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.

Jobs/Economy, Health Care, Nutrition, Diversity, Infrastructure--Key Issues for May 23-24 EEC in Washington, DC

Posted on May 03, 2018 at 01:02 PM

We would like to update the key issues and latest draft of the agenda for the May 23-24 Economic Equality Caucus conference in the Washington, DC area.

Key issues will include economic equality and progress, health care issues, SNAP and other nutrition programs, rural economic development and infrastructure, and diversity/civil rights as we pay tribute to the great legacy of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., in the 50th anniversary of his assassination.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. KEY ISSUES AND SPEAKERS

II. GROUP HOTEL AND REGISTRATION DEADLINES EXTENDED TO MAY 9, WEDNESDAY

III. BASIC SCHEDULE

IV. LATEST DRAFT OF AGENDA

V. APPRECIATION FOR SPONSORS

KEY ISSUES: Job creation at good wages, health care, SNAP, rural development and other USDA-related issues in the farm bill, transportation, housing and other infrastructure investments, economic opportunity and equality for women, minorities and financially distressed populations.

Speakers will include:

– Congressman Rick Crawford and Congressman French Hill (R-AR), Congressman James McGovern (D-MA), senior ranking member of the Nutrition Subcommittee and Co-Chair of the House Hunger Caucus, Sen, John Boozman, co-chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus, member of Agriculture Committee, major candidates from both parties in the nationally watched 10th District Congressional race in northern Virginia;

–USDA Food and Nutrition Service Deputy Administrator Rich Lucas, USDA national headquarters in Washington, DC, on SNAP and other nutrition programs,

–USDA Rural Development’s Betty-Ann Bryce, USDA national headquarters, on efforts to combat the opioids epidemic,

–policy organizations and leaders like Joel Berg, CEO of Hunger Free America, a national nonprofit based in New York, and representatives from other major hunger and nutrition organizations like Feeding America, Food Research and Action Center, the Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, the Society of St. Andrew;

–Rural issues advocates such as Porter Briggs of the Save the White River Bridge campaign and Harvey Joe Sanner, president of the American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas;

–Rural housing and infrastructure organizations like Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corp.) and the Housing Assistance Council;

–Diversity/civil rights leaders including Rev. Dwight Webster, eloquent civil rights advocate, community leader and senior pastor of major churches over many years in Oakland, California and New Orleans, Louisiana (he is a survivor and victim of Hurricane Katrina), and Wilson Golden, a director of the William Winter Institute for Racial Reconciliation based in Mississippi, with longstanding ties to both the Delta and Appalachian regions;

–The National Congress of American Indians;

–The nationally recognized nonprofit DC Central Kitchen’s Kimberly Brown—this is a Washington, DC-based nonprofits that has an excellent job preparation and creation program for developing careers in the food service industry;

–Community Family Life Services in Washington, DC, which has an innovative program for getting previously incarcerated women back in their feet with jobs, housing and health care;

–Capitol Hill Group Ministry, a faith-based nonprofit in Washington, DC, which unfortunately has great wealth and great poverty co-existing close together;

–Virginia nonprofits, faith-based institutions and grassroots leaders including Phillips Programs for Children and Families, the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, Share, Inc. nonprofit in McLean/Tyson’s area; the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer Social Concerns Committee, Virginia Latino Leaders Council and other organizations in the key swing state of Virginia;

–The 10th Congressional District candidates from both parties—this district is a microcosm for the national public policy debate because it begins in urban northern Virginia but extends to rural and agricultural areas in western Virginia—Democrats Dan Helmer, Alison Friedman, Lindsey Davis Stover and Paul Pelletier are confirmed; Republican candidate Shak Hill is confirmed; and Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) is invited (we will not endorse any candidate but want to hear from them all);

–We will hear from a senior official of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation in Washington, DC at the May 24 luncheon about their philanthropic work in our nation’s capital;

–Our partners would certainly like to see reforms and improvements to NAFTA and other trade partners, but NAFTA is beneficial for US agricultural exporters, and we would advocate for environmental and labor reforms rather than abandoning the agreement altogether.

II. GROUP HOTEL AND REGISTRATION FEES DEADLINE EXTENDED TO MAY 9

The group hotel is the Staybridge Suites in McLean/Tyson’s. To get the group rate discounted to $239, please call the hotel at 703-448-5400 and say you are with the Economic Equality Caucus/Delta Caucus group for the night of May 23.

The Staybridge Suites offers free parking, free breakfast, and it is literally only about a three-minute hotel shuttle ride from the opening session at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 1545 Chain Bridge Road, so if you stay there you will not need a taxi ride.

REGISTRATION

You register by paying the registration fees.

For those who will be there for all three sessions, this is $100 by May 9. For those in the Washington, DC region who can only come to one session due to your work schedule requirements, we would ask for $20 per session.

