The people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. ~Steve Jobs
Here we are, friend. We’re part of a band of people who are just crazy enough to think that we can change the world, one phone call and one action at a time. When you think about it, it really does sound crazy. What could a phone call really do to stop our behemoth government?
But just look at what we’ve done in the 80-odd days of this new administration. Seemingly small deeds – a phone call here, a postcard there, a march and a sign and a $5 donation – undertaken by hundreds of thousands of us have thrown enough gravel into the gears of the Trump train to slow it way, way down.
The GOP’s signature legislative issue – the repeal of Obamacare – was thwarted by our persistence. Our protests of the Muslim ban showed the world that regardless of the administration’s actions, Americans still believe in freedom (and the courts did their fair share to slow that roll). We continue to remind our elected officials that we want a legitimate investigation into Russian interference – and we’re not going to allow that story to be hidden under a pile of newer headlines. Democratic lawmakers have been rushing to catch up to our already-energized movement. We’ve unified our elected Democrats against the administration, and we’re working like hell to get new ones up on the hill. And data shows that democratic voters who don’t normally vote in midterms are already coming out to vote in special elections.
The GOP has good reason to be skittish.
And now Trump’s administration is even scrapping plans to achieve tax reform by their self-imposed deadline of August. Why? Because they’re scared.
So when it seems like you’re spinning your wheels, or that what you do doesn’t matter, just remember what we’ve already accomplished. And know that yes, you are crazy. But no, you aren’t alone.
Let’s get crazy, shall we?
Advocate for a responsible budget:
Background: Let’s talk budget for a minute. If you’re not super familiar with the budget process, here’s a great quick explainer for you (and it even has a handy flow chart!). Basically although POTUS proposes a budget, Congress has the power of the purse. This means that you can call either your Senators or your Representative (or all three of them!) to talk budget issues. The current “continuing resolution” bill that acts as a temporary spending bill expires on April 28th and budget negotiations are under way; money will certainly be on lawmakers’ minds over the next few weeks.
But let’s be clear: the proposed budget was a dumpster fire. I’m sure you heard about the reductions for NIH, PBS, and the National Endowment for the Arts. Total stupidity mixed with a shot of near-sightedness. But let’s talk about just a few more issues that are worth chatting with lawmakers about over recess – either on the phone or at town halls.
Background: Overall, the proposed budget cuts funding for education by $9.2 billion – but it increases funding for school choice. In general terms, school privatization is not good for public schools. To learn more about how privatization impacts our educational system, head over to The Network for Public Education, which has a great resource page with a number of simple policy papers on a variety of common topics – like “Do Charter Schools Hurt Public Schools?” and “Do Charter Schools and School Vouchers Save Money?”. Of particular concern for many midwestern states is the impact that privatization will have on rural public schools. On that point, Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill asked Betsy DeVos how she plans to protect rural schools in the wake of these massive education cuts. She is expecting an answer by April 17. We’ll see.
In the meantime, it’s time to demand that the budget that congress actually approves works for education.
Script: My name is __- and I’m a constituent at ___. I want to know what Rep./Senator_____ is doing to protect funding for our public schools. I understand that Rep./Senator ____ wants schools to work for every child – but taking resources away from public schools is not the way to do that. What is Rep./Senator ______ doing on this issue?
Background: The civil war in Syria has decimated that country. Its economy has crumbled; depending upon whom you ask, anywhere between 90,000 and 470,000 civilians have been killed. As of April 5, UNHCR reports over 5 million refugees. Just to put that in perspective, that’s more than the population of the city Chicago (2.719 million) and Houston (2.196 million) combined.
Can you imagine?
Last week, after the world was horrified by a chemical gas attack on Syrian citizens – including small children, the new administration took its first military action. It fired 59 tomahawk missiles at the airbase from which the chemical attack originated. While praised by a number of media folks who breathlessly claimed that it was the moment that Trump “became the President,” it’s fairly clear that the attack was not permitted by international law and various lawmakers have demanded that the administration consult Congress about any additional strikes.
So, back to the budget, which cuts foreign aid by over 30% – which is simply ridiculous. After those cuts were announced, 120 retired US generals and admirals wrote a letter to Congress explaining that “many of the crises our nation faces do not have military solutions alone” and urging them to “ensure that resources for the International Affairs Budget keep pace with the growing global threats and opportunities we face.” As they said in closing, “Now is not the time to retreat.”
Here’s the big question: how does the Trump administration square its use of tomahawk missiles (to the tune of $60-70 million) with its refusal to fund foreign aid? If we really are concerned for the “beautiful, beautiful babies” (and I think most Americans are) then we need to do more than bomb an airstrip.
