“Not what we say about our blessings,

but how we use them, is the true measure of our thanksgiving.”

-- W. T. Purkiser

Dear Peacemakers,

We wish you a very happy healthy Thanksgiving.

I found the words of Rev. W.T. Purkiser printed above recently and felt that they eloquently spoke to me this Thanksgiving. I feel very blessed in many ways and giving back, working for peace and justice is one way I try and express my thanks.

I invite you to express your thanksgiving by writing a letter to the editor. We have a unique opportunity to focus attention on the need to reduce military spending and its impact on the increase in the U.S. deficit and to prevent cuts to programs supporting those in most need in our community.

We’d like your help in getting letters to the editor printed in the KC Star.

The National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform (known as the Deficit Commission) is set to put out recommendations to Congress on December 1st. The co-chairs of the committee have already released their recommendations which include cuts to the military budget as well as destructive and dangerous cuts to social services. Other recommendations will come out between now and December 1st, and then the discussion will shift to Congress.

We’d like your help to send a clear message that:

•    We cannot seriously talk about fiscal responsibility without cutting the military budget

•    At the same time, we need to protect funding to meet vital human needs and reduce unemployment.

We want to generate 10 letters to the editor during the next week and one half. Below and attached is information about posting letters to the editor to the KC Star (200 word limit); talking points on the issue and a link to a schedule where you can sign up to send in your letter. We'd like you to volunteer to send letters during this period.

Please send a copy of the letter you submit to me (iharritt@afsc.org)so we can track how many are sent and how many are printed.

Thanks for your efforts for peace.

Sincerely,

Ira Harritt

KC AFSC

816 931-5256

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To Submit a Letters to the Editor to the KC Star

Submit original letters of up to 200 words. (Please, no form letters or copied material from other websites). Letters are subject to editing and writers may appear no more than once a month.

The star prefers that letters be submitted online at http://www.kansascity.com/letters Letters also may be submitted by mail to The Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO. 64108.

In addition to the letter you will need to provide your name, email, subject, Home address (for verification, not publication) and a daytime phone number (for verification, not publication).

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Or

Template for letters to editor – this link allows you to send your letter to several area newspapers as the same time: https://secure2.convio.net/afsc/site/LteUser?lte.user=lte_resolve_zip&lte_id=12001

Talking Points

The Federal Deficit and Federal Budget Priorities

Background

In the aftermath of the 2010 election, much political attention is being given to the federal deficit.  President Obama created the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform in February to explore solutions and propose policy recommendations to improve the long-run fiscal outlook and balance the budget by 2015. (For more information, see http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/.)

Completion of a final report would require approval of at least 14 of the Commission’s 18 members, a challenge which will be difficult for them to reach.  The Commission will vote on a final report by Dec. 1.

The Commission’s co-chairs, Erskine Bowles and Alan Simpson, released their own recommendations on Nov. 10. (see http://www.fiscalcommission.gov/sites/fiscalcommission.gov/files/documents/CoChair_Draft.pdf.)    They include modest cuts in military spending, regressive changes to the tax code, and  significant benefit cuts to Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare for all but the very poorest.

Other members are also releasing their own reports, trying to influence the full commission.  Alice Rivlin, former Director of the Office of Management and Budget, released a report Nov. 17 with former Senator Pete Domenici under the auspices of the Bipartisan Policy Center (see http://bipartisanpolicy.org/sites/default/files/FINAL%20DRTF%20REPORT%2011.16.10.pdf.)  Like the co-chairs, they call for reducing Social Security benefits and increasing tax regressivity.   Congresswoman Jan Schakowsky, meanwhile, has issued her own plan (http://schakowsky.house.gov/images/stories/Final_1116_Schakowsky_Deficit_Reduction_Plan.pdf) to reduce the deficit through job creation and public investments.  More reports and many column-inches of punditry will no doubt appear before Dec. 1.

AFSC’s Wage Peace and Economic Justice teams believe that any plan for fiscal responsibility   must emphasize cutting military spending, retaining needed social programs, and reviving the overall economy.

