Fiscal Cliff Deal Proves One Thing for Sure - Your Advocacy Works!

January 9, 2013
by Jos G. Linn, Senior Associate for U.S. Poverty Campaigns

As we noted last week, Congress passed “The American Taxpayer Relief Act of 2012” to avert the so-called “fiscal cliff.” The Senate voted 89-8 and the House voted 257-167 to pass the bill. For RESULTS, there are several things to be pleased about. First and foremost, we are happy that the 2009 improvements to Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC) which we’ve worked so hard to extend were indeed extended for another five years. That means millions of working families will continue to benefit from these important improvements through 2017. We are also pleased that unemployment insurance and SNAP (formerly food stamps) were both extended, and that discretionary programs such as Head Start, child care assistance, and poverty-focused foreign assistance were given a short reprieve from the automatic “sequestration” cuts that were to begin on January 1.

But there were also disappointments. While the EITC and CTC improvements saw only five year extensions, income tax cuts for wealthy (those between $200,000 and $400,000 per year), changes in retirement savings which primarily benefit upper-income households, and a huge estate tax cut which only benefits the richest 0.3 percent of estates, were made permanent. Because of these concessions, the bill only raises about $700 billion in new revenue over the next ten years, far below the $1.6 trillion in revenue President Obama was originally seeking.

While this means we have more work ahead of us, one thing is for sure. Your advocacy worked! The refundable credits were getting little attention among the media and lawmakers throughout this process. If it were not for you constantly putting this issue in front of your members of Congress, who knows what would have happened. The squeaky wheel gets the grease in politics and all of you once again proved that are very adept at making strategic and meaningful noise.

In particular, RESULTS grassroots advocates met face-to-face with at least 12 senators and 34 representatives in 2012, along hundreds of Congressional staff, and generated 46 pieces of media to protect critical tax credits for low-income working families.

Unfortunately, we don’t have much time rest. The next few months expect to be the anti-thesis of the waiting eleven-month game we saw in 2012. Sequestration, another debt ceiling fight, and the expiration of the current FY2013 budget continuing resolution will all take place in February and March. Many in Washington will use this confluence of events to push for drastic changes to the social safety net. Already, Republican leaders are saying that revenue is now off the table and any deficit reduction will have to come exclusively from cuts to entitlements and non-defense discretionary spending. Unfortunately, they conveniently forget that the Budget Control Act of 2011 cut twice as much in spending as the fiscal cliff deal raised in revenue. There will inevitably be drastic cuts proposed to SNAP, Medicaid, Head Start, child care, and other important anti-poverty programs. Even with the fiscal cliff deal, the EITC and CTC will likely be targeted as well.

In the coming weeks, we’ll have a better idea of what specific threats we’ll be facing and provide you all the information and resources you need to protect low-income Americans from these threats. In the meantime, use group planning this month to set goals and put structures in place so your group will be poised and ready to go. And put in those face-to-face requests so we can again send the message to Congress to maintain America’s commitment to ending poverty.

For an excellent overview what to expect the next few months, see submit a request for face-to-face meetings with your representative and senators. You can tailor our RESULTS U.S. Poverty staff to help you plan your agenda and devise the best messaging and requests to use in your meeting. You can also send an e-mail urging Congress to protect nutrition assistance programs in budget negotiations.



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