Delta Grassroots Caucus/
Economic Equality Caucus
|The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.
Delta Grassroots Caucus Events
Posted on November 29, 2016 at 02:21 PM
We hope everyone is having a good holiday season. The Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus is engaging in a year-end fundraising drive to request annual membership dues for all those who support our advocacy for economic equality in the Greater Delta Region and across the country.
We are a private sector, bipartisan grassroots advocacy organization and our budget is entirely made up of voluntary donations in the form of annual membership dues, registration fees for the major conferences, and some sponsorships.
We base our budget on a large number of modest contributions, and dues are only required for $25 once a calendar year, although many contribute $50 or $100.
This is our year-end fundraising drive for 2016, so please send in your donation in the next few days before the holidays crunch comes in.
The small amount of $25 once a year is all we require for membership, although larger organizations, universities, banks, foundations, corporations or those who wish to contribute larger amounts usually contribute at $50, $75 or $100.
We have such a large number of partners that this will add up to a significant amount. We are sending out more reminders than we used to and we feel sure that for those who have not yet sent in their dues it was just an oversight.
Again the only requirement is $25 once a year. This will help the budget in a major way and can’t be a burden on the vast majority of our colleagues’ finances.
Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:
5030 Purslane Place
Waldorf, MD 20601
Alternatively, you can go to the website at www.mdgc.us and use the PayPal process to pay if that is more convenient for you.
Many organizations and leaders pay the dues now and we are making this a requirement if you wish to be a member–meaning that if you wish to attend our conferences, be invited to them, receive group email newsletters and otherwise stay in touch with and be involved with our organization, we do require the simple, minimal action of sending in the $25 membership dues once a year.
We never want to send these requests or any other information to anyone who is not interested. Please advise if you do not wish to be a member by sending an email to us at firstname.lastname@example.org and we will remove your name from the data base and the group email list.
A grassroots organization needs to raise funds by a large number of modest contributions, to avoid dependence on a few “big bucks” donors. We do ask for a few sponsorships but do not want to depend on a few large donors and we have a diversified financial base. We are placing increasing emphasis on collecting annual dues from all partners, at least for $25 once a year.
Our only sources of income come from voluntary donations in the form of annual membership dues, registration fees for larger conferences, and sponsorships. We are not and cannot be a 501c3 because we need to have complete freedom to engage in all forms of political expression that a 501c3 cannot.
Delta/Economic Equality Caucus Activities for 2017:
–Year-round advocacy by individual or small group emails, phone calls, or small meetings: Every week we contact federal, state and grassroots partners regarding key issues such as job creation, infrastructure, health care for underserved populations, hunger and nutrition, USDA programs, renewable energy/energy efficiency, education and other initiatives crucial to bringing about broader economic progress.
–Group email newsletters on key issues-we encourage people to make a quick phone call or email to federal and state powers that be on initiatives that they agree are beneficial to economic equality.
–Website postings at www.mdgc.us
–News releases on key issues issued when legislation or other matters are pressing.
–News conferences in the Washington, DC area or the Arkansas state Capitol.
–Washington, DC conference-national in scope–on Economic Equality on Capitol Hill, spring, 2017: the Delta Grassroots Caucus will be joined by our partners representing other major regions and populations including Appalachia, Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest, Native Americans, New York, key inner cities like New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Baltimore and Washington, DC; and the Mid-Atlantic region of Virginia/DC/Maryland, which is relatively prosperous overall but has significant areas of economic distress.
Conference at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, October, 2017-this will highlight the Greater Delta Region but will also include some national participants.
The largest region of economic distress is unfortunately the Greater Delta Region, which we expansively define as extending from Missouri and Illinois down to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.
The Delta Caucus is reinforced by allies in Appalachia, Southwest, Midwest, New York, Mid-Atlantic region to amplify our influence in recent years: Over the last three or four years, we have joined forces with like-minded partners in the other key regions mentioned above-Appalachia, SW Border, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, etc.-because they have very similar views on key economic and community development issues as the Delta partners do and our voices will be greatly strengthened by allies from all over the country.
We have been advocating year in and year out for 15 years now, in good times and bad. We will continue our advocacy as vigorously as ever in 2017 to the Trump administration, Congress, federal and state officials, and grassroots partners.
