Guest Author - Tracey-Kay Caldwell
The 2008 general election is in full swing and the various constituencies are putting forth their agendas. The first to land in my mailbox was from the Democratic Women for Change. The Democratic women in the U.S. Senate stated that they, “believe it is time for a change in Washington: a change in tone and change in the level of commitment to addressing America’s priorities.” Senator Barbara Mikulski stated that, You know what women do to get things done, we make checklists.” And that is exactly what the Democratic women of the senate have done; they created a ten item check list to achieve that change.
The first item on their Checklist for Change is to provide equal pay for equal work by passing the Fair Pay Restoration Act. This act is meant rectify a ruling last May by the Supreme Court in Ledbetter v. Goodyear, that workers are barred from filing pay discrimination claims shortly after an employer first decides to discriminate, even when the discrimination continues. The women senators stated that, “This ruling, which extends to pay discrimination based on race, national origin, gender, religion, age or disability, sends the wrong message about the value of equal pay for equal work and ignores the realities of pay discrimination.” Chief Justice Ruth Ginsburg said that this needs to be fixed by Congress; she called on Congress to take action and correct this mistake. That is what the Democratic women of the senate intend to do with their first item on their Checklist for Change.
The second item on their list is to keep jobs in America by repealing tax policies that reward the outsourcing of American jobs, and level the international playing field by enforcing our trade agreements. They stated that, “The recent rise in unemployment has only strengthened our resolve to stem the flight of American jobs overseas. Currency manipulation, unfair trade agreements and the free flow of counterfeit goods from countries like China have put American workers at an unfair disadvantage for far too long.” They believe that a jobs agenda that keeps good paying jobs in America is worth fighting for.
The third item on their list is to make health care affordable by guaranteeing affordable health coverage for all Americans. There are 47 million Americans who lack health insurance. Eight out of 10 of these uninsured Americans are working, most in small businesses or as self employed. In order to offer innovative and accessible healthcare to these workers, we must address the underlying causes of rising costs. Providing affordable healthcare for all Americans is something the Democratic women of the senate feel is worth fighting for.
The forth item on the list is to take care of our military families and veterans by providing our men and women in uniform with the care and benefits they have earned. According to the Democratic women of the senate, “Our veterans need access to enough staff and medical professionals, with the right training, to care for their needs. It means treating the psychological wounds of war with the same importance as the physical wounds. It means access to job training and a G.I. Bill that serves the needs of a new generation of veterans.” When we have an all volunteer military, this level of commitment is required to assure that we will have recruits willing to volunteer when we need them.
The fifth item on the list is to restore America's credibility in the world by changing course in Iraq, closing Guantanamo Bay, and ending America’s use of torture. Senator Diane Feinstein stated that, “America has been called a beacon of hope, because people all over the world, look to American justice and human rights for inspiration. We have represented a brighter future, a government by the people, for the people, with justice for all. But now, that beacon has been dimmed. Despite President Bush’s promise that the United States would fight the war on terror consistent with American values and ‘in the finest traditions of valor,’ the decision was made, as Vice President Cheney said in 2001, to ‘go to the dark side’.”
The sixth item on the list is to protect our environment by addressing global warming, reducing our dependence on foreign oil, and spurring an economic renaissance that will create millions of new, green jobs. The seventh item on the checklist goes along with sixth, to Make America Energy Independent. They stated that, “When it comes to moving our nation toward energy independence, we believe that the cost of inaction is severe. We must reverse seven years of the Bush Administration’s oil-friendly policies, which have resulted in a quadrupling of oil prices and more than a doubling of gas prices. We must fix the root causes of the high gas prices so these solutions have a real, lasting effect. This can only be accomplished by investing in clean and affordable alternative-energy sources, which will create good American jobs.”
The eighth item on the checklist is to prepare for future disasters by reform both FEMA and the Stafford Act to better manage a swift and effective response and recovery. They want to ensure that the nation has the tools to address future disaster by providing resources and flexibility, developing safe and efficient evacuation plans for all American communities, and equip our nation with a strong first responder communication system.
The ninth item on the checklist is to enforce fiscal accountability by improving federal oversight of how the nation’s tax dollars are spent. The Democratic women of the senate have stated that, “This can be accomplished by providing Inspectors General greater flexibility and more independence to oversee the actions of the departments and agencies under their purview. We must also have tougher oversight of government contracts, including eliminating no-bid contracting and banning contractor bonuses in the case of unfinished or unsatisfactory work.” They believe that the restoration of fiscal discipline with taxpayer dollars is worth fighting for.
The tenth and last item on the checklist is to protect the family checkbook by focusing on tax relief for middle-class families, including more resources for the “sandwich generation” caring for both children and aging parents. The Democratic women of the senate said that, “. We need sensible energy policies that put the interests of American families before oil cartels and multinational corporations. We need common sense regulations that protect consumers from flawed products or unfair business practices without unduly burdening our economy.”
The senators who have put their name to this agenda, Senator Barbara Mikulski, Senator Barbara Boxer, Senator Maria Cantwell, Senator Dianne Feinstein, Senator Mary Landrieu, Senator Blanche Lincoln, Senator Patty Murray, Senator Debbie Stabenow, Senator Amy Klobuchar, Senator Claire McCaskill; have stated that the items on this checklist are challenges that Congress can meet right now, if the Bush Administration and Congressional Republicans would join them in their commitment to address these critical issues.