Stephen Harrison 2008
Running to represent New York's 13th congressional district in Congress.
This was the official Friends of Stephen Harrison 2008 website. Stephen Harrison, a Democrat was running to represent New York's 13th congressional district in Congress.
Attorney Stephen Harrison lost the Democratic primary to New York City Councilman Mike McMahon - 25% -75% of the vote. Mike McMahon went on to win the seat after GOP Rep. Vito Fossella announced in May that he would not run for re-election and the GOP's last hope for retaining the seat, Frank Powers, died.
Content has been selected from is from Steve Harrison site's 2008 archived content, as well as other outside sources.
Meet Steve Harrison
Steve grew up in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, amidst the rubble of the homes destroyed by Robert Moses to make way for the Verrazano Narrows Bridge. "That experience," says Steve, "shaped my life-long commitment to community preservation and forged an emotional connection to Staten Island where so many of my displaced friends moved."
Now, as a son, a husband, a father, a brother, a lawyer and a small business owner, he understands the challenges faced by people on both sides of the bridge. Steve and his wife of 34 years - and both of their children - live in Bay Ridge. His mother and sister live on the Island.
For decades, Steve has been active in local governmental, educational, political and civic organizations. As Chair of Community Board 10, he spearheaded many initiatives including the largest rezoning in Brooklyn's history.
Steve is an avid runner. Two days before Election Day 2006, he ran his 5th marathon, touching both Staten Island and Brooklyn.
"Before I knew I was running for Congress I promised my daughter I would run the New York City Marathon with her," said Steve. He continued, "I keep my promises."
Why Steve will win...
Steve entered the '06 Congressional race because, like so many people, he was frustrated by NY 13th Congressional District incumbent Vito Fossella's blind support for George Bush, and his lack of respect for our Constitution. The district includes Staten Island and southwest Brooklyn. It is the only NYC Congressional seat held by a Republican.
Volunteers from all over the City rallied behind Steve's message of hope. Defying the pundits, Steve amassed 43.2% of the vote - a Democratic record - despite being outspent 13 to 1. In the process, he bankrupted Fossella's $1.5M war chest.
With the 2% boost that traditionally is associated with the Democrat's new "Line-A" ballot position, Steve heads into the '08 election needing to close a gap of less than five points TO WIN.
The divided nature of the district means that any challenger must run this race at least twice to build the cross-bridge name recognition and credibility to win.
Building on the name recognition and credibility he gained in 2006, with your support, Steve is well positioned to win in 2008.
National Security | Military Forces | Terrorism | Iraq | Afghanistan | Sudan and Darfur |
The Economy | Energy and the Environment | Gun Control | Healthcare | Labor, Trade and Immigration | Social Security | Tort Reform | Unemployment |
Overdevelopment | Traffic and Transportation | Education | Health and the Environment | The Garbage Dump Near Nellie Bly |
Civil Rights | Marriage Equality | Reproductive Freedom | Stem Cell Research | Rights of the Disabled |
Steve Harrison's approach to national security is guided by three principles:
- America must have the strongest military capability and be prepared to secure America both from rogue sovereign states and stateless terrorists in accordance with the following principles:
- Americans can not enter a conflict or continue it without a clearly defined just and legal rationale, limited by specific objectives.
- We must have the troop strength and equipment necessary to meet the stated objective and secure the peace.
- We must maintain our high standing in the international community by respecting the opinions and concerns of our allies and the UN, international treaties and encouraging diplomacy and collaboration without ceding the right to protect America.
- We must maintain the moral and legal high ground during the conflict. We must never torture or otherwise violate the principles of our own constitution.
- We must have secure borders and effective homeland security.
- All border, port and airport security must be in American hands.
- We must create and maintain a coherent national civil defense system.
- We must have an energy policy that eliminates American dependence on both foreign and domestic oil within a decade.
Our military forces must be of sufficient size and adequately equipped to accomplish our objectives.
Steve Harrison opposes the Bush tax cuts, as clear and present threats to our national security and our international standing.
The Bush administration's irresponsible fiscal policy, supported by Congressman Fossella, has left us with huge debt and no funds to increase America's defense forces to the size needed for multiple theater combat.
Despite 9/11 and two interventions that stretch our military resources too thin, we are unable to expand the size of our forces, impeding us from intervening against the Darfur genocide and elsewhere.
Rogue states such as North Korea and Iran are developing weapons of mass destruction in part because they perceive our over extended military incapable of adequate response. This makes America and the world less safe.
Says Harrison, "Despite their claim to be strong on national defense, Vito Fossella and the Republicans continue to pursue policies that dramatically and demonstrably weaken us in the eyes of the world. They talk a good game but they do not produce when it counts."
