Friends,

A bit of good news today as a Federal appeals court upheld the injunction against Trump’s Muslim ban – a small but crucial step in protecting the rights and freedoms we all hold dear.

Of course, those rights and freedoms remain under assault from the administration – most recently with the proposed Federal budget that was just released,* which slashes social safety nets and environmental protections.

* Just for this week, we delayed the pledge email till Thursday so we’d have time to digest the contents of the budget!

Understanding what the budget means for us is our first item for this week, along with our continuing struggles to defend healthcare and democracy:

1) Learn about Trump’s proposed budget

2) Defend our Healthcare (now with more numbers!)

3) Defend our Democracy, part 3

4) Support Net Neutrality

As always, do as many as you can – and keep recruiting more people to take the pledge!

—–

1) Learn about Trump’s proposed budget

There’s a lot of uproar over the budget that President Trump released on Tuesday. The cuts are deep, the numbers are dubious (and sometimes outright wrong), but what does it really mean for America’s budget? The House and Senate must now hold hearings on the budget and form a concurrent budget resolution, pass appropriation bills, and reconcile any legislation if laws must be changed. So, while it is unlikely that all of this budget proposal comes to pass, it gives a terrifying look at where the current administration’s priorities lie.

Lowlights:

  • The Environmental Protection Agency’s budget is cut 31%
  • The Department of Education’s budget is cut 14%
  • The Department of Defense’s budget increases 10%
  • The Department of Homeland Security’s budget increases 7%
  • Numerous agencies are eliminated entirely
  • Deep cuts to entitlement programs, hurting the poor
  • Prohibits federal funding for entities that provide abortions, such as Planned Parenthood

Many Republicans are balking at the budget, going so far as to say “It probably is the most conservative budget that we’ve had.” Many dislike the deep cuts to Medicaid, as well as the spending on the border wall. The earmarking of funds for paid family leave – arguably the most positive provision in the budget – is unlikely to be popular. However, Republicans also see their budget as a way to reform the tax code. Here’s what the Republicans agree with in the budget and what we should look out for:

  • Work requirements for food stamp eligibility
  • Opening up the Arctic for drilling
  • Eliminating the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, AmeriCorps, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program

Want to read the whole thing? Check it out here. Also check out the full list of programs being eliminated.

2) Defend our Healthcare (now with more numbers!)

The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) has spoken, and the news is not good. By their estimates, the Republicans’ proposed Trumpcare plan will leave 23 million more people uninsured by 2026 (compared to Obamacare), and raise premiums for older, lower-income Americans by over 800%.

The House has not yet formally passed the AHCA on to the Senate – they were waiting for the official CBO assessment – but a Senate working group (the one with no women members) is already working on drafting their revised version. While it’s hard to imagine it’ll be worse than the House version, it’s nonetheless imperative that we make clear that we won’t stand for this attack on the basic rights of our fellow human beings.

What You Can Do:

  • First, inform yourself with a better understanding of just what the CBO report says
  • Call your senators! You can get more information on calling, including scripts, here.
    • Are your senators Republican? Call and mail them to let them know you’re opposed to the House’s AHCA and why.  
    • Are your senators Democratic? Urge them to fight hard against taking healthcare away from millions.  
    • Do you have a personal story to share, that’s even better!  For example, are you a student who relies on birth control coverage to ensure that you will be able to continue your studies through an advanced degree that may last well into your 20s? Tell ‘em!
    • If your senators’ phone lines are jammed, you can also pre-record a message to be sent at night (and to auto-dial until it gets through) with the Stance app. (More info available here.)
  • Better still, visit your senators! We’re going into the Memorial Day Congressional recess, so many Congresspeople will be holding town halls. If you can take your message to them in person, so much the better!
  • Reach out to your governor, especially if your governor is a Democrat and one or both of your senators are Republicans (see list below). Governors often have some influence with their state’s senators. Also, many of the AHCA’s provisions rely on implementation at the state level, so governors’ opinions really matter!
    • Democrat governors with Republican senators:
      • Colorado, Montana, Pennsylvania, West Virginia – 1 Republican senator
      • Louisiana, North Carolina – 2 Republican senators
  • For more ideas and useful information, check out Indivisible’s guide to stopping Trumpcare

3) Defend our Democracy, part 3

If it seems to you like there is news on the Trump/Russia investigation almost every day lately… you’re right. It’s exhausting to keep up. But it’s important to be aware of at least the broad outlines of what’s going on. Since last week’s email:

  • Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein appointed a special counsel, Robert Mueller (pronounced MUH-lurr). Robert Mueller was the FBI director prior to James Comey; he has an “unblemished” reputation and is seen as a “nonpolitical, dogged investigator.” Furthermore, he’s close to Comey, dating back to 2004 when they stood up to the White House together in opposing a wiretapping program they considered illegal. So there’s reason to hope for a full and open investigation. (If you’re wondering, a “special prosecutor” and “special counsel” are pretty much the same thing, an attorney appointed by the Department of Justice to deal with a conflict of interest.)
    • However, we still need to keep an eye on the situation. If the special counsel can’t obtain sufficient evidence to seek an indictment, the results of the investigation won’t become public, even if there is still serious cause for concern. Also, Rosenstein can fire Mueller; although the special counsel should only be fired for certain good reasons, Trump could order Rosenstein to make up a reason to fire Mueller like he did with Comey.
    • You can read the special counsel statute for yourself here.
  • Anonymous sources revealed that the FBI’s investigation has already reached the level of at least one White House official. This doesn’t mean that this person will face criminal charges soon, or at all, but an investigation at such high levels within the administration can quickly lead to more leaks and more infighting, as officials are consumed by the paranoid siege mentality David Brooks has described as everyone “lawyers up.”
  • Comey has agreed to meet with the Senate intelligence committee after Memorial Day.
  • It’s been revealed that American intelligence officials have known since last summer that top Russian agents were discussing how to manipulate Trump through his advisors.  The former director of the CIA publicly stated that he was worried about possible collusion between Russia and members of the Trump campaign.

4) Support Net Neutrality

Three years ago, John Oliver declared war on an effort to dismantle net neutrality, urging his viewers to flood the FCC with comments criticizing the move. It worked. Now, there’s a new move to defang net neutrality by reclassifying ISPs in a way that would make net neutrality essentially voluntary by making it unenforceable. And this time, the FCC has made it more of a hassle to comment. But John Oliver is back, with a cheekily-named website to let you skip the unnecessary steps and get directly to the comment page.

What you can do:

  • Watch John Oliver’s new video to learn more about the current proposal
  • Go to www.gofccyourself.com and leave a comment!

—–

That’s all for this week – we’ll be back to our usual Wednesday schedule next week! As usual, keep encouraging people to take the pledge, and please share any thoughts or questions with us at solidarity@mit.edu!

Stay strong and keep fighting

Solidarity MIT

solidaritypledge.com

 

 

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