Domestic Weekly Update December 21, 2010

If this is going to be a Christian nation that doesn’t help the poor, either we’ve got to pretend that Jesus was just as selfish as we are, or we’ve got to acknowledge that He commanded us to love the poor and serve the needy without condition, and then admit that we just don’t want to do it.

— Comedian Stephen Colbert on the December 16 The Colbert Report

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.”

— Jimi Hendrix

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates

  • Happy Holidays from RESULTS!
  • Upcoming Events
  • RESULTS Contact Information

Your Hard Work Pays Off — Final Tax Package Includes Tax Credits for Low-Income Working Families

Last week, Congress finished work on President Obama’s tax cut compromise. On December 15, the Senate overwhelmingly passed the bill 81-19. The bill was then sent to the House, where is passed 277-148 on December 16. Although House progressives made a symbolic attempt to change the cut to the estate tax in the bill, as expected the bill passed unchanged. President Obama signed it into law on December 17.

As a reminder, here are the major details of the bill

  • The 2009 improvements to the Child Tax Credit (CTC) and Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) are extended for two years. This includes the $3,000 eligibility threshold for the CTC and the expanded EITC for married couples and families with 3 or more children.
  • The Bush tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2003 are extended for two years, including those cuts for the wealthy.
  • The employee contribution to the Social Security payroll tax is reduced from 6.2 percent to 4.2 percent for one year; employers would still pay 6.2 percent.
  • Unemployment benefits for the long-term unemployed are extended though the end of 2011.
  • Taxes on capital gains and dividends will remain at the reduced rate of 15 percent for two years.
  • The estate tax has been cut for two years by exempting the first $5 million per person and taxing assets above that amount at a 35 percent rate. It was scheduled to return on January 1 to pre-2001 levels ($1 million exemption, 55 percent rate).

Our allies at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have an excellent breakdown of the tax package, including the costs associated with each provision. For example, the CTC and EITC provisions will cost approximately $27 billion over the next two years. In contrast, the extension of the tax cuts for the wealthy including the estate tax cut will cost $139 billion. This discrepancy is shameful and makes it clear that we have much work ahead in educating Congress on morally and fiscally responsible priorities.

As you know, RESULTS did not endorse this bill because of the egregious tax cuts for the wealthy included in it. However, we are very pleased that help for working families and the unemployed is included. You all should be proud of your work on the EITC and CTC. If not for your tireless work the last few years on these issues and in particular your advocacy on these specific provisions in 2010, they would not have been included. Once again, RESULTS volunteers like you, and key coalition work with our allies, have once again proven that when citizens are persistent and consistent in their advocacy, good things happen. Thank you all for your hard work and commitment to helping working families in 2010.

TAKE ACTION: Express your thanks to members of Congress for passing the 2009 EITC and CTC improvements as part of the tax bill. Tell them these long overdue improvements will help working families make ends meet and better help low-income children escape the cycle of poverty. Urge them moving forward to work with House and Senate leadership to make these improvements permanent. Also, tell them that you do not approve of the tax cuts for the wealthy, including the estate tax cut, in the bill and that you expect them to allow these cuts to expire on schedule in 2012. These are the fiscally and morally responsible things to do. Use our online e-mail alert to send your message.

Fundraising Update: Finishing Up a Great Year, Share the Success of Expanding Tax Credits (and Health Reform) with Potential and Current Donors

As we come to the end of 2010, we once again want to thank you for the great effort and support you have given during in our 2010 Fall Fundraising Campaign as we faced funding shortfalls for our domestic work. The RESULTS Domestic grassroots base has raised over $26,000 in 2010, twice as much as what we’d raised in previous years. Congratulations to you all!

Remember that people will still be looking for worthy organizations to donate to before December 31. If you still have people to contact or follow up with, please do so now so people will have time to donate before the end of the year. Share with them the successes we’ve had in enacting policies to expand health coverage and critical tax credits for low-income families this year, and make it clear that they are investing in an incredibly powerful network. See our Fundraising page for resources to help you.

And don’t forget to send those thank you notes to donors showing your appreciation for their support. Finally, remember that anyone can donate online at anytime and some of your potential donors may prefer this option. If so, just send them to our Donate page for more information. Be sure to tell them to write RESULTS Domestic, F&F, and your group name in the comment box. For example, a donor solicited by someone in Buffalo would write “RESULTS Domestic, F&F: Buffalo” in the comment box. This will allow us to better track by whom donations were generated (if they give online as a result of an event, just substitute the word “Event” for “F&F”).

Thank you all again to everyone for supporting RESULTS and RESULTS Educational Fund during our annual 2010 Fall Fundraising Campaign. Your work in garnering these resources is critical to our organization!

Scrooges in Congress Prevail on Spending Bill, Put Head Start and Child Care in Jeopardy

Thank you to all of you who took action on Head Start and child care funding the last few weeks. Your efforts helped to get us very close to the finish line. Unfortunately, Congress dropped the baton right at the tape.

With only 48 hours left before a potential government shutdown, the Senate failed to pass an “omnibus” appropriations bill to fund government operations for FY2011 last Thursday night. After months of negotiation, Republican senators who had previously indicated support for the bill withdrew that support. Without the requisite 60 senators to overcome the filibuster of the bill, the Senate is expected to pass a short-term continuing resolution (CR), which will extend current funding for discretionary programs through March 4, 2011. With the new Republicans House majority arriving in January, it is almost certain that they will demand further spending cuts before agreeing to pass these critical FY2011 spending bills.

