October 2011 Domestic National Conference Call: Protecting Those Living in Poverty in Budget Deal


October 19, 2011
Meredith Dodson, Director of Domestic (U.S. Poverty) Campaigns

The October RESULTS U.S. Poverty national conference call featured guest speaker Debbie Weinstein of the Coalition on Human Needs, talking about the current work of the Super Committee and its impact on federal anti-poverty programs. Debbie did a great job at providing us an overview of the Super Committee, pointing out that the choices they make could either hurt or help people. On the one hand, the committee could work on something constructive like job creation. She pointed out that when people go back to work, they pay taxes. This increases revenue and reduces the deficit. On the other hand, the Super Committee could also do damage by cutting anti-poverty programs like Medicaid, Medicare, SNAP (food stamps), the EITC, the CTC, etc. She noted that “if they don’t [protect anti-poverty programs] and emphasize cuts, then we could see proposals like the House FY 2012 budget, which would have block-granted Medicaid.” Block granting could result in half of the approximately 60 million people on Medicaid losing coverage. Debbie also noted that the House proposal to block grant SNAP would result in 8 million people losing benefits, or result in a $145 cut in monthly benefits for families on SNAP.

Debbie also discussed the importance of revenue being a part of the Super Committee plan, specifically revenue that equals or exceeds the amount of any proposed cuts (remember that Congress has already agreed to cut $1 trillion over ten years from the budget as part of the Budget Control Act). However, Debbie stressed that the most important message for advocates is that a bad deal is much worse than no deal at all, and that it is not imperative that they reach a deal right now. “We can live to fight another day.” Therefore, if the Super Committee comes out with a plan that relies heavily on cuts to important anti-poverty programs but contains little or no new revenue, members of Congress should walk away. We need to make this clear to lawmakers — WALK AWAY FROM A BAD DEAL.

Debbie’s insights and advice are very helpful as we work this month to influence the Super Committee’s negotiations. It is very important that everyday Americans participate in this process, and not just because a deficit reduction deal would have far-reaching implications affecting all Americans. Already lobbyists and special interest groups have donated hundreds of thousands of dollars to Super Committee members’ campaign chests. Therefore, we need as many voices as possible contacting Congress the next few weeks. For RESULTS, that means urging others in our communities to pick up the phone or pen or keyboard to take action. Many of you already have local “action networks” made up of people who may not be regular members of your group but are willing to take action from time to time. Now is one of those times. If you already have a local action network, reach out to them now and urge them to contact Congress to tell them to pass a plan based on our three principles: a plan that does not increase poverty, is balanced with substantial new revenue, and creates jobs.

The conference call also included an update on recent proposals to increase funding for Head Start and Early Head Start, as well as maintain Child Care services for low-income working families. In addition, RESULTS volunteers in Tacoma, WA, and Columbus, OH, shared recent fundraising successes.

TAKE ACTION: Take the October Action. Make your voice heard by contacting representatives and senators about protecting the poor in deficit reduction talks. Urge them to talk the members of the Super Committee as well as House and Senate leadership urging a balanced approach to deficit reduction that protects America’s most vulnerable. Magnify your voice by activating your local action network and urge them to call (toll free number is (888) 245-0215), write, or e-mail Congress as well. Connect with allies you have cultivated over the years, including friends and family, faith communities, food banks, local anti-poverty organizations, health care advocates, etc. In addition, reach out to new people and groups in your area who may be willing to act. The more people involved in this process, the bigger voice we create. This would include reconnecting with your local Head Start and child care centers you met with last spring. These community allies are ideal advocates on these issues. Contact them and offer to meet to train them on how they can tell Congress to protect low-income Americans in budget negotiations. In addition, if you have not reached out to your contacts from our “To Catch a Dollar” work earlier this year, this is a great opportunity to contact them again and engage them in action.

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