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Issue Position: Prosperity for Working Families

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Keith Ellison believes in prosperity for all working families. Keith believes that there is enough. There are enough resources for everyone to prosper, because when working families are prosperous, our communities are prosperous, and our economy can thrive. Every element of Keith's legislative agenda is aimed at leveling the playing field so that all working families have the opportunity to achieve the American dream. Keith truly believes the words of the late Senator Paul Wellstone, "We all do better, when we all do better."

Access to Health Care

Keith supports a universal, national, single-payer health care system. Single-payer health care will rein in the overblown costs of our broken health care system. As it is, our system of private insurers forces us to rely on expensive middlemen between us and the doctors and nurses who provide the care we need. Allowing our government to bargain on our behalf, using all Americans' collective buying power, will drive costs down and improve the health of our people and our economy.

That is why Keith cosponsored of H. R. 676, a bill to establish universal single-payer health care in the United States. You can read more about the bill here.

Keith fought hard to reauthorize the State Children's Health Insurance Program, which would cover the 30,000 Minnesota children who have no insurance.

Keith opposed expanding the so-called "Medicare Advantage" program, which is simply a Bush Administration tool to push Medicare privatization - a giveaway to insurance companies that costs more to run.

Keith supports an immediate fix of the "doughnut hole" in Medicare Part D. The "doughnut hole" exposes many of our seniors to over $3,000 in uncovered costs as soon as their medical bills exceed $2,400.

Keith works hard with health care providers throughout Minnesota to explode the myth that the for-profit insurance system provides better care at lower pr ices. In fact, the opposite is true. Medicare, our nation's most successful health care program, maintains administrative costs around 3%. Private health insurers have yet to match that number. Why? The answer is simple: Medicare's bottom line is the health of the people who Medicare covers. The bottom line for private insurers is increasing profits. In order to attract the managers who best care for those profits, private insurers spend top dollar on salaries, increasing the cost of health care. While profit is a fine thing in many areas of the economy, Keith believes the bottom line of our health care system ought to be the health of our people and our country.

Minimum Wage

Last year, the average CEO made more before lunchtime than a minimum wage earner made all year. To address that fundamental injustice, one of the first pieces of legislation that the new Democratic Congress took up during its historic first 100 hours was H.R. 2, The Fair Minimum Wage Act. This bill, which the President signed into law, raises the minimum wage for the first time in nearly a decade. H.R. 2 starts turning a minimum wage into a living wage - benefiting nearly 3-15 million Americans nationwide and approximately 135,000 Minnesotans.

Labor Rights

One of our most fundamental rights as citizens is the right to organize in our workplace. Being able to organize for better wages, better benefits, and better working conditions is the best way ahead for working families. Human rights are labor rights and labor rights are human rights. That is why Keith proudly co-sponsored, worked for, spoke out repeatedly on, and voted for The Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). It passed the House on March 1, 2007 and is waiting on action by the Senate.

But EFCA is not the end of the story. We still have to protect ourselves from trade deals that drain away our jobs to places where workers have no rights. That's why Keith opposes the Peru and Colombia Free Trade Agreements. Keith also helps lead the charge to make sure labor and environmental standards are enforced on trade deals. Keith worked hard to insert language in the Peru FTA to allow third parties (like labor and environmental groups) the right to sue to enforce those standards.

Keith also voted to provide workers who have lost their jobs to globalization with training and education to help them find new jobs.

Quality Education

Keith believes a quality education starts early and that it is a life-long commitment. Education doesn't just give our children the skills they need to earn a living - it helps teach them to respect and serve their community and country.

That's why Keith voted to strengthen and expand the Head Start program. Keith successfully inserted language in the final bill that allows Head Start facilities to be used as locations for non-partisan voter registration campaigns.

Keith supports high standards for our students, teachers, and schools. Keith does not believe that we achieve those standards by threatening our students, teachers, and schools with funding cuts.

Keith voted for a House resolution urging the full funding of the mandates required by the No Child Left Behind Act (NCLB). The bill would also give schools the right to defer meeting some NCLB requirements until the funding requirements are met.

A college education can be a powerful force for progress and fulfillment for a person and for a family. And yet, the cost of paying for college - books, fees, supplies, and room and board have become an increasing burden on working families. Keith wrote and introduced a bill this year to expand the Hope Tax Credit to cover all those costs.

Keith also voted for the largest increase in student aid since the GI Bill - the College Cost Reduction Act. The bill puts aid money directly into the hands of students and college graduates, rather than funneling it through private firms that take a cut before passing it on to our kids.

Just like with a home mortgage, the terms and interest rates that come along with college loans can make or break a working family. Keith supports bills to reduce interest rates on student borrowers, force lenders to clearly explain all the terms of the loan, and to provide debt forgiveness for students who use their education in public service.

Keith speaking at the July 14, 2007 Credit Justice Issues Town Hall Forum in Robbinsdale, MN

Consumer Justice

Keith realizes that access to credit can be a huge factor in working families' effort to secure a better future. That's why Keith introduced The Fairness for Home Ownership Act of 2007. Drawing from Minnesota's model, which is the strongest in the country, the bill puts an end to predatory lending practices and allows borrowers a clear look at what they're borrowing and on what terms.

Credit card debt can be just as punishing to a working family as a job loss. A practice known as "Universal Default" allows creditors to raise a family's interest rates on all their credit cards, even if they only missed a payment on one card. These default rates can climb as high as 32% and extend to every one of a family's outstanding loans - even their mortgage payment. That's why Keith introduced the Universal Default Reform Act to put an end to this predatory behavior.


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