Organizational status: We are not a 501c3 because we need to have complete freedom of action to engage in political dialogue on some issues that some may feel are somewhat controversial at times, to engage in lobbying for broad-minded initiatives supporting the prosperity of the majority of Americans, and to otherwise speak our minds as we see fit after feedback from our many partners across the country.
As you know, 501c3 organizations have limitations on their freedom of political expression and lobbying activities. Our entire purpose as an organization is to engage in bipartisan public policy and political advocacy and occasion lobbying for broad-based initiatives. Thus all of our funding comes from private sector donations, we do not have any tax benefits, and we do not get funding from the government (except for routine matters like registration fees to pay for attendance at a conference, or on rare occasions funding to help disseminate information in emergencies like floods or hurricanes.)
We are all familiar with organizations who had or sought tax-exempt status who were discriminated against by the IRS because of their public policy positions. We are invulnerable to that kind of pressure, because we are not a 501c3 and do not have tax-exempt status in the first place. This is a longstanding decision made after careful policy, financial and legal analysis.
Thanks so much. Lee Powell, Economic Equality/Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347
Posted on October 25, 2016 at 10:34 AM
Economic equality is an issue across the country. Even in relatively affluent areas like Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland, there are areas of poverty and economic inequality.
The Economic Equality Coalition (the national affiliate of the Delta Caucus) will hold an event in Arlington, Virginia on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016 to scrutinize economic issues in the context of this year’s historic elections.
While economic inequality is most serious among populations like Appalachia, parts of the Midwest, Southwest Border, Native Americans, the Greater Delta region, and inner cities, the problem is widespread nationally and exists even in some areas of the Mid-Atlantic.
We urge the next Congress and the next administration to take much stronger action for economic equality and much broader prosperity.
The confirmed speakers will each give very brief, quick-hitting messages on the theme of economic, racial and gender equality.
List of confirmed speakers:
–Rodney Fisher of Alexandria, health care and education expert with extensive experience on Capitol Hill and in state government;
–Dave Snyder of Falls Church, long-time local elected official in northern Virginia;
–Jim Livingston, President of the Virginia Education Association, on education as vital for our economy’s future;
–Walter Tejada of Arlington, bipartisan Virginia Latino Leaders Council, on economic equality and justice for the growing Hispanic population in Virginia and across the country;
–Mike Town, Virginia League of Conservation Voters Voter Action Fund executive director, for expansion of the US clean energy industry to create jobs, reduce dependence on foreign oil and help the economy;
–Jennifer Rodriguez, American Federation of Teachers, (AFT);
–Tilly Blanding, SEIU dynamic African American woman from Fairfax representing the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on job creation at good wages;
–Kay Goss, EEC Co-Chair of Alexandria, President Bill Clinton’s Associate Director of FEMA, noted author and educator;
–Sen. Barbara Favola of Arlington, dynamic northern Virginia woman leader– on equal pay for women and their key role in the economy;
–Lee Powell, EEC Co-Chair.
Posted on September 14, 2016 at 12:35 PM
Poverty and income inequality are still serious problems in the Delta, Southwest Border, Appalachia, inner cities including Washington, DC and many other areas, but median incomes rose 5.2% in 2015 and poverty rates fell by 1.2%, the biggest decline since 1968. Census Bureau reports show some relative progress even for lower income groups, despite the continuing problems.
What may be even more surprising to many people who take the erroneous, defeatist view that America has accomplished nothing to fight poverty over the past 50 years is this conclusion based on exhaustive research by the City University of New York:
Many of the poorest states from 1990 to 2014 experienced the largest increase in income for the lowest income groups: the top four of these states were Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, with Oklahoma sixth and West Virginia in the heart of Appalachia eighth.
The figures on economic inequality and the rise in wages from 1990 to 2014 for the poorest states were based on meticulous research by the City University of New York, which has been extensively reported in the New York Times and other media across the country. As the New York Times summarized the research of CUNY’s Branko Milanovic:
States that have lagged economically “like Arkansas and Mississippi are the ones where economic inequality has narrowed the most…federally funded social programs will have a greater impact on the lower percentiles of income in the South in percentage terms.” (Income Inequality by State,” by Quoctring Bui, New York Times, Sept. 6, 2016).
Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture since Medicaid, Medicare, the expansion of major USDA nutrition programs and other anti-poverty initiatives began in the 1960s, again there is a major change in the states where economic inequality was greatest: in the 1960s, those states were all in the South–Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama and North Carolina.
By 2010, the most unequal states were California, New York, Texas, Arizona and Georgia. These states are characterized by extremes of both great wealth and poverty within their borders.
The CUNY report took cost of living into consideration, and therefore avoided making inaccurate comparisons between areas with widely divergent costs of living.
For the recent nationwide figures, there were 3.5 million fewer people in poverty in 2015 than there were in 2014.
The percentage of Americans lacking health insurance continued to decline, this time by 1.3% to a new lower level of 9.1%. The Affordable Care Act was the major force behind an increase of 4 million people who gained health insurance coverage.
This still leaves 43.1 million Americans in poverty, and that’s far too high. We have a long way to go.
In a departure from the expanding income inequality in our recent history, wages grew most for the lowest-earning workers and least for the highest earning ones, and all racial and ethnic groups improved-although the gap for women and minorities still remains as a problem.
Nonetheless, there was improvement: income for the poorest 10% of households expanded by a robust 7.9%, as opposed to just 2.9% for the wealthiest 10%.
The limited progress was a result of falling unemployment, rising wages in most areas, and a labor market where employers are being forced to compete for workers, along with low inflation.
Even in areas like Washington, DC/Virginia/Maryland there are areas of poverty despite the general affluence of this region, and the high cost of living in the area creates pressures even for many middle class families.
Arkansas and Mississippi unfortunately rank 49th and 50th in median income, so the relative position of these states at the bottom remains an issue.
However, Arkansas’ median income did grow by 1.7%, and the much lower cost of living in Arkansas tempers the lower income numbers, according to Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Arkansas’ cost of living is 12.5% lower than the national average.
Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri in particular have much lower housing costs than other states.
Disappointing results nationally: minimal improvement in income for women and people in rural areas: While unemployment fell in many rural areas in Arkansas and the Delta and the cost of living is lower there, rural areas nationally did not see a median income increase, so that is a significant finding that remains disappointing.
Another disappointing result showed that women on average earned 80% of income compared to men in 2015, a minor improvement from 79% in 2014.
For the longer term picture, not surprisingly the CUNY report indicated that the worst period of depressed incomes for the middle class and the poor was after 2000 and especially during the Great Recession.
Both the longer term data and the latest Census Bureau reports indicate two fundamental realities: for the short term, the economic recovery is finally starting to reach middle class and lower income groups, and for the long term the worst instances of poverty, hunger and inadequate health care have been significantly reduced since 1960. But this is only because poverty was relatively speaking so severe in that era and the progress is only relative to that low point.
It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the Delta Caucus and our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Coalition, believe poverty and economic inequality are far too high both regionally and nationally. Our deep concerns on those points are in fact the reason for our existence. We are talking about some relative progress that has not gone anywhere near far enough.
We should also emphasize that the relative improvement in the poorest states and populations was substantially influenced both in the longer term data and the recent recovery from the Great Recession by the fact that those groups were so far behind to begin with. The progress was relative to the very low beginning points and America still remains the most economically unequal among the affluent nations.
We need major investments in expanding and improving the major economic progress programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, childhood nutrition programs, Earned Income Tax Credit, investments in infrastructure to create jobs and improve our deteriorating infrastructure, and other initiatives to fight poverty and hunger. The Affordable Care Act needs significant improvements and many in our coalition believe the next President should support the public option in health care.
Posted on August 30, 2016 at 01:55 PM
Please contact your Members of Congress and urge full and rapid federal aid for relief both short term and long-term in rebuilding southern Louisiana after the massive flooding. Information on charitable contributions for nutrition needs for victims is below in this message.
Right now a program that is doing great work is the Disaster Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. Twenty parishes have been included included in a federal disaster proclamation covering one third of the state’s population in what the Red Cross describes as the worst natural disaster since Super Storm Sandy.
On the front lines of the disaster relief campaign is David Coffman, executive director of the Louisiana Association of Food Banks in Baton Rouge, who said Gov. John Bel Edwards and the state have been very pro-active in providing assistance as the grocery stores are getting their shelves re-stocked. The USDA Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) has approved Louisiana’s request to allow SNAP recipients to buy hot foods ready to eat with their SNAP benefits through Oct. 17, 2016.
