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Ted Cruz's Worst Nightmare Is Coming True. Obamacare is working.

Last August, as conservatives barnstormed the country seeking to build support for a cockamamie plan to

shut down the U.S. federal government unless Congress voted to repeal the Affordable Care Act, Ted Cruz, the Texas Republican senator, said something surprisingly prescient about the president’s signature health-care law.

“President Obama wants to get as many Americans addicted to the subsidies because he knows that in modern times, no major entitlement has ever been implemented and then unwound,” he said. The worry, according to Cruz, was that once the ACA went into effect, we’d all be “addicted to the sugar.” Then, it would be too late to roll it back.

Cruz’s nightmare, and the left’s long-held dream, has come true. Finally, after years of failed reform efforts, the U.S. government is actually trying to provide affordable health coverage for all. And it’s working, despite Republicans’ relentless attempts to deep-six the law. As a result, the politics of Obamacare will never be the same.

The right’s biggest fear was never really, as Cruz’s comments revealed, that Obamacare wouldn’t succeed. It was that it would.

Americans, it turns out, have a compelling desire for a basic necessity of life: affordable health coverage. That’s why, despite the debacle, and campaigns in red states to discourage enrollment and defund outreach efforts, eight million Americans signed up. Young people ignored tasteless ads and anti-Obamacare campus beer parties, funded by the Koch brothers, to enroll at strong enough rates. Millions more enrolled in Medicaid, even in states that did not expand the program, as awareness of coverage options increased. There is even a big upswing in take-up of employer coverage, despite GOP claims that Obamacare would destroy the employer-based system. The Congressional Budget Office just lowered its estimate of the law’s costs, and overall health-care inflation is at historic lows. It’s been a tough few weeks for the Obamacare-bashers.

In fact, the law’s success reverses the political calculus: Those who advocate repeal can be rightly accused of taking away health coverage from some 15 million Americans. Although some of these are low-income people, less likely to vote, many others are middle-income people who are surprised and relieved at having access to good, affordable health coverage – including, by the way, a lot of Republicans.

My favorite ACA success story is of an Ohio Republican woman profiled in Time. Republicans could say she was forced to cancel her coverage and is now paying more. But the real story is that her canceled coverage did not pay for the life-saving cancer care her husband needed. Overcoming “a lot of talk that this is a bad law,” she enrolled through and is paying a little more now for health coverage that is actually covering her husband’s cancer care. She went from “I don’t want anything to do with it [Obamacare]” to saying it is “a godsend.”

Recent polling shows that support for repeal is shrinking to the most conservative voters, key to Republican primaries but not enough to win most statewide general elections. When given a choice of whether to repeal the ACA or keep it intact or with small modifications, a recent Bloomberg poll found, only a third of Americans (34 percent) chose repeal. That’s about the same proportion who have favorable views of the Tea Party.

Which may be why the new anti-ACA ads being run by a Koch brothers-funded group against Democratic Senate candidates in several states do not call for repeal. The ads take a populist, anti-insurance company approach usually used by Democrats. One ad in Iowa targets the Democratic Senate candidate, Rep. Bruce Braley, for taking “tens of thousands from his friends in the health insurance industry.” Rather than calling for outright repeal of the law, the ad says simply, “stop supporting Obamacare.”

But the intensity is still, admittedly, on the side of opponents, who care more about the issue and are more likely to vote – especially in a low-turnout contest like the 2014 midterms. For Democrats to take advantage of the ACA’s success on the ground, they must both make it a motivating issue for their base and reach out to independents, who remain skeptical about the law.

In 2010, Democrats made the unforgivable mistake of not answering GOP attacks on Obamacare, mostly aimed at seniors. In truth, Democrats designed the ACA to quickly deliver Medicare benefits to seniors, in the form of lower prescription-drug costs and free preventive care. But instead of campaigning on that, Democrats allowed Republicans to scare seniors about cuts in Medicare. (Never mind that Republicans were simultaneously complaining about the law’s supposedly exorbitant costs or that House budget keeps these cuts.)

This year, most Democrats understand that they cannot ignore the issue. We can see a new political strategy emerging in a campaign ad that targets the most important group of voters for Democrats to turn out: women. A super PAC supporting Sen. Mark Begich, the Alaska Democrat, is running an ad featuring a well-known woman who is a breast cancer survivor. She talks about how she had been denied care due to a pre-existing condition. As she jogs through the snow, she says, “I now have health insurance again because of Mark Begich. Because he fought the insurance companies, so that we no longer have to.” The ad’s portrayal of a strong woman holds a very powerful appeal to a constituency that Democrats need to turn out in November.

