Here are a few good progressive stories from the past few weeks that we’d like to briefly highlight:
Obama Administration Standing Up For Reproductive Freedom
Jan. 22 was the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that recognized a woman’s right to choose. President Obama marked the occasion with an affirmation of his strong support for reproductive freedom:
As we mark the 39th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, we must remember that this Supreme Court decision not only protects a woman’s health and reproductive freedom, but also affirms a broader principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters. I remain committed to protecting a woman’s right to choose and this fundamental constitutional right.
Two days earlier, the Obama Administration, standing up to strong opposition from conservative religious organizations, finalized rules under the Affordable Care Act to require that contraception be included as a preventive health service that insurance policies must cover with no co-pay. This will help millions of women afford access to birth control and also save money by reducing unintended pregnancies.
Attorney General Eric Holder Joins the Fight for Voting Rights
As we’ve described previously, conservatives are engaging in a concerted effort to restrict voting in a transparent attempt to reduce voting by the poor, students, and people of color. On Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. day earlier this month, Attorney General Eric Holder took this effort head on in a speech in Columbia, South Carolina explaining how voting rights are at the core of the civil rights that Dr. King fought for. The entire speech is worth reading, but here is an especially powerful excerpt:
The right to vote is not only the cornerstone of our system of governance, it is the lifeblood of our democracy. And no force has proved more powerful – or more integral to the success of the great American experiment – than efforts to expand the franchise. Let me be very clear: the arc of American history has bent toward the inclusion – not the exclusion – of more of our fellow citizens in the electoral process. We must ensure that this continues.
As [NAACP] President [Benjamin] Jealous and others have discussed today – despite our nation’s record of progress, and long tradition of extending voting rights – today, a growing number of citizens are worried about the same disparities, divisions, and problems that Dr. King fought throughout his life to address and overcome. In recent months, in my travels across this country – and here in South Carolina – I’ve heard a consistent drumbeat of concern from citizens, who – often for the first time in their lives – now have reason to believe that we are failing to live up to one of our nation’s most noble ideals; and that some of the achievements that defined the civil rights movement now hang in the balance.
Let me assure you: for today’s Department of Justice, our commitment to strengthening – and to fulfilling – our nation’s promise of equal opportunity and equal justice has never been stronger.
The location of the speech in South Carolina was especially important given that AG Holder last December blocked South Carolina’s new law requiring people to present photo identification in order to vote because such law would disproportionately impact minority voters. In a previous speech on the topic of voting rights, AG Holder announced that his office is currently reviewing similar voting laws in Texas, Florida, and other states.
The Chair of the Council of Economic Advisers on Economic Fairness and Inequality
President Obama’s State of the Union address and earlier speech in Osawatomie, Kansas made clear that Obama intends to make economic fairness and reducing inequality the core issue in his re-election campaign. A recent speech by Alan B. Krueger, President Obama’s relatively new Chair of the Administration’s Council on Economic Advisers, provided further detail on how the Administration is seeking to reduce economic inequality both as a matter of fairness and because of the negative impact that inequality is having on our economy as a whole:
My theme in this talk is that the rise in inequality in the United States over the last three decades has reached the point that inequality in incomes is causing an unhealthy division in opportunities, and is a threat to our economic growth. Restoring a greater degree of fairness to the U.S. job market would be good for businesses, good for the economy, and good for the country.
. . . .
Lastly, I want to emphasize that restoring more fairness to the economy would be good for all parts of American society. This is not a zero-sum game. The evidence suggests that a growing middle class is good for the economy, and that a more fair distribution of income would hasten economic growth. Businesses would benefit from restoring more fairness to the economy by having more middle class customers, more stable markets, and improved employee morale and productivity.
The entire speech is worth a read, as it is filled with statistics and ideas regarding the amount of economic inequality in the US, the lack of income mobility, and the causes of, impacts of, and solutions to such inequality.