Domestic Weekly Update August 2, 2011

Right vs. left fighting conceals the problem of top vs. bottom.

— RESULTS Boise volunteer Kathleen Moyer in a July 27 letter to the editor in the Idaho Press-Tribune

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates


Debt Deal Passes — Let Congress Know What You Think (August Action)

Below is a summary of the debt deal Congress just passed. It is important that we let our representatives and senators know what we think about it. Per the August Action, please contact your members of Congress to schedule a face-to-face meeting this month during the summer recess. The House has already recessed with the Senate to follow this week; get on their schedules now so you can tell them in person that its time to put away the politics and distractions and get down to the people’s business.

Well, it is finally over... for now. The Budget Control Act of 2011 has passed both the House (269-161) and the Senate (74-26) and now goes to the president for signature. Here are the details of the bill:

  • The bill gives the president the authority to raise the federal debt ceiling by $400 billion immediately and again another $500 billion in the fall. Congress can vote to block the latter increase but the president has veto power over any such block.
  • The bill enacts $1 trillion in budget cuts over the next ten years, which will go into effect beginning in FY 2012. $350 billion will come from security spending (defense, homeland security, foreign operations, veterans’ affairs, etc), the rest from non-defense discretionary spending.
  • House and Senate leadership will appoint a “Super Committee” made of 12 current lawmakers (6 Democrats, 6 Republicans) that will be tasked with finding another $1.5 trillion in cuts, which would correspond with another $1.5 trillion increase in the debt ceiling in early 2012 (essentially raising the ceiling until 2013).
    • The committee can look at any part of the budget to find savings, including cuts to entitlement programs and raising new revenue.
    • The committee must present its recommendations by Thanksgiving 2011.
    • If the committee makes recommendations, they will get an up-or-down vote in both the House and Senate, with no ability to amend or filibuster.
  • If the Super Committee does not come to agreement on at least $1.2 trillion in new cuts, or if Congress fails to enact any recommendations made, a “sequestration” procedure would force automatic across-the-board cuts.
    • 50 percent of the cuts would come from defense spending, 50 percent from non-defense spending.
    • Part of the non-defense cuts would include a cut in payments to Medicare providers (maximum of two percent), but no benefit cuts.
    • Social Security, Medicaid, veterans’ benefits and pensions, the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), Child Tax Credit (CTC), payments to federal retirement funds, civil and military pay, and the child nutrition, Supplement Security Income, and women, infants, and children programs, among others would be exempted from any across-the-board cuts.
  • The House and Senate must vote on a balanced budget amendment by the end of the year, but passage is not a condition of raising the debt ceiling.

So let’s first look at what is good in this bill, and there are a few things (but only a few). First and foremost, it averts a U.S. default on our financial obligations. No one knows with certainty of everything that would have happened in the coming days and weeks had there been a default, but most agree that it would have been catastrophic for the economy and most damaging to low-income Americans. Second, many low-income programs we care about (Medicaid, SNAP, child nutrition, the EITC and CTC) will not be touched in this first round of cuts. Third, many low-income programs (but not all) are exempt from any across-the-board cuts if the Super Committee is unsuccessful. Finally, the defense budget faces significant cuts not seen in years, especially if sequestration kicks in.

Now let’s look at the bad, and there’s plenty bad to go around. First and most glaringly, this plan is all cuts. Every dollar of deficit reduction proposed in this bill comes from budget cuts. When all is said an done, Congress could enact $2.7 trillion in budget cuts (over the next ten years) without raising one dime of revenue to help with deficit reduction. Although the Super Committee can raise revenue in its recommendations to Congress, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) has already said that he will only appoint Republicans to the committee who oppose tax increases. Second, cuts to entitlements like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP and other programs are on the table. It is true that the sequestration procedure exempts many low-income programs for cuts, but that is not the case for the Super Committee. For the Super Committee, everything is on the table and considering the parties has already agreed to at least $100 billion in cuts to Medicaid before talks broke down two weeks ago, you can bet Medicaid will be the first program targeted. Third, the unemployed get nothing from this deal; it includes no extension of unemployment benefits for the millions of Americans who have already lost or will lose benefits in the coming months. Finally, it proposes trillions of dollars in cuts when the economy is still fragile. Economists from all backgrounds agree that government spending right now is keeping our limping economy moving forward. To cut back on this key stimulus of economic growth invites worse economic times ahead. For more about the good, the bad, and the ugly of the Budget Control Act, see this overview from the National Women’s Law Center.

But the biggest injustice of all may be that this debate took place at all. After years of reckless tax cuts, unfunded wars, and the worst economic crisis in seventy years, Congress decided now, with near 10 percent unemployment, to make deficit reduction the number one priority. They then proceeded to waste months of precious time politicking over it. Much more important issues should have come first. Creating jobs (this deal will cut jobs, not create them), shoring up the social safety net, investing in education, rebuilding our infrastructure are all things that should have come before deficit reduction. Even the polls show that deficit reduction was a low priority compared to jobs and education with the American people. Unfortunately, Congress and the White House chose this path and those few who did speak out for low-income and working America were dismissed and ignored.

