Archive for December, 2012

A future for our grandchildren

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Dean Baker

Worry about the grandchildren? Then stop global warming, but don’t pretend deficit reduction by slashing pensions is for them.

Imagine if in response to Japan attacking Pearl Harbor in December of 1941, our political leaders had debated the best way to deal with the deficits from war spending projected for 1960. This is pretty much the way in which Washington works these days.

The political leadership, including the Washington press corps and punditry, were already intently ignoring the economic downturn that is still wreaking havoc on the lives of tens of millions of people across the country. Now, in the wake of the destruction from Hurricane Sandy, they will intensify their efforts to ignore global warming. After all, they want the country to focus on the debt – an issue that no one other than the elites views as a problem.

The reality, of course, is straightforward. The large deficits of recent years are due to the economic downturn caused by the collapse of the housing bubble. If the economy were back near its pre-recession level of unemployment, then the deficits would be close to 1% of GDP, a level that could be sustained indefinitely.

But the deficit scare-mongers are not interested in numbers and economics; they want to gut key government programs – most importantly, social security and Medicare. That is why they are pushing the fear stories about the debt and deficit. This is the rationale for the Campaign to “Fix” the Debt, a collection of 80 CEOs ostensibly focused on getting the budget in order.

What is perhaps most infuriating about this crew is the claim that their efforts are somehow designed to benefit our children and grandchildren. This is bizarre for a number of reasons.

First, while they do want to cut Social Security and Medicare for current retirees and those expecting to benefit from these programs in the near future, the biggest cuts in their plans will hit today’s young.

In effect, they are promising to “save” these programs for young workers by destroying them. Under most of the proposals designed to “fix” these programs, social security will provide a sharply-reduced benefit for retirees in 40 to 50 years’ time, compared to the currently scheduled level. And Medicare will by no means ensure most seniors’ access to decent healthcare.

However, what’s even more bizarre regarding their generational equity logic is the idea that, somehow, the well-being of future generations can be measured in any way by the size of the government debt. This point should have been pounded home to even the thickest deficit hawk by Hurricane Sandy. What we do or don’t do in the next decade will have a huge impact on the climate conditions that our children and grandchildren experience. Imagine that we listen to our Campaign to Fix the Debt friends and find a way to pay down the debt while neglecting any steps to curb global warming.

We’ll be able to tell our children and grandchildren that they don’t have to pay interest on government bonds (they also won’t be receiving interest on government bonds, but let’s not complicate matters with logic), even as they evacuate their homes ahead of flood waters. Undoubtedly, they will be very thankful for this great benefit that we will have bestowed on them, courtesy of the public-minded CEOs of the Campaign to Fix the Debt.

In reality, the campaigners are spewing utter nonsense when they imply that the well-being of future generations will be in any way determined by the size of the government debt that we pass on to them. We hand down to future generations a whole society and a planet that will be damaged to varying degrees, depending on our current actions. Neglecting the steps necessary to fix the planet out of a desire to reduce the deficit is incredibly irresponsible if we care about future generations.

Of course, global warming is far from the only non-budgetary cost that we are imposing on future generations. When we fill our jails with young people, many of whom will spend much of their lives in the criminal justice system, we are imposing large costs on future generations. We just are not honest enough to enter them in the budget books. The same is true when we make enemies internationally with aggressive military actions that could lead to enduring hostility.

There are also even simpler cases of dishonest accounting: if the government imposed a $250bn annual tax on prescription drugs (roughly $3tn over the ten-year budgetary horizon), everyone would understand this as a large burden on consumers. However, when the government grants patent monopolies on prescription drugs that allow drug companies to charge $250bn more than the free-market price, no one enters this additional cost on the ledgers.

The Campaign to Fix the Debt types like to pretend such costs don’t exist. They just want us to shut up and gut Social Security and Medicare. But the public is not likely to be as stupid as they want us to be.

To save Planet Earth: Handcuff the fossil fuel industry!

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Will Parry

This article is for my grandchildren.  And yours.  And everybody’s, all around the world.

I want them – all of them – to live out their lives on a vibrant, living planet.  So do you.

To make that future a reality, we have work to do.

Our work starts by listening to the scientists.  Their verdict is virtually unanimous.  Unless we handcuff the fossil fuel industry, Planet Earth as we know it is doomed.

Environmentalist Bill McKibben is especially worth listening to.  For 20 years he has been warning about the impending threat of climate change.  And he’s doing something about it.

