Domestic Weekly Update July 19, 2011

The proposed federal budget should not be balanced by removing funds from valuable programs such as SNAP (formerly Food Stamps), school lunches, Medicaid and the children’s health insurance programs and Head Start.

— RESULTS volunteer Leslie Weinberg in a July 11 letter to the editor in the Stamford Advocate (CT)

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates


RESULTS Volunteers Are Getting the Word Out about Reckless Budget Cuts (July Action)

Our July Action focuses on generating media in support of a budget deal that protects low-income Americans, particularly children in Head Start and child care programs. RESULTS volunteers have taken to this action with energy and enthusiasm. In just two weeks, volunteers have gotten a number of pieces published in local news papers around the country. Here is a list of the ones we know about so far:

  • 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 Stamford Advocate
  • July 16: RESULTS San Jose volunteer Georgia Platts gets a letter to the editor on the budget and revenue published in the Mercury News

Congratulations to everyone who got a recent letter published and who have already submitted letters for publication this month. As noted before, members of Congress pay attention to local media making these letters an important part of our budget advocacy. We still have two weeks left in July, so let’s see how many more we can get published this month. Once you do get your letter published, please let RESULTS Domestic staff know so we can be sure to highlight it.

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. Also, please see our RESULTS blog post about new research on the effectiveness of Head Start.


This Week in Washington — Political Theater and Passing the Buck

The last week has seen a great deal of activity around the deficit reduction/debt ceiling negotiations. With no deal finalized and only two weeks until August 2, President Obama held two press conferences last week, again pushing lawmakers to send him a plan that will address our long-term fiscal situation. He continues to argue for a large, balanced deal that includes both spending cuts and new revenue to reduce the deficit. However, Republican leaders continue to reject any revenue increases as part of a final deal, resulting in the current impasse.

In addition, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) shook things up a bit last week by making an unusual proposal. Sen. McConnell’s plan is to give the president unilateral power to raise the debt ceiling several times over the next eighteen months. The president would have to propose budget cuts equal to or greater than the amount being raised. Congress would not be required to enact the cuts and could only stop the president from raising the debt limit by a two-thirds majority in both the House and Senate. In other words, this plan let’s the president avert economic catastrophe by raising the debt ceiling while allowing his opponents to pin the blame on him for rising deficits. Make no mistake, this plan is pure politics. On the deficit and debt issue, it solves nothing. It merely allows House and Senate Republicans to symbolically vote against raising the debt ceiling in an election year, knowing there won’t be enough votes to stop it.

Despite criticism from both sides of the aisle when McConnell’s plan was announced, it appears now that Senate Majority Leader Reid (D-NV) and Sen. McConnell are working on a hybrid version of the plan in case a broader deal cannot be reached (which is becoming more and more likely). This will likely include over $1 trillion in budget cuts (over ten years), no new revenue, and a new commission empowered to fast track more budget cuts in early 2012.

In the meantime, House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH-8) has said that no debt ceiling plan will be considered until the House votes on its “Cut, Cap, and Balance” plan (CCB). House Republicans had originally planned to vote on a balanced budget amendment this week but changed their minds on Friday in favor of voting on this new plan. Essentially, CCB would require the following:

  • $78 billion cut in non-defense domestic discretionary programs in FY 2012
  • $51 billion cuts in entitlement spending on FY 2012, including Medicaid, SNAP, school lunches, student loans and unemployment insurance (Medicare and Social Security are exempted)
  • Passage of a balanced budget amendment (BBA) before the debt ceiling is raised; the BBA would mandate that the federal budget must be balanced every year, federal spending cannot exceed 18 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (it’s about 25 percent now), mandatory across-the-board cuts if the cap is exceeded, and taxes can only be raised by two-thirds majority in Congress

If enacted, CCB would force billions of dollars in cuts from Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; Medicare would become a voucher program; Medicaid and SNAP would become block grants; non-defense domestic discretionary spending would be cut by 70 percent by 2021; and tax increases would be virtually impossible. The House plans to vote on the CCB plan later today. While it is expected to pass the House, it is not expected to pass the Senate, which could vote on it tomorrow. Also, President Obama has vowed to veto this “Dodge, Duck and Dismantle” plan, as the White House calls is, if it does actually reach his desk. Lawmakers know this but are insisting on these votes anyway, again for political reasons. Once these “symbolic” votes are taken, attention will turn back to ongoing debt ceiling negotiations.