Democratic pollster Stan Greenberg recently told Rolling Stonethat rather than just focusing on economic issues, Democratic candidates should embrace Obamacare. “Not apologizing for Obamacare and embracing it actually wins the argument nationally,” he said. “And it produces much more engagement of Democratic voters. That’s a critical thing in off-year elections.” (President Obama evidently agrees.)

Another Democratic pollster, Celinda Lake, recommends that candidates make the failure of some Republican governors and state legislatures to expand Medicaid a central issue. Lake told me that Medicaid is popular with two out of three voters, who are sympathetic to a state-run program and angry that, for partisan reasons, Republicans are allowing their tax dollars go to other states.

As the Bloomberg poll shows, most voters actually have a sensible policy position on the ACA: Keep the law with some changes. “Keep what’s right and fix what’s wrong,” is the message Alex Sink used in her ads in Florida’s special election this past March. Her response to her opponent David Jolly’s call for repeal of Obamacare was that he wanted to “go back to letting insurance companies deny coverage” and “force seniors to pay for prescription drugs.” Although Sink lost the election, polling showed that independent voters in the district supported the “keep and fix” position over the “repeal” position by a margin of 57 percent to 31 percent. Sink actually gained ground over Jolly during the election on the question of which candidate had a better position on the ACA.

None of this is to say that the ACA will not continue to be a potent weapon for Republicans to use in turning out their base or keeping many older voters, who turn out reliably in midterm elections, on their side. The GOP remains convinced that Obamacare is a symbol of the president’s failure and a winning issue all the way down the ballot. But the law is here to stay, and the longer it stays, and the more people who directly benefit from it, the more popular it will become. Even if Republicans gain control of the Senate in 2014, repeal will be blocked by a Democratic filibuster, backed by a presidential veto.

Worse yet for the GOP, 2016, a year favoring Democratic turnout, looms. By then, the number of Americans who are directly benefiting from the law will have increased significantly – to 25 million newly insured, according to the CBO. Republican candidates, who will likely be forced to continue to push for repeal to win their party’s primary, will be handing an issue to their Democratic opponents. And by 2017, Congress might finally start doing what it is supposed to do, and what most Americans want it do to: Debate how to fix the Affordable Care Act, not how to destroy it.

So, Ted Cruz, you did get one thing right: Obamacare isn’t going anywhere.

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Rosario Dawson, the Voto Latino Trailblazer on Empowering Latino Millennials: 'They Are Going to Claim 'Sí Se Puede' for Themselves'

Voto Latino Power Summit 2014

"¡Sí se puede!" said actress and Voto Latino Co-Founder and Chairwoman Rosario Dawson as she addressed a sea of driven and high-spirited Latinos (and some non-Latinos) during the Voto Latino Power Summit kickoff on April 11 at John Jay College of Criminal Justice in New York City.

The crowd eagerly looked on, craving inspiration during a time when change for Latinos is within reach, but still too far to fully grasp without the help of the powers that be who need to sign the dotted line to implement real, concrete change.

Dawson was fresh off of a flight from Ghana, where she is launching a clothing line to help local designers in Accra, through her creative projects with Abrima Erwiah's Studio One Eighty Nine and her clothing line, Fashion Rising "that directly employs Africans and trains them through pop-up fashion schools." Despite having traveled thousands of miles, she was glowing; she was full of life, and her energy was contagious.

While addressing the crowd, an older, Caucasian male, who was also a Voto Latino volunteer, caught my attention. Moved by Dawson's words, he yelled "right on!" proving that while the driving force behind the Voto Latino movement may derive heavily from Latino Millennial, it's also inter-generational, colorblind and extremely powerful.

When Dawson wasn't wowing audiences on the big screen in Rent, Quentin Tarantino's Grindhouse, Robert Rodriguez's adaptation of Frank Miller's Sin City, or Diego Luna's Cesar Chavez (where she played United Farm Workers' co-founder Dolores Huerta), she was on a mission to empower young Latinos as the future leaders of America.

Voto Latino, a nonpartisan organization, empowers Latinos to vote, voice their opinions, and fight for their rights to education, healthcare and immigration reform, etc., is celebrating its 10-year anniversary with the Voto Latino Power Summit 2014 that will expand to a four-city national tour. Latino Millennial will participate in leadership, advocacy, and media and technology workshops with community activists, grassroots organizers, elected officials, celebrities, and business leaders. They can also participate in the VL Innovators Challenge, the organization's tech competition where Latino Millennial can design and use technology for change.

