Domestic Weekly Update June 7, 2011

A budget actually reflects society’s values. It quantifies the importance of what to cut and what to cultivate... In essence, the budget process asks what kind of community we want to promote.

— Father John Rausch in a Mind the Gap blog post for NETWORK, the Catholic social justice lobby

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates


Join Us for the June National Conference Call THIS Saturday at 2:00 pm ET with Ambassador Tony Hall (note the new time)

Join us this Saturday, June 11 for the RESULTS National Conference Call. The call this month will be a joint call with global and domestic volunteers around the country. We are very excited to have Ambassador Tony Hall as our guest speaker. Ambassador Hall is a long-time friend of RESULTS and is a tireless advocate for poor and vulnerable people here in the U.S. and around the world. Ambassador Hall recently went on a 28-day hunger fast to draw attention to reckless budget cuts in Congress that threatened the lives of countless low-income people around the world. We look forward to his important and inspiring message. The call will also include an update on budget negotiations in Congress and shares from our grassroots. We look forward to a great call so please plan to join us.

TAKE ACTION: Coordinate and gather with your group this Saturday, June 11 at 2:00 pm ET for the national conference call (note the different time for Domestic volunteers). To join the call, dial (888) 409-6709. Once connected to the operator, ask for the RESULTS National Conference call. Plan to call in no later than 1:55 pm ET to give time to the operator to connect you with the call.


Budget Negotiations Must Protect Low-income Americans (June Action)

The budget and deficit reduction debate is now hitting the home stretch. The next two months could usher in changes to the budget process in Washington that will have lasting effects for years to come. This outcome of this debate has the potential to effect not only funding for Head Start and child care programs, but every program we support from Medicaid to SNAP to the Earned Income Tax Credit. If not done right, these programs could face massive spending cuts and/or restructuring into block grants, which would result in millions of Americans falling back and deeper into poverty. Therefore, our action this month is designed to make sure that outcome is the right one. In fact, this action is of such importance, volunteers traveling to the International Conference this year will be speaking directly to legislators about this subject on Lobby Day.

Since the Senate rejected the House FY 2012 budget proposal, the focus now turns to the debt ceiling vote. This vote is likely to include some sort of deficit reduction plan. As background, the federal “debt ceiling” is the limit on the amount of debt the federal government can carry at one time; a limit imposed by Congress. The current limit is around $14.3 trillion. Since 1962, Congress has raised the limit 74 times, including 8 times under the George W. Bush Administration.

If the debt ceiling is not raised, the government would not have the authority to borrow money to maintain its financial obligations. This would require massive and immediate spending cuts or tax increases or the federal government would be forced to stop paying military salaries, retirement benefits, and Medicare benefits, among other things. The U.S. would likely fall back into recession and lose its top credit rating thus damaging our economic standing with the rest of the world.

The U.S. officially exceeded the current debt ceiling on May 16. However, the U.S. Treasury has instituted some stop-gap measures to give Congress time to raise the debt ceiling. A vote on the debt ceiling must be made before August 2. Last week, the House voted on a “clean” debt ceiling bill (a bill with no other provisions attached) and it failed, 97-318. Attention now turns to bipartisan negotiations facilitated by Vice President Joe Biden. If any deal is struck, it is likely to come from those talks.

So as to influence that process, RESULTS has developed four principles (in coordination with our allies) for any potential deficit reduction plan. They are:

  1. Any deficit reduction plan must protect low-income Americans and not increase poverty, as recommended by the Bowles-Simpson Fiscal Responsibility Commission in 2010. Balancing the budget should not be on the backs of the poor and vulnerable. If Congress creates “trigger” procedures that would force budget cuts if the deficit reaches a certain level, low-income entitlement programs like Medicaid, SNAP, and Social Security, as well as critical domestic discretionary programs, must be exempted from these automatic triggers and across the board cuts.
  2. Reject structural changes to Medicaid and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (“SNAP,” or food stamps). Congress must oppose proposed cuts to the Medicaid and SNAP programs and changes, such as block grants, that will hurt millions of vulnerable Americans.
  3. Demand that any deficit reduction/debt ceiling agreement include revenues as part of the solution. Despite the 2001/2003 Bush tax cuts being a primary driver of current budget deficits, deficit reduction proposals being discussed ignore tax revenue a solution to these deficits. In fact, many of these proposals outright preclude new tax revenue from being used to reduce deficits. Any deficit reduction agreement, as well as any budget enforcement mechanism, must rely at least as much on revenue increases as cuts to core government services.
  4. Oppose federal spending caps (global or partial). Congress should reject arbitrary spending caps like the Corker-McCaskill CAP Act, which would result massive cuts in Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and other programs that meet critical needs of low- and moderate-income people and provide vital economic security for millions of Americans. Most experts say that these kinds of caps would result in “block granting” Medicaid and SNAP.

It is imperative that we urge members of Congress to support these principles. If and when a deal is struck, it will likely come up for a vote quickly with little or no opportunity for changes. Therefore, representatives and senators need to weigh in with negotiators now before it is too late.

To help with your advocacy efforts on the budget, our friends at the Coalition on Human Needs can help you step through this budget minefield this afternoon through their “Stop the Slashing” budget webinar. This webinar will help explain the unprecedented seriousness of the threats and show the impact of the most prominent plans to cut, cap, and restrict the federal role in meeting human needs. The webinar is TODAY at 2:00 pm ET. To register for this free webinar, go to the CHN registration page.

TAKE ACTION: Write letters or call House and Senate members and urge them to weigh in with members negotiating deficit reduction plans. Tell them that any plan must protect low-income Americans and programs that help lift and keep people out of poverty and reject efforts to restructure or block-grant Medicaid and SNAP. The plan must also be a balanced approach that increases revenue as much as it cuts spending and it must not include arbitrary spending caps, which are a back door to massive spending cuts. See the June Action for details and talking points.

Also, don’t forget to participate in the CHN webinar at 2:00 pm ET today. Other budget resources include the recent “Hitting the Debt Ceiling” webinar from the National Priorities Project, including a narrated version on Youtube, as well as these informative federal budget resources from the National Women’s Law Center.

We will also overview the June Action on this Saturday’s RESULTS National Conference Call at 2:00 pm ET.


Use This Week’s House Recess to Speak Out about Head Start and Child Care

The last few weeks have been a game of recess musical chairs as the House and Senate have exchanged recess weeks back and forth. Last week the Senate was out, this week it is the House. Again use this opportunity to urge lawmakers to protect Head Start, Early Head Start , and Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) from reckless budget cuts. Contact your representatives’ offices to see if they have any town hall meetings scheduled this week. Recent town halls have proven to be very effective in pushing members of Congress to reject radical cuts to programs like Medicare and Medicaid. Lawmakers need to know that the Washington echo chamber of “cut, cut, cut” is not resonating back home. Use your voice to prioritize low-income children and families in the budget debate.

TAKE ACTION: Attend a local town hall event and ask a question during the House recess this week and set up face-to-face meetings with members of Congress for upcoming recesses. Urge members to tell the House and Senate Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee members to allocate $1.2 billion in new funding for the Child Care and Development Block Grant (CCDBG) and a total allotment of $8.1 billion for Head Start and Early Head Start in FY 2012. Also, if your senator voted against the House budget, and/or your representative signed onto the Miller-Kildee early childhood letter, please thank them.

Use the April Action sheet and April 2011 U.S. Poverty Laser Talk for talking points and background. If you cannot get a meeting, fax a letter or use our online e-mail action to send a personal note to Congress about early learning funding.


RESULTS International Conference: Background Packets Available and Be Sure to Set Up Your Lobby Prep Calls

To further help you prepare for the RESULTS International Conference starting in less than two weeks, we have posted our RESULTS Domestic 2011 Campaigns background packet and the current version of our 2011 lobby requests on our conference page.. This packet provides you the latest on our 2011 campaigns to help you prepare for lobby meetings in Washington, DC and back home. It is a great resource for you and your groups as we weigh in on our key domestic issues this month at the conference or back home. Go to our RESULTS International Conference page to download your copy. Prepare for the conference with our handy International Conference checklist and review our agenda!

Also, if you have not scheduled your pre-conference lobby preparation session, please contact Meredith Dodson or Jos Linn to set up your pre-conference lobby prep call. Already a number of groups have had very productive calls but not everyone has scheduled theirs yet. These calls are very important in planning your lobby strategy at the conference. Schedule yours today.

Contact the schedulers in your House and Senate offices to set up your face-to-face meetings on Lobby Day, June 21 -- see our editable sample letter to request lobby meetings for domestic activists. Once you have your meetings scheduled, go to http://tinyurl.com/2011ICLobbyMeetings to input the meeting details so we can track all the meetings during the conference. Be sure to invite members of Congress and staff to our Capitol Hill Lobby Day reception on Tuesday evening, June 21; download an invitation letter from your local RESULTS group (Word). (Letters are editable, MS Word documents.) You can also send this flyer (pdf). And, you can follow the "buzz" about the conference on Twitter. Use or track the #RESULTSConf hashtag. Whether or not you can come to the conference, please consider making a tax-deductible donation to the Karen McQuillan Fund to help others attend. You can make your donation online (write “Karen McQuillan Fund” in the “Other comments” box at the bottom of the donation form) or make a check payable to, and mail to, RESULTS Educational Fund, 750 First St. NE, Ste 1040, Washington, DC 20002, Attn: Cynthia Stancil.


RESULTS Helping Students and Community Leaders Engage in Advocacy

Last week, Director of Domestic Campaigns Meredith Dodson and Emerson National Hunger Felloe Rebecca Van Maren presented at the Bonner Summer Leadership Institute in Albany, New York. They conducted multiple advocacy trainings for Bonner scholars from across the nation, including a session where in district legislative staff came to the college campus for the students to lobby on Head Start and other RESULTS issues. Meredith and Rebecca also did some training on using media in advocacy work, and incorporating advocacy into the service work these scholars already do.