McKibben is the founder and leader of the grassroots climate campaign which has coordinated 15,000 rallies in 189 countries since 2009.

On the day after this year’s election, McKibben launched a 22-city “Do the Math” tour with a packed rally at Seattle’s Convention Center.

Indeed, we must “do the math.”  Here is the chilling calculation.

First, a scientific consensus has established an increase in global temperatures of 2 degrees Celsius over pre-industrial averages as a red line, an absolute limit beyond which catastrophic and irreversible climate disruption will occur.

Second, we are already perilously close to that red line.  The scientists estimate that we can only release about 565 more gigatons of carbon into the atmosphere without pushing temperatures above the 2 degree limit.

And third, the proven oil, gas and coal reserves that the extractive industries expect to exploit amount to five times the 565 gigaton upper limit. To preserve the planet, these reserves must stay in the ground, which amounts to the fossil fuel industry writing off $20 trillion in assets.

Clearly, the business model of Chevron, Exxon-Mobil and BP is at war with Planet Earth. The devastation wrought by Hurricane Sandy may be considered the business card of the fossil fuel industry.

The latest studies present a grim picture.  McKibben summarizes the findings of more than 60 recent studies along with numerous review pieces that themselves each cover a large segment of the recent literature.

He cites “three of the best recent analyses of what we are headed towards.”  An M.I.T. analysis doubles its warming projection to 10 degrees Fahrenheit by 2095.  A Hadley Center analysis foresees “catastrophic” warming of 4 to 7 degrees Centigrade by 2100 on the current emissions path.  And a “definitive” report from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration warns of a scorching 9 to 11 degrees Fahrenheit warming over most of inland U.S. By 2090.

That would make it hotter than 90 degrees some 120 days a year in Kansas.

So far, we’ve warmed the planet by 0.8 degrees Celsius – enough to generate Hurricane’ Sandy and cause drought conditions in half the U.S.  Continuing on or even near the current emissions path would invite these impacts:

  • Staggeringly high temperatures over much of the United States.
  • Permanent Dust Bowl conditions over the U.S. Southwest and many other regions around the globe.
  • Sea level rise of about one foot by 2050, then four to six feet by 2100.
  • As much as half or more loss of biodiversity.
  • Food insecurity — trying to feed billions of people in a world with an ever-worsening climate.
  • Unexpected impacts – the fearsome “unknown unknowns.”

And today’s feeble mitigation efforts are light years from the bold steps needed.  A new report from PricewaterhouseCoopers, one of the world’s largest accounting firms, states that the world  has “passed the critical threshold” and that current carbon reductions amount to “a fraction of what is required” to meet the international commitment to limit global warming to 2 degrees Celsius.

Again we turn to McKibben.  He is initiating a campaign to disinvest in the fossil fuel industry, similar to the campaign that helped materially to bring down apartheid in South Africa.  Already, students are at work to persuade their universities to disinvest.  Foundations will soon find it bad public relations to have their funds in BP stock.  Religious funds, too, will find such investments tainted.

We’ll have more to say on global warming in coming issues.  The lives and fortunes of our grandchildren are at stake.

PSARA’s holiday miracle gift

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

In this holiday season, where in the world could you find, for fifteen dollars, twelve gifts that will arrive monthly throughout the year 2013?

With each gift providing a package of news, analysis and comment from people actively engaged in tackling the real problems of real people.

With each gift adding another new member to the ranks of the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action — the outfit that works, not only to protect and expand our earned benefits, but for economic justice and a better world.

Where indeed, if not by way of a one-year gift membership in PSARA , including 12 lively issues of The Retiree Advocate?

We’re signed up 183 new members so far this year.  That’s real progress —  but we need to reach our goal of 250.  With the help of our devoted readers and members — with your help — there’s still time.  Let’s ring in the New Year with victory!

So break out those address and phone lists of family, friends and co-workers.  Surely there are one or two or more — natural candidates for PSARA membership among all those good people!

Simply make that $15 check to PSARA.  Use the convenient coupon on page 11 of this issue.  Your gift will start with the next issue of The Retiree Advocate and keep right on brightening her/his mail box, month after month after month…

And you’ll be building PSARA, one member (or more) stronger for every battle that lies ahead.