So what *do* we do? As Rescue.org puts it quite eloquently: We need to end the travel ban, accept more refugees, and abandon plans to slash foreign aid. As citizen advocates, we’re already working on the first two. Now it’s time to also remind our reps that we care about the budgetary piece of this puzzle.
As an aside: If you’re interested in learning more about what people in and from Syria need, Rescue.org has quite a bit of helpful info for you. You can volunteer for IRC by going here and finding a location near you, or you can donate here.
Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at _____. I’m calling because I am concerned about the proposed budget’s dramatic decreases in foreign aid. I know that Senator/Representative _____ is just as concerned as I am about the fate of Syrian people, but just bombing an airstrip isn’t enough to ensure their safety. Over 100 retired generals and admirals have expressed concern about the level of cuts to foreign aid. Where does Senator/Representative ____ stand on these cuts?
Regional Development Programs
Since he was elected, Trump has shown that from a policy perspective he does not feel beholden to his base; his policies almost seem intended to harm his most strident supporters. Nowhere is that more clear than with the budget’s elimination of various Regional Authorities, such as the Delta Regional Authority (as noted in this letter penned by the National Governors Association regarding the proposed budget).
The Delta Regional Authority “works to improve regional economic opportunity by helping to create jobs, build communities, and improve the lives of the 10 million people who reside in the 252 counties and parishes of the eight-state Delta region.”
And, in fact, the Delta Regional Authority has created over 40,000 jobs.
- Alabama: 4,491
- Arkansas: 4,638
- Illinois 4,491
- Kentucky 2,809
- Louisiana: 10,014
- Mississippi: 3,638
- Missouri: 7,456
- Tennessee: 6,394
- Total: 43,931
Its eastern cousin, the Appalachian Regional Commission, has created over 23,000 jobs and has provided training for 49,000 more in 13 states. Their mission? Creating economic opportunity; preparing a ready workforce; building critical infrastructure; leveraging natural and cultural assets; and cultivating leadership and community capacity.
Now, that sounds like something we should cut, doesn’t it? Geez.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I want to know what Senator/Rep. ___ is doing to protect regional programs like the Delta Regional Authority and the Appalachian Regional Commission that provide income and jobs to thousands of Americans. The proposed budget eliminates these programs, which provide tens of thousands of jobs and job training to Americans. If the goal is to provide more jobs, how does eliminating these programs achieve that goal?
Wednesday: Go back to school
Resistance School is a free four-session practical training program that’s designed to help us hone our resistance skills. On Wednesday at 7:00 Eastern, Resistance School will be holding their second session – How to Mobilize and Organize Our Communities. Sounds great, right? You can sign up online and watch from the comforts of your couch!
Thursday: Say it with me! “Hey-hey-Ho-ho-Bill O’Reilly’s Got to Go…”
Background: Bill O’Reilly has a problem. Sleeping Giants, an organization that is “dedicated to stopping racist, sexist, homophobic, xenophobic and anti-Semitic news sites by stopping their ad dollars” has its sights set on The O’Reilly Factor.
So far, 78 advertisers have already pulled out. That leaves 52 to go (go here for the google doc that lists them). By now, the list includes QVC and Bob’s Discount Furniture. But it also includes companies like Honda, Chevrolet, Capital One, McDonalds, Microsoft and Phillips. So, if you’re a Twitter user, head on over to Sleeping Giants’ feed, give them a follow, tweet the O’Reilly fact banners to the advertisers on the list and tag Sleeping Giants. Add your own personal and polite note, of course.
If Facebook is more your game, go to https://www.facebook.com/slpnggiants, give them a follow and check out their e-mail template that you can cut and paste into a message to the advertiser of choice.
Microsoft, in particular, is refusing to answer any questions about its actions. So let’s join Sleeping Giants and post to their Microsoft for Women page to find out what gives. Post a message on this FB page calling on Microsoft to cut its business ties with this repeat sexual offender.
Friday: Plan to put boots on the ground
It’s all about the taxes, baby. There’s a lot of energy behind getting Trump to release his taxes – particularly as tax reform winds its way around the hill. This Saturday, April 15, there will be Tax Day Marches going on across the country. Go here to find your local march, and then let us know how it goes!
Okay, everyone – let’s get to work!
Here’s to the crazy ones, the misfits, the rebels, the troublemakers, the round pegs in the square holes … the ones who see things differently — they’re not fond of rules, and they have no respect for the status quo. … You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them, but the only thing you can’t do is ignore them because they change things. … They push the human race forward, and while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius, because the people who are crazy enough to think that they can change the world, are the ones who do. ~Steve Jobs