The easiest way to register is to go to the website at mdgc.us and go to the PayPal link that says “Donate.” The PayPal process generates a written record of the transaction.

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

III. BASIC SCHEDULE

OPENING SESSION WEDNESDAY EVENING MAY 23

Wednesday evening, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, 1545 Chain Bridge Road, McLean, in northern Virginia across the Potomac River from Capitol Hill

Reception: 4:45 to 5:5:15 p.,.

5:15 p.m. to 5:45 p.m.–Non-political session for nonprofits, grassroots leaders and faith-based entities

5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.—Bipartisan forum for 10th Congressional District of Virginia Candidates from both parties

OPTIONAL DINNER AT J. GILBERT’S RESTAURANT NEAR THE STAYBRIDGE SUITES HOTEL AFTER THE OPENING SESSION, May 23—8 p.m. to 9 p.m.

This is strictly just for socializing and networking, but many people find that useful contacts and information can be exchanged. This is a fine restaurant. (Folks pay their own way, of course.)

MAY 24 SENATE SESSION:

Thursday morning, May 24, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m., Senate Russell Building Room 485

MAY 24 CAPITOL HILL LUNCHEON

Thursday, May 24, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill near the Supreme Court, 212 E. Capitol

IV. Agenda Draft–Economic Equality Caucus, May 23-24, 2018, Washington, DC Area

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May 23-24 Economic Equality Caucus in Washington, DC Area--Deadlines are May 2

Posted on April 24, 2018 at 01:58 PM

The Economic Equality Caucus conference in the Washington, DC area is now a little less than a month away. Group hotel and early registration deadlines are next week, May 2.

We have Members of Congress, national executive branch officials, and policy organizations on job creation at good wages, economic equality, health care, nutrition, infrastructure, and education on the program.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

1) REGISTRATION

2) GROUP HOTEL

3) UPDATE ON THE MAY 23-24 PROGRAM

4) APPRECIATION FOR SPONSORS

EARLY REGISTRATION:

For those attending all the sessions, early registration fees deadline at $100 is May 2, Wednesday, close of business. This goes up to $125 after May 2.

For people based in the Washington, DC area who have work restrictions on their schedule and can only attend one session, we ask for a registration fee of $20 per session.

You register by paying the registration fees.

The easiest way to register is to go to the website at mdgc.us and use the PayPal link that says “Donate.”

The PayPal process automatically produces a written record of your payment, but we can certainly also send along an invoice if you like.

If you prefer to pay by check, please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

GROUP HOTEL:

The group hotel is the Staybridge Suites, Tysons/McLean Virginia, which is only three minutes by the hotel shuttle from the May 23 opening session meeting venue, and not a long taxi ride from the Capitol Hill sessions on Thursday morning and luncheon, May 24, on Capitol Hill.

Please call the hotel by May 2, Wednesday at (703) 448-5400 and say you are with the Economic Equality Caucus/Delta Caucus group to get the group discount of $239 for the night of May 23. This is the busiest time of year and Washington, DC is majestic in the spring. The hotel offers free parking, free breakfasts and is very close to the opening session, not far from Capitol Hill, and situated close to two of the DC area airports.

Washington, DC hotel rates in the spring are admittedly high, but with the parking, breakfast and location, this is actually a fairly good rate by DC standards.

OPENING SESSION, Wednesday evening, May 23, 4:45 to 7:45 p.m.

Lutheran Church of the Redeemer sanctuary in McLean, Virginia, 1545 Chain Bridge Road.

The location is in McLean, Virginia, across the Potomac from Capitol Hill, at the McLean Lutheran Church of the Redeemer sanctuary. We have many people based in the northern Virginia/DC/MD area who are transplanted from Arkansas, Mississippi and elsewhere in the Delta, and we have an opportunity to hear firsthand from one of the two or three most heavily watched Congressional races in the entire country in the 10th Congressional District of Virginia, of which McLean is at the heart.

This seat is hotly contested, with incumbent Rep. Barbara Comstock (R-VA) facing a Republican challenger and six Democratic challengers.

People originally from the Delta region with strong ties to the northern Virginia/DC/Md region include former First District Congressman of Arkansas Bill Alexander and his wife Debi (now a nonprofit senior official in northern VA; Congressman Alexander and Debi live in McLean), Kay Goss, Lee Powell, Rodney Fisher, Wilson Golden, and we are inviting the Arkansas State Society in DC to attend.

This district is not only receiving national attention as a race that will have an impact on the national make-up of Congress, but this district has both rural and urban areas, is highly diverse and is thus a microcosm of the national public policy debate. It begins in urban northern Virginia but stretches out to rural and agricultural areas in western Virginia that have much in common with the Delta, Midwest, and other more small-town and rural regions.

The Republican challenger is Shak Hill, a veteran, private businessman and staunch supporter of President Trump.

