneer School. He also enjoys cooking!

The family now makes its home, in Pittsburgh.

Idario has written about his family’s heroic efforts – in a new book, called: “Sweet Odyssey” –which was translated, from Portuguese into English, by Idario’s older son, Vinicius, or – Vini.

Idario and Vini  chat with Jon Delano, in a memorable interview, about their courage, and success.

Finally, we’ll preview Kennywood Park’s annual Christmas “Holiday Lights” – with Kennywood’s Director of Public Relations and Social Media, Nick Paradise.

Please join Jon Delano for “The Sunday Business Page” – Sunday morning@6:30AM., on KDKA-TV!

November 18th, 2017 | Posted in Features, Front Page Stories | No Comments

Supporting the PCOS Community on Giving Tuesday

PCOSAA JOINS THE GLOBAL #GIVINGTUESDAY MOVEMENT PLEDGES TO RAISE PUBLIC AWARENESS ABOUT POLYCYSTIC OVARIAN SYNDROME (PCOS).

SEATTLE, WA, USA, November 18, 2017 /EINPresswire.com/ — USA – November 18, 2017 — PCOS Awareness Association (PCOSAA) has joined #GivingTuesday, a global day of giving that harnesses the collective power of individuals, communities and organizations to encourage philanthropy and to celebrate generosity worldwide. #PCOSAAGivingTuesday… Occurring this year on November 28, #PCOSAAGivingTuesday will be held on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving and the widely recognized shopping events Black Friday and Cyber Monday to kick off the holiday giving season and inspire people to collaborate in improving their local communities and to give back in impactful ways to millions of women who suffer with Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS).

Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome is an endocrine disorder that affects over 7 million women in the United States, with half not even being aware the disorder exists. PCOSAA has tackled the problem head on by raising awareness of this disorder worldwide, providing educational and support services to help women understand what the disorder is and how it can be treated. The Association also provides support for women diagnosed with PCOS to help them overcome the syndrome and decrease the impact of its associated health problems.

“PCOS is an endocrine disorder that affects over 7 million women in the US,” commented Louise Chang, MD. “That is more than the number of people diagnosed with breast cancer, rheumatoid arthritis, multiple sclerosis and lupus combined.”

According to experts, symptoms of PCOS vary with every woman, but can include: irregular and/or missing menstrual periods, infertility, dandruff, oily/acne skin issues, unexpected weight gain, thinning hair, dark patches on skin and pelvic pain. With a lack of awareness of PCOS many medical practitioners completely miss the warning signs and women go untreated, which can lead to more serious health problems like heart disease and diabetes developing.

Those who are interested in joining #PCOSAAGivingTuesday initiative, you can visit www.pcosaa.org. Also follow PCOSAA on all social media networks and use the #PCOSAAGivingTuesday hashtag.

Monica Reagor
PCOS Awareness Association
208563729
email us here

Get Covered: Enroll in Health Care Today

No one plans to get sick or hurt, but most people need medical care at some point in their lives. Health insurance, which is available to everyone today, covers these unexpected costs and offers many other important benefits that are vital to overall long term health.

Despite what you may have heard happening in other states or on the national level, Covered California’s open-enrollment period starts on Nov. 1, 2017 and continues through Jan. 31, 2018. If you, your family members, or friends need health insurance, this is the time to sign up.

In California – unlike other states – legislators, advocates, and non-profi ts have done everything possible to make sure the Affordable Care Act works for folks who would be burdened the most with expensive medical costs. We expanded Medicaid, we set up a well-functioning health care exchange, and we pushed for more outreach and enrollment assistance into the communities that need it the most, including the African-American community.

Since passage of the Affordable Care Act and the creation of Covered California the number of Californians signing up for health insurance has significantly increased – with most receiving financial help. Unfortunately many friends and family in our community are currently uninsured, remaining unprotected against any unforeseen medical emergencies and lacking any attention to their long term health.

Data from Covered California shows that enrollment among subsidy-eligible African-Americans during open enrollment is consistently at 4 percent, while African-Americans constitute five percent of the state’s subsidy-eligible population

The good news is that getting covered – and receiving financial assistance to cover the premiums – is easier than ever. In fact, 90 percent of Covered California enrollees receive federal subsidies to help cover their premiums. Covered California is the only place where eligible consumers can get financial assistance to help pay for their health insurance.

Financial help means that in 2018, nearly 60 percent of subsidy-eligible enrollees will have access to Silver coverage for less than $100 per month — the same as
it was in 2017 — and 74 percent can purchase Bronze coverage for less than $10 per month.

Thankfully we are already seeing the positive impact of Covered California in improving the overall health of Californians. Californian’s enrollment numbers continue to increase, making it a national leader. According to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), as a result of coverage expansions through both Covered California and Medi-Cal, California’s uninsured rate is down to 7.4 percent. That’s a big drop from 17.2 percent in 2013 and makes our rate of uninsured the lowest in state history.

If you, your family members or friends need health coverage, they can get free, confidential assistance from one of the more than 20,000 certified agents
and enrollers throughout California who are ready to help them enroll. You can find confidential in-person help from a Certified Insurance Agent, Certified Enrollment Counselor or a county eligibility worker at http://www.coveredca.com/get-help/local/. You can also sign up by calling Covered California’s Service Center at (800) 300-1506, applying online at www.CoveredCA. com, or have a certified enroller contact them through the “Help on Demand” feature.

Assemblymember Chris Holden represents the 41st Assembly District that stretches from Pasadena in the West to Upland in the East and includes the communities of Altadena, Claremont, La Verne, Monrovia, Rancho Cucamonga, San Dimas, Sierra Madre, and South Pasadena. He also serves as chair of the California Legislative Black Caucus and Assembly Committee on Utilities and Energy.

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