Deficit reduction increases Europe’s deficit

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Mike Andrew

European austerity measures meant to reduce government budget deficits have proven to be stunning failures, according to new figures released by the European Union

Instead of reducing sovereign debt, the all-cuts austerity programs have actually increased deficits and reduced prospects that the poorest European countries will ever be able to lift themselves out of crisis.

The European economy as a whole shrank for the second consecutive quarter, officially marking the EU’s slide back into recession. For four consecutive quarters the European economy has contracted or shown no growth whatsoever.

Protesters filled streets in Lisbon, Madrid, Rome, and Athens as EU finance ministers made the announcement.  EU-enforced austerity policies in all four countries have driven up unemployment and led to drastic cuts in wages and social security benefits, while failing to halt their slide into economic chaos.

Some 140 people were arrested in Spain, where the unemployment rate has jumped above 25%, and above 50% for workers under 25. In neighboring Portugal, employment stands at a record 15.8%.

In Greece, economic output declined at 7.2% annual rate as the country lurched into its sixth year of depression. Like Spain, Greek unemployment is now above 25% and nearly 60% for young workers. The actual existence of the country is at risk as the best educated and most enterprising young workers now emigrate en masse to Northern Europe or Australia simply to find work.

A newly announced EU/IMF “bailout” of Greece was barely sufficient to reduce the country’s debts from a staggering 144% of gross domestic product, to a “mere” 124% of GDP by 2020. Had it not been for that injection of EU money, the debt to GDP ratio was expected to rise to 189% by 2013.

The latest EU loan to Greece – some 44 billion Euros – will be sufficient for the government to pay its December bills, but not much more. The Greek government is now taking bids from private investors who hope to buy its postal system, railroads, and bus lines. Even the Acropolis may be leased out to a private tourism firm.

Across the EU almost 26 million people are out of work, and studies indicate that 116 million Europeans are at risk of falling below the poverty line as governments cut spending and benefits, lay off workers, and sell state-owned assets.

With a little help from our friends

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Robby Stern

During this holiday season, we will be asking our members to help us fight Wall Street and the politicians and ideologues who are manufacturing this so-called “fiscal cliff” crisis. They are attacking our earned benefits from Social Security and Medicare and seeking to cut Medicaid and other programs vital to the welfare of the majority of the American people. It is yet another example of what author Naomi Klein terms “Shameless Disaster Capitalism”.

These programs did not create the deficit .The deficit our federal government is facing was created by the Bush tax cuts, by the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, and by the Wall Street-created recession. It can be resolved by ending the tax cuts for the wealthy and launching a robust jobs creation program.

By using the right-wing language of “entitlements” (rather than earned benefits), those who created the deficit now want to lay its cause at the door-step of Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs necessary to the vast majority of the people.

Could we have a more efficient and less costly health care system in our country? You bet we could!  If we want to lower the cost of health care and make it more efficient, why not recognize health care as a human right and create Medicare for all? Universal coverage would lead to a far more cost-effective system. But that is not the direction the politicians are going.  We will work to change their direction.

By the time you receive this newsletter, you will have been asked to call your Congressional Representative and two U.S. Senators with the message that we want them to end the tax cuts for the richest 2% and to oppose benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. We will ask you to call multiple times because repetition is effective. The calls will take at most, 10 minutes.

We will also be planning street action with a large coalition of organizations. Please join us under the PSARA banner when the time comes.

The end of the elections signals a new time of mobilization and action.

Getting ready for the 2013 legislative session

At our annual legislative conference, PSARA adopted our priorities for the 2013 legislative session,  We have our lobbyist, PSARA member Pam Crone and her partner, PSARA member Nancy Sapiro, ready to assist us on a day-to-day basis in Olympia.

Our priorities include:

