Domestic Weekly Update July 12, 2011

If you don’t have revenues, it means you are putting more of a burden on the people who can least afford it. And that’s not fair.

— President Barack Obama in his July 11 press conference on budget/deficit reduction negotiations

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates


Generate Media on the Budget and Early Childhood Programs (July Action)

Our work in July is focused on putting more pressure on Congress to protect low-income families in budget/deficit reduction negotiations. As noted on Saturday’s national conference call, House and Senate negotiators are meeting regularly with President Obama to finalize a deal before August 2 (for more info on the negotiations, the budget section below).

The media can be a powerful tool in highlighting the importance of these negotiations on low-income and working families and to exert influence on this process. While we hear a lot about the importance of new media (the internet, social media), the truth is print media is still very important. Members of Congress pay close attention to the local newspaper to gauge local reaction to the issues and to see what constituents care about. They also know that pieces in the local paper help shape public opinion. Therefore, this month we are urging you to take action by writing a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local paper, urging members of Congress by name to protect Head Start and child care in this year’s budget. Your media pieces will go a long way in building the political will we need to protect America’s vulnerable children.

TAKE ACTION: Take the July Action. Draft and submit 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. This would mean a $1.2 billion increase for CCDBG and a total allotment of $8.1 billion for Head Start/Early Head Start. See the July Action sheet for 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.

We also have an online letter to the editor action you can use for your letters. This tool allows you to write your own letter or simply edit talking points provided to you and then send it to your local paper with just a few clicks. Also, please see our RESULTS blog post about new research on the effectiveness of Head Start.

You can listen to a recording of our July 2011 RESULTS Domestic national conference call on the RESULTS website. This month’s call provides not only an update on the budget negotiations and the July Action; it also includes some great shares from volunteers about the recent RESULTS International Conference.


Deficit Reduction Debate Heats Up As President Pushes Congress to Act

Budget/deficit reduction talks are getting more and more heated as we inch closer to the August 2 debt ceiling deadline. As highlighted on Saturday’s July 2011 national conference call, the President and congressional leaders met again on Sunday to work on a final deal. Unfortunately, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) on Saturday withdrew from the talks, citing the insistence on revenue provisions proposed by the President. He also said that a deal to find $4 trillion in savings over the next decade was probably unreachable but he was willing to compromise on $2 trillion in cuts so long as no new tax provisions were included. Then on Sunday before the meeting, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) announced that a “grand bargain” on the debt was unlikely because of the proposed revenue provisions. Needless to say, the Sunday meeting at the White House produced no compromise.

Yesterday, President Obama held a press conference to address the budget impasse. While not disclosing many details, he was optimistic that a deal would be reached (and insistent that it should be). He said both sides needed to address their “sacred cows” in that Democrats would have to accept come changes to entitlement programs while Republicans would have to compromise on taxes. The president also clarified that the revenue he was putting forward — closing tax loopholes that benefit oil companies, corporate jet owners, and hedge fund managers — would not go into effect until 2013. He was also very clear that he would not accept a short-term extension of the debt ceiling. After the press conference, Republicans were quick to again reject any proposal that includes new revenue.

Essentially, this debate has come down to a game of chicken and it is anyone’s guess who will flinch first. The problem is that low-income children and families are being caught in the middle. The cuts being proposed are on such a scale that all parts of the budget will be impacted for years to come. With leaders like Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT) stating that poor people need to do more to reduce the deficit than the wealthy, and without a sustained voice pushing back at this kind of thinking, it is hard to see how low-income families will come out of this debate unscathed.

That is why we urged volunteers to call their members of Congress last weekend right after the July conference call. Because of the weekend negotiations, we wanted members of Congress to know that we, their constituents, are paying attention and have a few demands of our own. Thank you to all of you who called on Saturday and left messages with your senators and representatives. Again, the next two weeks are going to be very important because if Congress expects to meet its August 2 deadline, they will need to have an agreement finalized before then so they have time to vote. To ensure that things get done, the House has canceled its recess for next week, meaning that members of Congress will likely be in Washington until the summer recess, which begins the second week of August. Let’s make sure they know we’re watching what they do.

TAKE ACTION: Keep the pressure on. If you have not made calls to your House and Senate offices urging them to protect low-income Americans in the deficit reduction talks. Dial toll-free (888) 907-1485 to be connected to your representative and senators offices. Once connected, state the following:

My name is ______________ and I am a constituent from _________________. I am very concerned that deficit reduction negotiations are unfairly targeting low-income and working Americans. Please urge Rep./Sen. _______________ to tell House and Senate leadership to stand strong and reject harmful cuts or caps to low-income programs in budget negotiations. Also, leadership should insist that any deal include fair increases in revenues to prevent reckless cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Head Start, and other essential services. Thank you.