Still in awe of how far Voto Latino has progressed with the help of fellow trailblazer and Voto Latino President and CEO, María Teresa Kumar, Dawson realizes that at the same time there is so much more to do to implement change.

She recalled a conversation that she had with longtime friend and fellow actor Wilmer Valderrama  (who is also the Artist Coalition Co-Chair for Voto Latino) during the inception of Voto Latino. The two discussed the best ways to get Latino Millennial engaged, which was to speak to them in English and reach them online, where they had and continue to have a strong presence.

"We needed to encourage them to be the voice of their generation, and now we are seeing statistics and the numbers really showing and proving that," she said. "Millennials are 77 million strong and that is very important because baby boomers are 78 million -- and you know what an affect that has had on our community and country and our world."

What are some of the obstacles that Latino Millennial face and what moves them towards change?

"This is a community that is the most diverse that we have ever seen where almost 20 percent of them are Latino. They over-index online; they are very excited; they are very interested, and they understand that they are inheriting trillion dollars of debt, that they are drowning in underwater student loans. They are living at home with their parents. They are pushing off getting married; they are pushing off having children. They are trying to figure out what their next steps are," Dawson added.

"They are very interesting because they are not interested in doing like their parents did. They really want to change the name of the game. Two-thirds of them support same-sex marriage, they support medical marijuana," which she says she can't believe that it's passing in parts of the country.

"That shows that there are some really big, bold changes ahead of us and that there's an Electorate behind it to make those changes. People who are ready write their names down in history, who understand that the people before them have given them an opportunity that they can take so far, and it's not just in a Latina, first black president, that is the least of their gains, I can assure you. They are going to claim 'Sí se Puede' for themselves - and that's very exciting."

Dawson is is also "very interested" to see how this demographic is really going to spread its wings.

When getting people involved in the movement and knocking on doors, Dawson points out how crucial it is not to put people in a box and make them choose a side. To her, what's amazing about Latino Millennial, is that they are not "party-loyal," Dawson points out, "which is one of the reasons that Voto Latino is non-partisan."

"This is a demographic that isn't interested in being put into a box, if anything they are more interested in being put in a circle. They are rounding it out, they are rounding the conversation out -- and it's a beautiful thing to be a part of," she said.

The beautiful actress admits that she is on the "cusp" of being a Millennial (the demographic includes people born in 1980 and earlier, or 18-34 years old) and jokes that she's proud to be a '79 baby.

Regardless of whatever generation you come from, it's the issues at hand that really matter, and Dawson sees the big picture.

"It's been remarkable thing being on this journey, seeing how it's grown, knowing that if you build it they will come, and here you are," she said. "Thank you so much for that because we have a lot further to go. We really need inter-generational conversation to be a part of that. We need to guide our young people and we need to listen to them."

Dawson referred to the week-long, intensive, annual art festival, Burning Man, which she loyally attends, saying that to be involved, you have to be fully dedicated..."It's radical inclusivity, you have got to be in it to win it."



This California GOP Hopeful Wants Free College For Science And Math Students

BERKELEY, California (Reuters) - California Republican gubernatorial hopeful Neel Kashkari called for free college tuition for students pursuing math and science degrees, part of an education reform plan released Tuesday that would also model public schools after charter schools.

Kashkari's proposal would waive tuition for students pursuing a four-year degree in any science, technology, electronics, or math subject in exchange for a percentage of their future earnings after graduation.

It came as Kashkari, trailing a distant third in recent polls behind incumbent Jerry Brown and Republican Tea Party favorite Tim Donnelly, is struggling to add momentum to his campaign before the June primary.

"The point here is to reduce the barriers of student debt," Jessica Ng, a spokeswoman for Kashkari, said on Tuesday.

Ng said there was a shortage of students trained in science, technology, engineering and mathematics "and this is one way we can incentivize students."

Kashkari is a former Treasury Department official who served during the mortgage meltdown spanning the administrations of George W. Bush and Barack Obama.

He hopes to unseat Brown, who is seeking an unprecedented fourth term at the helm of the most populous U.S. state.

To face Brown in November, Kashkari needs to come in ahead of Donnelly in the state's open primary, which allows the top two vote-getters to advance to the general election.

Kashkari, who is seeking support from business interests in the state and is more moderate than Donnelly on many social issues, has made jobs and education his campaign cornerstone.

He was widely believed to be a strong contender for moderate voters when he entered the race in January. But conservative party activists have rallied around Donnelly, pushing him way ahead of Kashkari in a Field poll released earlier this month.

