May 2014 U.S. Poverty Action

Speaking Out for Low-Income Working Families in the Media

Last month, RESULTS volunteers and many others in our networks joined a national town hall on ending poverty with author and journalist Tavis Smiley. On the call, we discussed broad strategies to build a movement to end poverty. Unfortunately, there is plenty of evidence that we need to change political priorities in our country. Despite the fact that 15 percent of Americans, and over one in five children, live below the poverty line ($23,624 for a family of four), Congress is considering legislation to give over $300 billion in tax breaks to large corporations while ignoring the needs low-income working families. We need to speak out forcefully in the media to push back on policies that favor corporate tax breaks over critical anti-poverty supports.

Write a Letter to the Editor Calling on Congress to Focus on Anti-Poverty Programs

Use these talking points to craft a letter to the editor:

  1. Respond to a piece in your local newspaper about tax policies or other budget negotiations in Washington.
  2. Inform readers that the House of Representatives is considering giving $300 billion in tax breaks to corporations. This “tax extenders” legislation would several expensive tax breaks permanent and add to the federal budget deficit.
  3. Express outrage that Congress is ignoring the needs of millions working Americans living in poverty by focusing on corporate tax breaks while allowing critical Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) improvements to expire in 2017.
  4. Point out what's at stake: if these improvements expire 12 million Americans, including 7 million children, will fall into poverty or deeper into poverty [and we urge you to include state data – see below]. In particular, many low-income working families making less than $13,000 annually will lose all or part of their CTC, EITC “marriage penalties” will go up for working married couples, and larger families working to raise more than two children will see their EITC fall.
  5. Illustrate what this could mean for you or someone else in your community. A single parent with two children working full-time in at the minimum wage (about $15,000 per year) will see his Child Tax Credit drop by $1,500 after 2017 (from about $1,750 to only $250). [Note: if you can share how this could have on your and your family, or someone else in your community, it will make your letter more powerful].
  6. Tell Congress to get its priorities straight. Put working families first, not wealthy corporations.
  7. Urge your senators and representative by name to oppose efforts to make corporate tax breaks permanent while ignoring expiring EITC and CTC improvements impacting 12 million Americans. We must make ending poverty by 2030 a priority.

Note: To find contact information for media outlets in your area, including telephone numbers and addresses, visit our Media Guide at http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/media/.

Recap: RESULTS Recent Efforts to Protect and Strengthen EITC and CTC

RESULTS strongly believes in a fair tax code and giving low-income families opportunities to move up the economic ladder. For the past several years, RESULTS volunteers have advocated for features of the tax code that assist working families, in particular Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). The EITC is a refundable federal income tax credit for low-income working individuals and families. It is designed to "make work pay" by providing a tax refund to low-income workers (the amount of the refund is based on income and family size). The EITC is the largest poverty-reduction program for children in the U.S; in 2012, the EITC lifted 5.5 million people above the poverty line. The CTC is a partially refundable tax credit for families with children. The purpose of the CTC is to help low- and middle-income families with the cost of raising children. Both of these credits provide significant income support to families who work in low-wage jobs.  In 2012, the EITC and CTC lifted 10 million people out of poverty, more than any other programs except Social Security.

As a top campaign priority in early 2009, 2010, and 2012 as the country dealt with the Great Recession and its aftermath, RESULTS volunteers focused on enacting expansions of the EITC and CTC to allow more low-income families to claim the CTC and increase the EITC for married couples and larger families. RESULTS helped pass these long-overdue improvements in 2009 and successfully prevented them from expiring in 2010. In 2012, RESULTS' volunteers met with 47 members of Congress and generated 46 print media pieces. As a result of these efforts and the work of our allies, Congress extended the EITC and CTC improvements another five years, through 2017. This was a good victory, but considering that tax breaks for the wealthy and middle class were made permanent in the same legislation, our work was not done.

In 2013, we continued our work to protect and strengthen tax credits for low-income working families; in particular, our volunteers worked with their own policymakers to make sure these tax supports a priority when discussing long-term tax reform. Congress ultimately postponed work on comprehensive tax reform until 2015 or later.

In addition to pushing to make the expiring EITC and CTC provisions permanent, RESULTS is using 2014 to mobilize support for other tax policies that can move us further towards ending poverty in America by 2030. RESULTS supports bipartisan efforts to expand the EITC, in particular for adults without children in the home (many of whom are non-custodial parents struggling to pay child support). Congress also has the opportunity to enact policies that help low-income families build savings, including the Financial Security Credit. It is critical to raise awareness and build support for these policies NOW, so they have momentum before the tax-writing committees begin work on major tax legislation. By generating media attention and support for anti-poverty tax policies now, we can create space for policymakers to focus on creating ladders out of poverty in upcoming tax policy battles.

House Tax Extenders Legislation Puts Corporations Before Families

Despite its reluctance to deal with major tax reform, the House of Representatives is now considering components of a tax package that would cost hundreds of billions of dollars benefitting many large corporations. The bill makes permanent six tax provisions, including tax breaks on research and development and subsidies on foreign profits of large financial institutions, at a cost of $301 billion for the next ten years. The House bill does not offset the cost of these breaks, meaning the cost will be added to the federal budget deficit. When many members of Congress use deficit concerns to oppose even small increases in funding for anti-poverty programs that help millions of struggling Americans, it is unfathomable that they would now rubber stamp hundreds of billions in tax cuts for some of the wealthiest corporations in the world without a second thought. The first of these tax extenders passed Friday, May 9, by a vote of 274-131, representing the first of several lost opportunities to focus instead on critical EITC and CTC provisions that are set to expire in 2017.

Breakdown: How Many Families At Risk of Losing Critical EITC and CTC Benefits by State

Our friends at the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities have calculated exactly how many low-income working families would fall into poverty, or find themselves struggling in even deeper poverty, by state. We urge you to use these numbers in your media outreach. 

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We will discuss the budget and tax policy battles in Washington and how to build broad support to end poverty by 2030 on our May national conference call (May 10, 2014, at 12:30 pm ET), including special guest speaker Rep. Barbara Lee. To participate, call (888) 409-6709 with your group by 12:28 pm ET.