President Clinton left office with a 3 trillion dollar surplus squandered by Bush and the Republican congress. Their unconscionable fiscal policy of tax cuts for the rich, transformed the surplus into a 6 trillion dollar deficit, $30,000 in debt for every American man, women and child, sticking the poor, working families and our children with the bill.
If this policy continues, says Steve Harrison, "Our children will unfairly be paying for our excesses long after we are gone."
Steve Harrison wants to repeal the Bush era tax cuts for the rich and require corporations to assume their fair share of the tax burden. Congressman Fossella supported the Republican cuts and strongly supports his party's borrow and spend philosophy that has put the Iraq war tab on the national credit card.
"The truth," says Steve, "is that Congressman Fossella has repeatedly voted to conduct the war in Iraq with the money and lives of the sons and daughters of working class and poor families, without asking an equivalent sacrifice from the rich. We have a right to expect the rich and the corporations to stand up for this nation as patriots at this time and to participate in the defense of this nation in the war on terror. But the Bush administration has never asked for that sacrifice."
Current economic policy is bankrupting the country. It leaves no money to properly fund a military that must swiftly react to an unstable world, provide health care to the elderly, disabled and sick and appropriately fund energy research to end the biggest threat to our economic and national security, our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels.
Steve Harrison believes in the oldest rule of fiscal prudence -- pay as you go.
Energy and the Environment
Steve Harrison wants our country to approach our energy problems with the same vigor and national resolve as we did putting a man on the moon. In a decade we should be free from foreign and domestic fossil fuel dependence.
Wind farms are among the alternative energy sources Steve Harrison supports. Steve says, "Windmills are pollution free, once erected, and what little visual disturbance they cause is infinitely preferable to the catastrophic potential of burning fossil fuels or atomic fission."
Republican solutions such as drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR) are inadequate and even dangerous. ANWR drilling would not have an immediate impact on our current supply and would satisfy only a minor portion of our future needs, while endangering wildlife and encouraging further oil reliance.
"Virtually all major problems today, Iraq, global warming, melting of the polar ice caps and many others can be traced to one thing - oil," explains Steve. "As the world's ability to produce oil slips below ever increasing demand, particularly with the industrialization of China and India, within the foreseeable future, the price of oil will skyrocket well beyond the ability of America's working families to pay."
Consider the following consequences of oil dependence:
Iraq is the first of the great oil wars. If we do nothing to create sustainable alternative energy sources, it will not be the last. In this sense, energy independence is a crucial component of national security.
Harrison warns, "In the absence of reliable, renewable alternative sources of energy -- biofuels, wind, solar, geothermal etc. our choices as a nation will be stark -- watch our children freeze in the winter or invade other countries simply to take their oil. America must be better than that."
- Global Warming
Greenhouse gases, such as carbon dioxide, released from fossil fuel burning, primarily cause global warming. Ignoring scientific evidence supporting global warming, the current administration has refused to ratify the Kyoto Protocol. We would be required to reduce greenhouse emissions by 7 percent (each country has an individualized standard it has to meet under Kyoto) if the US accepted the terms of the agreement.
Steve Harrison supports American ratification of the Kyoto Protocol. He says, "Pollution knows no borders. Neither do environmental solutions."
Global warming is not science fiction, nor is it a problem that we can leave for our grandchildren to solve. Many experts believe it is already manifesting itself in the form of more severe weather, like Katrina. Risings sea levels are also the result of global warming and are not limited to New Orleans.
In fact, rising sea levels are negatively impacting New York's 13th District. The bike path in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn, bordering New York Harbor recently collapsed into the sea, among other reasons, because of gradual water level increases, with the harbor overflowing the sea wall and swamping the bike path.
Steve Harrison believes that gun control saves lives and does not infringe on second amendment rights. He supports a mandatory 72 hour gun purchase waiting period. He supports background checks for both gun and ammunition purchases. He supports ending loopholes that allowed the Northern Illinois and Virginia Tech killers to purchase guns and bullets. The mentally unstable should never be allowed to purchase weapons.
One percent of firearms dealers are responsible for 60 percent of gun crimes nationwide. These dealers supply criminals and terrorists. They must be identified. To put them out of business, we need to permit law enforcement to have access to all gun and ammo related data.
Steve also supports making California's bullet micro-stamping law national. Micro-stamping enables laser technology to brand bullets with microscopic markings identifying the individual weapon. This can be used to trace the guns that fired these bullets and ultimately dealers trafficking illegal weapons.
He supports reinstating the assault weapons ban and eliminating all grandfather clauses in that ban. Steve supports banning handguns in NYC.
Steve Harrison opposes inappropriate development on both sides of the Verrazano Bridge and has a track record of preventing such overdevelopment. As chair of both Community Board 10 and its Zoning and Land Use Committee, Steve spearheaded Brooklyn's largest re-zoning effort ever, preventing large commercial overdevelopment in residential areas.
