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Activists urge Clinton onward: health, housing, jobs have a ways to go.

Health, housing, jobs have a ways to go

Economic reform

RILEY: The Clinton budget should be called the Clinton congressional budget because so much damage was done to the original. Clinton has tried to face the structurall deficits/debt problem; has reinstated th progressive tax code -- a very, very important move -- and, facing mthe fact that we have so many working people still below the poverty line, has increased the Earned Income Tax Credit for the working poor. He increased food stamp allocations and in so doing began to address the hunger issue.

But (the North American Free Trade Agreement) is something I do not understand within the Clinton agenda. NAFTA contradicts almost everything Clinton says he has been trying to do.

To be anti-NAFTA is not to be anti the economic integration of North America, not antitrade. It is to be anti this practicular trade agreement.

NAFTA is essentially a corporate bill of rights, based on a trickle-down theory of development, on a growth model that raises huge sustainability questions and presumes the free market is going to answer all our questions.

Workers adversely affected will primarily be the women and minorities, workers already disadvantaged by low pay and no benefits. Whether in the United States or the Mexican maquiladora belt, the corporate policy of "leaner, meaner and more competitive" is premised on using women's vulnerability.

CASEBOLT: Economic thinking has relied on the Cold War to be the engine for economic development for 45 years. Free trade is the only other option. What I miss from those who are against NAFTA is another option.

RILEY: THe Alliance for Responsible Trade, a collaboration with Mexican and Canadian counterparts, will soon be disseminating, "If Not NAFTA, What?" to friendly ears.


KANE: The real depth of the housing crisis is invisible: people who are doubled up, or living in substandard housing, or drowning in their housing costs.

Meanwhile, (Housing and Urban Development) money, cut 80 percent since 1980, is facing a 15-20 percent 1995 cut. The S&L industry was created to house our country. Once the restrictions from S&Ls were removed (deregulation), so they could go into commercial development, the dollars stopped in a very real way.

The clinton administration is acknowledging the role of the nonprofit housing system. Among initiatives that are fresh, the women's religious communities are making it happen with early seed money, the risk dollars.

The Clinton administration has said it will try to enforce community reinvestment. The Community Reinvestment Act requires financial institutions to target some of their dollars into local development. There is legislation that acknowledges an alternate system after deregulation --local community development financial institutions, revolving loan funds, like the McAuley Institute or the South Shore Bank (Chicago), or community credit and development unions. Women suffer disproportionately on housing needs. Over 60 percent of women-maintained households are rentes.

DEAR: At the drop-in center where I work, the homeless see no change under the Clinton administration, whose priority should have been to ensure a home for each American. HUD's $20 million for Washington, D.C., homeless is a good first step, but it raises serious questions. It is not enough. It needs $100 million, and it needs to happen in every major city. It emphasizes the need for police rounding up the homeless, instead of outreach workers for those contacts. It does not learn from the small community-based organizations working with homeless for years.

Washington has 2,000 vacant public housing units -- typical of major cities throughout the nation. This is the big HUD program and they did not address it.

The Trident -- that submarine's costs could have provided $100 million to house the homeless in 22 cities.

D'ANTONIO: One problem. If we took the money from Trident right now we'd have 20,000 homeless in Groton, Conn. The problems are intertwined. Unless you have something for them, you simply change the location.

FRIEDMAN: I'm not necessarily in favor of knocking out the middle class' home mortgage load deduction -- but it is 61 percent of all the money the federal government spends on housing. If you look at this benefit to the wealthy, it is incredible. We need to educate people on some of these statistics. We suggest a shift in those funds. We need to sensitize constituents who will then inform Congress and make the administration's work a little more doable.

KANE: Look at the building blocks. If we don't have t place to go back home to at night, the health care issues are going to continue to roll back over us.

CASEBOLT: The administration knows health care is linked to housing, to employment. They know everything is linked. Those in the social justice movement are going to have to think of building broader coalitions of interest to accomplish goals -- and to claim the peace dividend. We need to be constructing coalitions of conscience.

KANE: We should challenge CHD (the U.S. bishops' Campaign for Human Development) to fund some national coalition building.

PINKERTON: It becomes clear to me when trying to build constituencies for social change in this country, that people of faith have to come to grips with forming communities of conscience -- create the consciousness of people about the common good.

Health care reform

PINKERTON: Universal access to a comprehensive health care package for every person, employed or unemployed, is a step forward. Network applauds the establishment of an independent national commission to provide oversight. We appreciate that all employers will be responsible. At the present time, 82 percent of the uninsured are families with a full-time worker.

Caveats: Long-term care is going to be phased in. That is a mistake. And a better mental health care package is needed. We do not like the link between an employer-based system and health care. We'd prefer a single-payer system. Polls show 71 percent of Americans favor a single-payer system.

We think there's a good view of rural areas and support for the disenfranchised. We have serious concerns about the work-ability of proposed managed competition. The possibility of control by five or six large insurance companies is very real.

There is no cost control concept except on competition, no set rate for providers or pharmaceuticals. network is saying we'll work with the administration, but we're also saying we're not certain they can even finance the system they envision. If is difficult to see savings in such a bureaucratic maze.

HOEY: The question that comes to us is: Is it going to be two-tiered with the poor at the bottom? It is time for universal access, but those who need it will get it last. We take the position that the Clinton administration deserves a lot of credit for the way it has brought the issue to public awareness and brings the plan to this stage -- broad consultation. This speaks well for a different kind of political process.

We have noticed a growing sense of the common good, and Clinton seems to be calling us to that. That is offset by his constant assurances that government is not going to take over health care, but that it will continue to be the work of the private sector.

FIEDLER: One think I'm glad to see is that all reproductive services are included.

HUG: Health care has become a debate among the wealthy. Using World Bank 1990 figures, the U.S. population that pays for health care is 4 percent of the world population. We bought 41 percent of the world's health care. It represents a $2,800 per capita outlay in the United States. Twelve dollars per capita would satisfy all public health and essential clinical services in low-income countries; $22 per capita in all middle-income countries.

In the U.S. plan, the poor and most vulnerable bear the greatest burden. The undocumented are not included. Care based on citizenship means you lose the sense of a right to receive care because you are a human person.

I agree it is very important that the Catholic community beware of tunnel vision on the abortion issue. What's at stake here is what services will be funded. That has nothing to do with whether to prevent abortions or anything else.

D'ANTONIO: The American people don't think we are such a wealthy country and perceptions became reality. I am struck by what we expect of a political leader who wants to accomplish anything in this society, which is so split, almost alienated. Therefore, I find it hard to accept most critical comments. What is possible in this kind of society?

PINKERTON: I think all of us who are lobbying on the Hill are walking a very fine line between trying to support the good in the Clinton plan and moving it closer to what we want.
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Author:Jones, Arthur; Vidulich, Dorothy
Publication:National Catholic Reporter
Article Type:Panel Discussion
Date:Oct 22, 1993
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