Dumpster Fire’s Budget: $8.6 B for the wall, slash social services

One thing we can say for the Dumpster Fire-in-Chief: he doesn’t give up. OK, we could say more, but let’s stick with that for the moment. He doesn’t give up. His budget for 2020 is out, and he’s still at it with the damn funding for the damn Wall. 8.6 billion dollars, to be specific, which as Reuters points out is “more than six times what Congress allocated for border projects in each of the past two fiscal years, and 6 percent more than Trump has corralled by invoking emergency powers this year.” The budget also includes “an overall 5 percent increase to the Department of Homeland Security budget over fiscal 2019 appropriations, including $3.3 billion, or 22 percent more, for Customs and Border Protection, and $1.2 billion more for Immigration and Customs Enforcement, a 16 percent hike, officials said.”

Where’s that money gonna come from?

Check out the horrifying chart in this article from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

Our Members of Congress have already spoken out: Senator Feinstein released a statement; Senator Harris posted several tweets, and appeared in a Newsweek article; Representatives DeSaulnier, Swalwell and Lee all tweeted in opposition to the budget.

What you can do:

It’s true that Congress rarely approves a presidential budget, but our Members of Congress need our support as they take strong stands in opposition to Trump’s budget and its disgusting priorities. Thank them for what they’ve done, and tell them to keep fighting!

  • Sen. Dianne Feinstein: (email); (415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841
  • Sen. Kamala Harris: (email); (415) 981-9369 • DC: (202) 224-3553
  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (email); (510) 620-1000 • DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (email); (510) 763-0370 • DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (email); (510) 370-3322 • DC: (202) 225-5065

What to say:

My name is ____, my zip code is ____ and I’m a member of Indivisible East Bay. I am appalled by Trump’s budget for 2020 – $8.6 billion for the wall, more money for homeland security, keeping tax cuts for the rich and a huge deficit but slashing the EPA and social services. I want to thank _____ for speaking out against the budget, and I want _______ to continue to speak out against it. Our budget should prioritize taking care of our environment and our people, especially those most in need.

 

IEB’s Last Meeting With Sean

On October 24, 2018 Indivisible East Bay had our last-ever meeting with Senator Feinstein’s State Director Sean Elsbernd. It was also our last office visit with the Senator’s staff before the 2018 midterm elections, so it could possibly also be our last-ever Feinstein meeting – but as of this writing, that’s unlikely given her lead in the polls. Feinstein has given no indication yet on who will replace Sean as state director.

Our first topic was immigration. We followed up on Sen. Feinstein’s recent commitment to visit the detention facilities in California where separated kids are being held; Sean said she plans to make that visit soon after the election. Feinstein has also said that a comprehensive immigration reform bill is one of her priorities for the next Congress, especially if the Democrats win. We gave a list of priorities for such a bill, including legal status for immigrants, protection for asylum seekers, and less leeway for the executive branch to make the system harsher and more restrictive. We also had in our group an advocate for help for a very specific population: adults who were adopted from foreign countries as children, but who never became citizens because something went wrong with their paperwork, meaning they are now technically unauthorized immigrants and could be subject to deportation. Our advocate was the wife of such a person, following up on a request she had made at a previous meeting for Sen. Feinstein to look into this issue. Sean assured us that she had, but that they had not been able to find a way to move legislation forward under this Congress. He confirmed that she will continue to try, and may include it in comprehensive reform.

We asked what we could do to help the senator fight the terrible judges that the president nominated for California seats on the 9th Circuit. Senator Chuck Grassley scheduled a so-called hearing for these nominees while the Senate is away on recess – a farce of an event attended by up to two Republican senators who asked approximately zero questions. Sean said that Sen. Feinstein is certain that the way this happened was intended as revenge for what Republicans perceive as her role in “ruining” the Supreme Court confirmation hearings for Brett Kavanaugh. As for what we can do to help, Sean said that Democrats on the Judiciary Committee are still strategizing, and that, of course, a lot depends on who wins the Senate in next week’s elections. He suggested raising awareness of the red flags in the judges’ records, writing letters to the editors of newspapers, and generally making it clear that California does not support these nominees.

We also discussed the United States’ shameful role in the war in Yemen and on the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty; we found, not surprisingly, that we are on the same page as Sen. Feinstein, who has called abandoning the treaty a “strategic mistake.” Even if the administration tries to withdraw from the formal treaty, Sen. Feinstein is committed to enforcing its terms by way of her role on the Energy and Water Appropriations Subcommittee.

