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 Coalition,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Summary of Economic Equality Event, Arkansas Capitol, August, 2016

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.

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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Economic Equality Experts, & then Trump vs. Clinton speakers on Aug. 16 at AR Capitol

Posted on August 08, 2016 at 11:38 AM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus will hold a bipartisan event on economic equality issues, Tuesday, Aug. 16 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda that will include a debate hetween 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, supporting Mr. Trump.

The first two hours of the event will feature experts on job creation, health care, hunger and nutrition, infrastructure investments and other key community and economic development issues. The Presidential forum will follow.

The event as a whole is from 9 a.m. to noon. The Presidential campaign representatives will speak from 11 a.m. to noon.

Earlier, from 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. we will have another segment featuring major nonpartisan organizations and leaders on economic equality and related issues, including the Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families; Arkansas Hospitals Association, the Arkansas Board of Education, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, a speaker for the I-69 Coalition, Delta Caucus senior adviser Kevin Smith of Helena-West Helena speaking for opening farm trade to Cuba to increase Arkansas exports, and others.

This is free, but to obtain reserved seating in the area close to the speakers in the vast Rotunda, please RSVP by email ASAP or at the latest by Friday, August 12 to Lee Powell at leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

The Republican and Democratic Presidential speakers will be given equal opportunities to state why they support their candidate on key issues like job creation, economic equality and growth, investments in transportation and other infrastructure, health care, hunger and nutrition, and economic, racial and gender equality.

This will naturally include substantial attention to Arkansas issues since we are meeting in Little Rock, but will focus on national issues due to the context of the Presidential election.

This is bipartisan and we want to hear from both sides equally.

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 for the Trump campaign, 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 begins 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;

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;

Danny Games, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Executive Vice President, Global Business, on job creation at good wages;

SiKia Brown, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance’s Out of School Director for the No Kid Hungry Campaign, on the great importance of child nutrition, SNAP and other nutrition programs;

Mireya Reith, speaking on education 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;

Kevin Smith, Delta Caucus senior adviser in Helena-West Helena, speaking on opening up farm trade to Cuba to expand Arkansas rice, poultry and other exports-Kevin recently traveled to Cuba;

Rev. Arthur Hunt, CEO, The College of Aspiring Artists/NAACP March-ON Arkansas, August 28, to commemorate Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech;

Rep. Lane Jean (R-Magnolia), Chairman of the Arkansas I-69 Legislative Caucus and longstanding partner of the I-69 Coalition, speaking about the need for transportation improvements in Arkansas and the nation, especially the Interstate 69 Corridor.

We need transportation improvements all over Arkansas and the Delta, but in particular we want to urge the next President and Congress to finally complete the Interstate 69 Corridor, which would be a major national transportation artery from Mexico to Canada, extending through the heart of the Delta in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.

Again, this event is free, but to gain reserved seating at the vast, majestic Arkansas Capitol Rotunda you need to RSVP to Lee Powell beforehand by email to leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net by Friday, August 12.

Getting an accurate numbers count is essential for our planning. To gain a reserved seat just send an email to the above mentioned email address stating that you definitely plan to be there on August 16.

When meeting at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda, it is always open to the public and people can come in and either sit farther away from the speakers or stand and listen, but you will be able to hear better and close enough to ask a question if you are in the reserved seating section close to the podium.

This is open to anyone in the Delta region or the Washington, DC area, although this is much shorter than our previous two-day conferences, so as a practical matter most of the turnout is likely come from people within driving distance of Little Rock.

There will be another brief event in the northern Virginia/Washington, DC area in October, again to emphasize on economic equality issues in the context of this year’s historic Presidential race. That will include partners from our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Coalition.

The Aug. 16 meeting is free. As a separate, ongoing activity, our budget is based on voluntary donations in the form of annual membership dues, sponsorships and registration fees (although again there are no registration fees for the Aug. 16 meeting).

Annual membership donations: If you would like to become a member and support our year-round program of community and economic development advocacy for the 8-state Greater Delta Region or our colleagues in other impoverished regions in the Economic Equality Coalition, please make out the annual membership dues in the amount of $25 (for individuals or small organizations), $50 for medium-sized organizations, or $100 for corporations, foundations, universities, or those who would just like to contribute at a larger level.