This week’s political theater only serves to reinforce people’s cynicism about Washington — that lawmakers are more interested in doing what is politically expedient instead of doing what is right. But these deficit reduction negotiations are very real and will have very real consequences. Even if Congress decides to pursue the hybrid version of Sen. McConnell’s plan, significant cuts will still be made with no new revenue. Sadly, this makes McConnell’s original plan preferable, only because it would delay any immediate cuts.

If this debate seems like a big, confusing, tragic mess, then it is. Fortunately, we can cut through the clutter and maintain our focus as we always have — ensuring that Congress does not unfairly target low-income Americans in deficit reduction. Core programs that help lift and keep people out of poverty continue to be at risk and this may be our last chance to make a difference. We will likely see their final plan this week, if Congress hopes to pass something before August 2. Act now to make sure it’s the right one.

TAKE ACTION: Let lawmakers know that political gamesmanship with people’s lives is shameful and cruel. Make 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 tired of the political games. It is time to resolve the debt ceiling issue in a way that helps and protects average Americans. I urge Rep./Sen. _______________ to vote NO on the cut, cap, and balance plan, as well as any balanced budget amendment. These are not rational solutions but covert attempts to balance the budget on the backs of struggling children and families. Second, please urge Rep./Sen. _______________ tell House and Senate leadership to reject harmful cuts or caps to low-income programs like Medicaid, Medicare, food stamps, Head Start, and other essential services in debt ceiling negotiations. Any deal must also include fair increases in revenues to further prevent any reckless cuts. Thank you.

You can also use our online call-in alert to help with your calls. Keep an eye out for additional action alerts on the budget once we know details of the final plan being proposed.

Finally, please see the must-read article from George Packer of The New Yorker pointing out the flaws inherent in both sides of this debate and highlighting those tragically being left out.


Urge House Labor-HHS Subcommittee Members to Protect Head Start and Child Care

While Congress is in the middle of trying to resolve the debt ceiling debate, there’s another important discussion about to get underway. Assuming there are domestic discretionary budget cuts in any final deficit reduction agreement, countless programs could be impacted, including Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG). In fact, the House is already moving forward with this process.

On Tuesday, July 26, the House Labor, Health, Human Services, and Education Appropriations Subcommittee will be meeting to discuss the funding levels for the FY2012 budget. This committee decides the funding levels for Head Start, Early Head Start, CCDBG, and many other programs that benefit low-income children and families. In June, House leaders directed the Labor-HHS Subcommittee to cut 15 percent of its budget. This would mean drastic cuts to essential programs; to give you an idea, see the table in our July Action Sheet for what a 15 percent cut would mean to the number of children each state serves through Head Start.

The hearing next week will set the direction of House negotiation over the Labor-HHS budget, even if it is later modified by a debt ceiling deal. We need for House members to weigh in with Labor-HHS Subcommittee chairman Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) and ranking member Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) urging them to protect early childhood services in the FY 2012 budget (see full Subcommittee list below).

TAKE ACTION: Contact/follow up with your representative and urge him/her to talk with Reps. Rehberg and DeLauro this week about protect children in Head Start and child care. Specifically, urge them to allocate a $1.2 billion increase for CCDBG and a total allotment of $8.1 billion for Head Start/Early Head Start; these levels will help maintain existing services. Be sure to talk about your Head Start site visits and the positive impact these services have on families in your community. See our April Action and April Laser Talk for additional talking points and background information. Also, see our RESULTS blog post about recent findings confirming the effectiveness of Head Start.

Members of the House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee are: Chair: Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL), Ranking Member: Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3), Rodney Alexander (R-LA-5), Jeff Flake (R-AZ-6), Kay Granger (R-TX-12), Jesse Jackson, Jr. (D-IL-2), Jack Kingston (R-GA-1), Barbara Lee, (D-CA-9), Jerry Lewis (R-CA-41), Nita Lowey (D-NY-18), Cynthia M. Lummis, (R-WY-AL), Lucille Roybal-Allard (D-CA-34), Michael K. Simpson (R-ID-2).

For more information on the issues we advocate for check out our newly-updated web pages! Check out Rebecca’s new blog post on stories and advocacy, as well as the Early Childhood Development, Head Start, Early Head Start, and Child Care pages to see what’s new. Many of our other pages have been updated recently as well.