  • Support the raising of increased revenue to preserve Washington’s fiscal strength; promote economic growth and opportunity; protect essential services and jobs; fund quality education; and ensure that the state can meet its pension obligations.
  • A critical Supreme Court decision  will soon determine whether requiring a two-thirds majority  to raise revenue is constitutional.  If the Supreme Court decision finds the two-thirds requirement unconstitutional, it will still be challenging to raise revenue but it is attainable.
  • Establish a State Investment Trust (state bank). The revenue the state raises by taxes and fees should be deposited in a state-owned account rather than in a private commercial bank like Bank of America (the present depository). Similar to the North Dakota State Bank, the Washington State Investment Trust would allow the people of our state to benefit from the income produced by the deposits.  It would provide resources to invest in infrastructure, creating jobs and generating new revenue for Washington. This is a multi-year fight and PSARA will give it support.
  • Support the Healthy Washington Coalition legislative priorities for progressive implementation of the Affordable Care Act. We will advocate for the full Medicaid expansion up to 138% of the federal poverty level. This will lead to health care coverage for more than 250,000 additional residents.
  • We will also join the Healthy Washington Coalition in supporting programs that will provide quality coverage for low-income working families, such as the Federal Basic Health Option, sponsored by Senator Cantwell as part of the Affordable Care Act.
  • This session will be critical for the creation of the Washington State Health Care Exchange. We will join with the Healthy Washington  Coalition to insist that all private insurers, whether they choose to be part of the Exchange or not, help fund the administrative costs of the the Exchange.
  • Finally, we will support the state legislative priorities of the Caring Across Generations campaign, including restoring cuts and supporting new investments in home care; ensuring all workers are able to take leave to take care of the health care needs of their families through Paid Sick days and Family Leave Insurance; and supporting legislation that facilitates immigrants playing the critical role of caregivers and domestic workers.

Our Legislative Conference also supported legislative efforts to create safe staffing standards in our hospitals, as well as the creation of a licensed dental practitioner – a new kind of dental provider that can enhance dental care the same way physician assistants and nurse practitioners have diversified the field of medicine.

This is a robust legislative agenda. When the session begins in January, we will have more articles about what is happening in the Olympia and what we can do to get the best results for PSARA members and all Washington residents.

The ‘tax gap’ scandal: Make corporations and the rich pay their taxes!

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Mark McDermott

At an inspiring rally in Renton in support of striking Walmart workers, one slogan stuck with me: “We’re fired up and we won’t take it any more!”

This needs to be one of our national slogans as we fight to reclaim the American Dream. In my earlier articles I have been stressing the critical need for the many progressive movements to come together in a more strategic long-term way.  Here is a clear example.

As I write, the President and Congress are struggling over a possible “Grand Bargain” to prevent an alleged federal fiscal crisis. The debate is largely framed by how much to cut versus how much to raise taxes, with program cuts dwarfing tax increases.

What needs to be done? How about forcing every person and business to pay the federal taxes that they owe? How many times have you heard President Obama, Speaker John Boehner, Majority Leader Harry Reid or other elected leaders or pundits raise this issue?  Why isn’t this the centerpiece of every proposal?

On January 6, 2012, the IRS posted “The Tax Gap for Tax Year 2006 Overview.”  What’s this? Every five years the IRS conducts a study to determine the “tax gap” which is the amount of federal taxes that are owed and not paid either before (gross tax gap) or after enforcement actions (net tax gap).

THE GROSS TAX GAP FOR 2006 WAS $450 BILLION. LET ME REPEAT:  $450 BILLION. AFTER COLLECTION EFFORTS, THE FINAL NET TAX GAP WHICH REMAINED UNCOLLECTED WAS $385 BILLION.

Ask yourself what $385 billion in additional revenue would pay for.

This is not new information. The tax gap study for 2001 conducted by the Bush administration showed a gross tax gap of $345 billion and a net tax gap that remained uncollected was $290 billion. Over the years 2001-2006, the annual uncollected total rose by $95 billion. The President and Congress are prepared to cut needed programs and let the cheaters go.

In 2011, my wife and I paid 20 percent of our adjusted gross income in federal income taxes. We paid a higher percentage than the Mittster.  We pay our taxes as part of our patriotic duty to our country. We can argue about how much businesses and individuals should pay. But everyone should pay what they owe!  Any disagreements here?

So who is cheating? 83% of the unpaid taxes were due to illegal failures to report income. Hmm? Guess what, over half of this underreporting ($189 billion) was business income. Are you surprised? The amount of unreported corporate income taxes avoided grew 92% between 2001 and 2006.

So who pays and who cheats? The vast majority of taxpayers get the vast majority of their income from wages and salaries which are mandatorily reported and taxes withheld to the IRS. The compliance rate on this income is 99%. Working people aren’t cheating and the system is set up to prevent it.

Many people have income from pensions, Social Security, unemployment insurance, dividends, and interest which is subject to mandatory third-party reporting. The compliance rate is 92%.

Income with little or no reporting requirements has a compliance rate of 44%.  The system is set up to help the non-reporting cheaters.

