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.

Arkansas news conference on Sept. 24, Good Morning America in Helena, Sept. 25

Posted on September 22, 2008 at 06:30 AM

This will be a big week to advocate for the Delta, with the Delta Grassroots Caucus holding a news conference at the Arkansas State Capitol on Wednesday, Sept. 24 to press John McCain and Barack Obama to attack the economic problems of our region, and Good Morning America is scheduled to broadcast from the Delta community of Helena-West Helena, Arkansas on Sept. 25. It is great to get national exposure for the Delta.

The Delta Grassroots Caucus will hold a news conference at the rotunda of the Arkansas State Capitol from 11 a.m. to noon on sept. 24 to urge Sen. John McCain and Sen. Barack Obama to address economic problems in the eight-state Delta region from southern Illinois and Missouri down to New Orleans. We will have a series of speakers to address various issues of job creation and the economy, the housing market crisis, renewable energy and soaring gas prices, the need to expand the Delta Regional Authority budget, and other key issues.

We have been closely watching the candidates and pressing them to pay more attention to the Delta region for a year now. We have received substantially more feedback from Obama thus far, although at least in part that could be explained by the fact that he represents southern Illinois, an integral part of the Delta region, while McCain is from Arizona and had no reason to pay attention to the Delta before running for President. We have made additional inquires to the McCain campaign recently and will see what additional feedback we get by the time of the conference.

We do not make endorsements and obviously will work in good faith with whoever the next President turns out to be. While we will call a spade a spade and indicate it if one candidate states positions that are similar to longstanding positions of the Delta Caucus, that does not mean that anyone should vote strictly on that basis, because we are aware that some people might vote on perceived character or personality traits, or foreign policy positions, or non-economic issues. What we address are primarily economic issues.

Speakers will include:

Mayor Brad Cole of Carbondale, Illinois, Delta Caucus coordinator for southern Illinois, who has a unique perspective as a Republican who respects John McCain, but also has known and respected Barack Obama for many years in Illinois

Mayor Barrett Harrison, Blytheville, Arkansas, Arkansas co-chair and member of the board of directors for the Delta Caucus, who will speak about the DRA budget issues

Mayor Carl Redus of Pine Bluff, the largest city in east Arkansas

Mayor James Valley of Helena-West Helena, an important community on the Mississippi River (that will be a great opportunity to devote national attention on the Delta region when Good Morning America broadcasts from Helena-West Helena on Thursday, the day after the state Capitol news conference)

Mayor Bobby Hardrick of Madison, Arkansas in St. Francis County–Mayor Hardrick is a strong advocate not just for his community but for the entire region

Desha County Judge Mark McElroy, Arkansas co-chair and a board member of the Delta Caucus and one of our stalwart leaders for the region for many years

Kenny Gober, a housing expert from McGehee, Arkansas, and one of the key Delta Caucus partners in southeast Arkansas

Johnnie Bolin, executive director of the Arkansas Good Roads Transportation Council, from Crossett, Arkansas, and a leading expert on transportation issues

Kevin Smith, long-time Delta regional leader from Helena-West Helena

Obama has taken a number of stands on key issues for the Greater Delta Region, including:

–Support for an increase in the Delta Regional Authority budget this year to $20 million, up from the current level of approximately $12 million and over three times more than the $6 million requested by President Bush.

Beyond that, he has stated that if elected President he will pursue a policy of fairness among the three regional economic development commissions, to address the disparity whereby the total funding of the Appalachian Regional Commission is more than $483 million annually, the tiny Denali Commission that serves only a few hundred thousand people in the one relatively prosperous state of Alaska gets more than $50 million, and the DRA serving more than nine million peoplein the Delta gets a total of approximately $23 million from the energy and water, appropriations and transportation sources. These funding allocations should be based on size, population, need and poverty levels in the regions.

Here is the statement the Delta Grassroots Caucus received from the Obama campaign:

“Senator Obama strongly supports increased funding for the Delta Regional Authority (DRA). Like last year, President Bush’s budget request once again proposes to slash DRA funding by 50% to only $6 million. Obama has repeatedly called for rejecting the Bush budget cuts and for nearly doubling DRA funding. Last year, Obama joined his Senate colleagues in requesting at least $20 million for fiscal year 2008. As president, Obama will work to further increase the DRA’s funding, consistent with budget needs. Obama will also work to ensure that all three anti-poverty regional commissions have adequate funding to meet the needs of their regions, and will actively promote a policy of equality and fairness among the three.”

