Support the Campaign for the American Dream

Dear Friends,

Champaign County Health Care Consumers (CCHCC) needs your involvement and support as we launch a new campaign – a broad-based, multi-issue, principled Campaign for the American Dream.

This new CCHCC Campaign is born from our efforts over the past few years of fighting to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid – especially in recent months, with the disastrous Congressional efforts to “fix” the nation’s budget deficit.

Thanks to all of you who participated in our calls to action, we won a brief reprieve by keeping Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid off the chopping block. But the fight to protect our most basic and important social programs is far from over, and the outcome of the recent struggles showed us that we need to do far more than just “play defense” to prevent cuts – we need to organize to advance an agenda that serves the greater good and that makes the American Dream a possibility once again!

There is a new and growing national movement – the movement to rebuild the American Dream – and in order to advance this movement and realize its goals, it will take all of us, all around the nation. CCHCC wants to do our part to organize East Central Illinois and our thousands of members as part of this national movement.

Please read below to learn how CCHCC’s Campaign for the American Dream will engage and connect local residents into this growing national movement for the American Dream and how you can get involved!

Background:The federal budget deficit “compromise” and the need for a new national movement

Over the past six years or more, CCHCC has organized to protect and strengthen Social Security against various legislative attempts to privatize the program or cut its benefits. In 2005, we fought to protect Social Security against the privatization efforts of the Bush administration. More recently, in 2010 and 2011, we have had to fight to protect Social Security against efforts to cut the program as part of the national “budget deficit reduction” efforts, even though Social Security does not contribute one cent to the national deficit (because it is a separate fund; and in fact, the federal government has borrowed money from the Social Security fund).

The budget deficit reduction efforts have not only targeted Social Security, but also Medicare and Medicaid, so we have had to expand our advocacy efforts to protect all of these programs. These uniquely American social programs have protected millions of people against the ravages of poverty and created a better standard of living. We issued calls to action and thousands of you responded. We had meetings with Senator Dick Durbin, and Representative Jan Schakowsky, both of Illinois, who served on the President’s bi-partisan National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility, and we delivered our collective message to each of them, and to other legislators.

The budget deficit “compromise”

After a very difficult spring and summer, the national budget deficit reduction efforts finally culminated in a disastrous, absurdly unbalanced and dangerous piece of legislation. On August 2, 2011, President Obama signed into law a “compromise” bill, passed by both the Senate and House, that reduced the federal deficit, avoided immediate defaulting on what the government has spent, and allowed the President to raise the debt ceiling. This last-minute compromise was developed behind closed doors, providing no transparency to the American public. The text of the Budget Control Act of 2011 was not released to the public until it was introduced on the House floor for a vote.

The creation of this new law ensures that the fight for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid is far from over.

The Budget Control Act of 2011 provides two phases of spending cuts (and with no guaranteed revenue increases):

  • $1 trillion in cuts over 10 years, with more than half coming from non-defense discretionary
  • spending programs, including funding for: Meals On Wheels, Head Start and K-12 education, domestic violence prevention, job training, and other vital programs and services.
    The remainder of cuts
  • (at least $1.5 trillion) will be left for the Super Committee, composed of 12 members of Congress, to determine and propose to Congress by November 23, 2011.

It has been made clear by President Obama and others that everything is on the table, including Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid. If the Super Committee fails in developing the proposal or getting Congress to pass it with a majority vote by December 23, 2011, this would trigger subsequent action including a push for a balanced-budget amendment. If that fails to happen, devastating across-the-board spending cuts would be implemented.

“The deal to raise the debt ceiling is a recipe to raid Social Security, and harm the economic security of American workers and their families... We object to the proposed super Committee of Congress, which can recommend changes to Social Security that will have to be considered on a fast-track basis, without amendment and without the opportunity for unlimited debate in the Senate.”
- Nancy Altman, co-chair of the Strengthen Social Security Campaign

We won a short reprieve for Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid
The overwhelming responses to CCHCC’s Calls To Action to protect Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid over the summer helped to keep these vital social programs from being immediately cut, as you joined millions across the country fighting to protect these programs. Unfortunately, our elected officials have made cuts to other very important programs in the first phase of this legislation. Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid could be next and we must fight to protect our earned benefits!

We are deeply unhappy with this legislation. We believe that it was the wrong “solution” to the problem. Not only will we need to fight to protect the programs that were spared in the first round, we will need to fight to get back the funding for the “discretionary” programs that are now facing budget cuts. This “budget” bill is not balanced in any way -- it is all cuts on the expense side, and no income increases. That is not balanced, and it will have to be fixed, somehow, some way. But it also points to a larger problem – the erosion of the legislative desire to protect the future of our nation’s populace, the future of the American Dream.

Time For A Movement

We cannot wait for bad legislation to be enacted through the Super Committee, Congress, or the White House. We cannot stand by and wait, only to react to, unbalanced “solutions.” We have a unique chance as caring and concerned citizens to join together in our communities, our states, and across our country to put forward a different vision for our nation’s future. We will of course fight to protect our vital social programs against the threatened cuts, but, as long as we have to fight, we want the struggle to be about something bigger, something better, something more fundamental – we want to organize to rebuild and advance the American Dream.

The movement for the American Dream
Individuals – like Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Diane Archer (founder of the Medicare Rights Center) – and organizations – including the Strengthen Social Security Coalition, United for a Fair Economy, and the Center for Economic and Policy Research – have united together to further a goal for comprehensive change through ten simple principles, in what they have developed into the Contract for the American Dream (please see the last page of this newsletter for the full text of the Contract). The Contract includes protecting and expanding Social Security and Medicare, but it also goes far beyond that, to include principles such as: investing in our nation’s infrastructure and public education, Medicare for all, fair minimum wage and fairer tax rates, ending wars and protecting veterans, and ways to strengthen democracy for the people, among others. The preamble to the Contract begins like this:

“We, the American people, promise to defend and advance a simple ideal: liberty and justice... for all. Americans who are willing to work hard and play by the rules should be able to find a decent job, get a good home in a strong community, retire with dignity and give their kids a better life. Every one of us – rich, poor or in-between, regardless of skin color or birthplace, no matter their sexual orientation or gender – has the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. That is our covenant, our compact, our contract with one another. It is a promise we can fulfill – but only by working together.”

CCHCC is launching our Campaign for the American Dream to add our voices to this national grassroots movement. We are tired of “playing defense.” If we have to fight, then we don’t just want to fight against something, but for something. Please see the last page of this newsletter to read the ten principles that create the foundation for this movement.
If you believe in what we are working towards, please help us with this new Campaign. We need your involvement, financial support, and actions to strengthen our Campaign and this movement.

How You Can Help
There are many ways you can join CCHCC’s Campaign for the American Dream, including: signing on to the Contract for the American Dream, coming with us to present a letter and the Contract with local signatures to our elected officials this fall, spreading information about the Campaign with you family, friends, neighbors and coworkers, and making a financial contribution to help our Campaign for the American Dream.

In order to build this Campaign, CCHCC will be calling thousands of our supporters through our Annual Phonathon during the last week of September and first week of October to ask them to join and support this Campaign. You can help save us a phone call by filling out the enclosed pledge sheet and sending it back to us within the next couple of weeks.
We hope you are as excited about the Campaign as we are, and we look forward to working with you to protect the American Dream. As always, thank you for your support and involvement!


Sincerely,
Claudia Lennhoff, CCHCC Executive Director