How many of you knew these facts before you read this article? Do they bother you?  Why didn’t President Obama and the elected Democrats hammer away on this growing outrage over the past 4 years? Why isn’t this a topic on every new show talking about the impending fiscal crisis? We have a news blackout on this issue even though the information is readily available on the internet.

Why do I raise this issue?  Obviously it is critically important to the national debate which may result in deep hurt to the American people as important programs are threatened.

I also raise it because I believe it reflects some of the major weaknesses in the ways the progressive movements are organized and working together. This tax gap scandal is public information. Why haven’t our many progressive movements, individually and collectively, been hammering on this issue over the past years?

I’m sure that we could all agree that everyone paying their taxes should precede any discussion of cutting programs or benefits. We are allowing our political enemies to set the terms of this fiscal debate while $450 billion in owed taxes go uncollected.

If you agree this is a problem, how do we need to change up the ways we organize and work together across movements? More on this.

(IRS Tax Gap Study – http://www.irs.gov/pub/newsroom/overview_tax_gap_2006.pdf

DOMA a roadblock to marriage equality

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Mac McIntosh

The approval of Referendum 74 is only one stride on the path that married lesbians and gays need to travel to enjoy full equality.

Married lesbians and gays will come under the same Washington State laws as opposite-sex married couples. Unfortunately, however, same-sex married couples aren’t protected by federal laws and regulations, because of a 1996 federal law called the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA).

DOMA defines marriage as between one man and one woman. This definition denies gays and lesbians the rights and privileges that opposite-sex married couples receive.

These rights and privileges include Social Security survivor benefits, the right to be buried with a spouse in a military cemetery, and the right to inherit  one’s deceased spouse’s money tax free – among many rights and privileges not granted to same-sex married couples. In all, more than a thousand federal rights and privileges are denied to married lesbians and gays.

Eight lower courts have declared DOMA unconstitutional. President Obama has instructed the Department of Justice lawyers to not defend DOMA. Speaker of the House John Boehner disagreed with the President and instructed the Bipartisan Legal Advisory Group (a House sub-committee) to defend DOMA. Boehner has spent $1,447,996.73 of Congress’s money hiring outside lawyers.

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi criticized Republican leaders for wasting taxpayer’s money defending a law that every lower court has declared unconstitutional.

“The American people should no longer have to foot the bill for Speaker Boehner’s campaign to appease the most conservative forces within the Republican Party,” Pelosi said.  Fortunately the committee has run out of money.

To understand what damage DOMA can do, consider the case of Edith Windsor. She and her partner had been together 40 years. Two of those years they were married, which was recognized in New York State. When Edith Windsor’s partner died, Ms. Windsor was stuck with a $363,000 tax from her inheritance.  If their marriage had been recognized by the federal government, she would not have to pay any taxes because it would be covered under U. S, estate tax laws.

The cases declared unconstitutional by the lower courts will be heard by the U. S. Supreme Court in January or February. Its decision will probably not be announced until June.

In the meantime Congress is working on a bill that would repeal DOMA, called the Respect for Marriage Act.  It has 154 co-sponsors in the House and 32 in the Senate. With 54% of the public supporting marriage equality, it is possible that this unfair law can be repealed through legislation. This may be faster than waiting for the Supreme Court decision.

With the elimination of DOMA, married lesbians and gays will finally enjoy the full rights and privileges of other married citizens of the U. S.

We get letters…

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

Caregiving challenges

To the Editor:

Thank you for your very timely comments on the problems connected with memory loss in the older population.  I live in a senior residence in Bothell, and of course we have residents here with the problem.

I was a caretaker myself after my wife lost her leg, so we managed, transferring her from chair to bed, etc.  I washed her, helped her with her hair, took her where she needed to go, even to meetings.  We used Metro for a short time, then we got a conversion van and managed very well for a little more than three years before she died.

I still enjoy and learn from your monthly newsletter.  I wish you every good in all you do for our membership.

Cecil Harsh,
Bothell

Happy in Mexico

To the Editor:

Just a few lines to let you know how the election was received here in Oaxaca.  The expat community, which is largely Democrat, were overjoyed.  Pauline and I felt a great sense of relief.  Romney was out to get those of us who need Medicare and Social Security.  Those Mexicans I have talked with, almost all middle-class English speakers, are very happy that Obama won.