Democrats in the crowded field include:

· Alison Friedman, Obama administration appointee, diplomat, anti-human trafficking activist;

· Dan Helmer, veteran, Rhodes Scholar, private businessman;

· Paul Pelletier, attorney, former prosecutor for 27 years in the US Dept. of Justice;

· Lindsey Davis Stover, Obama administration appointee, veterans’ affairs advocate, private business owner;

· Jennifer Wexton, attorney, and state senator representing a district in northern Virginia.

Opening session with nonrprofits and grassroots leaders:

We will start off the opening session at 4:45 to 5:15 with a brief reception, and then have nonprofit and other grassroots leaders from 5:15 to 5:45 p.m., including:Piper Phillips Caswell, CEO, Phillips Programs for Children and Families; Don Frickel, president of the nonprofit Share, Inc. Deanna Heier, Chair, Social Concerns Committee, Lutheran Church of the Redeemer; Eileen Ellsworth, president, Community Foundation of Northern Virginia; and Mayor David Smith of Winchester, Virginia.

Forum for 10th Congressional District candidates of both parties, 5:45 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.

This emphasizes question and answer format, focusing on job creation at good wages, positions regarding the Trump administration’s economic policies, infrastructure investments, economic equality for women and minorities including DACA/Dreamers issues, health care, SNAP and other safety net programs.

Thursday, May 24 US Senate Session, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m. Senate Russell Building Room 485

“Hunger and Nutrition, Rural Community and Economic Development & USDA-Related Issues”

8:30 a.m. to 8:40 a.m.—Katrin Kark, Rural LISC (Local Initiatives Support Corp.)

8:40 a.m. to 8:50 a.m.—Lynette Johnson, Executive Director, Society of St. Andrew, national anti-hunger organization

8:50 a.m. to 9 a.m..—David Lipsetz, Executive Director, Housing Assistance Council, Washington, DC

9:a.m to 9:07 a.m..—Patty Barker, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, on SNAP and other Nutrition Issues

9:07 to 9: 15 a.m.—Carrie Calvert, Managing Director, Nutrition and Ag Government Relations, Feeding America

9:15 a.m. to 9:22 a.m.—Shannon Maynard, Executive Director, Congressional Hunger Center, invited

9:22 a.m. to 9:30 a.m.—Lauren Badger, Senior Director, Government Affairs, Food Research and Action Center (FRAC)

9:30 a.m. to 9:40 a.m.–USDA FOOD AND NUTRITION SERVICE Deputy Administrator, Rich Lucas—high ranking official at USDA national headquarters, to address the SNAP program

9:40 a.m.– Congressman Rick Crawford, Arkansas (introduced by Harvey Joe Sanner, American Agriculture Movement of Arkansas, Des Arc, Arkansas

10 a.m.—10:20 a.m.—Congressman French Hill, Arkansas

10:20 a.m. to 10: 27 a.m.—Ian Record, National Congress of American Indians

10:27 to 10:35 .–Wilson Golden, William Winter Institute for Racial Reconcilation, Jackson, Mississippi

Steve Copley, Arkansas InterFaith, advocate for Dreamers and equality for Hispanics

US Sen. John Boozman, Arkansas (invited)

10:35 TO 10:42 a..m.—10:27 a.m.—Brad Cole, Executive Director, Illinois Municipal League

10:45 a.m.—10:52 a.m.—Porter Briggs, Save the White River Bridge Campaign

10: 52 a.m. to 11 a.nm–Tracy Barnett, University of Arkansas at Little Rock School of Social Work professor, on her research regarding the impact SNAP cuts would have in Arkansas

Thursday May 24 Luncheon, 11:30 a.m. to 1:30 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, 212 East Capitol (near the Supreme Court)

Opening speaker—11:30 a.m. to 11:37 a.m.—Lutheran Church of the Reformation introduction

11:37 a.m. to 11:50 a.m.–Rev. Dwight Webster, Senior Pastor, Oakland, California Beth Eden Baptist Church; formerly Senior Pastor, Christian Unity Baptist Church, New Orleans, Louisiana; survivor and victim of Hurricane Katrina

11:50 a.m. to 12:10–Congressman James McGovern, Massachusetts, Co-Chair, US House of Representatives Hunger Caucus, Senior Ranking Democrat, House Agriculture Committee’s Nutrition Subcommittee

12:10 to 12:30—Kim Brown, Chief Program Officer, DC Central Kitchen, nationally recognized nonprofit based in Washington, DC, along with an alumnus of the DC Central Kitchen’s program for training people for careers in the food service industry

12:30 p.m. to 12:50 p.m.— Joel Berg, CEO, Hunger Free American, national hunger and poverty nonprofit based in New York

12:50 p.m. to 1 p.m.—Karen Cunningham, Executive Director, DC nonprofit, faith-based organization—Capitol Hill Group Ministry

