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.

Help Us Give Constructive Criticism to Obama & Congress in Washington, Nov. 1-3

Posted on August 10, 2011 at 12:33 PM

Please help us give constructive but firm criticism of the Obama administration and Congress at the Nov. 1-3 Delta Initiative in Washington, DC, which will take place at a crucial time just before the Congressional committee on spending cuts make its decisions.

We are hearing grave dissatisfaction from many of our Delta colleagues concerning both parties in Washington today, and it is crucial to give feedback about which program cuts would be most harmful to the neediest people in the Delta. Above all, we need the powers that be to do much more for job creation. Please come to the Delta Initiative in DC to have our voices heard at this crucial time.

We are hearing more frustration with the national leadership of both parties from our colleagues in the Delta than we have ever heard before. Among the most frequent comments are that President Obama is not providing strong leadership on job creation/economic recovery, while on the other hand the tea party advocates want to cut programs vital for job creation and policies for the neediest people in the Delta without any revenue increases that are needed to get the budget in order.

Whatever your views on the merits of either one or both these points of view, we will be having a dialogue with Members of Congress and Obama administration officials with the scrutiny of the media and a regional coalition of grassroots leaders from all eight states having a candid dialogue, and that is the kind of constructive pressure that makes the Delta’s voices heard.

Key recommendations on the economic and budget issues: As we explain below, the majority of the Delta Caucus partners we are hearing from would support substantial cuts in the defense budget, closing of tax loopholes and an end to subsidies such as those to oil companies and other non-essential revenue losses, some reasonable effort to obtain more revenue from at least some of the very wealthiest Americans, while using the savings from these cuts and revenue increases to invest in job creation initiatives such as the Delta Regional Authority, small business/entrepreneurialism, green jobs in renewable energy and energy efficiency, and other investments in our economic future.

None of the alternatives are good, but we are in the deepest hole we have been in since the Great Depression and it calls for tough actions.

Information on the schedule, registration and other specifics is below in this email.

The criticisms we are hearing directed at both President Obama and the tea party have some merit. Speaker Boehner and Senator Reid could also do a much better job of getting the majority in their parties to make compromises, so there is plenty of responsibility to share for the currently dysfunctional situation in Washington.

The point here is to give constructive criticism so that both parties do not continue making the same mistakes they did in the recent budget debate.

Criticisms of tea party: The criticism of the tea party has some validity, particularly when considering that they were willing to risk a default rather than make some compromises, and a default would have been vastly worse than the current depressing gridlock. Cutting spending for job creation initiatives or nutrition, health care or other programs for the lowest income people will only cause greater problems in the longer run, and without revenue increases it will be impossible to get the budget in sound condition as it was in the Clinton administration.

Criticisms of President Obama: On the other hand, in the recent debt ceiling debate, even Democratic and Independent Senators who were sympathetic to Obama believed that he gave up too many concessions to the tea party early on in the debate. He could have used his powers with the 14th amendment to raise the debt ceiling, yet he renounced this option early on in the debate and thus even lost it as a bargaining chip. With all due respect, in the debate this fall, President Obama needs to fight much harder for the job creation/economic recovery initiatives he has stated that he supports.

One candid criticism of Obama came from Sen. Bernie Sanders, an Independent who caucuses with the Democrats, when he stated, “One side is enormously aggressive in pushing an agenda, and the other side is saying, ‘Let’s all get along.’ So who do you think is going to win?” Sanders has a point and Obama needs to be much tougher from now on.

Just a couple of days ago, after the historic downgrade by S & P of the US credit rating, President Obama did not present a specific program for deficit reduction or economic recovery, and said he would address some of the nation’s pressing problems “as soon as Congress gets back.” His official spokesperson said President Obama “will be contributing to that process, not driving or directing it.” This is just too passive at such an urgent time in our nation’s history.

With all due respect to President Obama, who is a fine, intelligent man, the President is the Commander in Chief and our nation’s top leader, and he is supposed to at least try to take the key leadership role in directing our nation’s response to the budget and economic woes, albeit with due respect for compromising with the opposing party.

We say this in the spirit of constructive criticism. As Desha County Judge Mark McElroy says, sometimes the best way you can help your friends is to give them candid, constructive criticism.

We need to give key recommendations as well, because we can’t just say “Give us more money for the Delta” without presenting ways to pay for it. The powers that be will ask us what plans and recommendations we have as a regional coalition. While of course it is not possible to get unanimous support for all the specifics of a basic plan in a coalition including several thousand people over eight states, we have found that the majority of our partners would support the following fundamental four-part plan:

1) We will never have the funds needed to invest in rebuilding the American budget and economy in the Delta and across the country as long as our military budget is so bloated and our foreign involvements are so massive and over-extended. We need to draw down our military involvement in Afghanistan and Iraq at a faster pace, and avoid further interventions in Libya and elsewhere unless the vital national interests of the United States are clearly involved. We cannot police the globe or build nations in places like Afghanistan after America’s image–this is just entirely unrealistic. Lawrence Korb, a former Defense aide to President Reagan, said the United States could cut its defense budget by $1 trillion over the next decade without weakening our defense posture.

