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Domestic Weekly Update November 29, 2011

The supercommittee was a superdud — and we should be glad.

New York Times columnist Paul Krugman in a November 27 op-ed

New and Urgent in This Week’s Update

Latest from Washington, DC

Organizational Updates


The Wealth Gap — The Elephant Left in the Room (November Action)

As we all know, the congressional “Super Committee” tasked with finding $1.2 trillion in budget savings did not reach an agreement. The most visible disagreement among negotiators was over taxes. For the most part, Democrats were not willing to cut the deficit through cuts to programs like Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security, and SNAP without significant new revenue also being part of the plan. Meanwhile, Republicans were unwilling to support significant increases in revenue. Thus, negotiations broke down. While RESULTS is pleased that the Super Committee did not pass another “cuts-only” plan (e.g. the Budget Control Act that created the Super Committee) that would have called for drastic cuts to critical services with little or no revenue, we are disappointed a bigger issue was not even discussed — the problem of wealth inequality.

The current “Occupy” movement is simply a reaction to Washington turning a blind eye to the problem of income and wealth inequality. None of the plans discussed by the Super Committee would have reversed inequality in the U.S., and would have likely made it worse. Here are just a few examples of how wide the gap is:

  • In 2007 (most recent statistic), the top 1 percent owned half of all stocks, bonds and mutual funds; the bottom 50 percent of Americans owned less than one percent of this wealth.
  • According to the Corporation for Enterprise Development (CFED), more than one out of every five American households is asset poor, i.e. if faced with a loss of income, the household would have insufficient savings and assets to live more than three months at the poverty level. In households of color, one in four is in extreme asset poverty, meaning they have no savings or assets at all.
  • CFED also shows that 27 percent of households with children are asset poor, and 16.6 are extremely asset poor.
  • According to United for Fair Economy, African-Americans are 2.7 times as likely as Whites to have zero or negative net worth; Latinos are two times as likely.

This is not a problem that will go away or rectify itself. Fortunately, we have a great opportunity to make progress on the wealth gap in 2012. Both sides have vowed to make inequality and the Occupy protests a top issue for next year’s elections. This means that members of Congress will be hearing from many voices and interests in the weeks and months ahead on this issue. Let’s be in front of the crowd by reminding Congress that inequality is a real problem for most Americans. It needs solutions, not merely sound bites. By contacting offices now, we can continue to lay the groundwork for real reform that will help narrow the wealth gap and make the American Dream accessible to all.

TAKE ACTION: Take the November Action. Contact members of Congress by letter or with a phone call with the aide who handles tax policy. Urge representatives and senators to talk to House and Senate leadership, urging them to enact policies designed to close the rising wealth gap. Here are some short and long-term actions Congress can take to do so:

  1. Preserve and expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and Child Tax Credit for low-income working Americans that lift millions of Americans out of poverty each year.
  2. Ensure that the wealthy and big corporations pay their fair share by ending tax cuts and closing tax loopholes that concentrate wealth rather than create it.
  3. Support innovative asset-building policies like the Saver’s Bonus that help low-income Americans build the wealth they need to stay out of poverty.

You can use the November Laser Talk: Urge Congress to Narrow the Wealth Gap as a guide for calls with tax aides. In addition, you can use the widespread media coverage to amplify your message by sending a letter to the editor using our updated online tool, telling Congress to protects service for low-income families and address the wealth gap. Our work to address the wealth gap continues to be critical. Also, be sure to see our new Wealth Gap page on the RESULTS website.


Super Committee Failure Is Victory in the Fight Against Poverty

Since the Super Committee announced last week that it could not reach a deal to find $1.2 trillion in budget savings, many commentators have labeled the effort a failure at deficit reduction. This is untrue. Deficit reduction will still take place. Under the Budget Control Act (BCA), which created the Super Committee back in August, there was always a contingency in place in case the Super Committee failed. That contingency is “sequestration.” Sequestration is a set of automatic cuts that are set to go into effect in January 2013. These cuts are designed to achieve the same goal of $1.2 trillion of budget savings with which the Super Committee was tasked with half of the savings coming from the defense budget and half from non-defense. And unlike the Super Committee itself, sequestration protects vital anti-poverty programs from these cuts (e.g. Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, the EITC, and Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, among others).