 AFSC Talking Points

Approaches to reducing the deficit should look to its causes:

  1.     The recession itself
  2.     Military spending
  3.       The Bush era tax cuts
  4.       Reduce the Deficit by Ending the Recession

Recovery from the recession requires government spending, including on income support and basic needs for people who are especially vulnerable.  Spending on discretionary programs such as unemployment compensation, food stamps, housing subsidies, child care, should not be reduced unless we can also mandate an end to lay-offs, food insecurity, health emergencies, foreclosures, etc.  In addition to helping people meet their basic needs, these funds cycle through local economies producing more economic stimulus than tax cuts.

Citizens for Tax Justice notes that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office and most economists believe that “short-term job creation is more likely to result from policies that put money in the hands of low-income and middle-income people, who are likely to immediately spend any new money on necessities that they have delayed purchasing. This increase in consumer demand will allow businesses that make and sell these products to hire more workers or avoid layoffs that would otherwise occur.” (http://www.ctj.org/pdf/bushtaxcuts2010.pdf)

Reducing unemployment would simultaneously increase government tax revenues and decrease spending on programs to aid low-income people.

2.      Reduce Federal Spending on War and Military Excess

“For decades,” Representatives Barney Frank and Ron Paul wrote in a July 6 article, “the subject of military expenditures has been glaringly absent from public debate.  Yet the Pentagon budget for 2010 is $693 billion -- more than all other discretionary spending programs combined.  Even subtracting the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, military spending still amounts to over 42% of total spending.”

The subject of military spending must no longer be absent from budget-cutting discussions.   In fact, even Bowles and Simpson issued a call for cuts of $100 million a year in this area.  We believe that even deeper cuts can be made in areas such as overseas military bases, nuclear weapons programs, military aid programs, and the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.

3.      Let the Bush Tax Cuts for the Wealthy Expire

Tax changes recommended by the Commission’s co-chairs are on the whole regressive, i.e. they would increase the tax burden on low and moderate income taxpayers while lightening the burden on wealthier ones (see analysis of “Distributional Estimates” from the Tax Policy Center at http://www.tnr.com/blog/jonathan-chait/79226/the-debt-commission-plan-no-deal.)  But advocates for fiscal responsibility need look no further than the massive tax cuts enacted during the George W. Bush administration.

According to Citizens for Tax Justice, when you factor in income and estate tax cuts, “Extending the tax cuts for the rich would add over a trillion dollars to the ten-year federal budget deficit.”

CTJ notes that the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office (CBO) recently ranked making permanent the Bush tax cuts for all taxpayers (including the rich) as the least effective policy option for creating jobs over the next couple of years. (http://www.cbo.gov/ftpdocs/108xx/doc10803/01-14-Employment.pdf)

The tax cuts on the wealthiest Americans should be allowed to expire.

Links:

AFSC deficit talking points

http://afsc.org/sites/afsc.civicactions.net/files/documents/AFSC%20deficit%20talking%20points%20.doc

The Federal Deficit: The Facts – an excellent resource and new issue brief from WV Center on Budget and Policy: http://www.wvpolicy.org/downloads/IB110410.pdf     

Recent articles in KC Star on Deficit

Debt-cutting plans share this: Taxes will go up for everyone   Sunday Nov 21, 2010

http://pd.kansascity.com/sp?eId=100&gcId=99354185&rNum=1&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kansascity.com%2F2010%2F11%2F21%2F2456856%2Fdebt-cutting-plans-share-this.html&siteIdType=2

Q&A: Debt panel chairmen warn that inaction would be costly, Saturday Nov 20, 2010

http://pd.kansascity.com/sp?eId=100&gcId=99354185&rNum=2&url=http%3A%2F%2Fwww.kansascity.com%2F2010%2F11%2F19%2F2453388%2Fqa-debt-panel-chairmen-warn-that.html&siteIdType=2

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