Coffman said 120,000 people in Louisiana have signed up for Disaster SNAP relief. Thirteen people died in the flooding. Extensive rebuilding will be required to clear out and repair the flooded homes, pay for new dry-wall, and many other repairs. The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank and Second Harvest Food Bank of New Orleans/Acadiana are working extensively in the flooded areas and please donate to them at the website addresses listed below.
Hunger relief is further stressed because the Baton Rouge Food Bank warehouse and headquarters was itself flooded with four feet of water: Coffman said the relief effort has had to deal with the Baton Rouge Food Bank headquarters being flooded by four feet of water, losing a great deal of food and forcing them to operate out of temporary facilities. It will take months for the warehouse to be repaired, disinfected and functional again, and even more time for food bank offices to be back in operation.
Among the ways to help are:
1) First, contact your Members of Congress now and urge them to be generous in voting disaster relief funding now and in the long-term rebuilding process to come.
2) Any donations to the charities on the front lines would be welcome. Among these are:
a. The Greater Baton Rouge Food Bank by typing in brfoodbank.org and the site immediately directs you to a link where you can make contributions using your credit or debit card. This food bank serves a wider area in Louisiana and not just Baton Rouge. The link is completely secure. Again, their warehouse and offices were flooded so they are urgently in need of help. They are operating out of a smaller temporary facility.
Again: the website to type in for Baton Rouge is:
b. The Second Harvet Food Bank of Greater New Orleans and Acadiana also serves parts of the flooded area. Their website at no-hunger.org also immediately highlights “Disaster Response” with a click to where you can donate to help with the Southe Louisiana food crisis.
Again, the website address to type in for Greater New Orleans/Acadiana is:
Urge all Members of Congress to be generous in voting for federal aid to the Louisiana flooding victims: We urge Members of Congress across the country to avoid the highly unfortunate situation in 2012 regarding Super Storm Sandy, when many Members of Congress-including Rep. Steve Scalise, Rep. John Fleming, then Rep. and now Sen. Bill Cassidy, Republicans from Louisiana, and many others–opposed the $50 billion aid package for victims in the northeast as too costly.
In America, we have always helped victims of disasters whether they come from Louisiana and Arkansas or New York and New Jersey. We would have thought Members of Congress from Louisiana would have especially been compassionate in 2012, having been through the disaster of Hurricane Katrina. Surely Members of Congress in Louisiana and everywhere else will be fully supportive this time around.
The information for this message was gathered from a variety of sources: David Coffman of the Louisiana Association of Food Banks and other Delta Caucus colleagues in Louisiana; from the USDA website; from reports from the Food Research and Action Center (FRAC); and from reporting in the Baton Rouge Advocate newspaper (“Long Waits, Hot Temps at Livingston Parish disaster food stamp site,” by Faimon Roberts, August 22, 2016; and “In Wake of flooding, Louisiana Republicans take heat for 2013 votes against Sandy aid,” by Jeff Adelson, August 23, 2016).
In this disaster it should not be partisan or politicized in any way. To their credit, Members of Congress from both parties in the northeast are stepping up to the aid of Louisiana. Rep. Frank LoBiondo, a Republican from New Jersey, has been a leader in the effort to provide full funding for victims in Louisiana.
Rep. Bill Pascrell (D-N.J.) similarly supports rapid and full aid for victims in Louisiana. Pascrell said that while he would not forget the delays in receiving aid to victims of Sandy in the northeast, and the members who voted against the aid, he vowed that “Not one dime is going to be delayed to the Baton Rouge area or to Louisiana” in general.
An aid package will be needed beyond what FEMA can automatically spend on immediate assistance and aid to local governments, and we urge all our partners in all eight states and the Washington, DC area to call and email their Members of Congress to support full, generous aid to Louisiana victims as they rebuild from this disaster. The entire Congress will have to support the aid package, and helping victims of disasters anywhere should be a national and not a local or regional issue.
Hunger and nutrition update: Disaster food stamps help in buying food for disaster victims who don’t normally receive food stamps. Current recipients of Louisiana’s food stamps program in the flooded parishes will automatically get disaster beneifts on their cards for buying groceries, unless they are already at the household maximum limit, according to USDA.