So where do we go from here? Now that this debate is over (at least until the Super Committee starts its work after Labor Day), we must move forward to the debate of FY 2012 discretionary spending, which will heat up quickly. Our work on protecting Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) will again take center stage and it will take all of us working together to ensure a good outcome. The Budget Control Act does cut domestic discretionary spending by $7 billion for FY 2012. This is not as bad as the Ryan budget, but it still an uphill climb. Fortunately, RESULTS volunteers have never shied away from a challenge. Let’s make sure appropriators know that we expect them to protect low-income families in the FY 2012 budget and the Super Committee, and also let them know how we feel about the debt ceiling debate and final outcome. Meeting with members of Congress in August will be key in sending that message.

TAKE ACTION: Take the August Action. Schedule a time to meet with members of Congress in person to discuss our funding Head Start and child care programs, as well as attend public appearances and town halls. Tell them to talk to House and Senate Labor-HHS appropriators urging them to fund these programs at levels that maintain existing services ($8.1 billion total allotment for Head Start/Early Head Start, $1.2 billion increase for CCDBG in FY 2012). Also tell them that while you are glad that Congress avoided a credit default, you are ashamed of the theatrics that got us here and are very disappointed that the final plan focuses only on spending cuts. Tell them you expect a more balanced agreement from the Super Committee. Remind them that the Budget Control Act demands that middle- and working-class families sacrifice; it is way past time for the wealthy and corporations to do the same.

We also have an online letter you can use to request meetings. Once you get a meeting scheduled (or town hall date and time confirmed), please contact the RESULTS Domestic Staff to help you prepare.

You can also use our updated online alert call members of Congress to express your frustration at how the final debt ceiling bill turned out (all cuts, no revenue) and that you demand a balanced approach going forward.


Great Media Success in July — Keep It Up (July Action)

What a prolific month RESULTS volunteers have had, getting media pieces published in support of a balanced budget deal that protects low-income programs like Head Start and child care from hard cuts. Here is a list of the media pieces we know about so far:

  • June 26: RESULTS Des Moines volunteer and staff person Jos Linn gets a letter to the editor on the balanced budget amendment published in the Des Moines Register
  • June 29: RESULTS Cedar Rapids volunteer Judy McDowell gets a letter to the editor (LTE) on Head Start published in the Cedar Rapids Gazette
  • July 11: RESULTS Connecticut volunteer Leslie Weinberg gets a letter to the editor on the budget published in the Stamford Advocate
  • July 12: RESULTS San Jose volunteer Bruce Preville gets a letter to the editor published on the budget and revenue in the Mercury News
  • July 15: RESULTS Santa Fe volunteer Lydia Pendley gets a letter to the editor on Head Start published in the Santa Fe New Mexican
  • July 16: RESULTS San Jose volunteer Georgia Platts gets a letter to the editor on the budget and revenue published in the Mercury News
  • July 21: RESULTS Denver volunteer Ross Kelman gets a letter to the editor on the budget published in the Boulder Weekly
  • July 22: RESULTS Boise volunteer Lance Muckelroy gets a letter to the editor on the budget published in the Idaho Statesman
  • July 26: RESULTS Charlottesville (VA) volunteer Betty Gallagher gets a letter to the editor on the budget and child care published in the Daily Progress
  • July 26: RESULTS Boise volunteer Kathleen Moyer gets a letter to the editor on the budget published in the Idaho Press-Tribune
  • July 29: RESULTS Stamford (CT) Leslie Weinberg gets a letter to the editor on the budget and protecting the poor published in the Stamford Advocate
  • July 29: RESULTS Stamford (CT) Leslie Weinberg gets a letter to the editor on the budget and protecting the poor published in the Greenwich Time

Excellent work! Twelve letters published in just over a month, plus many more submitted. Your media work in July helped shape the final debt ceiling deal (despite its many faults, it does protect many low-income programs from cuts in the short term). It will also help shape the debate as we transition from the bigger budget picture to specific appropriations work (and the work of the newly-created “Super Committee”).

TAKE ACTION: Keep up the good work. Supplement your meetings this month by drafting and submitting a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local paper urging members of Congress to protect low-income children and families by funding Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care Development Block Grant at levels necessary to maintain existing services. Use our online letter to the editor action talking points and background information. Be sure to mention your members of Congress by name when urging them to act, and — once your piece gets published — be sure to fax a copy to your congressional offices. You can also find background information in our July Action sheet.