The United States now spends more money on the military than the entire rest of the world combined, and the percentage of our GDP devoted to defense is the highest since World War II, despite the fact that the Cold War was even more dangerous than the current world we face. We have dangers and of course should monitor them closely, but we have taken out bin Laden, Al Quada has been seriously weakened, and even with substantial defense cuts the United States will remain the most powerful military force on earth.

People in the Delta are overwhelmingly supportive of those courageous Americans who serve in the Armed Forces, because we have unusually high percentages of our population either as veterans or on active duty. I have had six members of my family who served in the US military, one of whom died in service to our country, and I am a strong supporter of the Veterans of Foreign Wars.

The cuts we are talking about are in reducing foreign military interventions and less spending on massive weapons systems, and NOT cutting veterans’ health care or other benefits.

The draw-down of forces abroad of course can be done in an expeditious but orderly manner. President Eisenhower warned against the military-industrial complex and an imbalance in military and domestic spending, and in fact Eisenhower made some cuts in defense spending after the Korean War ended, then in the midst of the Cold War. Mr. Korb, a defense aide to President Reagan, can hardly accused of being soft on defense in his recommendation for cutting defense spending.

If there are other places to make cuts in domestic spending without harming the recovery, by all means do so, but we need to be aware that defense, Medicare and Social Security are the programs that are large enough so that cuts are meaningful. Any cuts are painful, but at a time of bloated military spending and over-extension in foreign affairs, defense cuts are less painful than slashing Medicare or Social Security.

2) Tax loopholes and subsidies such as those to oil companies and other non-essential government give-aways should be closed out. There is growing support for this, and we would particularly call on moderate Republicans and conservative Democrats to help in this developing consensus, because we will never dig ourselves out of our budgetary hole without revenue increases.

Since we do not have many multi-millionaires in the Delta, we think it is perfectly reasonable to ask the wealthiest Americans to pay their fair share of taxes as they did during the Clinton administration, when our nation actually ran a surplus. Admittedly on this point the tea party and most Republicans seem so adamant that this will be much more difficult than closing the tax loopholes, but there must be continuing pressure for at least some progress on this point as well. It is difficult to see why a fabulously wealthy person could not contribute more to help get our country’s budgetary house in order.

We are talking about only a few of the super-wealthiest individuals and NOT higher taxes on businesses, because those could harm job creation.

3) Job creation is the number one problem we hear about all the time in the Delta: Use the savings from the spending cuts and revenue increases mentioned above to continue investments in programs that create jobs, such as the Delta Regional Authority, small business initiatives, green jobs in energy efficiency and renewable energy, broadband expansion, infrastructure, and other economic recovery initiatives.

We will never solve the deficit problem if we don’t put people back to work and get the economy thriving again.

Don’t cut programs for the neediest people: It would also be counterproductive to cut programs such as nutrition, health care, LIHEAP to help low-income people pay their energy bills, USDA rural development, and the many other programs for helping the neediest people in the Delta and across the country.

We invite feedback on these points. We know some would have different priorities, and they are welcome to speak up at the conference. We do have to develop a consensus based on the majority of the points of view we hear, and we have to present some manageable recommendations to the powers that be in Washington, DC.

Again, Congressional and executive branch officials in Washington tell me all the time that we can’t just say “Give us more money for the Delta” without coming up with proposals on how to pay for it, or what our priorities in spending cuts are.

We hope you can join us in Washington, DC on Nov. 1-3 at this historic time. The basic information is provided below for your convenience, in case you have not seen it previously. Thanks–Lee Powell, MDGC (202) 360-6347



OPENING SESSION–HOUSE: The opening session is Tuesday evening, November 1, 2011 from 5 p.m. to 8 p.m. at Room B-339 Rayburn House of Representatives building. There will be food and drinks, presentations and quiestion and answer from US Representatives, and leaders based in the region. We expect to have Delta Regional Authority officials at that session and the next day’s session as well.

SENATE SESSION: Wednesday morning, November 2, 2011, 8:45 a.m. to noon, Senate Visitors Center Rooms 200-201. We will have a dialogue with US Senators from the region, some regional leaders, and some executive branch officials.

THIRD CAPITOL HILL SESSION: Wednesday afternoon, November 2, 2011, historic sanctuary of the Lutheran Church of the Reformation near the Senate and House buildings, right behind the US Supreme Court, 212 East Capital, approximately 1:15 p.m. to about 3:45 p.m. We will have additional Members of Congress, executive branch and regional leaders.

FINAL SESSION, THURSDAY, NOVEMBER 3, from about 9 a.m. to 1 p.m., –SERIES OF SMALL MEETINGS AT KEY EXECUTIVE BRANCH AND ADDITIONAL CONGRESSIONAL OFFICES: Rather than set up another group meeting on the third day when everybody is tired and some people have already gone home, we plan to fan out over the key executive branch agencies, and it is strictly flexible and optional as to how our partners want to utilize that time.