1 p.m. to 1: 10 p.m.—Community Family Life Services, Ashley McSwain, Executive Director

1:10 p.m. to 1:30 p.m.—Congressman Don Beyer, Virginia (invited)

APPRECIATION FOR SPONSORS

LEAD SPONSOR

Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas

SPONSORS

Illinois Municipal League

Arkansas Municipal League

Mississippi Co. AR Economic Opportunity Commission, Blytheville, Arkansas

Winrock International

Contact Congress to Save the White River Bridge in the Heart of the Delta, March, 2018

Posted on March 22, 2018 at 03:44 PM

We would like to give our enthusiastic and urgent endorsement to the leaders of the Save the White River Bridge Campaign at Clarendon, in the heart of the East Arkansas Delta. A citizens group is working to save the bridge built in 1931.

There are thousands of Delta residents supporting the White River Bridge Campaign’s plan to save this bridge from destruction and “re-purpose” it for use as a key link of the hiking and biking trail for the Greater Delta Region. The bridge would play a key role in promoting Delta heritage tourism.

The entire 2 ½ miles of the bridge goes through the wilds of the Big Woods which envelop the Cache and White rivers.

This bridge is currently scheduled to be demolished due to a deeply unfortunate, ill-advised bureaucratic decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service. Demolition has been suspended by a court decision until May 29.

Right now, we need to ask Members of Congress to change the demolition decision and save this Delta landmark.

Please read this brief description, and then call the office of Sen. John Boozman, chairman of the Senate Environment and Public Works Subcommittee on Fisheries, Water and Wildlife Subcommittee at (202) 224-4843. Ask him to lead the campaign to save the White River Bridge for hiking and cycling uses.

Sen. Boozman is a fine, fair-minded man and we know you will take a courteous approach in your appeal to ask him to support this beneficial campaign.

We would also ask those who live in east Arkansas to contact Congressman Rick Crawford, in whose district the bridge is located, at 202-225-4076. Congressman Crawford is also a very fair man who has always listened to us about our concerns for the Delta over many years.

This is an opportunity to do something real for the Delta as opposed to talking about it. We want to save the bridge, as Porter Briggs of the campaign emphasized in an op-ed column in the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette on March 22:

The bridge would be “the highlight of the cycling route through the Delta between Little Rock and the Mississippi River Trail that is being built along the Mississippi between St. Louis and New Orleans.”

Let’s think big–this is not just about one area in Arkansas but is a vital link of the regional effort to promote tourism and appreciation for the Delta’s natural splendor through hiking and biking networks.

In Arkansas, we have seen the impact of bicycling with the Razorback Trail, the new Delta heritage Trail, the Big Dam Bridge and other trails being developed. The 2.25 miles of the bridge offer a unique tree-top perspective through the wilds of the 550,000-acre Big Woods. As Porter Briggs wrote: “The beauty of the bridge is sublime.”

Many people who live in the area are working their hearts out to save the beloved bridge. Thousands of people across the wider region have signed petitions and otherwise sought to aid their effort. We are calling on all Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus partners to do the same to save the White River Bridge.

FACTS: There is an $11.3 million contract that has been let to a company in Mississippi to demolish the bridge, but a court has suspended it until May 29. The White River Bridge Campaign did their homework: they retained the nationally recognized engineering design firm, Kimley-Horn, to prepare their alternative plan for repurposing the bridge for the Delta heritage tourism campaign.

The national engineering design firm concluded that complete renovation of the bridge would cost $5.376 million, $5 million of which the campaign would have immediate access to from the same source as the demolition funds–so the “repurposing” plan would actually cost $6 million less in federal spending than demolition.

Maintenance costs of $60,000 annually will be met by partners of the White River Bridge campaign. No city, county, state or federal funds would be used to maintain the bridge.

The bridge will not do any harm to farming, hunting or fishing. Parts of the bridge that had earlier obstructed flow of the water from the rivers when they are flooding have been removed, so that is not an issue. There is every reason to save the bridge and no legitimate reason to destroy it.

We will certainly weigh in with Members of Congress and Trump administration officials at our May 23-24, 2018 Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus conference in Washington, DC.

Porter Briggs will speak on behalf of the White River Bridge Campaign at our session at the US Senate Russell Building Caucus Room 485, 9 a.m. to 11 a.m., May 24.

But we need to act now. While we expect to fight until the end and our conference is a week before the May 29 deadline, we need to contact our elected officials today.

We are running out of time. We must act now. Our federal bureaucracy is planning to spend $11.3 million to destroy an icon of our Delta heritage that could benefit the economic, aesthetic, and environmental development of our region for the present and future generations.

Help us ask our elected officials to stop federal bureaucrats from this pointless, destructive decision.

