Get­ting re­sults to end poverty, hunger

Santa Fe New Mexican - - OPINIONS -

The pos­si­bil­ity of Congress en­act­ing pro­pos­als for bud­get cuts and poli­cies that fa­vor the wealthy over the poor are fright­en­ing to many of us, in­clud­ing long­time grass-roots ad­vo­cates for end­ing poverty and hunger. We won­der what are we re­ally about as a na­tion?

Our par­tic­i­pa­tion in a na­tional cit­i­zen ad­vo­cacy or­ga­ni­za­tion called RE­SULTS (www.re­sults.org) has kept us grounded and com­mit­ted to our mis­sion to “cre­ate the pub­lic and po­lit­i­cal will to end poverty and hunger.” RE­SULTS sup­ports us, and all the RE­SULTS grass-roots vol­un­teers through­out the coun­try, with solid poverty pol­icy re­search, data, ad­vo­cacy train­ing, strate­gic se­lec­tion of anti-poverty pol­icy di­rec­tion that will im­pact the most people, and by urg­ing us to get to know and work with our mem­bers of Congress and the media.

We re­cently re­turned from the in­spir­ing an­nual RE­SULTS In­ter­na­tional Con­fer­ence in Wash­ing­ton, D.C., which brought to­gether more than 500 ad­vo­cates for the end of poverty from the all 50 states in the U.S. and over 20 other coun­tries. Seven­ty­five of those at­tend­ing were young people ages 18-30 be­ing men­tored by RE­SULTS to be­come lead­ers in ad­vo­cacy for so­cial jus­tice and end­ing poverty world­wide by 2035.

Ev­ery­one at­tend­ing spent the fi­nal day of the con­fer­ence on Capi­tol Hill vis­it­ing our re­spec­tive con­gres­sional del­e­ga­tions, with for­eign at­ten­dees also vis­it­ing the World Bank and other global or­ga­ni­za­tions. The seven of us from New Mex­ico rep­re­sent­ing RE­SULTS chap­ters in Santa Fe, Al­bu­querque and Las Cruces had the priv­i­lege of meet­ing di­rectly with Demo­cratic U.S. Rep. Michelle Lu­jan Gr­isham and Sen. Tom Udall, D-N.M., and in other of­fices with staff who re­ceived us very gra­ciously.

Our pri­mary U.S. poverty is­sue was re­quest­ing that our sen­a­tors stand firm against re­peal­ing and re­plac­ing the Af­ford­able Care Act, in­clud­ing no cuts or re­struc­tur­ing of Med­i­caid, and work for bi­par­ti­san ac­tion to find a fix to sta­bi­lize the in­di­vid­ual in­sur­ance mar­ket. The day in­cluded wit­ness­ing dis­abled pro­test­ers against Med­i­caid cuts be­ing hauled off the floor of the Hart Se­nate Of­fice Build­ing by Capi­tol po­lice. Also as we en­tered New Mex­ico Demo­cratic Sen. Martin Hein­rich’s of­fice, the TV screen was show­ing the be­gin­ning of the voting to de­ter­mine whether the de­bate on the health care bills to de­stroy the ACA would be­gin in the Se­nate. As

we came out of the meet­ing with Sen. Hein­rich’s staff, the vice pres­i­dent’s vote broke the 50-50 tie on the mo­tion to pro­ceed, and on to the floor went bills to cut af­ford­able health care for mil­lions of Amer­i­cans.

We thank our Sens. Udall and Hein­rich and Rep. Ben Ray Lu­ján and Rep. Lu­jan Gr­isham for their stead­fast op­po­si­tion to the dis­as­trous GOP bills to dis­man­tle our health care sys­tem and the coura­geous few GOP sen­a­tors who chose to vote no, lead­ing to the de­feat of all the ef­forts to re­peal or re­place the Af­ford­able Care Act. The fight is prob­a­bly not yet over, but this was a mo­men­tous step. We urge our New Mex­ico mem­bers to work for bi­par­ti­san strate­gies to im­prove health care for all Amer­i­cans through strength­en­ing the cov­er­age and sta­bil­ity of the Af­ford­able Care Act.

Even though our sen­a­tors and Con­gress­man Lu­ján do not need to be per­suaded to vote against ACA de­struc­tion or against dras­tic bud­get cuts to our na­tion’s other crit­i­cal an­tipoverty pro­grams, in­clud­ing Med­i­caid and the Sup­ple­men­tal Nu­tri­tion As­sis­tance Pro­gram, or SNAP (food stamps), it is still im­por­tant to call with our views. This al­lows them to say, “I have heard from hun­dreds of my con­stituents, and they are op­posed to re­peal­ing the ACA.” Equally im­por­tant is to say “thank you” to them for their strong stands against ACA re­peal and bud­get cuts to vi­tal safety net pro­grams crit­i­cal to the well­be­ing of hun­dreds of thou­sands of people liv­ing in New Mex­ico.

Ly­dia Pendley, MA, MHS, and Gerry Fairbrother, Ph.D., are re­spec­tively co-leader and mem­ber of RE­SULTS-Santa Fe. Both are mem­bers of Health Ac­tion New Mex­ico, and both had ca­reers in in­ves­ti­gat­ing and ad­vanc­ing re­search and ad­vo­cacy in pub­lic health and health ser­vices.

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