And we talked about creating a fair economy and protecting our social services. A theme of that conversation was the GOP’s false promises about its economic policy, its lies about looking out for working people who are struggling to get ahead, and its double-talk about everything from Social Security to pre-existing conditions. We told Sean that sometimes Sen. Feinstein’s moderate tone and abiding belief that Republicans will be reasonable “when push comes to shove” make some of us worry that she is falling for their lies and will be fooled into making compromises in exchange for empty words.

We also asked that the senator take the administration’s recent attack on trans people as an opportunity for a renewed push to pass the Equality Act. This bill amends existing civil rights law and defines sexual orientation and gender identity protected classes under Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972, which prohibits discrimination on the basis of sex in federally funded education programs or activities.

And we asked that Sen. Feinstein look at the evidence that has come out on SESTA-FOSTA, an anti-sex trafficking bill she and Sen. Harris voted for. Although the bill was intended to prevent human trafficking and forced sex work, there are serious concerns that it has actually further endangered the populations that are vulnerable to those threats.

IEB Feinstein office visit. Photo credit: Catya de Neergaard

If Sean was sorry to be seeing the last of what he has called the “most demanding Indivisible group in California,” he didn’t show it. As for us, while we may not have shed tears at parting either, we do think he has set a high for bar his replacement as a responsive and informative representative for Senator Feinstein.

Photographs by Catya de Neergaard

Stop the House Reverse Robin Hood Budget

The House Budget Committee just passed a 10-year budget containing over $300 billion in cuts to crucial social services. Why do we need these cuts? To help pay for the staggering $1.5 trillion deficit created by the GOP tax scam giveaway to the wealthiest 1% and corporate donors!

Compare and contrast:

  • The military budget, which consumes 60% of all discretionary spending, is earmarked for only $1 billion in cuts, less than 1% of the total proposed cuts.  
  • The budget for education, which is only 1/10 the size of the entire defense budget, is proposed to be cut by $20 billion – 7% of the total cuts.
  • Critical social services (from both mandatory and discretionary spending categories) like Medicare, Social Security, Unemployment Insurance and other important social services, will be cut by $150 billion.

Most concerning of all, this budget includes reconciliation instructions to repeal any part of – or all of – of the Affordable Care Act via an expedited process and 51 votes in the Senate. This was the same maneuver the GOP used in their first attempt to repeal the ACA last year, and which they used successfully to ram the #TaxScam through.

We know that our Members of Congress support human services, but we need to tell them that defeating this budget is a priority. We need them to do everything they can to make sure that no California Democrats agree to support this horrible budget proposal, and to work with any House Republicans they can to prevent Paul Ryan from gaining the support he needs to bring this dreadful budget to the floor for a vote. 

Please call your Members of Congress now, and KEEP calling each day. If we wait until Ryan has the votes he needs before we act, it will be too late!

What to say:

My name is _____, my zip code is ____, and I am a member of Indivisible East Bay. I want Representative _______ to do everything possible to oppose the horrible GOP budget. I’m outraged that the budget cuts over $300 billion from social services in order to pay for the $1.5 trillion deficit that’s going to be created by the GOP tax scam giveaway to the wealthy 1% and corporate donors. I hope that Representative _____ will work to make sure that every California Democrat and any possible Republicans votes NO on these terrible priorities.

  • Rep. Mark DeSaulnier: (510) 620-1000 DC: (202) 225-2095
  • Rep. Barbara Lee: (510) 763-0370 DC: (202) 225-2661
  • Rep. Eric Swalwell: (510) 370-3322 DC: (202) 225-5065

IEB Meets with Senator Harris’ Staff, May 2018

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

By Myra S. Mitzman

On May 3, 2018, Indivisible East Bay met with Senator Kamala Harris’ State Director, Julie Rodriguez, and Bay Area District Director, June Williams, in downtown Oakland.  

We opened with a serious discussion surrounding ICE tactics of detaining pregnant women and separating children from their parents. Julie stressed that, in light of misinformation about the recently-arrived “caravan,” it is important to humanize the narrative—something we can do to help. Please email Senator Harris if you have a story concerning someone adversely affected by these harsh ICE policies.

The dialogue turned to national security, in particular Trump’s nominee to head the CIA, Gina Haspel (torture, anyone?). We pointed out that the Senate Intelligence Committee report on CIA Rendition, Detention and Interrogation, about the treatment of detainees during the so-called “War on Terror” rightly belongs to the Senate, not the CIA, and perhaps could be publicly released by any member of the Senate Intelligence Committee – which includes both Senator Harris and Senator Feinstein. Also on the national security agenda: Syria, where there is seemingly no long-term strategy, and where, according to Julie, the U.S.’s “muscular diplomacy” (i.e., ability to engage in effective negotiation) has dwindled.