However, make no mistake; the sequestration cuts will still be difficult. As noted last week, Head Start, Early Head Start, Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG), the Special Supplemental Food Program for Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), and other anti-poverty programs will face tremendous pressure. Unfortunately, some members of Congress want to increase this pressure. Remember that these sequestration cuts — defense and non-defense — were included in the BCA, designed as an incentive for the Super Committee to succeed. They were agreed to by members of both parties in Congress when the law was passed. However, with the Super Committee’s lack of a deal, some members was to renege on the cuts to the defense budget. If passed, this would force even deeper cuts to non-defense programs. An amendment to the defense appropriations bill currently in the Senate which would undo the defense cuts is expected to be voted on in the coming weeks. RESULTS opposes any changes to the sequestration rules that would create even more pressure to cut anti-poverty programs. We will keep you posted on this development and let you know when action may be needed.

TAKE ACTION: Join the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs (DHN) for a webinar TODAY, November 29 at 12:00 pm ET about the Super Committee. The webinar will give an overview of what happened with the committee, discuss the importance of these budget decisions in the context of the faith community, and lay out what the lack of a deal means for the legislative landscape going forward. To participate, go the DHN webinar page and follow the instructions to log in.

Also, generate media thanking lawmakers for standing up against draconian cuts to important social programs in the Super Committee. Use our online alert to send a letter to the editor to your local paper telling them that in this season of giving, failing to pass a “bad” Super Committee deal was a good present to get.

Finally, thank you to all of you who made calls during the week of action before Thanksgiving. The Coalition on Human Needs reports that during the week of November 14, 4,500 calls were made to Congress about the Super Committee. In addition, 15,000 calls have been made in 2011 on the budget. Thank you for making your voice heard!


Media Action: Urge Congress to Fund Head Start and Child Care at Highest Possible Levels (December Action preview)

Now that the work of the Super Committee has ended, attention returns to completing the FY 2012 budget. Two weeks ago, Congress passed another continuing resolution (CR) to keep the government running through December 16. This means that Congress has been essentially operating under the FY 2011 funding levels for the last two months (the new fiscal year began on October 1).

Despite being less than three weeks away, Congress has a great deal of work to complete before December 16. This includes our number one priority for RESULTS’ 2011 U.S. poverty work — protecting funding for Head Start and child care programs. Head Start, Early Head Start, and the Child Care Development Block Grant (CCDBG) are funded each year through the Labor, Health and Human Services, and Education (Labor-HHS) appropriations bill. As expected, the Labor-HHS appropriations bill will be one of the last bills (if not the last) passed. Right now, House and Senate negotiators are working to finalize this bill and by all reports, they have a large gap to bridge.

The good news is that both the House and Senate Labor-HHS appropriators have proposed increases to Head Start in FY 2012 (as well as maintaining 2011 funding for CCDBG). This is a direct result of RESULTS volunteers and our early childhood allies pushing members of Congress repeatedly throughout the year to protect these critical investments in our children. However, because the House and Senate Labor-HHS proposals differ in so many other areas (particularly funding health reform), there is no guarantee these funding levels will make it into the final bill.

The media can play a vital role in grassroots advocacy. By getting letters to the editor and op-eds published in your local papers, you publicly can pressure lawmakers into supporting your priorities while also educating the public about their significance. As Congress works to finalize funding levels for Head Start and child care, let’s make one final push to ensure that Congress understands the importance of early childhood services by funding them at the highest levels possible.

 TAKE ACTION: Take the December Action (the action sheet will be available later this week). Write a letter to the editor or op-ed to your local paper urging lawmakers to support working families by supporting the highest funding levels for Head Start, Early Head Start, and CCDBG. Be sure to mention your members of Congress by name in your letters when urging them to act.

You can also tell your representatives and senators to urge House and Senate negotiators to fund Head Start and child care at no less than the Senate proposed levels ($340 million increase for Head Start, maintain CCDBG funding) by using our online e-mail action.


RESULTS Outreach — Urge People to Attend Tomorrow’s Intro Call and Meeting in Western MA

RESULTS Director of Domestic Campaigns Meredith Dodson is in New England this week working to expand RESULTS’ reach and impact through volunteer expansion. On Sunday, she participated in the RESULTS fundraiser in Boston, MA. The event was a great success (see more below). Next, she will be presenting in Northampton, MA tomorrow evening. If you know people in western Massachusetts who would be interested in attending this meeting, please contact her Meredith at dodson@results.org or cell: (202) 263-9108.

In addition, we have our next RESULTS Introductory Calls tomorrow evening. These 30 minutes “Meet and Greet” calls are a perfect introduction to RESULTS for people unfamiliar with our work. The call is tomorrow, November 30 at 9:00 pm ET. If you know people who might be interested, please encourage them to sign up using the registration page. Please contact Jos Linn (jlinn@results.org) for more information. We will also have a RESULTS Introductory Call on December 12.


RESULTS Fundraising Update

Thank you to our Boston and Indianapolis partners for hosting RESULTS fundraisers for the very first time this week! RESULTS volunteer Cynthia Tschampl in Boston hosted friends for a birthday party/RESULTS fundraiser. With our own Meredith Dodson speaking to the 12 people in the room, she raised $800. RESULTS Indianapolis volunteers combined outreach and fundraising by inviting people for a letter writing action at a local pizza restaurant. Part of the pizza sales went to RESULTS. As we wait to hear Indy’s total, we are thrilled that these courageous partners took the leap to invite their personal friends to help us change the world!

We have another RESULTS fundraiser taking place this week. This Sunday, December 4, the RESULTS Bremerton (WA) group will host their fundraising event. If you know people in the Bremerton area, please invite them to come. You can contact Beth Wilson at olallawoman@yahoo.com for details.

Finally, are you a runner or have a January birthday? Our fundraising team is looking for a few enterprising partners to take our new on-line fundraising tool for a spin in January. If you’d like to run a 5K for RESULTS or invite folks to give online instead of baking you a cake, please contact Cindy Levin at clevin@results.org for details.


Quick News

Follow Health Care Briefing on Twitter. Along with our friends at Children’s Defense Fund and 35 advocacy groups, we’re co-hosting a briefing on Capitol Hill, "Weighing the Options for Children’s Health Care and Medicaid: First Do No Harm," focused on the importance of Medicaid and CHIP for children and urging them to protect health coverage for 1/3 children in the United States. You can follow the conversation live on Twitter via @AmerAcadPeds, who will be live tweeting from the event! You can also urge Congress to protect health care for low-income Americans using our online action alert.

Congress Fights Over Extending Payroll Tax Cut. Senate Democrats have proposed extending and expanding a cut to the payroll tax. The payroll tax is a flat tax of 6.1 percent that employees pay out of their wages for Social Security (employers also pay 6.1 percent). The employee contribution was cut to 4.1 percent for one year as part of last year’s Tax Relief Act of 2010. The Senate proposal would extend the cut through 2012 and cut the employee contribution to 3.1 percent for that time. The employer contribution would also be cut. Senate Democrats estimate that the average working family would keep an additional $1,500 in 2012. To pay for the cut, a 3.25 percent tax on incomes above $1 million would be created. Republicans have been resistant to extending the payroll tax cut, especially when coupled with the new tax on millionaires. A vote on the bill could come as early as this week.


Upcoming Events

(See a complete calendar)

Wednesday, November 30: RESULTS Introductory Call, 9:00 pm ET. RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/RESULTSMeetandGreet.

Wednesday, November 30: RESULTS Outreach Presentation. 5:30 pm ET, 215 Prospect St, Northampton, MA. RSVP to Stacy Carkonen (stacy@buylocalfood.org).

Sunday, December 4: RESULTS Bremerton, WA Fundraiser. Contact Beth Wilson at olallawoman@yahoo.com for details.

Saturday, December 10: RESULTS Domestic National Conference Call, 12:30 pm ET. Listen to previous conference calls online.

Monday, December 12: RESULTS Introductory Call, 9:00 pm ET. RSVP at http://tinyurl.com/RESULTSMeetandGreet.

Friday, December 16: Current continuing resolution (CR) expires; Congress must pass the FY 2012 budget (or another CR) by this date or face a government shutdown.

Monday, December 26 – Monday, January, 2, 2012: All RESULTS office closed for holiday break (offices reopen on Tuesday, January 3).

Saturday, July 21 – Tuesday, July 24, 2012: RESULTS International Conference, Washington, DC.


RESULTS Contact Information

Main Office: (p) (202) 783-7100, (f) (202) 783-2818, 1730 Rhode Island Ave, NW, Suite 400, Washington, DC 20036. If mailing a donation to our DC office, please address the envelope to the attention of Cynthia Stancil.

RESULTS 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.