Steve Harrison supports vigorous enforcement of all zoning rules in Staten Island and Brooklyn to prevent over development that is overcrowding our schools, congesting our highways and diminishing our standard of living.
He wants a moratorium on the placement of cell towers and antennae in close proximity to schools or residential centers, pending a comprehensive federal study of the effects of these devices on populated areas. If warranted by the study, he will push for legislation restricting the placement of telecommunications equipment.
Traffic and Transportation
Steve Harrison has developed an innovative plan to eliminate the Verrazano toll for 13th district residents on both sides of the bridge.
He also favors eliminating toll booths and replacing them with state of the art boothless scanning. According to census data, Staten Islanders have the longest average commute in the country. Staten Island is the only borough without round the clock, seven days a week service to and from midtown.
To help remedy the commuting nightmare, Steve Harrison advocates for expanded express bus service to Manhattan from all segments of Staten Island and increased ferry service frequency. He also favors developing a North Shore train link to the ferry and creating affordable high speed ferry service convenient for all Island Commuters.
Steve strongly supports replacing the Gowanus expressway with a tunnel, abating traffic for Staten Island and Brooklyn Residents.
Steve Harrison opposes the Congestion Pricing Plan. The plan calls for congestion tolls to discourage driving into lower Manhattan. Revenue from toll collection would be earmarked for public transportation. However, this means significant lag time before transit improvement implementation. This is putting the cart before the horse.
Those priced off the roads by congestion pricing will be forced to use already over burdened mass transit before service improvement. It is unacceptable to take people out of their cars merely to put them in already overcrowded trains, buses or ferries. A well-honed public transportation system will attract ridership and remove drivers from the road without congestion pricing.
The plan's twin goals of less pollution and more money for mass transit are moderately contradictory. Discouraging cars from entering Manhattan with congestion fees will reduce pollution. But fewer cars paying fees means less money for transportation projects.
If congestion pricing is optimized for pollution reduction, revenue will be insufficient to fund mass transit. Harrison thinks it's a bad idea to do the reverse and price to maximize revenue instead of to decrease pollution.
The congestion plan is a hidden toll on free East Rive bridges. Under congestion pricing, drivers entering Manhattan from toll points such as the Battery Tunnel will have their current charges deducted from the congestion fee. People taking the currently free Brooklyn Bridge will pay the full congestion penalty. "No matter how you slice it, it's still a Brooklyn Bridge toll," says Harrison.
The congestion pricing plan also lacks class equity. The plan is being positioned as a "Mercedes Tax", charging limo driven CEOs who whisk past working class commuters riding overcrowded buses and trains. In reality, congestion pricing won't discourage the rich from driving in. However, it will heavily penalize workers with inadequate public transit options.
Harrison says the congestion plan is not without merit. Making New York "greener" is a laudable goal. But the current plan is fatally flawed.
"I am unwilling to watch my fellow citizens in Staten Island and Brooklyn forced into commuting in inadequate and dangerously overcrowded subways, buses and ferries. The way to spur transit use is though a carrot, not a stick. If mass transit is improved, people will switch from driving to public transportation. The shift will occur naturally."
Steve Harrison believes individual freedom and equality of opportunity are what make our country great. Steve sees civil rights as human rights. Steve believes that no person should ever be unfairly profiled by law enforcement or discriminated against in housing, employment, education, government or private service.
Steve believes that, where there is a history of discrimination against a particular group, we as a nation must pass laws eradicating that discrimination and have an obligation to affirmatively act to remedy the effects of the past discrimination.
Steve supportsmarriage equality for same-sex couples. Marriage entitles couples to many federal benefits not extended to same-sex couples, not even to those in legally recognized civil unions or domestic partnerships. This creates a practical inequality and societal injustice for same sex couples that must be rectified.
Steve believes in women's unrestricted reproductive freedom. Nobody is better qualified than the involved women to make decisions concerning birth control, maintaining or terminating a pregnancy or any other matter relating to a woman's physical and mental health.
"Abortions should be safe and rare," says Steve, "and experience shows that making them illegal does not make them safe or rare."
Steve believes the best way to prevent unwanted pregnancies and reduce the need for abortion is through age appropriate sex education in our schools and increasing the options available to women i.e., contraception, pre-natal care, child care and nutrition programs, and adoption program
Primaries will winnow 4 congressional candidates to 2
Staten Island Advance
To hear Brooklyn Democrat Steve Harrison tell it, he's not challenging City Councilman Mike McMahon for Congress in the Sept. 9 primary, McMahon is challenging him.
After all, Harrison said, he threw his hat in the ring when he thought he was going to have to run against popular incumbent Republican Vito Fossella, just as he did in 2006.