Lee Powell on behalf of the Board of Directors of the Delta Grassroots Caucus

Economic Equality Caucus Set for Greater Washington, DC Area, May 23-24, 2018

Posted on February 15, 2018 at 02:55 PM

The Economic Equality Caucus annual conference on economic policy for working American families is set for May 23-24, 2018 for the Greater Washington, DC area.

We greatly encourage everyone to come to the Greater DC area and make your voices heard to the powers that be in Congress and the Trump administration on economic progress and equality, jobs at good wages, health care, immigration (including DACA/Dreamers), women and minority issues, infrastructure, hunger and nutrition and related issues.

OPENING SESSION, WEDNESDAY EVENING, MAY 23, 5 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.:

The opening session is close to but not on Capitol Hill this year–Wednesday evening, May 23, 5 p.m. to 7:40 p.m., at the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean, Virginia just across the Potomac from Capitol Hill. We have had many key partners from Virginia for literally decades now and this location is in the Greater DC area.

There will be a reception from about 5 p.m. to 5:30 p.m., and then from 5:30 to 7:45 p.m. we will have speakers, including major candidates from the nationally watched 10th Congressional District election in Virginia.

This district election makes a good microcosm for the national public policy debate, is hotly contested and will have an impact on the make-up of the next Congress. This district starts out in urban northern Virginia but extends westward to rural and agricultural areas of Virginia, so it includes rural as well as urban issues.

THURSDAY SESSION, MAY 24 ON CAPITOL HILL, 9 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

SENATE SESSION, THURSDAY MORNING, MAY 24, 9 A.M. TO 11 A.M.

US Senate Russell building Room 485.

This session will focus on a wide range of issues including infrastructure investments to repair our deteriorating infrastructure and create jobs, USDA agriculture, rural development, SNAP, school meals, WIC and other major nutrition programs that are currently facing budget cut proposals.

LUNCHEON, LUTHERAN CHURCH OF THE REFORMATION ON CAPITOL HILL, THURSDAY, MAY 24, 11;30 A.M. TO 1:30 P.M.

The Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill in DC is a block from the US Supreme Court, at 212 East Capitol Street, NE, Washington, DC 20003.

Set up individual meetings on your own Thursday afternoon, May 24–We are concluding the conference meetings early, shortly after lunch, to encourage all our partners to set up individual meetings on your own with additional Congressional offices, executive branch agencies in our nation’s capital. This will increase the number of Congressional and Trump administration offices we can have a dialogue with.

You should be able to have a one-on-one or small group meeting with one or more additional officials and then get a plane back home in the early evening of May 24.

For anyone who wishes to stay an extra night, that will give you time to do additional outreach and advocacy on the morning of Friday, May 25, to take advantage of your time spent in our nation’s capital.

Subject matter of your individual meetings is up to you, but we will develop a one or two-page memo condensing some key recommendations on job creation, infrastructure, health care, nutrition, women and minority issues that you can distribute. We welcome feedback on this memo that we are developing now.

COME TO DC AND MAKE YOUR VOICES HEARD–DON’T JUST SIT AT HOME AND TALK ABOUT HOW TERRIBLE WASHINGTON, DC IS

We constantly hear people complain about how they don’t like either President Trump’s administration, or the Republican leadership in Congress, or Democrats in Congress or all three–well, okay, if you think it’s that bad then come to DC and tell the powers that be to get their act together and stop being so dysfunctional.

If all people do is sulk in their tent at home, that is the surest way to guarantee that political leaders in our nation’s capital will continue to fight among themselves and ignore the vast majority of working families’ concerns in America.

Whether you are Republican, Democrat or Independent, conservative, moderate or progressive, many more people today complain about Washington, DC but just silently sulk and won’t go there even once a year to make their voices heard–and that is in sharp contrast to the way it was six to 10 years or earlier.

If you don’t take part in the process and remain silent, you are part of the problem. Come to DC and make your voice heard, whatever your point of view is. A big part of the problem is the lack of civic involvement of far too many US citizens in recent years.

KEY SPEAKERS

**Opening session: 5 p.m. to about 5:45 p.m.–Recepttion and Introduction from Economic Equality Caucus/Delta Caucus leadership to set the stage for the conference as a whole.**

By convening in the affluent area of McLean/Tyson’s Corner, Virginia, we are highlighting the point that even prosperous areas have some working families who are struggling economically, because they do have some immigrants, homeless, those struggling with health care issues, and others who are not wealthy even in this famously wealthy area. Economic inequality is a problem virtually everywhere in our country today.

Then we will hear from Share, Inc.’s President Don Frickel, a nonprofit based in the McLean/Tysons area, Eileen Ellsworth, director of the Community Foundation for Northern Virginia, and a representative of the Social Concerns Committee of the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer, a church that is deeply engaged in helping people in need.