The McCain campaign’s response to the Delta Grassroots Caucus inquiry was to emphasize the Senator’s “longstanding position that funding allocations should be based on priorities rather than politics.” We have asked for a clarification of what this means.

We should give credit to Sen. McCain for taking the time to make a visit to impoverished Black Belt communities in Alabama, at the request of the Delta Grassroots Caucus Alabama coordinator, Mayor Sheldon Day of Thomasville, Alabama. We have both Republicans and Democrats in our grassroots coalition, and Mayor Day is one of the key McCain supporters in Alabama. Sen. McCain spent an entire day touring communities like Selma and Thomasville, and Sen. McCain was with him on the bus the entire day. He discussed the needs of the DRA area in depth with McCain and said McCain was sympathetic to his argument that a great deal more needs to be done for rural impoverished areas like the DRA region.

McCain’s effort to spend time looking firsthand at these rural economically distressed areas provides a sharp contrast with the so-called “poverty tour” of Sen. John Edwards, who spent a grand total of 15 minutes in Helena-West Helena last fall, and the extenf ot his communication with Mayor James Valley of that city consisted of saying hello and shaking his hand.

McCain has also traveled to the New Orleans area. Obama has also traveled to Selma, Alabama, Louisiana, southeast Missouri and other areas of our region.

We hope to get more feedback from the McCain campaign on initiatives of particular interest to the Delta and similar impoverished areas, and when we do we will convey those positions.

Feedback from the Obama campaign includes:

–Sen. Obama supported the farm bill passed this year over President Bush’s veto. This legislation included beneficial provisions for alternative energy, rural development, nutrition, conservation, aid to African American farmers who have suffered discrimination from USDA, and a safety net for farmers. McCain said he would have vetoed the farm bill.

–Obama has supported a series of initiatives for addressing the economic problems of lower and middle income people through expansion of the Earned Income Tax Credit, various initiatives to support entrepreneurialism and small businesses growth to create jobs in economically distressed areas.

–Supported a series of initiatives to expand renewable energy to reduce soaring gas prices, create jobs, and cut our dependence on foreign oil. Renewable energy is seen as a major source of potential economic development for the Delta region.

–Support for greater funding for SCHIP, Medicare and Medicaid and expanded efforts to enhance health care access for underserved areas like the Delta.

–Obama is an original cosponsor of legislation recently introduced to keep the historic steamboat, the Delta Queen, operating on the Mississippi River, since it is listed on the National Register of Historic Landmarks, promotes environmentalism and appreciation of the natural beauty of the Mississippi, generates tourist dollars in impoverished communities like Helena-West Helena and New Orleans.

–Obama has indicated that he will provide $50 billion to Jumpstart the Economy and Prevent 1 Million Americans from Losing Their Jobs: This relief would include a $25 billion State Growth Fund to prevent state and local cuts in health, education, housing, and heating assistance or counterproductive increases in property taxes, tolls or fees. The Obama-Biden relief plan will also include $25 billion in a Jobs and Growth Fund to prevent cutbacks in road and bridge maintenance and fund school re­pair - all to save more than 1 million jobs in danger of being cut.

–Provide Middle Class Americans Tax Relief Obama and Biden will cut income taxes by $1,000 for working families to offset the payroll tax they pay.

–Provide a Tax Cut for Working Families: Obama and Biden will restore fairness to the tax code and provide 150 million workers the tax relief they need. Obama and Biden will create a new “Making Work Pay” tax credit of up to $500 per person, or $1,000 per working family. The “Making Work Pay” tax credit will completely eliminate income taxes for 10 million Americans.

Some additional feedback from the Obama campaign on economic issues–you may or may not find this to be good public policy:

Windfall Profits Tax to Provide a $1,000 Emergency Energy Rebate to American Families: Barack Obama and Joe Biden propose a windfall profits tax on excessive oil company profits to give American families an immediate $1,000 emergency energy rebate to help families pay rising bills. This relief would be a down payment on the Obama-Biden long-term plan to provide middle-class families with at least $1,000 per year in permanent tax relief.

Eliminate Income Taxes for Seniors Making Less than $50,000: Barack Obama proposes elimination of all income taxation of seniors making less than $50,000 per year. This proposal will eliminate income taxes for 7 million seniors and provide these seniors with an average savings of $1,400 each year. Under the Obama-Biden plan, 27 million American seniors will also not need to file an income tax return.

You may or may not be in agreement with these proposals from Sen. Obama. We offer them for your information, and hope to be offering more information from Sen. McCain as well.