It was only when Fossella, mired in legal and personal woes, opted not to seek re-election that McMahon (D-North Shore) decided to run for what was then an open seat.
"It was an opportunistic move," said Harrison.
But McMahon notes that after Fossella withdrew, a number of Democrats weighed jumping into the race, just as he did. He was buoyed, he said, by the support of hundreds of volunteers who have been with him in previous races and civic endeavors.
And while McMahon is a proven vote-getter with electability on his side -- having won three elections to the City Council -- Harrison, a Brooklyn attorney and community activist, says he's a proven vote-getter, too. Harrison points out that when he ran against Fossella in '06, he got 43 percent of the vote -- the highest tally ever amassed by a Democrat.
Responds McMahon: "I'm proud to have been overwhelmingly re-elected to the City Council two times by my constituents, and bring the record of accomplishment that Staten Islanders and South Brookynites are looking for in a candidate."
The other morning, McMahon was doing the meet-and-greet among Staten Island ferry commuters while pitching transportation initiatives, including more federal dollars for ferries and buses and subway upgrades. He enjoyed an enthusiastic reception.
McMahon's roots in the community and ability to hit the ground running, with local money and union endorsements, is what caught the eye of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, looking to make a seat that has been Republican red for 28 years a viable Democratic blue come November.
"Transportation is the issue that unites both sides of the Verrazano Bridge," said McMahon of the bi-borough district. "There's a lack of infrastructure investment since the bridge opened 40 years ago. Wherever I go people say, 'What are you going to do about traffic? We need buses. We need trains. What are you going to do about transportation? People don't want to talk about national issues; they want to talk about the B4."
He said he wants federal subsidies for mass transit and a freeze on fare hikes without service cuts.
As such, McMahon said if he wins election to Congress he'd seek a seat on the Transportation Committee as well as Financial Services, with "its broad range of issues affecting the economy, Wall Street, the City of New York, the mortgage crisis, Social Security and Medicare."
But Harrison, a proud early opponent of the war, said he aspires to a seat on the Energy Committee because of its far-reaching agenda on transportation and economic issues. (He wants Financial Services, too.)
The other afternoon, during a campaign swing through New Dorp Beach, he charmed a meeting of the Red Hat Society, telling the women he is "no stranger to Staten Island" and stressing his "emotional" attachment to the borough because his mother lives here.
But he quickly shifted into issues mode, calling for the establishment of a city hospital on Staten Island and "socialized insurance through the government ... taxes would go up but premiums would go down because there are none."
He also recounted his idea to eliminate the toll on the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge for residents of the 13th Congressional District, which he said is not only viable but possible through a tweaking of the electronic scanning system currently in place. He said a two-way toll system should be resurrected in order to increase tolls on tractor-trailers during rush hours, but said the toll plaza should be dismantled to help speed the flow of traffic.
Harrison called talk of offshore oil drilling a "boondoggle," saying that "wind, solar, geothermal and tidal energy can be harnessed ... and in three to five years you will see real progress."
Along those lines, McMahon said the economy, oil prices and energy are prime concerns of his as well, saying the nation needs a "Marshall Plan approach" when it comes to offshore drilling in an environmentally sound way, incentivizing the reduction of consumption with hybrid cars, subsidizing mass transit and pursing renewable energy sources.
August 20, 2008
NOW Endorses Harrison for Fossella's Seat
In one of the most significant endorsements of his campaign, Stephen A. Harrison, a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Congress, received the support of the National Organization for Women today.
At a press conference on Staten Island, Mr. Harrison was praised by the organization as a candidate who is a strong supporter of women's rights. Mr. Harrison is running for the seat now held by Representative Vito J. Fossella, a Republican. Mr. Fossella, the only Republican representing New York City in Congress, is not running for re-election. The district includes all of Staten Island and parts of Brooklyn.
"We look forward to voters in Staten Island and Brooklyn sending a strong supporter of women's rights to Washington," said Kim Gandy, the chairwoman of the organization's political action committee. "Steve has the values we need to improve the lives of women and families in this country."
Mr. Harrison, a Brooklyn lawyer, ran against Mr. Fossella two years ago and came closer to defeating him than any other rival since the congressman was elected in 1997. This year, Mr. Harrison is competing for the Democratic nomination against City Councilman Michael E. McMahon of Staten Island. Mr. McMahon has received numerous endorsements from Democratic-elected officials, as well as from labor unions.
"We were impressed with Steve Harrison's grasp of and support of our core issues: constitutional equality for women, reproductive rights, equal economic opportunity, stopping violence against women and ending gender and sexual orientation discrimination," said Shirley Ranz, the chairwoman of NOW's local political action committee.
