At the start of the last Congress, one of the first votes House Republicans took was on a bill designed to unravel protections for workers exposed to chemicals like beryllium. Beryllium is one of the chemicals that poisoned my father’s lungs and caused his cancer. Watching House Republicans vote against the health and safety needs of people like my father in order to placate special interests left me sick. That first vote is indicative of the Republican party. Last Congress, House Republicans raised taxes on and stripped health care from working Americans all to satisfy their special interest donors.
While election season seems to highlight our nation’s political divide, most New Mexicans agree on what we’d like for our state: a strong economy with opportunity for everyone; good jobs; safe communities; and resilient families with healthy, well-educated children. We all want the best possible future for our children and the generations to come. The issue, then, is how we go about building such a state. That will be the fundamental question the new governor will need to answer. She or he will have to sell his or her vision to legislators, agency staff, and a whole host of other players in order to make it a reality.
In October, while reviewing the new Public Education Department’s End of Course (EOC) Assessment Blueprint for U.S. History with my high school teacher colleagues, I was alarmed by the content being stricken from this year’s EOC. Students in high school U.S. History classes across New Mexico this year will not be tested on massive corporations and monopolies being forced to dismantle during the early twentieth century, the racial and ethnic conflict as people moved from farms to cities or the bravery of Rosa Parks in fighting segregation in the South. Andrés Romero is the Democratic State Representative in House District 10 and a social studies teacher at Atrisco Heritage Academy High School in Albuquerque
The New Mexico social studies EOC assessment is a state mandated test established by the Public Education Department to assess student competency in the subject. For the graduating class of 2018 and 2019, students are mandated to pass one social studies EOC. Furthermore, Governor Susana Martinez has decided to make a large portion of a teacher’s grade based on how well students do on tests, so how well students can answer questions that PED mandates has a huge impact on both any teacher’s future and therefore what students are taught. In the game of high stakes testing setup by the Governor, the EOCs are important both for student achievement and teacher evaluations.
On Wednesday September 20 at the United Nations, the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons will open for signature. For signatories, this treaty prohibits nuclear weapons altogether. Its explicit goal is a universal norm against all forms of participation in the nuclear weapons industry. Designing, testing, producing, possessing, threatening with, deploying, and using nuclear weapons are to be banned. Crucially, assistance or encouragement in these illegal acts will also be banned, as will stationing of nuclear weapons, both of which impact U.S. nuclear alliances including NATO.
Across the country, Americans are working longer hours for less money and fewer benefits. New Mexicans are working harder, but are finding it more and more difficult to make ends meet. All the while, a handful of CEOs and the very rich have seen their salaries and wealth skyrocket. Regressive tax codes across America help the wealthy increase their treasure while avoiding paying their fair share in taxes. This is not by accident.
On August 14, 1935, President Franklin Delano Roosevelt signed the Social Security Act into law. Today, some 82 years later, the program is strong—and its protections more important than ever. By any measure, Social Security has been a resounding success. Prior to its enactment, 50% of Americans above the age of 65 lived in poverty. That number has dropped to 9.5%, thanks to Social Security. The program provides critical support to retirees, widows, and widowers, as well as to younger families when a breadwinner has experienced a serious, work-ending disability or premature death. The program’s impact in New Mexico is difficult to overstate. Statewide, hundreds of thousands of people receive Social Security benefits, including 267,000 retirees, 65,000 individuals with disabilities, and 30,000 children. Without these benefits, 155,000 people—about 7.4% of our population—would fall below the poverty line. Social Security has proven to be remarkably reliable: in 82 years; it has never missed a payment. It is also remarkably efficient: With administrative expenses constituting less than 1% of total expenditures, Social Security puts even the most efficient private insurance to shame. Despite the program’s tremendous success, it is perennially under attack from the right. Proponents of Social Security “reform” argue that it is necessary to cut benefits and raise the retirement age to avoid bankrupting the program. Not so. Social Security is expected to be able to pay all benefits and all associated administrative costs, in full and on time, without any changes whatsoever, through 2034. Even after that the program will be able to meet 77% of its obligations through existing revenue streams.
The projected shortfall is modest—approximately 1% of GDP. And eliminating that projected shortfall is simple: fund Social Security the same way we fund Medicare. Both programs are funded by payroll taxes. But while the Medicare tax applies to all earned income, the Social Security tax applies only to the first $127,200 a worker earns in a year. And while the Medicare tax applies to investment income for individuals earning over $200,000 a year, the Social Security tax does not apply to investment income at all. Funding Social Security the way we fund Medicare would eliminate the impending shortfall and allow Social Security to remain strong for generations to come, without any increase in taxes on the middle class.