Request Face-to-Face Meetings for August Recess

Congress will be in session for about three more weeks before leaving for the annual summer recess (August 7-September 5). This month-long break is a great opportunity for constituents to meet with members of Congress back in their home states and districts. Although the debt ceiling debate should be resolved by them, the FY 2012 budget debate will just be getting started. With funding for Head Start, child care, and other critical services on the line, we need to make sure lawmakers know that we want low-income children and families protected.

TAKE ACTION: Get your request in now to meet with your representatives and senators during the summer recess. These are great opportunities to meet with them in person to discuss our issues, as well as attend public appearances and town halls. We also have an online letter you can use to request meetings. Once you get a meeting scheduled, please contact the RESULTS Domestic Staff to help you prepare.


Invite New People to RESULTS Meet and Greet Call; New Date and Time for August Conference Call

Do you know someone who would thrive in RESULTS — a friend with a passion for ending poverty, or a colleague who is interested in politics? Want to get some more people involved in your local group but aren’t sure how to introduce them to RESULTS?

Starting in July we will host a monthly Introductory Calls to RESULTS for people who might want to get involved but need to know more about us. The call will be a great place to send new activists in your group, curious friends and family members, acquaintances you meet, and people you’d like to recruit to join our organization.

Our first call will be Wednesday, July 27th 2011 at 9:00 pm ET. The calls will last about 30 minutes and will allow people to get a short and sweet taste of who RESULTS is, what we do, and why we do it. Please invite any interested parties to RSVP for this call at http://tinyurl.com/64krwpn. If you have questions about the call, please email Mary Peterson on the RESULTs staff.

Also, remember that the next RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call will be a different day and time, Tuesday, August 9, from 8:00-9:00 pm ET. This will be a special call which will include an update of the budget negotiations in DC, review of the great resources with Melissa Boteach of the Half in Ten campaign, and look at key parts of the RESULTS website. Please plan to participate as a group or, if necessary, on your own, at 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 the call will still be worthwhile, but accessing the internet will make it even better. We look forward to a great call and seeing how this new experiment goes (note: in September, we will go back to our regular call time, Saturday, September 10 at 12:30 pm ET).


Quick News

Sign Petition for a “Wealth Gap” Summit. A few weeks ago we highlighted NETWORK’s Mind the Gap campaign designed to raise awareness of the wealth gap between the rich and poor in the U.S. As you know, the wealth gap in the U.S. is at its highest level in decades. For example in April, Think Progress reported that the richest 400 Americans saw the amount of their taxes paid drop from an average of 29.93 percent of their income to 16.63 percent between 1995 and 2007. Policies like this are what exacerbate the wealth gap. To draw more attention to this, NETWORK and Mind the Gap have some excellent resources, some of which was highlighted at the RESULTS International Conference in June. They have a new petition urging President Obama to convene a White House Summit to “explore the causes and consequences of the current wealth gap in the United States, and develop a response.” Add your name to the petition today!

Want to Reduce Stress? Have Assets. A new brief from the New America Foundation highlights a recent study showing that for low-income families, acquiring assets can serve as a “stress suppressor.” According to the study, families with assets (home, liquid savings, or retirement funds) had decreased levels of family economic strain after four years. They also found that there was a direct relationship between having assets and reduced stress and an indirect relationship through reduced chance of experiencing a stressful event like employment loss or income decline. As a solution, the study’s authors recommend short-term asset discretionary building. The effectiveness of low-income asset development is also highlighted in the “Seven Surprising Findings from the Asset-Building Field” from the Federal Reserve of St. Louis. Urge Congress to support asset building for low-income families by taking our online e-mail action.


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. 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.

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 next Monday, July 25, 2011. Please feel free to contact the RESULTS DC office if you have any questions.


Upcoming Events

(See a complete calendar)

Saturday, July 16 – Tuesday, July 19: RESULTS staff doing outreach in Maine for potential new RESULTS groups. Contact Meredith Dodson for details.

Thursday, July 21 – Friday, July 22: RESULTS staff presenting at the Kansas Conference on Poverty in Topeka, KS and also doing outreach in Kansas City for potential new RESULTS groups. Contact Jos Linn for details.

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. 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 previous national conference calls 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.