The leaders of NOW's Brooklyn and Queens chapter said they were influenced in part by Mr. McMahon's "lukewarm support of other gender issues in general while a member of the New York City Council."
Sherry Rogers, the secretary of the chapter, said that Mr. McMahon is "a political conservative who opposed choice when his vote counted in New York City Council," adding that: "We cannot support someone who waivers in his support of our issues to placate his right-to-life constituency. They have the Republicans for that. Who will speak for women? Steve Harrison."
Within minutes of the press conference, the McMahon campaign issued a statement calling its candidate a supporter of women's issues and harshly criticizing Mr. Harrison as a convert as a supporter of abortion rights.
"It defies common sense that NOW has endorsed Steve Harrison over the true Democrat in the race, Mike McMahon," said Erin Monju, Mr. McMahon's campaign spokeswoman. "While Mike McMahon has the endorsements of Senator Hillary Clinton, State Senator Diane Savino, and countless other leading women from New York, and has been a consistent proponent of women's issues, Steve Harrison's only constant on women's rights has been his inconsistency since he ran as the pro-life candidate for City Council in 2003."
September 7, 2008
Ex-Brooklyn congressman gives support to Harrison
Staten Island Advance
Democratic congressional hopeful Steve Harrison was endorsed by long-term former Brooklyn Rep. Major Owens during a forum in Stapleton last night, support emblematic of Harrison's "progressive roots," the candidate said.
"He is an icon of the Democratic Party," said Harrison, a Brooklyn Democrat making his second run for the seat being vacated by Rep. Vito Fossella.
Heralding the importance of the endorsement, Harrison pointed to Owens' "signature accomplishment," passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act, and noted his own endorsement by disabled Americans groups.
Harrison, an early opponent of the war in Iraq, also credited Owens' own "front and center" opposition as another issue on which the two "see eye to eye."
Owens' support, said Harrison, "establishes me very clearly as the progressive Democrat in this race."
Harrison faces City Councilman Michael McMahon (D-North Shore) in the Sept. 9 primary.
Owens lent his support to Harrison during a public forum held in the Central Family Life Center.
Harrison Statement concerning the DCCC spreading false rumors
The problem with the DCCC is that it's set up like a corporate special interest but with the ability to make unlimited, multi-million dollar contributions to candidates of its choice. This puts it in a unique position not only to influence voters but also to coerce Democratic candidates to support the DCCC's agenda. That agenda seems to be preservation of the Democratic power structure in Washington rather than the interests of the voters.
To a degree this problem was self-checked by the DCCC's supposed policy of neither endorsing nor funding in a primary. This allowed the candidates to run and the people of a district to democratically choose their candidate without the DCCC's "outsider" influence. Theoretically, the DCCC's funding decisions in the general election would then be made based on its evaluation of a candidate's post-primary electability, not his or her ideology, which would have been chosen by the district voters.
The DCCC now seems to have cast off any pretense of neutrality during primaries, going so far as to seek out, endorse and help fund candidates of their choosing, for their purposes. This raises the specter of DCCC endorsees running negative ads against decent, loyal Democratic opponents. This is an anti-democratic approach to democracy and it violates the core values of fairness and justice held dear by our party.
For all practical purposes the DCCC is purchasing blocks of congressional seats for the benefit of Washington insiders rather than promoting the election of diversified Democrats individually responsive to the needs of their unique districts.
I see this at work in my own district where die-hard elected progressives have inexplicably fallen in line behind a DCCC endorsed blue-dog Democrat rather than a credible progressive. The dynamics of this race are such that any Democratic nominee is likely to be elected. So why not let the people of the district decide the nominee? Is it because the blue dog is perceived as a compliant political insider willing to "go along to get along" in Washington?
I believe this shows the need for passage of a Clean Elections Law to take the money out of politics. It makes no difference if the money is coming from an oil company, an oil company PAC, a political party or a party PAC. Large dollars will always tend to have a corrupting influence on even the best of candidates. We must remove that influence freeing our elected officials to represent their constituents independently.
March 20, 2008
Good afternoon, I'm Steve Harrison and I'm running for Congress here in Brooklyn and across the bridge in Staten Island.
We've chosen to hold our press conference today at Victory Memorial to discuss healthcare...the potential closings of this hospital and several Staten Island clinics...inadequate hospital coverage in this neighborhood and the fact that Staten Island is the only borough without a New York City hospital... and, most importantly, the need for single-payer universal health coverage.
I want to start this conference in a place you would not expect. Iraq. This week is the 5th anniversary of the Iraq war. The Bush administration has not articulated a rationale for the continuation of this war. The current objective is not clear and the original reasons given by the Bush administration for the war were proven false. Why they were false -- lies or incompetence -- is beside the point. They were false nonetheless. There are no weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. Iraq was not responsible for 9/11. So there is no basis to continue. This is why I call for the immediate withdrawal of forces consistent with our troops' safety.