Kashkari's tuition program draws inspiration from a similar exemption program in Oregon, Ng said.

Ng said his proposal for public schools also draws on the education policies of former GOP Florida Governor Jeb Bush, whose administration spearheaded a plan to tie schools' standardized test scores to state funding.

Under the current system, education funds are given to California's school districts and then handed over to individual schools.

Kashkari's program would instead provide funds directly to schools, Ng said, giving teachers, principals, and parents more control over how money is spent. The proposal would also allow public schools to function more like charter schools.

He has not discussed his plan with University of California or California State University leaders, Ng said.

UC spokeswoman Dianne Klein said there were "all sorts of problems" with the idea of trading tuition for future earnings, including the assumption that students who graduate with degrees in math or science always land high-paying jobs.

Bruce Fuller, a professor of education and public policy at UC and a former adviser to the California legislature, described the proposal as "essentially a way to subsidize the training costs for the electronics industry."

"We're going to have a shortage of family physicians, we desperately need bilingual teachers in classrooms, but rather than focus on those needs he would prefer to subsidize the electronics industry," he said.

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Sonia Sotomayor Delivers Blistering Dissent Against Affirmative Action Ban

The Supreme Court upheld Michigan's ban on affirmative action Tuesday, but not without a blistering dissent from Justice Sonia Sotomayor.

Sotomayor said the decision infringed upon groups' rights by allowing Michigan voters to change "the basic rules of the political process ... in a manner that uniquely disadvantaged racial minorities."

"In my colleagues' view, examining the racial impact of legislation only perpetuates racial discrimination," Sotomayor added. "This refusal to accept the stark reality that race matters is regrettable. As members of the judiciary tasked with intervening to carry out the guarantee of equal protection, we ought not sit back and wish away, rather than confront, the racial inequality that exists in our society."

The court's 6-2 decision upheld a voter-approved change to the Michigan state Constitution that prevents public colleges from using race as a factor in its admissions. As the AP noted, the ruling provides a boost for other education-related affirmative action bans in California and Washington state.

ABC News pointed out that Sotomayor has been open about the role affirmative action has played in her personal life. In her memoir "My Beloved World," Sotomayor wrote that it "opened doors" for her.

"But one thing has not changed: to doubt the worth of minority students’ achievement when they succeed is really only to present another face of the prejudice that would deny them a chance even to try," she wrote.

Pushing the little-known Latino Generation into the public sphere

I participated in the Los Angeles Times Festival of Books held April 12-13 at the University of Southern California. I was on a panel titled "Exercising Your Voice" with co-panelists Tom Hayden and Astra Taylor. Each of us has recent books or books about to be released. I spoke about my new book, The Latino Generation: Voices of the New America, published by the University of North Carolina Press. I introduced my book by saying that it had to be contextualized by certain facts.

First, Latinos became the largest ethnic group in California in April, exceeding those of white European descent. Latinos now compose 40 percent of the state, the most populous one in the nation. Second, Latinos today represent the largest ethnic/race minority in the country, with approximately 57 million Latinos, or 17 percent of the total population. And third, by 2050, Latinos will constitute one out of every three Americans. The Latino Generation is part of this demographic reality.

But despite these numbers, Latinos are still a very little-known group. Most Americans have no clue about the Latino experience. As a result, there are many misconceptions and stereotypes about Latinos. Some believe Latinos are a recent group and the last of the immigrants. Others believe Latinos are very different from earlier immigrants, especially those from Europe. Some think it is much more difficult, if not impossible, to integrate Latinos because they don't really want to become Americans; instead, they want to just live among themselves, speak their own language and practice their own culture. And some of the more racist in the country still believe the older stereotype about Mexicans being lazy, given to drinking, and dirty ("dirty Mexican"). But these are all wrong.

Latinos have been very much a part of this country. Why is the book festival held in Los Angeles? Did the name of this city come with the Mayflower? The fact is that everything from Texas to California at one time was part of the Spanish colonial empire. Spanish settlements in what later became part of the United States began in New Mexico in 1598. After Mexican independence, this northern area -- El Norte -- became a part of the new Mexican nation.

However, the United States with its ideology of Manifest Destiny coveted this territory, provoked a war of choice with Mexico, and conquered the area in the U.S.-Mexico War (1846-48). This transferred the present states of Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Nevada, Utah and California to the United States. The Mexicans living in those states were extended American citizenship and became the first Mexican-Americans.