On the topic of Social Security, IEB members and staff alike took umbrage at the characterization of this program as an “entitlement” when so many of us have paid into it for decades. Ironically, one of the best things we could do to shore up Social Security is to pass comprehensive immigration reform, so more young immigrants will be able to pay into the system—and earn more money, and create more jobs, growing an economy that can take care of the aging population. And let’s not forget how the Trump tax scam was always intended to dry up funding for social safety net programs.

Over the course of the next 60 minutes, we covered climate change (see S.2352, the Healthy Climate and Family Security Act of 2018, currently in need of co-sponsors); Puerto Rico (debt restructuring/renewable energy?); Trump’s latest judicial appointments (see snippet of Senator Harris grilling Wendy Vitter); defense spending (don’t count on a Harris “No” vote on increases); election security (demand paper ballots!); and sexual harassment in Congress (Harris’s staff undergoes regular harassment training, but she appears to be in the minority in doing this).

We also got into drug policy, including Senator Schumer’s proposed national Democratic platform for marijuana decriminalization. Julie pointed out that, with Democrats holding so few Washington “power levers,” one way to effect change is through the appropriations process. If Congress doesn’t approve appropriations, the Department of Justice can’t implement its regressive drug enforcement policies. For now, the Rohrabacher-Farr Amendment is still good law (the DOJ isn’t supposed to spend money enforcing federal drug laws in states that have legalized medical cannabis). But as we know, true drug reform requires reforming sentencing laws, eliminating cash bail (promising, but not if the algorithm used to determine flight risk, etc. is inherently biased), and decriminalizing marijuana (including a nationwide “equity agenda” similar to Oakland’s).

Sen. Harris office visit 050518

A few more notable moments:

  • Julie saying that, for Senator Harris, the conversation always needs to be, “How do we improve people’s lives?” It’s her “litmus test” whenever evaluating an issue or proposal. Amen.
  • Quote of the day: “The Senator’s ability to be fearless is because you all are.” Awwww. See the Senator’s interview on the Stephen Colbert show, where she was perhaps a bit measured, but watch and judge for yourselves.
  • Reminding Julie that, despite Mitch McConnell’s bluster, any Senator can introduce the Special Counsel Independence and Integrity Act, which would protect Robert Mueller’s Trump-Russia 

Last but not least, we’re pushing for another town hall. June Williams said she’s been pressing the Senator on this. Historically, town halls were held only by House representatives. Fun fact: Before the 2016 election, Senators Feinstein and Boxer had not held a town hall in 24 years—last year’s Feinstein April town hall in San Francisco was her first ever! But in these troubled times, people’s demands have changed, and town halls are an important way to have our voices heard. Please call our senators and reps and demand more town halls this year—then show up (and speak up!) if and when they happen.

Myra Mitzman is an Oakland real estate/business attorney and sideline women’s fiction author (under the pseudonym Sheryl Sorrentino).

Photos by Maria Bernstein

 

Giving Thanks for Social Security and Medicare – TAKE ACTION NOW!

At Thanksgiving we remember what we’re thankful for. For many seniors among our family and friends, thankfulness includes financial security in old age through Social Security and Medicare. But Trump’s go-for-broke tax bill gives big tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country, and this will cause large budget deficits to threaten Social Security and Medicare.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that Trump’s tax cuts for the very rich would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Because of the pay-as-you-go rule, Medicare could be cut by $25 billion as soon as next year. Afterwards, our government would have to cut “mandatory spending” – which means Social Security and Medicare – because of even bigger deficits from Trump’s tax plan.

We’re thankful for the support people receive from Social Security and Medicare. But if we want to keep it we have to take action now. Please call your U.S. senators and ask them to vote NO on Trump’s go-for-broke tax plan. And please pass this message on to everyone you know, all over the country!

WHAT TO SAY:

My name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [zip code]. Trump’s tax cuts will benefit the wealthy over the middle class and they will cause big budget deficits for years. I’m afraid Social Security and Medicare benefits will be cut because our government won’t have enough money to pay for them. My family, friends, and I all benefit from the financial security that Social Security and Medicare give to seniors. Their health and financial peace of mind matter to us.  Please vote against Trump’s tax plan.

California Senators:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Contact your Senator (anywhere in the country)

More info: