By Lecia Imbery, Coalition on Human Needs
Thankfulness isn’t the first sentiment that comes to mind these days. Giant tax cuts for the rich at the expense of the poor. Children’s health insurance in jeopardy. Millions of Americans still suffering in Puerto Rico, the Virgin Islands, and other disaster sites. Dreamers at risk of losing their future and their dreams. Let’s face it, we’ve had a lot to be outraged and sad about this year. And with programs that help our neighbors afford basic living standards continually threatened, we are even more mindful this year of the millions who can’t afford a big Thanksgiving feast or a warm home in which to host it. But despite the struggles of this past year and those that lie ahead of us, we know that we have many, many things to be thankful for, in some ways more than ever. Here are just a few of them:
- We’re thankful for the Affordable Care Act. Despite repeated attempts by Congress and the White House to dismantle, repeal, and undermine the ACA, it remains the law of the land, and enrollment is running at a faster pace this year than last year. Because of the ACA, the percentage of uninsured Americans is lower than it has ever been in the history of our nation. The Senate will try to pass their tax cut bill for the rich – which by repealing the ACA’s individual mandate, may leave as many as 13 million more uninsured – as soon as they return after Thanksgiving. We urge you to take a moment away from prepping the turkey or watching football to call, email, or tell your senators in person to reject this horrible bill.
- We’re thankful the official poverty rate is down and median household income is up. The 2.1 percentage point decrease in the national poverty rate from 2014 to 2016 is the largest two-year decline since 1969, and after nine years, we have finally reduced poverty levels down to the lower rates before the Great Recession. This was also the second year in a row that median household incomes increased. Our thankfulness is muted: with 40.6 million Americans still in poverty, more work remains to be done.
- We’re thankful for our basic safety net programs, especially SNAP/food stamps, Social Security, Supplemental Security Income, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, and the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit, which have contributed in large part to the aforementioned reduction in poverty, are better for the economy and have positive outcomes for children and families. These programs are under near-continuous attack from leaders in Congress and the White House, but you can believe that we’ll fight with everything we have to protect these programs from cuts and harmful programmatic changes in the months and years ahead.
- We’re thankful for advocates who show how policies affect real people, like the Faces of Austerity who told their stories about the effects of budget cuts on their daily lives, advocates from the National Korean American Service & Education Consortium and others who led a 22-day vigil to defend the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program, millionaires who say they don’t need a huge tax cut, and the Little Lobbyists, children with serious health conditions and their parents who visited congressional offices to stop TrumpCare. Through their stories, they remind our leaders that real human beings with complex struggles make up the poverty, hunger and inequality statistics, and their needs must be addressed. We’re also thankful for champions in Congress who work to reduce inequity and stand up against bad legislation.
- We’re thankful, especially on this food-centered holiday, for the food banks that serve the 1 in 8 American households – and the 1 in 5 households in poverty – that are food insecure, and for all our friends who work tirelessly on the ground to directly serve our low-income and disadvantaged neighbors.
- We’re thankful for voters in Maine who voted to expand Medicaid to 80,000 of their low-income neighbors, making Maine the first state to approve such a move by ballot initiative. We’re also thankful for voters all across the country who voted for inclusiveness and tolerance over hatred and intolerance.
- We’re thankful for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau and its director, Richard Cordray, for their work to protect low-income consumers and communities of color. Since its founding in 2011, the CFPB has fielded more than 1 million consumer complaints about the policies and practices of the nation’s financial institutions, and the agency’s enforcement actions have resulted in nearly $12 billion in relief and refunds to customers. Unfortunately, the CFPB has been under attack from Republicans in Congress since its creation, and just last month, Congress and President Trump repealed a CFPB rule that would have allowed consumers to challenge big banks and other corporations in court. With the recent announcement that Director Cordray is stepping down, and rumors that OMB Director Mick Mulvaney is being considered to run the CFPB while still staying at OMB, the future of the CFPB is in jeopardy. Mulvaney has called the CFPB a “sad, sick joke.” But back to being thankful…
- We’re thankful for our member organizations who continue to support CHN and whose great work we cite in regular Resources from Around the Coalition to help us all do our work better; the many state partners who worked with us to release state poverty data reports, raising awareness of poverty and policy solutions in their states; the hundreds of local, state, and national organizations who are a part of our SAVE for ALL campaign; our friends who supported our Human Needs Hero event; and for our community who gathers regularly in DC at CHN’s Friday Advocates Meetings to share information and actions.
- We’re thankful for all of our guest bloggers, who shared pieces on the Dream Act, the Affordable Care Act, workforce training, foster youth facing homelessness, the House budget, Medicaid, the Women’s March, and more. We’re also thankful for those who cross-posted our blog pieces, including MomsRising, the Pennsylvania Council of Churches, Franciscans for Justice and others, for helping to spread the word about the many important issues covered on our blog.
- Most of all, we’re thankful for all of you for taking action on our action alerts, following and sharing our posts on Facebook and Twitter, showing up at rallies and marches, speaking out and making your voices heard, writing op-eds and letters to editors, participating in our webinars, Twitterstorms and tweet chats, sharing our Human Needs Reports, national and state poverty reports and our emails with friends, donating to CHN, and for subscribing, reading, sharing and commenting on the blog.
We know it will continue to be a challenging year ahead for us all, which is why our work is even more important. We’ve written about Head Smackers before, and the Trump administration and Congress have not failed to be concussive sources this year. We need to continue to call them on lies, half-truths, hypocrisies, and unfounded claims. We’ll also continue to arm you with our Facts of the Week so you’ll have the data on your side (which is also handy when gathering over the holidays with family and friends of different political perspectives). We all need to be in this fight together, now more than ever.
Thanks again for reading. We wish you a restorative Thanksgiving. Much work to do ahead.