FNS has approved the request to temporarily let households who have lost their EBT cards to enter on the keys their card number and PIN without having the card present at FNS-authorized retailers in Louisiana through Sep. 6, 2016.
FNS has approved the Louisiana Dept. of Education’s requests to implement much greater flexibility in meal pattern requirements for the National School Lunch Program, the School Breakfast Program, and the Child and Adult Care Food Program. There will be much greater flexibility in calculating identified student percentages (ISPs) to cover any increases as a result of the disaster in SNAP participation and homeless youths served by the Runaway and Homeless Youth Act.
Parishes at the center of the disaster include East Feliciana, Iberia, Livingston, Point Coupee, St. Helena, St. Landry, Tangipahoa, Vermillion, Acadia, Ascension, and East Baton Rouge.
The flooding fortunately did not reach New Orleans, where David Coffman lives, so his home was not among the many flooded. Rev. Dwight Webster, our colleague in New Orleans who is a victim and survivor of Hurricane Katrina, was thankful that New Orleans was spared this time, but he indicated that the depth of this disaster and the suffering is not adequately understood because it covers a very large part of Louisiana. Again, it’s the largest-scale disaster since Super Storm Sandy.
We urge all our partners to advocate forcefully for short-term and long-term relief.
There are some Members of Congress from Louisiana, notably Congressmen Scalise and Fleming and Sen. Cassidy, who advocated smaller levels of funding for disaster victims of Super Storm Sandy in New York, New Jersey and the northeast. These Members of Congress now find themselves in the unenviable position of advocating for generous disaster relief when their home area was devastated, when they had called for much lesser funding in the name of cutting out waste, corruption, and expenses when the victims were at the other end of the country.
We should give credit to the US Senators from Louisiana in the 2012 vote on Sandy aid: then Sen. Mary Landrieu was a champion of aiding the victims in the northeast, and Sen. David Vitter voted in favor of the aid package. The Senate version of Sandy aid in fact included $10 billion more than the version that finally passed, due to opposition centered in the House.
Most people in the Delta were for generously helping victims of Sandy. The Delta Caucus included many leaders who volunteered for relief aid after Hurricane Katrina, and we were supportive of generous aid to victims of Sandy due to our terrible experience in our region.
Posted on August 23, 2016 at 12:24 PM
The Delta Grassroots Caucus held a bipartisan event on economic equality issues, Aug. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Arkansas State Capitol that included a series of speakers on key community and economic development issues, as well as an informal debate between Sen. Joyce Elliott (D-Little Rock) speaking in favor of Hillary Clinton, and Bud Cummins (R-Little Rock), Chairman of the Arkansas Presidential campaign for Donald Trump, speaking for Mr. Trump.
The Delta Caucus would like to point out that the dialogue on the Presidential campaign was completely cordial and low-key, in marked contrast to today’s climate where political leaders often blast each other with heated, partisan rhetoric. Bud Cummins and Joyce Elliott are both to be commended on that score.
Below we are just trying to hit the highlights of the comments that took up almost an hour. We are doing our best to convey what was said, and people can draw their own conclusions. Due to space limitations this has to be a very abbreviated summary.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1) Informal debate between Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton Campaign Supporters
2) Brief summaries on community and economic development presentations on key issues:
a. Medicaid expansion in Arkansas–Arkansas Hospital Association;
b. Job creation–Arkansas Economic Development Commission;
c. Hunger and nutrition–Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance;
d. Poverty in Arkansas–Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families;
e. Farm trade to Cuba, Kevin Smith, Delta Caucus Senior Adviser from Helena-West Helena and Harvey Joe Sanner, President, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Des Arc, Arkansas;
f. Transportation and infrastructure improvements,including I-69 Corridor, Rep. Lane Jean (R-Magnolia);
g. Education and Hispanic issues–Arkansas Board of Education and Arkansas United Community Coalition;
h. The College of Aspiring Artists/NAACP–March-ON Arkansas, Aug. 28 to commemorate Martin Luther King’s “I Have a Dream” speech and advocate for separation of the Martin Luther King and Robert E. Lee holiday in Arkansas.
i. Support for the legislation to allow the historic steamboat, the Delta Queen, to travel America’s inland waterways once again.