Our family doctor here, who speaks flawless English (he got his medical degree at UCLA in the Sixties) has much the same left criticism of Obama that I have.  Obama’s support for the overthrow of the Honduran elected government by the army a few years ago put him in the same rank as past presidents as far as Latin America goes.  For some reason, people down here have a dislike of CIA-sponsored coups, invasions and bad trade agreements.

Our doctor sees Obama as one more imperialist, but he sees the Republicans as a bunch of dangerous nuts.  In this we are in complete agreement.  So even those who place their interests as Mexicans ahead of serving those of the U.S. are all smiles over the election.

Yours in Solidarity.

Alfredo Peppard 
Oaxaca, Mexico

Banking for the people

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

By Will Parry

The campaign to establish an Investment Trust – a state bank – in Washington State should be seen as part of a surging world-wide movement to build a parallel people’s banking system that can challenge and outperform the corrupt and profit-thirsty giants.

Banking’s future in miniature exists today in the remarkable publicly-owned Bank of North Dakota.  For 92 years, the BND has ridden out recessions and depressions while serving the people and the economy of that state.

Ellen Brown, president of the Public Banking Institute, points out that North Dakota is “the only state to have escaped  the credit crisis of 2008, sporting a sizable budget surplus every year since.  It has the lowest unemployment rate in the country.  The lowest default rate on credit card debt, and no state government debt at all.”

Ignoring the overwhelming evidence, apologists for the “too big to fail” banks will contend that North Dakota is unique – that public banking won’t work elsewhere.

But public financial institutions, in one form or another, are working today, across the nation and around the world.

“Globally, 40 percent of banks are publicly owned,” Ellen Brown reports.

The  scandal-ridden big banks are unloved by the masses, as was demonstrated when the grassroots “Move Your Money” campaign caught fire.  Over the past year, an estimated ten million depositors have fled Bank of America and the other giants.

I myself switched from that bank to the Boeing Employees Credit Union.  Lots of folks made similar moves.  The Credit Union National Association reports that this year, for the first time, credit union assets rose above one trillion dollars.

“Credit unions,” Ellen Brown reminds us, “are non-profit, community-minded organizations with fewer fees and less fine print than the big risk-taking banks.”

And unlike the “too big to fail” behemoths, credit unions have never had to be bailed out by the taxpayers.

Credit unions are a major element in the big and growing co-operative movement.  It’s a movement worldwide in scope.  The International Co-operative Alliance numbers affiliates from nearly one hundred countries, with an aggregate membership of about one billion individuals.  Co-ops employ about 100 million workers, in agriculture, fisheries, health, housing, insurance, tourism, industry – yes, and in banking.

Can the North Dakota experience be replicated here in Washington State?

Ask the people at the publicly-owned Triodos Bank, with offices in the Netherlands, Belgium, the United Kingdom, Spain and Germany.  Triodos “makes socially responsible investments that are selected according to strict sustainability criteria and overseen by  an international panel of ‘stakeholder’ representatives from community, environmental and labor interest groups.”

That’s typical of how things have been managed in North Dakota for more than 90 years.It is not, dear friends,  how Bank of America runs its shop.

Today, advocates in Washington and 17 other states are organizing to follow North Dakota’s example by making public banking a reality.  We in the Puget Sound Advocates for Retirement Action will be in the thick of the fight.

Saluting Jerry Otis

Tuesday, December 4th, 2012

PSARA member Jerry Otis says his mother taught him not to use four-letter words.

“So I decided ‘can’t’ is a four-letter word, and I wasn’t gonna use it.”

A retired union carpenter with a disability incurred 26 years ago, Jerry Otis is a man with a mission. Working with the Puget Sound Labor Agency, Jerry has dedicated his life to building the ramps that give low-income house-bound people freedom of access to the outer world.

“If people can’t get out of their homes, that’s not a life,” Jerry says.

Years ago, Jerry co-founded the Regional Access Mobility Program (RAMP) so that he and other volunteers could build ramps and other means of access for the elderly and persons with disabilities. Local labor councils and individual unions help Jerry get in touch with house-bound people.

The rogram enables eole to live in heir own homes and still articiate in the community, Jerry says.

“After the installation of a ram, one client was able for the first time to go to the neighborhood grocery store and coffee sho.”

Jerry’s still at it, and his vocabulary still doesn’t include the word the word “can’t.”

To find out about building a ramp for someone, or to contribute work or funds – or just to say, “Thank you, Jerry!” – you can reach him at jerry12102@aol.com or through the Puget Sound Labor Agency at 206-448-9277.