Suggested levels:

Only requirement for all members is $25; usually this is paid by individuals or smaller organizations;

$50: For medium-sized organizations, nonprofits, small businesses, chambers of commerce, smaller banks;

$100: For foundations, corporations, universities, larger banks or other organizations, or in some cases for those who just wish to contribute at a higher level.

Please make out the annual dues check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

Alternatively, you can donate by going to the PayPal link on the website at mdgc.us and contributing on-line.

Members are placed on our group email newsletter list, on our list to be invited to all our meetings, and receive reduced registration fees for large-scale two-day conferences that we hold each year on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC and at the Clinton Library in Little Rock.

We hope you can join us on August 16 at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda. Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus and Co-Chair, Economic Equality Coalition (202) 360-6347

Forum on Economic Equality for Presidential Campaigns, Aug. 16, Arkansas Capitol

Posted on July 18, 2016 at 12:20 PM

The Delta Grassroots Caucus will hold an event on economic equality issues on August 16 from 9 a.m. to noon at the Arkansas State Capitol that will include 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.

We will have another segment of the meeting featuring experts on economic equality and related issues.

The Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees will be given equal opportunities to state why they support their candidate on key issues like job creation, economic equality and growth, investments in transportation and other infrastructure, health care, hunger and nutrition, and economic, racial and gender equality.

This will naturally include attention to Arkansas issues since we are meeting in Little Rock, but will mostly focus on national issues due to the context of the Presidential election. This is bipartisan and we want to hear from both sides equally.

Bud Cummins is a former US District Attorney, former chief legal counsel to Gov. Mike Huckabee, former Republican Congressional nominee, attorney and chairman of Donald Trump’s campaign in Arkansas.

Sen. Joyce Elliott is a distinguished educator, senior member of the Arkansas Senate, former Democratic Congressional nominee, and surrogate speaker for Secretary Hillary Clinton’s campaign in Arkansas.

The event begins 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 from about 9 a.m. to 11 a.m. will include:

Bo Ryall, CEO of Arkansas Hospitals Association, speaking about the nationally recognized Medicaid expansion program in Arkansas;

Rich Huddleston, Arkansas Advocates for Children and Families, speaking about poverty issues in Arkansas;

Danny Games, Arkansas Economic Development Commission, Executive Vice President, Global Business, on job creation at good wages**;

Kathy Webb, director, Arkansas Hunger Relief Alliance, on the child nutrition, SNAP and other nutrition programs;

Mireya Reith, speaking on education 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;

Rep. Lane Jean (R-Magnolia), Chairman of the Arkansas Interstate 69 Legislative Caucus and veteran leader in the I-69 Coalition. Rep. Jean will speak about the need for transportation investments across the state and nation to create jobs and improve our deteriorating infrastructure, with particular emphasis on I-69. We need transportation improvements all over Arkansas and the Delta, but in particular we want to urge the next President and Congress to finally complete the Interstate 69 Corridor, which would be a major national transportation artery from Mexico to Canada, extending through the heart of the Delta in Louisiana, Arkansas, Mississippi, Tennessee and Kentucky.

After the nonpartisan substantive speakers, we will have the Trump and Clinton speakers from about 11 a.m. to noon.

Please RSVP as soon as possible: This event is free, but to gain reserved seating at the vast, majestic Arkansas Capitol Rotunda you need to RSVP to Lee Powell beforehand by email to leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

There is limited space in the reserved seating section.

Getting an accurate numbers count is essential for our planning. To gain a reserved seat just send an email to the above mentioned email address stating that you definitely plan to be there on August 16.

When meeting at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda, it is always open to the public and people can come in and either sit farther away from the speakers or stand and listen, but you will be able to hear better and close enough to ask a question if you are in the reserved seating section close to the podium.

This is open to anyone in the Delta region or the Washington, DC area, although this is much shorter than our previous two-day conferences, so as a practical matter most of the turnout is likely come from people within driving distance of Little Rock.

On the other hand, if you would like to combine this event with a visit to Little Rock, the capital has many attractions including the Clinton Presidential Library, Heifer International headquarters, the Little Rock River market area, and scenic parks and walks along the Arkansas River. So you might want to travel to Little Rock from a longer distance to come to this event and see the sights of Arkansas’ capital.

There will be another brief event in the northern Virginia/Washington, DC area in October, again to emphasize economic equality issues in the context of this year’s historic Presidential race. That will include partners from our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Coalition.