Bud Cummins emphasized that Mr. Trump would be a more effective President based on his success in the business world and strong leadership skills. He said Trump would create jobs more effectively through his policies emphasizing tax cuts and reducing government regulations.
Sen. Joyce Elliott stressed Clinton’s broad-based economic plan focusing on working families and not the wealthiest Americans. She said that Clinton’s leadership on fair pay for women would be very important for economic equality, since over half the households are now headed by women.
On health care, Elliott emphasized that Clinton would improve the Affordable Care Act but would not make the mistake of starting all over again, especially after the ACA has provided millions of people with health insurance who were formerly uninsured.
Cummins said that Obamacare is already failing, and that Trump would throw it out altogether and replace it with a better system, emphasizing Trump’s comment that as President he will not “let anybody die in the streets.”
On investing in infrastructure to create jobs and repair our deteriorating infrastructure, Cummins emphasized that Trump has pointed out the severe weaknesses in our infrastructure, with many bridges and highways across the country crumbling. He said Trump has pledged to make major infrastructure improvements as President, and this is another area where his dynamic leadership ability will make him effective.
Elliott said Clinton has made major investments in infrastructure a major plank in her campaign. She said that Clinton understands the needs of Arkansans better than Trump because she lived in the state for two decades.
For example, she already knows about the need for progress on I-69, a major national transportation artery that will go through Arkansas and the Delta. Secretary Clinton has pledged to invest $300 million in infrastructure, and Arkansas facilities like the Little Rock Port Authority and the Little Rock airport will benefit greatly, as would many communities with outdated water and sewer systems.
Delta Caucus partners pointed out that since Secretary Clinton has been involved in public life for many decades and Mr. Trump is new to politics, she naturally has mapped out more policy specifics. People will draw their own conclusions as to whether they prefer experience and the greater specificity of one candidate, or being new on the political scene and not delving into policy details by the other.
On education, Elliott emphasized Clinton’s plan to provide college education without saddling students with massive student loan debt, as well as major investments and improvements in K-12. Elliott was a high school teacher of English and public speaking for 30 years and former Director of Government Relations for The College Board Southwestern Region, and emphasized as an educator her appreciation for Clinton’s commitment to improved education as the key to a better future.
On nutrition, Elliott stressed Clinton’s commitment for strong funding for the SNAP, school meals, summer meals, WIC and other programs that are a key safety net against hunger and a key preventive action against nutrition-related health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
Cummins emphasized that Trump has strong commitments to education and nutrition, and these are vital subjects that everyone supports. On many of these issues regarding the state of the country he said the Obama administration has failed to resolve them and Trump will be a major change in providing stronger leadership.
We are not expecting surrogates to be able to answer every policy questions with a lot of specificity. On hunger and nutrition issues, Cummins was not aware of any specific positions Trump has taken as of yet. Trump is fleshing out his positions on more issues now and hunger and nutrition advocates will want to hear from him on these vital subjects soon.
Controversies regarding Hispanics, women and other minorities: The Delta Caucus is a highly diverse coalition including many women, Hispanics, African Americans and other minorities. Therefore, we did ask Cummins to explain what impact Mr. Trump’s well-known, extremely controversial statements regarding these minorities may have on the election, while asking Ms. Elliott to comment on why Trump remained with substantial strength in spite of these comments.
Cummins said that while he of course could not know why some of these comments were made, that many people appreciated the candor with which Mr. Trump speaks his mind. He said that Trump had not said all Mexicans were criminals, that most of them are in fact good people, and that he was just expressing concern about making our borders safer.
Cummins said that Trump has retained many supporters across the country in spite of his controversial statements and that his comments were reflecting his honesty.
Elliott, who is an African American woman, said that in fact in recent weeks Mr. Trump’s support has significantly declined. She believes that decline is an indication that many people believe that the comments about women, Hispanics, and other minorities do express legitimate concerns about a potential President of the United States holding such views about these large groups in the population. Again, please note that both speakers were being very restrained and very careful to refrain from any heated, partisan rhetoric.
Ms. Elliott said she believes Clinton has a deep compassion for families across the country and would put her great experience, knowledge and caring to greater use as President.
Bud Cummins is a former US District Attorney, former chief legal counsel to Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Republican Second District Congressional nominee, chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign in Arkansas, served as a Whip on the Republican National Convention floor, and member of Donald Trump’s transition team advisory committee led by Gov. Chris Christie (R-NJ).
