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Budget for All Update - January 4, 2013

Activists call for protecting social services and raising taxes on corporations and the rich during a rally in Springfield MA

Budget Battles and Deals: A disappointing “fiscal cliff” deal passed Jan. 2, approving $620 billion (over 10 years) of taxes on upper incomes, compared to $1.4 trilllion proposed by Pres. Obama in December. The deal also extended unemployment benefits for a year. Read a summary of progressive views on the deal.

The next stage of the Washington budget battle will be over spending cuts, and it will be a tough one, peaking in mid to late February. Automatic “sequestration” cuts to both Pentagon and domestic spending were postponed two months and will go into effect unless they are replaced with a new deal. Republicans are again threatening to blow up the economy by not raising the debt ceiling (i.e. not paying bills the government owes) unless more cuts are agreed on. 

The Budget for All agenda is right on target! Progressives need to push for Pentagon cuts, more revenue (closing corporate loopholes and enacting a financial transaction tax), job creation and protection of Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and other critical programs. Progressives in Congress can be a pivotal force if they pull together and block a bad deal.  Progressive Caucus co-chair Keith Ellison of Minnesota got off to a good start by publishing an initial outline today; now the entire caucus needs to unite behind a more detailed version of that position and stick to it. The Budget for All grassroots coalition can make a difference by pushing Massachusetts progressive Democrats to take a stand.

State Legislators’ Letter: 7 state Senators and 18 state Representatives signed a letter to the Massachusetts Congressional delegation Dec. 31 supporting the Budget for All principles; six more Reps agreed to sign but missed the deadline.  Letter writers – write your local newspaper letting readers know about this letter (see Carol Coakley’s letter to Metrowest Daily News as an example)

Next Steps: The Budget for All Coalition meeting yesterday identified the following priority tasks:

Media:  Our media focus is on making sure Pentagon cuts are discussed.  Launch a letter-to-the-editor campaign across the state. Supplement letters with op-eds by high-profile authors (we can draft the op-eds).  Contact: Paul Shannon, pshannon@afsc.org

Regroup: Budget for All will hold a briefing and strategy session Sunday, January 27, 1pm, in Boston, location TBA.   Save the date! To make sure we understand the issues, we’ll have presentations on the tax deal and on what we’re facing in the next round.  We’ll also discuss and approve tactics from now till March 1.    Contact: Paul Shannon.

Local Actions: We want to hold several actions across the state in mid-February to call attention to the Budget for All agenda in the context of the next Washington budget battle.  In Boston, we’ll try for a city council hearing, or another format. Can activists in Western Mass., Worcester, Metrowest, Southeast Mass., North Shore, Arlington/Watertown plan local events as well?  A speakout with local, state and federal elected officials plus union, community, and faith leaders could work well, talking about how domestic cuts will hurt our state / city and what we can do to block them. Target date: President’s Day (February 18) or earlier.  Contact Michael Kane michaelkane@saveourhomes.org or Jeff Klein jjk123@comcast.net to work on the Boston event, or Cole or Paul to work on events in other areas.   Valentine’s Day, February 14, could also be a good day for an event (have a heart!)

Legislation: We’re still hoping to file a bill by January 18, and would also hold a press conference that day if possible. If you think your legislator would be a good primary sponsor for the bill, contact Cole Harrison, cole@masspeaceaction.org.

Materials: We’re working with the New Priorities Network on a packet of materials including fact sheets on the issues and solutions.   (Mike Prokosch and Lee Farris) 

Public Education and Outreach: Contact Sofia Wolman, sofiawolman@gmail.com to help work on this!

Jobs Not Wars: This national petition drive already has 23,000 signatures on the main site and 14,000 more on Roots Action.  Sign online now, circulate to your friends and your local group, and get signatures on the hardcopy petition!

Senate Election:How can we use the upcoming Senate special election (tentatively June) to call attention to the Budget for All issues?

Draft Barney! Barney Frank has asked Gov. Patrick for the interim appointment to the Senate before the special election. While he has his flaws, it sure would help to have a strong critic of Pentagon budgets in that position.

Action Reports

Rallies: The Budget for All Coalition rallied at Sen. Kerry’s Boston office Nov. 26 and again Dec. 19 calling on him on him to stand firm in the "fiscal cliff" negotiations and respect the will of the voters expressed in the Budget for All vote. Michael Kane and Laurie Taymor-Berry led the group Dec. 19 in singing parody Christmas carols including "The Grand Bargain is Sneaking to Town" and "It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Sell-Out".  The protesters distributed flyers to passers-by and delivered a letter and met with an aide to Sen. Kerry. About 20 people attended including peace and housing activists, a carload of unemployed workers from Worcester, and a veteran wearing a Santa suit.

Western Mass. B4A activists’ rally in Springfield Nov. 30 was covered by WAMC and WWLP 22 News (watch video clip). (See photo at top of this article.)

Boston area activists joined two “Jobs Not Cuts” rallies Dec 10 sponsored by MassUniting and the AFL-CIO on Dec. 10.   Jeff Klein spoke about the Budget for All at the Boston area Central Labor Council / MoveOn sponsored rally in front of Kerry’s office.

Articles: Jackie Jenkins-Scott, president of Wheelock College, wrote an op-ed on the significance of the Budget for All and connected it to the importance of funding for education, children and families.  Paul Shannon of AFSC and Charlie Derber, sociology professor at Boston College, wrote about the significance of the B4A in Tikkun Daily.

Celebrations! The Mass. Alliance of HUD Tenants held its annual dinner Dec. 20 and gave out award certificates to dozens of activists who worked on the B4A this year. Dorchester People for Peace  held their annual dinner Dec. 10 and also spoke about the B4A.