We hope you can join us on August 16 at the Arkansas Capitol Rotunda. Lee Powell, Delta Caucus and Economic Equality Coalition (202) 360-6347

Forums for Presidential Campaigns--August in Arkansas and October in Virginia, 2016

Posted on June 10, 2016 at 03:47 PM

The Delta Caucus and our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Coalition, will hold forums for high-level speakers for the Republican and Democratic Presidential nominees this August at the Arkansas State Capitol and this October in a location in the northern Virginia/Washington, DC area.

This is a bipartisan effort to scrutinize the platforms of both campaigns on economic, racial and gender equality in America.

We would also like to request annual membership dues in the required amount for members of $25, although larger organizations or individuals who would like to donate more may contribute $50 or $100.

Along with daily advocacy activities, we plan two shorter events that will focus on economic equality and provide a forum for elected leaders who are supporting either Donald Trump or Hillary Clinton to make the case as to why their candidate would be better for the economy in the USA.

We will precede each forum for the Presidential candidates with a nonpartisan panel of nonprofits and grassroots advocates on economic, racial and gender equality.

One session is planned for the Arkansas State Capitol in August, and another for the northern Virginia/Washington, DC area in October.

The northern Virginia location will be especially poignant because Virginia is one of the key swing states in the historic Presidential election. This is nonpartisan.

The speakers on behalf of the Presidential candidates will be Members of Congress or other elected leaders. At our recent conference in Washington, DC, Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) spoke in favor of Hillary Clinton and Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY) spoke in favor of Donald Trump.

Both of these meetings will be much shorter than the comprehensive two-day conferences we have held in the past. They will be in two parts: a session with major nonprofit policy organizations and grassroots advocates, and then a forum to give supporters of both Presidential campaigns an equal opportunity to make the case for their candidate.

Our budget is entirely funded by voluntary contributions, and annual membership dues are a significant and growing part of our funding. The only requirement for membership is the $25 annual membership dues once each calendar year.

Please make out the annual membership dues for the required $25, or $50 to $100 for larger organizations, to “Delta Caucus,” with a note “Dues,” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

For individuals and smaller organizations, annual dues are $25.

While the only requirement for everyone is $25, for those who would like to make larger contributions, the suggested levels are the following:

For medium-sized nonprofits, chambers of commerce, smaller community colleges, small businesses, and smaller local banks: $50

For foundations, larger corporations, larger banks, larger colleges or universities, or individuals who would like to make a larger contribution: $100

There are occasionally organizations or individuals who give $200 or $250, but this is not expected and the smaller amounts are all we ask for as a membership, and again $25 once a calendar year is the only requirement for membership. Members receive the group email newsletters and we in other ways make every effort to keep them informed of our activities, and members receive reduced registration fees for our activities.

Registration fees for the October meeting in northern Virginia will be only $25–much smaller than the usual $125 fees for the comprehensive two-day conferences.

To reserve a seat for the October northern Virginia/DC area meeting, please send in the $25 registration fees ASAP to the address stated above to the Delta Caucus. Space is limited.

We are working on finalizing the date and exact time for the August Little Rock meeting and will send out that information as soon as it is finalized.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus is one of the key partners for our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Coalition, which has partners in the Southwest Border region from California and Arizona to Texas, Appalachia, parts of the Midwest, Native Americans, inner cities, and the Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland Mid-Atlantic Region. The VA/MD/VA region is mostly prosperous, but also has a problem of many wealthy areas close to areas that are impoverished-an indication of how widespread the problem of economic inequality in America has become.

Thanks-Lee Powell, Executive Director, Delta Grassroots Caucus; and Co-Chair, Economic Equality Coalition (202) 360-6347 Email: LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

In-Depth Summary of May 11-12 Economic Equality Coalition Event in Washington, DC

Posted on May 21, 2016 at 12:06 PM

We would like to express our great appreciation to all participants at the May 11-12 Economic Equality Coalition Conference in Washington, DC. Ten Members of Congress from both parties took part, President Bill Clinton spoke by live call-in, and economic, racial and gender equality advocates participated.

The Economic Equality Coalition (EEC) advocates for economic equality for those people across the country who have not shared equally in America’s prosperity, such as the 8-state Greater Delta region, Appalachia, Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest, inner cities, and equality for women, African Americans, Hispanics, and Native Americans. The EEC builds upon the Clinton administration’s bipartisan New Markets Initiative, which focused on the most economically distressed regions of America.

President Clinton complimented the EEC and Delta Caucus for taking a “bipartisan and comprehensive approach” to this initiative.

The 10 Members of Congress were evenly divided among the parties with five Republicans and five Democrats.

President Clinton spoke by live call-in at the opening session-New Markets Initiative. He praised the work of Congressman Steny Hoyer, Rep. Clyburn, Rep. Ruben Hinjosa and other Members of Congress.

In addition to Representatives Hoyer and Clyburn, we included five Members from the Greater Delta/Alabama Black Belt region: Rep. Terri Sewell (D-AL), of the Alabama Black Belt; Sen. John Boozman, Rep. Rick Crawford, Rep. French Hill, and Rep. Bruce Westerman (R-AR), Rep. Tom Reed (R-NY), Rep. Ruben Hinojosa, a senior Hispanic Member of Congress from the Southwest Border (D-TX), Rep. Don Beyer (D-VA), from the key swing state of Virginia that is attracting great interest in this historic election year

The Thursday afternoon May 12 session was held outside of Congressional property at the Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill, to allow for discussion of two high-profile supporters of the front-running Presidential candidates to discuss their views on the Presidential race (the earlier sessions were held at the House and Senate, where political campaign activity can’t be directly discussed):

Rep. Clyburn spoke about his support for Secretary Hillary Clinton’s economic equality positions, and Rep. Tom Reed, Republican of New York, did the same for Donald Trump.

The Delta Caucus and the EEC do not make endorsements but scrutinize the positions of all the major campaigns of both parties.

Rep. Raul M. Grijalva of Arizona had confirmed to speak in favor of Sen. Bernie Sanders, but he was unavoidably detained by an important Congressional hearing that ran much longer than expected and was not able to participate.

This is a lengthy report and we would not expect people to read all of it, but rather most people will look over the Table of Contents and scroll down to a few of the sections of the conference that they find most interesting and important.

TABLE OF CONTENTS

I. KEY ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED AT EEC CONFERENCE

II. SUPPORT FOR “10-20-30” PLAN FOR INVESTING IN PERSISTENT POVERTY AREAS

III. REP. STENY HOYER’S ‘MAKE IT IN AMERICA’ PLAN

IV. BIPARTISAN FORUM FOR HIGH-LEVEL SUPPORTERS OF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS

V. COMMENTS FROM DELTA, SOUTHWEST BORDER, MID-ATLANTIC REGION AND ALABAMA BLACK BELT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

VI. APPRECIATION FOR SPONSORS

VII. APPRECIATION FOR PARTICIPANTS

VIII. STATEHOOD FOR THE DISTRICT OF COLUMBIA

IX. POLICY RECOMMENDATIONS FROM EEC LEGISLATIVE ACTION COMMITTEE

I. KEY ISSUES HIGHLIGHTED AT THE CONFERENCE:

The discussion was broad and wide-ranging and we will discuss the large-scale issues in depth below, but we would like to single out two plans that are gaining bipartisan support right now in Congress and urge all our partners to support them and ask your Members of Congress to endorse them in this Congressional session. These are Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC, and the third ranking national leader in the House) “10-20-30” plan for federal investments in the most economically distressed areas, and Rep. Steny Hoyer (D-MD, the second ranking leader as Whip) “Make It in America” job creation plan. These two innovative plans are discussed below.

Short list of key initiatives: With such a huge range of issues to choose from, it’s always a challenge to decide which initiatives to highlight. Based on feedback received for months ahead of the conference and during the two days of a jam-packed agenda, several issues came to the forefront:

–job creation at good wages, with higher minimum wages and policies for promoting small business as a dynamic and broad-based engine for economic progress;

–investments in housing, transportation, broadband and other infrastructure to create jobs and improve our deteriorating infrastructure;

–expanded investments in education and workforce development, including relief for college students to avoid huge student loan debts and expanded investment in dislocated worker programs;

–a strong childhood nutrition bill (nutrition experts criticized the flawed version passed by the House as opposed to the more constructive Senate version) and strong support for SNAP funding and opposition to draconian application of work requirements that deny nutrition to many deserving people,

