January 2012 Domestic National Conference Call: Bold and Inspiring Plans for 2012

January 18, 2012
by Meredith Dodson, Director of U.S. Poverty Campaigns

The January Action: Group Planning, and featured Center on Budget and Policy Priorities. Indivar provided us a comprehensive overview of what the 2012 congressional agenda will likely play out on anti-poverty issues. RESULTS primary U.S. Poverty campaign in 2012 is Economic Opportunity for All — Using Tax Policy to Break the Cycle of Poverty. This campaign will have both short-term and long-term goals. On this short-term, our focus will be on protecting and expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) and Child Tax Credit (CTC). Both of these credits are essential to helping low-income working families stay out of poverty. We are working to ensure that the recent improvements to the EITC and CTC (passed in 2009) are preserved. On Saturday’s call, Indivar reminded us of some important facts to help us in our advocacy this year:

  • In 2010 (latest data available), the EITC and CTC helped lift 9.3 million people out of poverty; 1.6 million of these were helped by the 2009 improvements.
  • The EITC has a wide reach — one-half of all American families with children claim the EITC at least once during an 18-year period.
  • Large share of those who receive the EITC only do so 1-2 years at a time.
  • Looking at EITC taxpayers over 18 year period, people end up paying more in federal taxes than they receive in EITC benefits. This is because the EITC moves people up the economic ladder, allowing them to put more into the system than they receive.

Looking ahead to this year, Indivar confirmed that much of the substantive legislative work in 2012 will not take place until after the 2012 November elections, i.e. the “lame duck” session. This includes taking up whether to extend the Bush tax cuts, as well as the 2009 expansions of the EITC and CTC. It will also include finalizing the 2013 budget. However, this does not mean that our work will be delayed as well. Being an election year, there will be a lot of activity and rhetoric about tax policy and spending priorities. As Indivar noted, it is imperative that we push forward in urging Congress to protect low-income working families via the EITC and CTC, and doing so in the context of the larger economy, i.e. touting how these credits help protect and strengthen our economic recovery.

Indivar also noted that advocate will also need to urge members of Congress to oppose “symbolic votes” on bad policy, such as votes to extend tax cuts for the wealthy. These votes will be taken to help candidates for election more than enact policy but could later be used to box legislators in a corner when the actual policy decisions are made.

He also said the primary issue in 2012 will be the economy and the economic recovery. Politicians will look to blame each other and policies for the recovery or lack thereof. We need to be vigilant in reminding people that while the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009 (ARRA, which included the EITC and CTC improvements) may not have been as big as we wanted or needed, it also did more to address poverty in America than any other piece of legislation in a generation. With income inequality likely also being a big campaign issue, this information and the expertise RESULTS volunteers bring to the issue of inequality, the wealth gap, and poverty will be important.

Finally, Indivar provided us some great insight on working with legislative staff in Washington. Indivar worked for the House Ways and Means Committee, which oversees tax policy, before joining the Center on Budget. Based on his experience, he told us that when working with committee staff, understand where staff and their bosses are coming from. If you are meeting with a sympathetic legislator, recognize that they are playing a lot of defense these days and need help. Find ways to work together to move our agenda forward, knowing that it may be slower than we would like. When meeting with those less sympathetic, know that they will be more focused on deficit reduction and plan accordingly. He also reminded us not to expect expertise on our issues with everyone we meet with; they are very busy and are not as focused on our issues as we are. They may need to rely on our analysis of the issues and, more importantly, our grassroots and grasstops mobilization, media work, and representing people in our communities. Finally, he said that we will make more progress when we can find common ground with our members of Congress and their staff.

In addition, the call featured an overview of our 2012 U.S. Poverty Campaigns and a review of Group Planning resources on our Group Resources and Administration page, including:

RESULTS volunteer leaders in Houston, Columbus, Broward County and Santa Fe shared about their recent work and plans for 2012, and RESULTS Buffalo volunteer Bruce Davidson helped demonstrate how to Request a Face-to-Face Lobby Visit with a Member of Congress (our January 2012 Domestic Laser Talk). Cindy Changyit Levin, Grassroots Development Associate also reviewed the importance of including fundraising in the group planning meetings. Truth be told, fundraising can even help groups achieve your expansion goals and reach out to your community.

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