5:50 p.m. to 7:45 p.m.–10th Congressional District of Virginia forum: We will hold a nonpartisan forum for the major candidates from both parties for this nationally watched race.

On the Democratic side, candidates Dan Helmer and Lindsey Davis Stover have confirmed already, State Sen. Jennifer Wexton and Alison Friedman are invited; on the Republican side Shak Hill, Republican candidate is confirmed, and the incumbent, Rep. Barbara Comstock, has been invited.

It is very positive and unusual that we have already gotten confirmations this far ahead of time. Busy Congressional candidates usually confirm much closer to the time of the event, but this is already attracting attention, is bipartisan in a prominent location in the heart of McLean so we are making early progress.

Social networking dinner after opening session ends on May 23 in the evening: When we finish the event about 7:40 p.m. or so, we plan to have a social networking dinner at a restaurant across the street from the group hotel in McLean, the Staybridge Suites Tysons McLean. Group hotel info is below in this email.

KEY PARTNERS FOR MAY 24:

It is too early to get many confirmations, but we will be inviting Sen. Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Rep. Don Beyer and Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia, Sen. Doug Jones and Rep. Terri Sewell of Alabama; Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi; Rep. Steve Cohen of Tennessee; Rep. James Clyburn of South Carolina, Sen. John Kennedy of Louisiana, Sen. John Boozman, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. French Hill of Arkansas, and others.

Joel Berg, CEO of the national nonprofit Hunger Free America based in New York will be one of our main speakers at the luncheon session. Most of you know Joel or know about him. He is one of the leading poverty, hunger and economic equality experts in America and author of the critically acclaimed new book, America, We Need to Talk, focusing on ideas for economic, social and political reform in our country.

We will be inviting many other major organizations, to list some examples:

–Feeding America, Food Research and Action Center, and other hunger/nutrition organizations;

–National Education Association and Virginia Education Association;

–Nucor Yamato Steel and Nucor Steel of Arkansas, the world’s most efficient steel mill and a corporation that pays good wages, has excellent training and other benefits for its employees, and is generally an excellent corporate citizen;

–Mississippi County AR Economic Opportunity Commission, a leading nonprofit in the Greater Mississippi Delta region;

–We will be inviting the National Congress of American Indians, the Housing Assistance Council, the United Farm Workers, who have participated in previous years;

–the League of Conservation Voters;

–Virginia Latino Leadership Council;

–InterFaith Arkansas and the Arkansas United Community Coalition, a major Hispanic organization based in Arkansas;

–the NAACP and other civil rights/diversity organizations;

–state Municipal League organizations;

–Appalachian economic justice and progress groups;

–Southwest Border regional economic justice and progress groups; Economic policy advocates from the Midwest;

–grassroots advocates from across the country.

EARLY REGISTRATION FEES FOR THE TWO-DAY CONFERENCE:

For the two-day conference, registration fees are $100 for those who have not sent in annual dues, or $75 for those who have sent in their annual dues.

You register by sending in the registration fees to PayPal or by check. We do not use registration forms to cut out unnecessary paperwork.

You can pay the registration fees in one of two ways:

Go to the website at mdgc.us and to to the PayPal link and click where it says “Donate.”

If you prefer to pay by check, make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to the Delta Caucus, which is our partner that handles the registration fees for the EEC coalition; and mail to:**

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

Early registration fees deadline is May 2. After that, registration fees go up to $125.

For those who are very late and pay AFTER the conference is over, registration fees go up to $150 each. We discourage the practice of a few who do not pay until after the conference, thus forcing us to take up time inquiring about and collecting registration fees for days or weeks after the conference is over.

For people in the local northern Virginia race who can only come to the opening evening session, we don’t ask for the registration fees but if you can make a small charitable donation to the Lutheran Church of the Redeemer that will be going to a good cause.

GROUP HOTEL–STAYBRIDGE SUITES TYSONS MCLEAN

The group hotel is Staybridge Suites Tysons McLean at 6845 Old Dominion Drive in McLean, Virginia.

Please call the hotel at 703-448-5400 and say you are with the Economic Equality Caucus-Delta group to get the group rate of $239 for Wednesday, May 23.

This hotel is very close to the opening session location at Lutheran Church of the Redeemer in McLean–less than half a mile, four or five minutes away.

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Joel Berg's Great Book Sheds Light of Truth on Political & Economic Reform in US

Posted on January 04, 2018 at 01:38 PM

Joel Berg’s brilliant new book, America, We Need to Talk: A Self-Help Book for the Nation, should be read by all people in the Delta region and across the country who are concerned about reforming the American social, economic and political system.

The book is poignant for the entire country, but especially so for regions like the Greater Delta that have historically lagged behind the rest of America and bear unusually high rates of poverty and food insecurity.

It’s partly a hilarious parody of self-help books, but more importantly, the work is a deadly serious analysis of America’s political, social and economic challenges today.