–health care for underserved areas, and improvements in the Affordable Care Act,

–Renewable energy, energy efficiency and green jobs; Equal pay for women, and action to end the disturbing economic inequality for women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans and others left behind economically;

10-20-30 plan for increasing federal investments to persistent poverty counties, as originated by Rep. James Clyburn (D-SC) and supported by national leaders of both parties including Republican House Speaker Paul Ryan, (R-Wisconsin), House Appropriations Committee Chair, Rep. Hal Rogers (R-KY), as well as Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Clinton. The plan does not increase overall spending but requires 10% of federal discretionary spending to go to areas where 20% of the population has been impoverished for 30 years (discussed in detail below);

–Rep. Steny Hoyer’s “Make It in America” plan for job creation, which would provide tax credits to businesses that hire new employees, end tax loopholes that encourage firms to ship jobs overseas, promote clean energy firms, raise federal minimum wages, extend unemployment insurance for those looking for work, and expand investments in workforce training ;

–Opening up trade to Cuba, which would benefit rural areas like the Delta in expanding rice, poultry and other agricultural exports, as well as urban areas in the markets for auto parts, health-care related services and other trade opportunities. The embargo has existed for over a half century and failed to undermine the Cuban regime, so clearly it’s time for a change.

II. SUPPORT FOR “10-20-30” PLAN FOR INVESTING IN ‘PERSISTENT POVERTY’ AREAS:

President Clinton praised Congressman Clyburn’s “10-20-30” plan, which requires at least 10% of federal funding to go to “persistent poverty” counties where 20% of the population has lived in poverty for 30 years. Rep. Clyburn recently worked with Republican Chairman of the House Appropriations Committee, Rep. Hal Rogers of Kentucky, to include 10-20-30 in the House version of the 2017 Agriculture Appropriations bill.

The Delta Caucus and Economic Equality Coalition partners support inclusion of the “10-20-30” plan not only in the final version of the Agriculture Appropriations bill, but this plan should be included in all federal discretionary spending for all agencies.

Rep. Clyburn’s plan has won support from national leaders of both parties, including Speaker Paul Ryan, Chairman Rogers in the House, Secretary Hillary Clinton and many others.

“Persistent poverty” counties are roughly equally divided into Republican and Democratic districts so this is bipartisan: these impoverished counties are much more numerous than most people would believe, amounting to a total of over 22 million people. About 8.8 million of them live in Democratic districts, a figure almost as large of 8.3 million live in Republican districts, and 5.2 million live in areas that are split between Republican and Democratic representation.

Many of these counties are concentrated in the Greater Delta Region, Appalachia, regions with high percentages of Hispanics, African Americans and Native Americans. This plan would clearly assure that more federal funding goes where it is most needed.

Rep. Clyburn emphasized that the fight against poverty includes all races and ethnic groups. He recalled speaking with President Clinton at a New Markets Initiative in Appalachia when virtually everyone in a crowd of more than 2,000 people were white had come there to address poverty in their region.

The program would not increase overall federal funding but would just make sure that the most economically distressed areas get their fair share. In some respects, such as the ability to apply for funding requiring staff with extensive expertise in writing grant applications, the most impoverished areas are at an unfair disadvantage because they don’t have the resources to hire staff and grant writers for this purpose. For other reasons, federal funding has too often not gone where it is most needed, and the “10-20-30” plan is a reform that is long overdue and should be broadly adopted across the federal government.

III. REP. STENY HOYER’S ‘MAKE IT IN AMERICA’ PLAN

Rep. Steny Hoyer spoke at the opening session at the House Rayburn building about his “Make It in America” plan: which encourages job creation by giving tax credits to businesses that hire new employees, providing loans to small businesses that are the great engine of job creation, ending tax loopholes that encourage companies to ship job overseas, promote clean energy and energy efficiency, and invest in job training.

The plan also contains provisions for holding China accountable for unfair currency manipulation that costs American jobs.

The four core components of the plan are:

–Adopt and pursue a national manufacturing strategy;

–Promote the export of US goods;

–Encourage businesses to bring jobs and innovation back to the US;

–Train and secure a twenty-first century workforce.

The plan also calls for higher state and federal wages and extending unemployment insurance to people seeking work. These provisions have been included in a number of bills recently and we’d like to see them included in many more.

