Of Steel and Snowflakes: Sharpening a Movement

The strongest steel is subjected to the highest heat. Richard Nixon said that, long ago, and he wasn’t wrong.

Did you know that before it’s given a “heat treatment,” steel has a crystalline structure? Frankly, it looks a lot like a snowflake.

But being dipped in fire changes the steel. Heat solidifies the molecular bonds that were already there; it removes impurities. It doesn’t create anything new, necessarily. It just improves upon what already existed.

And then, once the steel’s been made more solid, it’s ready to be pounded. And shaped. And polished.

And sharpened.

Over the past ten months we’ve been subjected to some high political temperatures. We’re putting out fires on every front – tending to health care, taxes, social safety nets and the environment. We’re seeing the dismantling of democratic norms on a daily basis. Human rights are under attack; hate crimes are on the rise. Natural disasters are exacerbated by the administration’s anemic response.

It’s not pretty.

But the effects of that heat have been to bind us ever tighter. Now stronger and more unified, we’re shaping our movement and sharpening our message.

What’s emerged from the forge is still taking shape; our movement is still developing. We’ll continue to hammer out our edges and smooth out our rough spots. But we can be confident that the bonds that hold us together are strong. Very strong.

The GOP likes to joke that we’re snowflakes – easily melted and fragile. Like pre-treated steel that hasn’t yet been subject to fire.

We’re not snowflakes anymore.

And they have themselves to thank for it.

Let’s get to work.


Tuesday: Oppose Re-Instituting Sanctions

Last week, Trump announced that he would refuse to certify that Iran is in compliance with their part of the nuclear deal. The Iran Nuclear deal is not just between the US and Iran – it includes China, Russia, France, the UK, Germany and the European Union – none of whom is interested in or willing to renegotiate terms. So once again, the Trump administration isolates the U.S. from our allies.

His decision also sends a signal to North Korea that the United States can’t be trusted. Even were we to come to a diplomatic solution to our nuclear crisis there, North Korea has no reason to believe that we’ll keep our promises. So not only has Trump jeopardized our relationship with Iran and our allies – he has foreclosed diplomatic opportunities with North Korea.

But, Trump kicked the decision as to whether to renew sanctions to Congress. So once again, Trump’s tough talk is just that – talk. He’s relying on Congress to back up his talk with action. And “[l]et’s be clear: A vote to kill the deal opens the door for war with Iran — and each member of Congress should be hearing loudly and persistently from their constituents that this is unacceptable.” So let’s do what we do best, and call on our MOCs!

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because I’m concerned about Trump’s attempts to back out of the Iran nuclear deal. I want to encourage (Senator/Congressman/woman _____) to oppose re-instituting sanctions against Iran. Voting to kill this deal opens the door for war with Iran, and signals to the world that we can’t be taken at our word. It’s one thing for Donald Trump to make a statement. It’s quite another for that statement to be backed up by Congress. Please, take a stand and tell the world that we are still trustworthy.

Wednesday: Oppose the Budget Resolution

On Thursday, the Senate will take up a vote on a budget resolution that will pave the way for tax cuts for millionaires. Make no mistake – a vote in favor of this budget resolution is a vote in favor of a tax scam that will cut taxes for the wealthy on the backs of the middle class while increasing the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion and slashing social service programs. Republicans understand that their very survival depends upon tax reform happening, so they’re motivated to vote in favor of this resolution. It’s up to us to give them good reason to oppose it.

To put it in perspective (and to get a good chuckle) check out this analysis from TalkPoverty.org showing that for the cost of just one element of the Trump tax scam – the repeal of the estate tax – Congress could buy each of us a pony! (Now that’s a great way to get re-elected!). More seriously, we could expand the earned income tax credit and lift 3 million children out of poverty. But hey – Ivanka needs a new pair of Manolos, so what’s an administration to do but cut taxes for the rich and famous?

The most recent analysis suggests that the budget reconciliation vote will be a squeaker, and the GOP has no votes to spare. It’s time to pick up those phones!