Join Us for the RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call on August 9 at 8:00 pm ET

This is just another reminder of our temporary change in our monthly conference call schedule. The August RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call will take place next Tuesday, August 9, from 8:00-9:00 pm ET. This will be a special call which will include an overview of the debt ceiling deal and what lies ahead. It will also include a review of the great resources our friends at the Half in Ten campaign have compiled with Melissa Boteach, and a review of key parts of the RESULTS website. We may also briefly discuss how to broaden your advocacy through social media sites like Facebook and Twitter. Speaking of which, if you have yet to become a fan of RESULTS on Facebook, please visit our Facebook page and “Like” us, or “follow” us on Twitter.

TAKE ACTION: Coordinate with your group how you plan to do the conference call. Please plan to do as a group if possible, or on your own. In addition to a speakerphone, you will need to be in front of a computer with high-speed internet access. To join the call next Tuesday evening, dial (888) 409-6709. Once connected to the operator, ask for the RESULTS National Conference call. Plan to call in no later than 7:57 pm ET to give time to the operator to connect you with the call.

Please note: In September, we will go back to our regular call time, Saturday, September 10 at 12:30 pm ET.


RESULTS Says Goodbye to Taryn Peacock

On the heels of seeing our Emerson Hunger Fellow Rebecca Van Maren leave RESULTS last week, we sadly must say goodbye to another key member of our team. Taryn Peacock came to RESULTS Domestic in June as an intern. Since then, she has been a valuable asset to our U.S. poverty work. She has focused on protecting Medicaid and early childhood programs through monitoring legislative action and lobbying on Capitol Hill. She also helped update our website, posted to the RESULTS blog, helped craft actions and alerts and, like Rebecca, helped with our Campus for Change students.

Taryn will be heading to Oklahoma and Phoenix to visit family before returning to Stanford University later this summer to continue pursuing her major in Urban Studies (with an emphasis on Education). She has been a great team member this summer, contributing greatly to our work. We will miss her. Thank you, Taryn, and good luck!


Quick News

Take Action to Protect Medicaid. As mentioned above, Medicaid faces a tough road over the next few months. Although it is exempt from any across-the-board cuts should the new “Super Committee” fail, there is no such exemption from the Super Committee itself. We need to make sure that when this committee begins meeting, Medicaid remains protected. This means appointing legislators to the committee who know the intricacies and value of Medicaid and also keeping pressure on the committee to protect it from reckless cuts and restructuring (e.g. into a block grant to states). Let your members of Congress know that you want them to protect the millions of Americans who rely on Medicaid for basic health care by taking our online e-mail action in support of this vital program.

Share the SAVE for All Video. Keep spreading the word about the injustice of the deficit reduction debate, in that it ignores the real needs of working Americans. Watch and share this video parody from the SAVE for All coalition. Once you’ve viewed it, send it out to your e-mail lists, post the link on your Facebook page, and Tweet it to your Twitter friends to get the word out.

Faith Leaders Urge the President and Congress to Protect the Poor. Last week, faith leaders met with President Obama to urge him to protect the poor in deficit reduction. Ambassador Tony Hall, our June national conference call guest, was one of those in attendance forming this continued “Circle of Protection” around society’s most vulnerable. Also, last week, faith leaders staged a “sit in” in the Capitol Rotunda again protecting reckless budget cuts to programs that protect the poor. These leaders were subsequently arrested when they failed to leave the Rotunda. You can learn more about these events on our What’s New in Faith in Action page on the RESULTS website.


Announcements

Continue Your Conference Follow-Up. Please be sure to follow up with offices you met with at the recent RESULTS conference by sending a thank you note or e-mail asking about the progress on your requests. Also, please document your meetings in our online Lobby Report form so we have a record of how your meetings went. As always, we have all our conference resources on our International Conference page and if you have any questions or need any assistance with follow-up or actions, please don’t hesitate to contact the RESULTS Domestic Staff.


Upcoming Events

(See a complete calendar)

Sunday, August 7 – Monday, September 5: House and Senate summer recess. Request face-to-face meetings back home. Note: The House recessed early on August 1.

Tuesday, August 9: RESULTS National Conference Call, 8:00 pm ET. For this call, you will call into a conference call number to listen to the call but you’ll also want to be in front of your computer so we can review some internet resources on the call. You can listen to recordings of previous national conference calls on the RESULTS website.

Tuesday, August 30: RESULTS “Meet and Greet” call, 9:00 pm ET. RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/64krwpn.


RESULTS Contact Information

Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 783-2818, 750 First Street NE, Suite 1040, Washington DC 20002. If mailing a donation to our DC office, please address the envelope to the attention of Cynthia Stancil.

Domestic Legislative and Grassroots Support Staff:

The RESULTS Domestic Update is sent out every Tuesday over e-mail to RESULTS volunteers and allies all over the country. The purpose of these updates is to inform and activate RESULTS activists to take action on our domestic campaigns.