You can also use our online call-in alert to help with your calls. And please note, do not assume your representative’s or senator’s position on this issue. If your representative and/or senators are friends to our requests, call to let them know that people back home support them standing firm. If they are opposed to our requests, call to tell them that people back home are paying attention. Once a deal is finalized, there will be little or no chance to change it so members of Congress need to hear from us now.

You can also join a budget briefing call “What’s at Stake for Our Communities in the Federal Budget Debate”, this Thursday, July 14 at 2:15 pm ET. Featured Speakers will include Rep. Chris Van Hollen (D-MD-), Ranking Member for House Committee on the Budget; Sen. Patty Murray (D-WA), Senate Committee on the Budget; Greg Payne, Avesta Housing/Maine Affordable Housing Coalition; and Nancy Zirkin, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights. Click here to RSVP.


New Research Praises Medicaid As Congress Ponders Cutting It

New research has been released highlighting the importance of Medicaid in providing quality health care to America’s most vulnerable. A recent study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that low-income individuals insured with Medicaid are more likely to visit a doctor or clinic, use prescription drugs, have cholesterol levels checked, receive mammograms, and be admitted to the hospital. Compared to uninsured, low-income Americans, they are also less likely to borrow money or fail to pay medical bills. In addition, the Center for American progress recently released a study examining the effects of Medicaid on the middle class, which found that middle-class Americans depend on Medicaid in later stages of life (Medicaid covers nursing home care; Medicare does not) and after events such as injuries or diseases.

These successes don’t even factor in the improvements coming to Medicaid as part of the Affordable Care Act, i.e. health reform. In 2014, Medicaid will see a significant expansion as part of the new health reform law. The program will be opened up to all Americans earning income below 133 percent of the federal poverty level ($29,726 for a family of four in 2011). This expansion alone is expected to cover 16 million uninsured persons by 2019.

Despite these triumphs, Medicaid is at great risk. As part of current budget negotiations, Medicaid is being targeted for spending cuts to reduce the deficit. Needless to say, the cuts Congress has proposed would be devastating to millions of families around the U.S. For example, the Ryan budget plan would cut Medicaid funding by $1.4 trillion over the next ten years (half from direct cuts, half from repealing the Affordable Care Act). Under Ryan’s plan, Medicaid would also be converted to a block grant, where states would be allocated a fixed amount of funds by the federal government. In order to compensate for reduced funding, states would be pushed to limit enrollments, reduce benefits, and restrict eligibility. These changes would also eliminate Medicaid’s ability to respond to increased demand in tough economic conditions, as in the recent economic downturn. Finally, cuts to Medicaid will hurt the health care infrastructure and local economies, resulting in job loss and less economic activity.

As research continues to be done on Medicaid, the benefits become more evident. Yet, deficit reduction still threatens the future of Medicaid. Even if the Ryan plan is not adopted, other proposals like the Balanced Budget Amendment (see below) would do the same or worse. We also know that cuts to Medicaid are being discussed by President Obama and congressional leaders in the deficit reduction negotiations, although no details have been released. We must act to protect Medicaid and ensure that it is not harmed in deficit reduction plans. Let’s use our voices to protect the Medicaid program.

Take Action: Tell members of Congress to reject cuts and structural changes to Medicaid. Remind them of new research demonstrating the health and economic benefits Medicaid provides to millions of Americans and that any deficit reduction plan must protect Medicaid from harmful cuts that would undermine the current and future success of the program. Use our online e-mail action to contact Congress today. Enhance your advocacy on this issue by reviewing our newly updated Medicaid page and by viewing stories about Medicaid from across the country at the Moms Rising website and the Half in Ten website.

You can also take action to protect other anti-poverty programs in deficit reduction talks including early childhood issues and low-income asset development, as well as setting up face-to-face meetings in your state. For a complete list of all of the RESULTS online actions, go to our Quick Online Actions page.


Quick News

New Research Confirms Head Start Effectiveness. How effective is Head Start in comparison to other early childhood development settings? That is the question that a recent study released earlier this year by the American Psychological Association sought to find out. Entitled Head Start and Urban Children’s School Readiness: a Birth Cohort Study in 18 Cities, the report was the first of its kind in seeking out the benefits of Head Start in comparison to other, more defined, early childhood settings. The study found that Head Start was associated with improved cognitive development when compared with parental care or other non-parental care, as well as increased children’s social competence and reduced attention problems compared with parental care, prekindergarten, and other center-based care. See a full summary of the report by Emerson Hunger Fellow Rebecca Van Maren on the RESULTS blog.