The Iraq War is one of the costliest mistakes in U.S. history...
Costly in lives lost or forever negatively altered...Over 4000 US and coalition casualties...More than a million Iraqi deaths that can be contributed to the conflict. Close to 30,000...American troops wounded.
Costly in money...More than 500 billion dollars since the war's start. And that's only the direct costs. The costs to disrupted military lives due to lost income, deferred maintenance to infrastructure and the like put the cost of this war in the trillions.
That half -trillion we squandered on Iraq since 2003 which continues today, would have gone long way toward providing health insurance coverage to the close to 95,000,000 uninsured and underinsured Americans. My friends at the Progressive Democrats of America... the P-D-A..., have coined the perfect phrase to change our government spending priorities... "Healthcare not Warfare
U.S. healthcare costs are more than 2 trillion annually, approximately $6500 for every man woman and child. There are around 45 million Americans with no health insurance and 50 Million only with partial coverage. People without health insurance die more often than those with insurance. There are 18,000 lives lost annually that could be saved. These are REAL people, enough to fill Madison Square Garden.
And this is not surprising. If you can't pay for healthcare you don't get it. You become more vulnerable to illness. When you become ill you seek help and wind up getting inferior care that we all pay for through our tax dollar.
Kellie Brown is a 21 year old college student studying Physical Therapy. A leg infection prevented her from walking.
Her infection spread throughout her leg. She couldn't initially see a doctor concerning this because school was out and she wasn't able to use campus healthcare resources until it reopened two weeks later. She couldn't see a private doctor because she couldn't afford health insurance.
Her condition became worse during that interval. She had a potentially fatal MRSA bacterial infection. She couldn't afford the MRSA tests, so the campus physician covered the cost but the leg won't heal for another 6 months. She's aghast at the prospect of another serious illness. She says "I hope I don't have to be cast away to die all because I can't afford health insurance."
We've gotten to the point in our nation where average people like Kelli can't afford health insurance. Worse, Americans used to rely on employer funded health plans. But now even the employers cannot afford to pay for the insurance so they drop it altogether. The effect of that is enormous. The employee loses twice. First, the benefit is taken away and then the employee has to pay for insurance out of his or her own pocket.
The cost of healthcare in America is obscene. It's the result of the greed and lobbying of the insurance and pharmaceutical special interests. And the resulting lack of insurance threatens institutions like Victory Memorial here in Brooklyn and Richmond University Medical in Staten Island with extinction.
My opponent last election cycle and again this November, New York City's only House Republican, Vito Fossella, recently helped persuade the state government to release funds to pay Victory Memorial salaries until its scheduled closing in June. That's a good thing and I applaud that effort. This community has fought hard to keep Victory open and it should. I supported that effort on Community Board 10. As long as Victory remains open, there is hope so that struggle should continue. But that struggle cannot mask the underlying healthcare crisis. A congressperson has the potential too do much more . But Congressman Fossella won't because he can't.
All too often, special interests determine how Fossella votes. The insurance industry has contributed nearly $300,000 to Fossella and the pharmaceutical industry close to 60,000. Is it surprising that Fossella would vote their way and against the interests of Staten Island and Brooklyn residents?
The American Insurance Association gives Congressman a perfect score, while the American Public Health Association, the nation's largest and oldest public health advocacy group has twice given him a score of zero over the last five years...as well as a score of 12 and two scores in the mid fifties. In 2007 he ranked third lowest in New York's 29 member Congressional delegation.
The insurance and pharmaceutical industries control this country's healthcare policy agenda by using their purse strings to influence legislators like Fossella. That's why healthcare costs Americans so much money. Healthcare comprises 16 percent of our Gross Domestic Product and is projected to approach 20 percent. It's very big business and very big money and the corporate interests want to keep it that way. I don't. Healthcare is a human right not a privilege. The health and comfort of no American should be held hostage to the profit motive. We must take care of our sick and infirm or we as a nation are lost.
The hospital next to us is scheduled to close. Staten Island's Richmond University, a hospital on financial life support, is closing three clinics including a HIV/Aids center. The entire hospital could close. This section of Brooklyn has inadequate hospital coverage and Staten Island doesn't even have a New York City hospital and is dangerously close to having only one hospital...period. All, to a large degree, because of the high cost of healthcare.
Fossella asked Staten Island University Hospital to take over the Richmond University Hospital clinics scheduled to close. Again, that's good. But it's another Band-Aid approach. A congressman can do much more, but Fossella won't.
There is only one RIGHT solution to lower the cost and increase the availability and quality of healthcare. And because the insurance and pharmaceutical industries, who support Vito, will fight this with all of their resources, Vito Fossella will never support it.