RESULTS strongly supported passage of the omnibus bill. It included an $840 million funding increase for Head Start/Early Head Start and a $681 million increase for child care. These increases were significantly above the increases passed by the House last week. Securing those increases when the current CR expires will be difficult, but not impossible. The one thing we do know is that if Congress does not pass these increases, children and their families will lose these important early childhood services.

TAKE ACTION: Use our online e-mail alert to send a message to Congress urging members to put kids first. Tell them to pass the highest funding levels possible for Head Start and child care so that children currently enrolled in these programs are not forced out next year.

Use Power Mapping to Maximize Your Influence with Legislators (December Action)

This month, we are looking to also find new and creative ways to influence our legislators, through a process called “power mapping.” As new and current members of Congress begin planning their 2011 agenda, we want to find new and innovative techniques to help garner their support for the end of poverty.

Power mapping is an exercise designed to maximize your connection and influence around a particular person, issue or group. By identifying the key players around a specific target you want to influence, you can find the common connections that will help create that influence. Our goal in this exercise is to “power map” a member of Congress. Perhaps it is a newly elected representative or senator that you want to influence on a particular poverty issue. Or perhaps it is a returning member of Congress that you have not had success in influencing in the past and you want to try new ways of doing so.

Here is an example of power mapping RESULTS Iowa volunteers used a few years ago in relation to food stamps. In 2007, RESULTS sought an increase in food stamp benefits, which at the time averaged about $1 per meal, in the new Farm Bill. Sen. Tom Harkin (D-IA), chair of the Senate Agriculture Committee at the time, was responsible for writing that legislation. Although Sen. Harkin was already a champion for people living in poverty, RESULTS Iowa volunteers wanted to send a strong message to this important legislator about need for higher food stamp benefits.

In the fall of 2007, our volunteers learned that Sen. Harkin would be speaking at a local poverty summit. RESULTS volunteers and local allies looked for the most effective way to put this issue before him at the event. Because the event was coordinated by the local Methodist church, the bishop for the Iowa Methodist Conference, who represents thousands of Methodists in the state, would be there and would be having lunch with the senator. RESULTS and our allies approached fellow advocates in the Methodist conference about asking the bishop to talk Sen. Harkin about this issue during their lunch. The bishop agreed and RESULTS volunteers subsequently briefed the bishop on the food stamps and even provided him with an EPIC Laser Talk and talking points to look over before the lunch. The bishop then discussed it with Sen. Harkin at lunch, and he agreed to work on it. In the final bill, food stamps benefits were indeed increased.

By taking advantage of this opportunity and taking a few minutes to strategize the most effective way to influence the senator, RESULTS volunteers used their network connections and resources to send a powerful message to this key legislator.

TAKE ACTION: Take the December Action. Use the steps outlined in the action sheet to start the process of “mapping” your members of Congress. This process will help you think creatively about how to best leverage legislators into making poverty-reduction a priority. Be sure to download our Power Mapping Worksheet to help make the process easy. Also, the RESULTS staff is more than happy to help you with this process, so please feel free to contact us. You can also read more about power mapping from our friends at the Bonner Foundation at: mapping.pdf. You can find out more about your members of Congress on our Elected Officials page.

Quick News

Urge Congress to Fix SNAP Cuts in Child Nutrition Bill. RESULTS is pleased that Congress passed a child nutrition bill, the Healthy Hunger Free Kids Act of 2010 (S.3307), earlier this month. This bill will invest $4.5 billion in new money over the next ten years to improve access, administration, and resources for child nutrition programs. However, the bill also cuts future Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) benefits to help pay for it. We cannot let this precedent go unchallenged where Congress defunds one successful anti-poverty program to fund another anti-poverty program. Send an e-mail to both Congress and the President urging them to make sure these important SNAP benefits are restored immediately. Use the media as well by sending a letter to the editor thanking members of Congress who voted for the bill and urging all our leaders in Washington to finish the job by restoring the SNAP cuts.

Happy Holidays from RESULTS!

We at RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund want to wish you all the very happiest of holidays. You all have helped make 2010 another great year in the work to end poverty in America. We look forward to another great year in 2011 with more challenges and more opportunities to educate, serve, and act. Enjoy time with your families and friends this season and we look forward to reconnecting with you in 2011!

Please note that all RESULTS offices will be closed beginning noon on December 24 through January 2. We will return on Monday, January 3. Also, there will be no RESULTS Domestic Weekly Update on December 28. If you need assistance in the next two weeks — in particular, because of any face-to-face lobby opportunities you have — contact Meredith Dodson by cellphone at (202) 263-9108.

Upcoming Events

(Click to see a complete calendar)

December 24 (beginning at noon)–January 2: All RESULTS offices closed. There will be no RESULTS Domestic Weekly Update on December 28.

January 8, 2011: RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET.

June 19–21, 2011: RESULTS International Conference at the Four Points Sheraton in Washington, DC (Note: start date subject to change).

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: Meredith Dodson, (202) 783-7100 x116 ([email protected]); Jos Linn, (515) 288-3622 ([email protected]), and Ann Beltran ([email protected]).

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.