Joel Berg is CEO of Hunger Free America, a national anti-hunger and poverty nonprofit with headquarters in New York that works in the Delta region and across the country.

Joel lived in Arkansas for a while earlier in his career, did extensive projects in the Delta region as a Presidential appointee at USDA in the Clinton administration, and has continued his strong commitment to the eight-state area from New Orleans to southern Illinois and Missouri and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt in recent years.

Joel will be one of the speakers at the Economic Equality Caucus conference on May 23-24, 2018 in the Washington, DC area. We have a number of authors on economic development and justice, and we like to encourage people to read informative books on these subjects.

You can get a copy of the book in several ways-you can go to the HungerFreeAmerica.org website-in which half of each book’s price goes to the vital nonprofit work of Hunger Free America. Or you can go to JoelBerg.net, or other book sellers such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

Mr. Berg is the most dynamic and eloquent leader on poverty and hunger issues in our country today, but this book encompasses a much broader scope including middle class issues, the grave flaws in the “trickle-down” economic policy that caters to the wealthiest 1%, and the folly of a militaristic foreign policy that devours vast resources of our blood and treasure.

As advocates for an economic equality organization focusing first of all on the Delta but also on Appalachia, Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest and other economically distressed regions, the Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus senior partners often have people decline to take any action in contacting their federal, state or local elected officials on the grounds that “Well, the politicians and the system are corrupt, so it’s a waste of time.” Berg forcefully argues that we must move beyond simply bashing the powers that be “and own up to our individual roles in letting the nation slide, and our joint obligation to save it.”

America, We Need to Talk gives our country a wake-up call about personal responsibility–start with yourself in taking action and demanding constructive change from our elected officials rather than just complaining. You are a big part of the problem if all you do is whine about the system’s broken but do nothing to make your voice heard. The best way to assure that nothing changes is for Americans to sulk in our tents. With an apathetic electorate, then the powers that be truly have a field day in advancing their own interests while ignoring the good of the country.

Taking personal responsibility: Whining that we are powerless is not only a cop-out, but a falsehood. Berg cites examples where getting involved produced impressive results-such as the recent organizing efforts of fast food employees and others that led to California, New York, the cities of Seattle and Washington, DC raising the minimum wage to $15, with other states and localities following suit.

While today’s America faces dire challenges, Berg reminds us that “we’ve gotten through far darker times than these-slavery, moves to crush the suffragette movement, the internship of Japanese Americans, state-sponsored violence against unions, World War II, rampant child labor, segregation, the Depression, the McCarty Era, and so on. Ultimately, we make the choices for good or bad-witness the stark contrast in the 1930s when most Germans chose Nazism while most Americans chose the New Deal.

So when people complain to Berg that its just “too hard” to write an email to a Member of Congress or governor, or pick up the phone and advocate for better health care programs or job creation and infrastructure improvements, or real efforts to reduce poverty or hunger, he eloquently reminds us of what the definition of “hard” really is:

“Hard is landing at Normandy Beach under ferocious machine gun and mortar fire. Hard is marching for civil rights over the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma while being viciously clubbed. Hard is looking into your daughter’s eyes and having to tell her you don’t have any food that night for dinner. Get over yourself, America, and get back to work fixing our country and world.”

Grassroots movements AND governmental officials are essential in making progress in reform. A telling example is the civil rights movement–many grassroots advocates or admirers of the Kennedy-Johnson administration have wasted great amounts of time and words in claiming “credit” for such achievements as the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Berg points out that both were essential–if Martin Luther King and many other grassroots advocates had not inspired thousands of activists to take direct action in challenging racism, and had not generated massive media coverage and gained the attention of powers that be, these historic bills would not have been passed. On the other hand, if President Johnson and the leadership in Congress had balked in passing the laws, it also would not have happened. We need both grassroots activism and wise leadership from the political powers that be.

As Mr. Berg rightly explains: “Those who argue over whether political leaders or social movements are more decisive–such as in the debate over whether Martin Luther King, Jr. or President Lyndon Johnson played the most influential role in passing great pieces of civil rights legislation in the 1960s–are missing the point: that both are needed to alternatively pull, push and aid the other.” Exactly.

The domestic impact of military quagmires and bloated military budgets: Why should a book focusing mostly on domestic reform include analysis of our bloated military budget and the military quagmires we have constantly plunged into? The US military budget is larger than the next seven or eight largest nations’ combined, we are mired in interminable wars in Iraq, Afghanistan and other nations across the globe. We have learned nothing from the tragic experience of Vietnam, having embarked on the tragic intervention in Iraq on the falsehood that Saddam Hussein held weapons of mass destruction–a lie chillingly similar to the dishonesty of the Johnson administration in the early stages of the Vietnam escalation.