The solution is SINGLE PAYER UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE. Are you with me?
The special interests have spread lies about universal health coverage. They say it's too expensive. They say single payer is socialized medicine. It's neither.
According to the respected New England Journal of Medicine, single payer coverage would save us 300 billion in administrative costs. Currently in the US, between 11 and 30% of each health care dollar goes to administrative costs - the cost of the doctor filling out the form, the cost of the insurance company's staff. It goes to paper pushing and sometimes obscene insurance company profits.
Single payer consolidates all these procedures into one non-profit entity. The doctors do not work for the entity like in a socialized system. They simply submit their bills to the single payer like they do now but in a much simpler way.
There will be one form for doctors, no forms for patients. Show your card, give the healthcare provider your number and walk out. The cost will free physicians to practice medicine rather than sign forms. In Canada the administrative costs are about 4%. That kind of savings here plus huge savings from the bulk purchasing power of the single payer for drugs would put us on a path to an annual $400,000,000 savings and allow us to insure every woman, man and child in the nation.
A family of four currently spends around $4200 on premiums and medical services. This does not include Medicare charges. Under Michigan Congressman John Conyers' Universal Single Payer bill...HR 676, which I support in principle, these costs are reduced to $2700.
Businesses also save under Single Payer. Businesses who pay health insurance currently contribute $11,500 towards a family of four's premiums. Under the Conyers plan business pay only about $2700 to the single payer.
The special interests like spreading the myth that universal coverage will remove choice or force rationed care. That's wrong, what we have now restricts choice and rations care.
HMOs tell patients which doctors they can see and when. Insurance company's turn down coverage of pre-exiting conditions and often refuse to cover life saving procedures.
Necessary, medication is often prohibitively expensive. People without adequate insurance often have one choice, which is no choice, to choose not to seek medical care. The Insurance industry hurts those who need help the most. Real people...
Marcy Horner has a 19 year old daughter with Sickle Cell Anemia. Her daughter is uninsured because it's a pre-existing condition. They don't qualify for Medicaid because she and her husband have IRAs. Their sole source of income are the disability checks her husband receives because of a head injury. Marcy dropped her personal insurance because they couldn't afford health care premiums on their limited income.
Under single payer coverage Marcy would be able to see a doctor and she would be able to choose any doctor she wished. Physicians and hospitals would be paid by the Single Payer Plan the way they are currently paid by private insurance and government sources. Medical care decisions would be made by doctors and patients...not insurance companies not the government. There would be no care rationing.
When I'm elected to Congress, I will make Single Payer Healthcare a legislative priority. I will also fight to insure that Staten Island and Southwest Brooklyn residents have adequate health care options, securing funding and using my bully pulpit to prevent hospital and clinic closings. Thank you very much.
Steve Harrison on Gloria Steinem's remarks about McCain's presidential qualifications
Background: Feminist Gloria Steinem recently endorsed and served as an honorary host of a fundraiser for Steve. Critics asked him to renounce that endorsement in reaction statements she made regarding McCain's military service not automatically qualifying him for the presidency. Steve refused to do so.
I honor and admire the service of Senator John McCain and I always have. I believe that his service to country and grace under confinement are factors, among many, that can be weighed in determining who is best qualified to be our next president. But, as was true with the Democratic nominee in 2004, military service is only one of many factors to be considered. If military service were the sole determinant of presidential timber, then George Bush is unqualified for the position. Like Gloria Steinem, I believe that both Democratic presidential candidates are better qualified to lead our nation than the Arizona Senator. But the fact that we do not support Sen. McCain's candidacy is not inconsistent with honor for his service.
I honor and admire Gloria Steinem for her leadership in the struggle to give women their full rights as Americans. In that leadership she promoted not only women's rights but contributed to the larger quest for equality and justice for all. Clearly, America is a better place because of Ms. Steinem's contributions and courage. I do not read her comments as disparaging Senator McCain or his military service. She only states that his service alone is not enough for him to lead the nation.
Over the past two centuries millions of soldiers have fought and died defending American values ensconced in the Constitution. One of those values is the right of free speech. I will not cast Ms. Steinem aside for exercising that right concerning Senator McCain's candidacy. After all, had Ms. Steinem not wielded free speech so deftly on behalf of women during the past four decades, it is likely that American woman would still be cast in the role of second class citizens. None of us should want that.
Remarks to the Democratic Organization of Staten Island Annual Dinner
February 7, 2008
You may recall the Kris Kristofferson song sung by Janice Joplin, "Bobby Magee."
It's most memorable line goes "Freedom is just another word for nothing left to lose".