IV. BIPARTISAN FORUM FOR HIGH-LEVEL SUPPORTERS OF PRESIDENTIAL CAMPAIGNS

Congressman James Clyburn, third ranking leader in the House, explained his longstanding relationship with Secretary Hillary Clinton and President Bill Clinton and support for a wide range of constructive policies for economic, racial and gender equality in America. He explained his “10-20-30” plan discussed above, which has been endorsed by Secretary Clinton.

Rep. Clyburn’s support for statehood for DC and other economic policies are discussed in several other sections of this report.

Rep. Clyburn is famous as an eloquent orator and received a rousing round of applause.

In response to a question. Congressman Clyburn said he believes that prospects for eventually unifying the Democratic party behind the nominee are very good, since Secretary Clinton and Sen. Sanders share many goals and positions in contrast to the Republican front-runner.

Rep. Tom Reed of New York is a member of the powerful Ways and Means Committee and a high-profile supporter of Donald Trump. He emphasized Mr. Trump’s successful record in business as a key part of his credentials to lead American job growth if elected President.

The EEC partners believe it is very important to have cordial, civil discourse in our political debates. Congressman Clyburn and Congressman Reed were both entirely civil and positive and we commend both of them for the constructive tone of their remarks and for refraining from personal negative comments.

As a factual matter, the audience included a substantial number of Hispanics, African Americans and women, and it is well known that Mr. Trump had made very controversial remarks regarding those sections of the population.

Congressman Reed acknowledged that even though he is an enthusiastic supporter of Mr. Trump, he did have concerns about his “rhetoric” about Hispanics, women, African Americans and other minorities and has discussed these concerns with Mr. Trump. But he said he believes Mr. Trump will set a different tone in the general election.

A Hispanic woman in the audience said she and the Congressman would have to agree to disagree about his comments, because she said that Trump’s comments were not “rhetoric” but were racist. Another woman leader from California expressed disagreement with Mr. Trump’s comments about women.

Rep. Reed fielded the questions respectfully and calmly, said he appreciated their concerns, but added that he believed that what unites people as Americans greatly exceeds what divides us. We know this was a challenging group of people in some ways for Rep. Reed to deal with, but we appreciated his professional, respectful demeanor and the fact that he came to address our coalition. He received a round of applause for his remarks.

Again, the EEC does not endorse candidates but scrutinizes the policy positions of all of them.

We would also express our appreciation to Congressman Raul M. Grijalva for confirming to speak and doing his best to be there, but he was detained in a Congressional meeting that he just could not break away from in time. He is Co-Chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and one of Bernie Sanders’ most prominent supporters.

V. COMMENTS FROM DELTA, SOUTHWEST BORDER, MID-ATLANTIC REGION, ALABAMA BLACK BELT MEMBERS OF CONGRESS

Sen. John Boozman won praise from both Democrats and Republicans for his bipartisan work on childhood nutrition. Sen. Boozman is Co-Chair of the Senate Hunger Caucus and sponsored legislation to increase access to the Summer Meals program for children in rural areas in the Delta and across the country.

Lisa Hamler-Fugitt, Executive Director of the Ohio Association of Food Banks, complimented Sen. Boozman for his constructive work for summer meals and other childhood nutrition progams. She and other hunger and nutrition experts at the conference said the House version of the Childhood Nutrition Re-Authorization bill is deeply flawed and will kick children off school meals programs. The Senate version is much better and should prevail in the final bill.

Sen. Boozman and Rep. Rick Crawford (R-AR) both received support for their leadership in opening up trade to Cuba, which would lead to major expansion of rice, poultry and other agricultural products, as well as other products benefiting urban areas. Sen. Boozman recalled that his former colleague in the House, Rep. Tom Osborne-the famous Nebraska football coach-was deeply supportive of this initiative and often said that he learned as a coach if you try the same play over and over again it won’t work. The embargo has failed for a half century and it’s time for a new play.

Rep. Rick Crawford also found a responsive chord when he emphasized his work in expanding broadband access for the Delta region. In today’s economy it’s crucial that people have access to the information superhighway. One of the participants was Millie Atkins, manager of CenturyLink’s program for expanding broadband access to Delta areas in Arkansas, Mississippi and Louisiana; their exchange is likely to lead to increased public and private sector collaboration on expanding broadband access in the Delta.

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