Sign Up Your RESULTS Group Opposing Balanced Budget Amendment. As you know, in addition to deficit reduction debate, we’ve been monitoring Congress’ action on another dangerous budget maneuver: a Balanced Budget Amendment (BBA), which would require the federal government to balance its budget each year. While this may sound “responsible,” it in fact would result in massive cuts to essential programs, much worse than the Ryan budget. Medicaid, SSI, and SNAP/food stamps would be cut in half in ten years; Medicare would have to be turned into a voucher; and spending for key programs like housing, education, childcare, Head Start, public health, veterans’ health care, environmental protection, health research, food and water safety, and many others would be slashed by 70 percent. A BBA would also cause significant harm to the economy, making recessions both deeper and longer. The House and Senate are both expected to vote on proposals to add a BBA to the U.S. Constitution next week. Please take a few minutes to sign your local RESULTS group onto the letter TODAY. You can read the letter and sign on at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities website.

New Report Released on U.S. Wealth Gap. This week speakers from United for a Fair Economy (UFE) held a briefing to discuss their new report, State of the Dream 2011: Austerity for Whom? Currently, African Americans hold ten cents and Latinos hold twelve cents of net worth for every dollar of net worth held by whites. UFE’s State of the Dream report examines how current tax breaks, economic policies, and public service cuts continue favor the wealthiest Americans while harming low-income communities and communities of color. They argue that we must provide opportunities for people of color to build income and wealth as well as level down the preferential treatment of the wealthiest individuals, such as job creation programs, a stronger estate tax, and asset building policies. See resources from our wealth gap and low-income asset development presentation on our RESULTS International Conference page.

Schedule Face-to-Face Meetings for Summer Recess. Get your request in now to meet with your representatives and senators during the summer recess (August 7 – September 5). These are great opportunities to meet with them in person to discuss our issues, as well as attend public appearances and town halls. Once you get a meeting scheduled, please contact the RESULTS Domestic Staff to help you prepare.

Join Single-Payer Conference Call on Thursday. Our friends at Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) are hosting a conference call on the status of Medicare and single payer health care. As you know, RESULTS supports a national health program (aka single-payer health care) for the U.S. The call is Thursday, July 14 at 9:00 pm ET. You can RSVP today at the PNHP website.


Announcements

Continue Your Conference Follow-Up. Thanks to the volunteers who shared about their 2011 RESULTS International Conference experience on last Saturday’s national conference call. To ensure legislative success from conference, please be sure to follow up with offices you met with 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. Finally, whether or not you were able to attend this year’s conference, please fill out our short conference survey to help us plan future gatherings.

RESULTS Domestic Staff on the Road. Next week, RESULTS staff will be on the road working to expand RESULTS presence in New England and the Midwest. RESULTS Director of Domestic Campaigns Meredith Dodson will be traveling to Maine to meet with potential volunteers in that key state, with the hopes of starting a group there in the coming months. Domestic Outreach Organizer Jos Linn will be traveling to Topeka, KS to do several advocacy presentations at the Kansas Conference on Poverty. He will also be meeting with volunteers in Kansas City to work on starting new RESULTS groups in that area. If you know of anyone who might be interested in RESULTS in these or other areas, please contact Jos or Meredith.

Grassroots Board Nominations Deadline Extended. Be sure to submit your nominations for the RESULTS/RESULTS Educational Fund Board. We are seeking two Grassroots Board Members to serve for a term of three years. Grassroots board members are a key voice at RESULTS and provide an important bridge between the grassroots network and board decisions and organizational priorities. Active volunteers may nominate other active volunteers for this position. Please forward names and phone numbers of any nominees to Jamila White-Bandah, by Monday, July 25, 2011. Please feel free to contact the RESULTS DC office if you have any questions.


Upcoming Events

(See a complete calendar)

Thursday, July 14: “What’s at Stake for Our Communities in the Federal Budget Debate” conference call, 2:15 pm ET. Click here to RSVP.

Thursday, July 14: PNHP Call Single-Payer Conference Call, 9:00 pm ET. RSVP at the PNHP website

Sunday, August 7 – Monday, September 5: House and Senate summer recess. Request face-to-face meetings back home.

Tuesday, August 9: RESULTS National Conference Call, 8:00 pm ET. The RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call in August will be Tuesday, August 9, 8-9 pm ET. This will be a special call which will include an update of the budget negotiations in DC and review of the great resources of the Half in Ten campaign. We’re doing something different for the August call, experimenting with a weekday call and looking to make the most of the resources available online to support our work. So, please plan as a group or, if necessary, on your own, a location that allows you to be on a conference call while in front of a computer with high-speed internet. If you cannot be online during the call, we promise it will still be worthwhile, but accessing the internet will make it even better. Our guest speaker, Melissa Boteach, will overview Half in Ten’s work to cut poverty in half in the next decade, and the great storybank they have on their website that we can use for lobby meetings with members of Congress at home during the August recess. We’ll also review some of the key advocacy resources available on the RESULTS website.


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.