There are two options for this final session:

1) First, we will set up several separate smaller meetings that morning with key executive branch offices including USDA, US Dept. of Transportation, FEMA, HHS, and the new White House Rural Council’s office. A small group of knowledgeable grassroots leaders can have an impact through a candid, direct dialogue with key executive branch officials. Each group would be small but would have very knowledgeable people on the USDA, DOT, FEMA, HHS and rural issues. Most of these small meetings will be going on at near or about the same time. You can decide which of these to attend, or set up another smaller meeting on your own if you prefer. It’s strictly up to your choice.

2) Secondly, if you would rather meet with another Congressional office or some other executive agency, please set that up on your own initiative. We of course do not want to get into an overly complicated process of organizing 25 small meetings. If you want to set up something on your own with only a very few people, that is great. We will cover a lot more offices this way.

If you choose to set up something on your own, if you could send us a “quick and dirty” email about what meetings you have set up, that would be helpful because we want to keep track of all the offices we contacted during the conference.

I will help coordinate these, in conjunction with one or two leaders who are knowledgeable about those issues who will be designated to take the lead at that meeting. I will definitely go to USDA and will try to work in the White House Rural Office as well. Leaders of the other meetings will be identified as soon as possible.

DIALOGUE AT THE BIG GROUP MEETINGS ON NOV. 1 AND 2: We will have a dialogue with Members of Congress, Obama administration officials, Delta Regional Authority representatives, and a group of grassroots leaders from the Greater Delta Region extending from St. Louis, Missouri and East St. Louis, Illinois down to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt. We will urge them to take stronger action for job creation/economic recovery in our region, where the disproportionate impact of the recession on us as well as the recent flooding and storms worsened an already economically distressed situation.

Job creation/economic recovery will be the top priority, and virtually all of our activities will be related to that goal. Key issues will include job creation/new markets initiatives, broadband expansion, the need for a new transportation bill, health care improvements for the underserved Delta, hunger and nutrition, support for the Delta Regional Authority’s funding, the USDA Rural Development programs, literacy programs and other education initiatives, renewable energy, “green jobs” and energy efficiency, Delta legacy tourism initiatives, flooding issues, and other economic and community development activities.

You register by paying the $100 early registration fees, and registration information is listed below along with group hotel and the schedule.

A number of people have already sent RSVPs, and please RSVP to this email or 202-360-6347 so we can add you to the list of people who will be there.

INCLUSION OF THE ENTIRE REGION: The main focus of our efforts geographically is on the most impoverished areas in the heart of the Delta, usually consisting of smaller towns and rural areas. However, Little Rock, Memphis, Jackson, Baton Rouge, St. Louis and East St. Louis are included in our efforts because we want them to feel included in the region and they have resources to help us, although they of course are much more urban and usually more prosperous, despite a few pockets of poverty, than the heart of the more small town and rural Delta.

THANKS AGAIN TO DRA: A special thank you to DRA Federal Co-Chairman Chris Masingill, Alternate DRA Federal Co-Chairman Mike Marshall of Missouri, DRA chief of staff Bill Triplett, and the state partners of the DRA for their continuing excellent new leadership at the DRA.

A direct dialogue with a small group of people and additional Congressional and executive branch offices will follow up on the larger group meetings with media coverage. These are essential in putting constructive pressure on the powers that be to do more for America’s most impoverished region and having a dialogue with them.

REGISTRATION: You register by paying the early registration fees. We have to ask for registration fees from almost everybody to make the budget work out, and the only exceptions are Members of Congress and their aides, Obama appointees, former Members of the cabinet like the Hon. Rodney Slater, and people at that level. For those coming for the entire conference, it is $100.

The early registration fees should be made out to “Delta Caucus” and mailed by Oct. 18 to:

Delta Grassroots Caucus

(Attention: Lee Powell)

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

The late registration fees are supposed to go up to $150 after Oct. 18. The only reason we came up with the late registration additional fee was to give an incentive for people to send in their fees on time, because in the past we had a problem with most people sending in the fees either at or after the conference, when many of our bills have to be paid right before or at the time of the conference, and this also created bottle-necks when people paid the fees at the front desk. The late registration fees for the May conference in Little Rock did in fact create a noticeable improvement in getting the fees in earlier, so thanks so much.

GROUP HOTEL: The group hotel is Radisson at Reagan Airport. To get the group rate of $225 for the nights of Nov. 1 and Nov. 2, call the Radisson at 703-920-8600 on or before Tuesday, Oct. 18, and say you are with the Delta Caucus. This rate is actually low by Washington, DC standards in October, which is one of the busiest times of the year for Congress and the administration.

There are also some two-room suites available for $259 a night.

We go to the meetings in large groups of taxi cabs each morning from the group hotel. Before 9/11 we used to go in large buses, but the one time we tried that after 9/11 the security guards were understandably not too happy with a huge vehicle pulling up close to the US Capitol, so we ditched that strategy. Going in groups of three or four by cab is quicker and cheaper.

We will work out the speaking times of all the people when the time gets nearer. Keep in touch and RSVP. Thanks–Lee Powell (MDGC) 202-360-6347