At the turn of the century, mass Mexican immigration to the U.S. began. Between 1900 and 1930, more than a million Mexican immigrants entered the United States to work on the railroads and in agriculture, mining and urban industries in the Southwest and Midwest. The migration has continued, with the exception of the Great Depression years in the 1930s, until now. As immigrants, Mexicans and their Mexican-American children and grandchildren have worked, worked, and worked. They could not afford to be lazy. Economically, Mexican-Americans and other Latino groups have contributed immensely to this country through their hard but mostly cheap labor. Latinos have also contributed their rich cultures to the American cultural mosaic.

Latinos have further struggled to be integrated into American society. They have acculturated by becoming bilingual and bicultural, and some are solely English-speaking and largely influenced by American mass culture. Combatting racism and other forms of discrimination, Latinos have a long history of civil rights struggles with the aim of integrations. Despite being considered foreign, strangers and aliens, Latinos shed their blood as American soldiers in the Civil War, the Spanish-American War, World War I, World War II, the Korean War, the Vietnam War and the Gulf War, and more recently in Iraq and Afghanistan. In World War II, perhaps as many as half a million Latinos fought in the military -- not for the Mexican army, but for the U.S. Army.

Yet most other Americans know little about this history. It's not integrated into American history, certainly not at the K-12 level. I have students of every ethnic background, including Latinos, who know nothing or little of this Latino experience. Then you have the lingering misconceptions and stereotypes I referred to earlier.

So how does my book on the Latino Generation fit into all of this? I wrote this book in part to put a human face to this experience and to present the new voices of America to a country that knows so little about its neighbors.

This lack of knowledge has in part been responsible for the intense new nativism over the last several decades aimed mostly at Latino immigrants. Some clamor that we have lost control of the border as hordes of illegal aliens invade our country. They link Latino immigrants with crime, drugs, rape and other horrible accusations. They believe Mexicans in the U.S. want to work to regain the Southwest back for Mexico. "I want my country back!" the tea party types cry out, meaning that in part they decry the growing number of Latinos in the U.S.

In all this, Latinos are spoken about in the abstract, as if they are not even human. But they are. My book on the contemporary Latino Generation counters these misguided and even racist views by showing how young Latinos today are very much human, very much American, very much desirous of integration, yet very proud of their ethnic heritage and very much the voice of the new America.

This book is composed of 13 oral histories of some of my former students at the University of California, Santa Barbara during the first decade of this century. They are part of the millennial generation of Latinos. Demographically, they are the children of the new immigrants from Mexico and other parts of Latin America and the Central American political refugees, all who began entering the country in the 1970s and 1980s.

All of my former students were mostly born in the 1980s, but they are brought together as a generational cohort by other factors, as well. Their immigrant parents are the result of the new globalized economy that uprooted people in developing nations for cheap labor in the new American deindustrialized economy, which requires large amounts of unskilled service workers to serve the better-educated and high-tech workers and professionals at the other end of the economic spectrum.

The new Latino Generation is affected by the fact that members of this generation have come of age at a time when Latinos have become the largest minority group in the country. Being cognizant of this has empowered them. The Latino Generation is also the product of new technologies that have led to greater communication between the different Latino groups, which has helped produce a new consciousness as Latinos. This generation more than previous Latino ones has been affected by an almost permanent neonativism as they have grown up, and this has affected their sense of empowering themselves to combat this anti-immigrant and anti-Latino sentiment.

And despite the nativist opposition, members of the Latino Generation have experienced more educational mobility, including going to college and graduate and professional schools, than any other previous Latino generation. The Latino Generation is also affected by the significant and unprecedented rise of Latino political power, and as they mature, members of the new generation are contributing to this and beginning to lead it. These factors, along with others I explain in the introduction to my book, characterize the Latino Generation and mark it a distinct generation.

My book is a case study of the Latino Generation, which is also a national generation with many of the same experiences and characteristics as my former students. These 13 stories are wonderful expressions of this generation. Each represents a distinct individual experience, even though shared historical experiences connect them. For example, all of them are children of immigrants. A few arrived as immigrant babies or young children. They attest to the hard work of their parents. They also recognize their parents' support of education for their children. The stories address the acculturation or transculturation as these second-generation Latinos become bilingual and bicultural. And they reveal young Latinos who want to better themselves as Americans and want to have as much access to educational mobility as possible. They achieve this through their hard work despite many difficulties in their public schools. They are, in the end, achievers, and not only have they graduated from college, but they have gone on to successful professional careers. In their stories, they come across as hardworking young Latino Americans who are pursuing their dreams and aspirations and who want to make this country a better and more democratic one. They are the Latino Generation and the voices of the new America.



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