This was a great way to gear up for the Campus for Change program, where 16 college students, including 4 Bonner interns, will be coming to D.C. for more advocacy and lobby training at the RESULTS International Conference. RESULTS student volunteers have been doing a great job this year. For example, students and faculty at the new RESULTS group at Wofford College (SC) had a face-to-face meeting with their representative (Rep. Trey Gowdy (R-SC-4)) only weeks after starting as a group. In their meeting, they urged Rep. Gowdy to talk to House Labor-HHS Appropriations Subcommittee chair Rep. Denny Rehberg (R-MT-AL) about Head Start and child care funding, which he later did. Great job Wofford! We look forward to working closer with students in the coming months. For more about the work RESULTS is doing with students in college you can read Rebecca’s new post on the RESULTS Blog.

Finally, RESULTS Domestic Outreach Organizer Jos Linn will be traveling to Chicago tomorrow to the National Community Tax Coalition conference. This is a gathering of several thousand advocates, agency heads, and community leaders committed to Economic Opportunity for All. Jos will be doing presentations on grassroots advocacy and engaging the media around issues of low-income tax credits and asset building. He also hopes to gather potential leads for new RESULTS groups around the country.


Quick News

Set Up Your Head Start Visits (May Action). If you have not done so already, be sure to take the May Action and contact your local Head Start or child care center to request a visit by your local RESULTS group. If you do not know where your closest center is, go to http://eclkc.ohs.acf.hhs.gov/hslc/HeadStartOffices and you can search for centers near you. When scheduling your visit, be sure to ask if it would be possible to visit with some of the parents in the program (many times, Head Start employees are current or former parents of Head Start students). See more about these kinds of stories at http://www.halfinten.org/grassroots/stories, this RESULTS Blog post, and our May 14 RESULTS national conference call.

Bush Tax Cuts Turn Ten Today. Today marks the 10th anniversary of the day George W. Bush signed the $1.35 trillion tax cut that primarily benefited the wealthiest Americans. Citizens for Tax Justice has new national and state-by-state fact sheets showing the gap in benefits these cuts have produced. For example, if the Bush ax cuts are extended, the richest 1 percent will see an average tax cut of $68,079 in 2013; the poorest 60 percent will get $487. See yesterday’s Huffington Post piece about ways some wealthier folks have spent their tax cuts. USAction and other groups are rallying today around the country in an effort to bring balance back to our nation’s fiscal priorities. RESULTS has endorsed this effort. Look for events in your area at the USAction website and plan to attend to show your support for tax fairness. You can also take action by sending an e-mail to Congress urging them to support low-income working Americans through the tax code.

House Appropriations Committee Cuts Nutrition Programs. Last Tuesday, the House Appropriations Committee “marked up” its FY 2012 Agriculture Appropriations spending bill. The bill cuts WIC, the Commodity Supplemental Food Program (CSFP), and The Emergency Food Assistance Program (TEFAP). Total WIC funding was set at $6.048 billion, more than $600 million less than in FY 2011. Rep. Rosa DeLauro (D-CT-3) was fortunately able to add back $147 million into the funding amount through a committee amendment. A vote on the House floor is expected next week. See more details about the “Ag Approps” bill from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC).


Announcements

SNAP Letter Sent to Congress. RESULTS joined over 2,500 national, state, and local organizations in signing onto a letter to Congress and the White House opposing cuts and proposals to restructure the Supplement Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) into a block grant program. These proposals would endanger SNAP ability to effectively respond to crises and send millions into food insecurity. Show your support for SNAP by taking our online e-mail action.

Check Out NETWORK’s Mind the Gap Resources. Our friends at NETWORK, a Catholic social justice lobby, has created a wonderful set of resources highlighting the current wealth gap. The campaign is called Mind the Gap. They have created a blog with regular entries from NETWORK staff and other authors. They have also developed a series of short, creative online videos that educated you about the U.S. wealth gap and why we should all be concerned about the huge gap between the rich and the poor. We encourage you to watch the “What Does the Wealth Gap Sound Like?” video from United for a Fair Economy (linked to on the Mind the Gap blog). It is eye — and ear — opening!


Upcoming Events

(See a complete calendar)

Monday, June 6 – Sunday, June 12: House of Representatives is on recess.

Tuesday, June 7: CHN’s “Stop the Slashing” Budget Webinar, 2:00 pm ET.

Tuesday, June 7 – Wednesday, June 8: RESULTS presenting at the National Community Tax Coalition conference in Chicago.

Saturday, June 11: RESULTS Joint Global and Domestic National Conference Call featuring Ambassador Tony Hall, 2:00 pm ET (Note the adjusted time). (888) 409-6709.

Sunday, June 19 – Tuesday, June 21: RESULTS International Conference at the Four Points Sheraton in Washington, DC.

Monday, June 27 – Tuesday, July 5: House of Representatives is on recess.

Monday, July 4 – Sunday, July 10: Senate is on recess.

Monday, July 18 – Sunday, July 24: House of Representatives is on recess.


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.