It was a most engaging lyric in the sixties when an entire generation of counter culture hippies were encouraged to "tune in, turn on and drop out." Those same hippies soon turned in their bell bottoms for tailored suits. As they stand on the cusp of retirement the notion of "nothing left to lose" as a synonym for freedom is so much dust.
Oddly it is George Bush and his conservative minions - like Vito Fossella - who have preserved the "nothingness as freedom" mantra and pushed it to new heights. Over ten years Bush, Fossella and company have done their level best to make sure middle class and poor Americans, and America itself, are as "free" of things as possible.
Consider the following list of items that we no longer have. This is the great wasteland - the nothingness - of the Bush/Fossella administration
No money. No budget surplus. No jobs. No mortgages. No homes. No affordable housing. No support for labor. No union card check off. No enforced prevailing wage. No fair wages. No pensions. No OSHA. No manufacturing. No fair trade policy to protect American jobs. No fair immigration policy to protect American jobs.
No healthcare for the masses. No health research for the future. No AIDS research. No stem cell research. No trustworthy pharmaceutical companies. No affordable private healthcare insurance.
No fair taxes on the rich and corporations. No corporate restraint on executive compensation.
No energy. No oil. No alternative energy sources. No plan to find future energy. No lack of interest by the oil companies to drill in ANWR and off the coast. No shame in an administration that cuts oil company taxes when they rake in record profits. .No shame in our oil companies that accept tax cuts while raking in record profits.
No Clean Water act. No Clean Air act. No Kyoto Protocol. No lack of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. No more glaciers in Greenland. No ice cap in the arctic. No tuna in the Atlantic. No lobsters in Long Island sound. No scallops in Peconic Bay. No fisherman in Gravesend Bay. No frogs anywhere.
No fast way off Staten Island. No fast ferries. No subways. No fast buses. No comprehensive plan for Island transportation.
No safe bridges. No safe roads. No safe toys. No safe food. No safe flights.
No child allowed to learn. No teacher allowed to teach. No school with enough teachers.
No equal pay for women. No marriage equality for gays and lesbians. No confidence that this Supreme Court will uphold Roe v. Wade. No confidence that this Supreme Court will support affirmative action. No fourth amendment rights. No protection from torture. No Habeas Corpus. No right to an attorney. No right to remain silent. No presumption of innocence. No freedom from profiling. No guarantee our President will follow the law and uphold the Constitution he promised to preserve, protect and defend when sworn in.
No restraint on campaign spending. No fair playing field to keep the rich from buying political office. No reasonable ethics rules in Congress or the senate.
No friends left in the world. No Spanish allies. No German allies. No British allies. No French allies. No Venezuelan allies. No Canadian allies.
No weapons of mass destruction. No competent Iraqi government. No competent Iraqi military. No plan to stay in Iraq. No plan to get out of Iraq.
No support for our troops in Iraq. No benefits for our troops who return from Iraq. No proper health plan or other benefits for our vets. No GI bill worth its salt for our vets. No cemetery for our vets.
No solid plan for Afghanistan. No discernable foreign policy for China, India, Pakistan, Iran, Syria, Israel, Palestine, Darfur or Sudan.
No Osama bin Laden!
We need a President and a Congress that understand this: freedom is promoted by a government that cares and is seen as caring. Freedom is secured by a government committed to the fair distribution of resources, rights and respect.
Kristofferson, Bush and Fossella are wrong. Freedom is NOT another word for nothing left to lose. Freedom is defined by a vision of boundless tangible and intangible treasures to gain. Freedom is built on the hopes and aspirations of people. It is this freedom that we Democrats will bring back to the people on November 3, 2008.
Congrats & Thank you
by:akokon Wed Sep 10, 2008
First of all, I'd like to congratulate Councilman McMahon on his victory last night. It was a hard fought campaign that increased the debate on important issues that concern all Americans.
At the same time, we must also congratulate Steve Harrison. Since his first run against Vito Fossella, he has been advocating for progressive causes and, as stated by the DCCC, Harrison paved the way for Fossella to be taken down. Harrison has inspired me personally and has always generously given time to sit down with me or anyone else who wanted his ear. When we look back at the fall of the Republican Party, we must not forget the contributions of that attorney from Brooklyn.
Thank you to an amazing candidate who gave us all something to believe in, thank you to a hardworking staff led by a campaign manager who took on the most Herculean of tasks and executed them with perfection and ease, thank you to the volunteers who powered the campaign and gave us all faith, and most of all, thank you to the voters for voting.
This truly has been an honor and we have made inroads with regards to progressive issues and innovative techniques in politics. We must all remember that the Internet is vital in the discussion of issues among voters. In the end, we all visit this website because we are passionate about our beliefs, one of which include a better America.
To all the voters in NY-13, let us do all that we can to have a Congressman McMahon and a President Obama come November 5th.
2008 Friends of Stephen Harrison.