Sen. Joyce Elliott is a distinguished educator, senior member of the Arkansas Senate, Hillary Clinton delegate to the Democratic National Convention, former Democratic Second District Congressional nominee, high school teacher of English and speech for 30 years, and former Director of Government Relations for The College Board for the Southwestern Region.
The event began at 9 a.m. with a series of nonpartisan, substantive speakers on key economic and community development issues. They are from Arkansas organizations, but the issues are mostly common to the entire 8-state Delta region. Speakers will include:
Bo Ryall, CEO of Arkansas Hospitals Association, speaking about the nationally recognized Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program in Arkansas. He said that health care is a key element of economic development, and increased funding for medical coverage has been vital for rural hospitals in Arkansas.
The innovative Arkansas Works Medicaid expansion program in Arkansas has received widespread praise as a national role model, and more than 270,000 people in the state have become insured as a result.
Rich Huddleston, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, speaking about poverty issues in Arkansas, especially for children, single women and African Americans-three large groups in the population who have not shared in our society’s prosperity. He said that the USA has the highest child poverty rate of any industrialized country, and Arkansas has one of the highest rates-an overall poverty rate of 19% and a child poverty rate of 26%.
He called for an Earned Income Tax Credit at the state level in Arkansas, a higher minimum wage, paid family leave, and action against the severe racial disparities in the state’s criminal justice system.
Huddleston cited extensive economic data and research demonstrating that tax cuts do not propel economic growth, but weaken funding for programs for job creation, health care, education and other essential services.
Danny Games, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Executive Vice President, Global Business, on job creation at good wages. Games noted the successes Arkansas has had in the last couple of years in bringing such major projects as the Big River steel plant to northeast Arkansas, a major plant in Arkadelphia, and the multiplier impact that these major projects have in generating additional small businesses that promote further job creation.
SiKia Brown, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance Out of School Director for the No Kid Hungry campaign, spoke about the great importance of child nutrition, SNAP and other nutrition programs. Arkansas, Mississippi and other Delta states unfortunately lag at or near the bottom in food security in America, leading to high rates of nutrition-related health problems like diabetes, obesity and heart disease. She explained the importance of school meals, summer meals, WIC and other vital provisions in the pending Childhood Nutrition Re-Authorization bill in Congress. The current Senate version is superior to the House version, which will be damaging to many lower income families across the country if it passed into law. Concerned citizens need to contact their Members of Congress in strong support of full funding for childhood nutrition programs in this vital legislation.
o The Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance also unveiled a mobile farmers’ market project that will help disseminate nutritious fresh produce to people in the state while providing markets for small farmers.
Mireya Reith, speaking on education in general in Arkansas based on her role as Chairman of the Arkansas Board of Education, and issues for the growing Hispanic population in Arkansas in her capacity as director of the Arkansas United Community Coalition, was the only speaker who wore two hats and addressed two vital issues at the meeting. Arkansas has the fourth fastest growing immigrant population in the United States. Half of the school districts now have English language programs to reduce the linguistic barriers to education.
Ms. Reith stressed the need to take action against alarmingly low rates of graduation from high school of Hispanics and African American males, and she said Arkansas has one of the lowest rates of graduation from college for Hispanic and African American males.
Reith said that our immigration system is broken, but our response cannot just be punishing and excluding those who are different. For those in the Dreamer category in Arkansas, there are about 8,000 who have lived most of their lives in the USA who have been hard-working and have no issues with the law other than how they got to be here. She also noted that Arkansas is one of only three states with no independent civil rights commission.
She emphasized the great importance of increasing equality and opportunity for the growing minority population in Arkansas. As of about 2010, the Hispanic percentage of the electorate was approximately 1%. This year, organizations like the Arkansas United Community Coalition and many other concerned citizens acr”ss the state are working toward the much higher percentage of 5% or 6%.;
Kevin Smith, Delta Caucus senior adviser in Helena-West Helena, and Harvey Joe Sanner, President of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas in Des Arc, spoke on opening up farm trade to Cuba to expand Arkansas rice, poultry and other exports-Kevin recently traveled to Cuba, and Harvey Joe traveled there in the mid-1980s and met with Fidel Castro on this subject.
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