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to vote against the budget resolution. The tax plan that’s been presented increases the deficit by $1.5 trillion dollars, giving tax cuts to the wealthy on the backs of people like me. Frankly, most Americans (myself included) don’t think corporations are paying enough in taxes – and the passthrough income tax cuts that have been marketed as cuts for small businesses disproportionately benefit the wealthy. In fact, the Trump Organization has over 500 of those passthrough entities. Speaking of the Trump family, the estate tax only applies to estates that are worth over $5 million – like the Trump family and the current cabinet. So eliminating that tax only benefits people like them – not regular people, which make up the majority of the Senator’s constituents. As you can probably tell, I’m really concerned that the Senate hasn’t demanded that President Trump release his tax returns in advance of your vote on tax reform. We all deserve to know whether the President is promoting this plan because of his own self-interest, and it’s irresponsible for the Senator to vote in favor of this plan without having that information. Please ask him/her to vote against the budget resolution, and against this horrible tax plan.

Thursday: Ask (Again) About FQHC Funding

Federally Qualified Health Centers – also known as community health centers – provide care for low-income and underserved individuals, often in rural areas. Like CHIP, the legislation providing funding for community health centers has received bipartisan support, and everyone thought it would be renewed by the September 30 deadline. It wasn’t, and here we are in mid-October. Because the funding for those community health centers has not been renewed, they face losing 70% of their grant funding on January 1 – which means they are already having to make difficult decisions – do they lay off workers? Strip programs or services?

If nothing is done, 9 million patients will lose access to care, 2,800 delivery sites will be closed, and 51,000 providers and staff will be laid off.

Go here for a more detailed breakdown of the impact on your state, including the number of patients and jobs lost, and lost revenue.

This is as serious as a heart attack, and it needs to be addressed before giving tax cuts to billionaires.

We can actually THANK some Senators for supporting and sponsoring legislation that will continue funding for federally qualified health centers (aka community health centers) and will provide a longer-term fix than other proposed legislation. Senator Blunt (R-MO) (!!!) sponsored S.1899, which has been cosponsored by a bipartisan group of 13 senators. The same bill is kicking around the House as HR3770. Check here to see if your Senator has expressed support, and here to see if your Congressman/woman has supported the bill. (Missouri residents – Blunt, McCaskill, Clay and Hartzler are the MOCs that are sponsoring.)

Script: Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to ask the Senator to support S.1899/Congressman/woman to support HR3770, which extends funding for community health centers. Those health centers provide care for low-income and underserved residents of our state. Without funding, community health centers will close – jobs will be lost and residents of our state will suffer. The National Association of Community Health Centers estimates that if funding is not restored, 9 million patients will lose access to care and 51,000 jobs will be lost. That’s unacceptable. Please support these community health centers and restore their funding.

Friday: Ask (Again) About CHIP Funding

Once again we need to call our legislators about CHIP – the Childrens’ Health Insurance Program. We talked about this last week: It’s a bipartisan, highly effective and well-liked program… the funding for which our lovely members of Congress allowed to expire at the end of September. Some states will run out of funding in the next few months; others will have a bit longer to plan. (Check the link for a map, where you can check the status of your state.) But all states are confronted with the distinct possibility that their CHIP funding will disappear.

Until Congress re-funds CHIP, states are put in the terrible position of having to wind the program down. They can’t presume that our lovely leaders will grant their funding, and state governments don’t turn on a dime. So the best case scenario now involves your state having to waste your taxpayer dollars winding down a program that enjoys bipartisan support because our MOCs couldn’t get their act together.

You guys. I’m so annoyed.

So let’s take to the phones (or faxes) to let them know how we feel, shall we?

Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because I’m really surprised that the funding for CHIP hasn’t been renewed. Our state will now have to expend funds and resources winding down a highly effective program that’s gotten bipartisan support. So, because of the federal government’s inability to pass the CHIP funding bill before September 30 – or in the weeks since – our state government is going to waste even more taxpayer money. This is ridiculous. I urge the Senator/Congressman/woman to do whatever he/she can do to move a clean CHIP funding bill forward. [When you are talking to your Congressman/woman’s staff, you can add: But I want to make sure the Congressman/woman knows that the funding level for Puerto Rico that’s provided in the Healthy Kids Act (HR3921) is far too low for the extent of the humanitarian crisis they’re undergoing. That bill might hit the mark for CHIP, but it misses it entirely for Puerto Rico.]

Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I really do!) We’re in this together.

If you want one more quick action, make someone’s day and send this pep talk to a friend or two.

If you’d like to sign up to get this pep talk and action list in your in-box each week, you can do that here. Welcome, friend!

Lastly, if you’d like to support this work (thanks to those who have done so!), you can become a supporter here.

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