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On the Line: WFW Conference Calls

Posted by Will Rice (will) on Aug 05 2011 at 12:39 PM
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Because mainstream sources of information are often superficial or biased, education is a key component to community organizing.  Organizers for Working Families Win (WFW) supply important data, background and context to volunteers in one-on-one contacts, in house meetings and through our website and emails. Another effective method for spreading important news are the national conference calls we’ve been conducting this spring and summer.

Each month we address a different one of WFW’s five “American Priorities for Working Families”: good jobs, health care, Social Security, fair trade, and the fiscal impact of war.  We ask an acknowledged expert on the subject to make a presentation, invite questions from organizers and volunteers listening in from around the country, and outline actions that flow from the conversation.

We began the series in May with health care. Jen Beeson of Families USA shared information on how Medicare, Medicaid, and the Affordable Care Act are impacted by state and federal budget decisions. Beeson explained that state legislatures, dominated by Tea Party extremists, were attacking health care and health care coverage as part of an ideological crusade.  Activists on the call were encouraged to participate in public education activities and make their voices heard with elected officials.

Social Security was the focus of the June call. Terry Lochhead of the Alliance for Retired Americans quickly set about dispelling common misperceptions about this bedrock program of economic justice and stability.

Lochhead reassured activists that Social Security is not “broke”, since even without any funding or program changes, it could pay out full benefits for the next 25 years, then 75 percent of them thereafter; and it does not contribute to the deficit, since it has its own dedicated funding stream.  For those who imagine beneficiaries live high off the hog and can easily absorb benefit cuts, Lochhead offered the sobering news that 40 percent of beneficiaries live on less than $14,000 a year, with most of that coming from Social Security.

Fittingly, given the debt debate raging at the time, the July call was given over to a discussion of budget priorities.  Ethan Rosenkranz, a budget expert on the staff of Congresswoman (and ADA President) Lynn Woolsey, detailed the “People’s Budget”, released each year by the Congressional Progressive Caucus.  This CPC blueprint offers an alternative vision to the radical spending and tax policies of the Republican House majority.

Rosenkranz reported that of the proposed budgets offered on the House floor in the spring, the “People’s Budget” was the only one that actually balanced the books within ten years. It accomplished this while increasing investments in green technology, broadband technology and infrastructure; and protecting and strengthening social programs like Medicare and Head Start.  The necessary funding came from responsibly concluding the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, canceling or curtailing unnecessary military weapon systems and overseas commitments, and restoring fair tax rates for the wealthiest corporations and individuals.

If you’d like to participate in future calls, please feel free to contact me at don@wfwin.org.

Don Kusler is national director of Working Families Win, a joint project of ADA and the ADA Education Fund.