As Berg poignantly writes, “Few American policy makers understood or even tried to understand the history and culture of Iraq or Afghanistan.” The results in Iraq were 89,000 direct war deaths, including 4,488 US service personnel killed, 32,223 troops injured (not including post-traumatic stress syndrome) 134,000 civilians killed, 655,000 persons who have died in Iraq since the invasion who would not have died if the war had never occurred, and 2.8 million people either internally displaced or forced to flee the country. Yet, “the country is neither secure nor free.”

If vast economic, financial and human resources were not being poured into our tragic foreign adventures, we would have vastly greater resources to address our issues of economic inequality, a deteriorating infrastructure, educational opportunities, hunger and poverty here at home.

At a time when fundamental safety net programs are being threatened, Berg sets the factual record straight: safety net programs like SNAP (formerly known as food stamps), Medicaid, Section 8 subsidized housing, and, if they are working, Earned Income Tax Credits and Child Tax Credits have provided vital services and lifted millions of people above the poverty line.

Right wingers who claim that the War on Poverty was a failure fly in the face of a mountain of facts demonstrating that these programs did cut poverty in half, reduce the worst forms of deprivation, and boosted economic mobility. Berg states the facts:

The Kennedy-Johnson programs-many of which actually continued into the Nixon administration-cut poverty in half between 1960 and 1973 and elevated 16 million Americans out of poverty into the middle class.

Subsequent cuts in poverty-reduction efforts reduced these gains, but poverty and hunger levels always stayed above the high rates as of 1960.

More recent history has witnessed major shifts in the US economy depending on what policies were followed by later administrations: in the Clinton administration, 2.8 million people who had been previously unemployed entered the workforce, median worker wages increased, and poverty declined-with African American and Hispanic poverty levels achieving historically low levels.

The book is a 600-page gold mine of insightful research and data. Here are some of the many illuminating facts, especially for a region like the Delta which has one of America’s highest rates of hunger and poverty:

–The exorbitant incarceration rates fostered by our criminal justice system cost taxpayers $260 billion a year, which is approximately two and a half times the amount devoted to SNAP, WIC (the supplemental nutrition program for women, infants and children) and school meals combined.

–As of 2013, tax breaks, which went disproportionately for the wealthy, equaled $1.145 trillion, or 14 times the amount the government spent on SNAP nutrition aid that year; SNAP payments amount to about $1.40 a meal, far too tiny to live on, especially because SNAP recipients cannot use them for rent, clothing, transportation or other essentials. This refutes the falsehood that the payments are large and foster dependency.

–The benefits are so small as to not even come close to provide any incentive to stay dependent on them. SNAP rolls increased when poverty levels increased, as happened under the George W. Bush and Obama administrations, while the SNAP rolls declined under the strong economy during the Clinton Presidency. Berg rightly points out that economics, not laziness, is the fundamental variable determining SNAP participation.

–The fraud rate of SNAP is only about 1%. While any fraud is bad and of course all efforts should and are being taken by USDA to prevent it, SNAP is in fact one of the most efficient large-scale government programs.

–SNAP is not socialism but is a voucher program that enables struggling families to shop at private sector businesses, thus generating economic development.

–Most SNAP beneficiaries are children, seniors, working parents, and people with disabilities. Most adults who get SNAP are hard-working taxpayers who are using SNAP to supplement their low wages.

–About 900,000 veterans use SNAP, as well as many active duty military families.

–As of 2016 48 million people were food insecure, but more than a quarter of the people eligible for SNAP did not receive them. Outreach programs are intended to reach the many working parents, seniors and others who are eligible.

–As of 2015, less than 1% of Americans received cash welfare (which is of course very different from the SNAP programs tied strictly to food assistance), and only 6%of Americans living below the poverty line received cash welfare. This refutes the myth that are huge numbers of Americans dependent on cash welfare.

A final fundamental point to be made about Berg’s book is that it is based on pursuing the truth and facts wherever they may lead, and is bipartisan in the best and most accurate sense of that word.

Bipartisanship and fairness does not mean that for every positive or negative comment or fact about a progressive Democrat or a conservative Republican, you cite another fact favorable to the other side. Journalists, advocates, nonprofits, and conscientious leaders of both parties should cite the truth regardless of whether it makes one party or leaders in question look good or bad.

Berg is a former Clinton administration Presidential appointee and of course a Democrat. To cite examples of true bipartisanship and fairness, we should note that he gives credit to Republican President Richard Nixon for continuing many (but not all, of course) of the constructive nutrition and other War on Poverty programs.

Similarly, he cites the reality that the American tax system was much fairer under Republican President Dwight Eisenhower than it has been under later Presidents: in the 1950s the top marginal federal income tax rate was 91%. As of 2015 the wealthiest Americans paid only about 33% of their income in taxes. This is the single most important explanation as to why our deficits are so sky high and our investments in economic programs and infrastructure is so inadequate.

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