The Delta Grassroots Caucus (DGC) is a broad coalition of grassroots leaders in the eight-state Delta region. DGC is also a founding partner of the Economic Equality Caucus,
which advocates for economic equality across the USA.

Economic Equality Caucus Set for May 17-18, 2017 on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC

Posted on January 03, 2017 at 03:37 PM

The Delta Caucus and our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Caucus (EEC), will convene a conference on Capitol Hill on May 17-18, 2017 to have a dialogue with Members of Congress and the new administration of President-Elect Donald Trump about economic development and equality for working Americans.

The focus will be on economically distressed populations across the country, including the Greater Delta Region from southern Illinois and Missouri to New Orleans and east to the Alabama Black Belt, Appalachia, the Southwest Border, the Midwest, Native Americans, the Mid-Atlantic Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland region, and inner cities such as Baltimore, New York, St. Louis, Memphis, New Orleans and Washington, DC.

We are inviting Members of Congress, Trump administration officials on key job creation and infrastructure issues, and grassroots economic development and equality advocates from across the country on key health care, education, nutrition and other vital issues.

The Mid-Atlantic Region is one of the key regions, because we want to emphasize that even areas like Virginia/Washington, DC/Maryland that are relatively prosperous overall still have significant pockets of poverty. Economic inequality unfortunately is widespread across the country nowadays.

The Delta Caucus is a founding partner of the national EEC and is joining forces with similarly situated regions and populations across the country to amplify our voices in urging the national powers that be to take more effective action for those who have not shared equally in America’s prosperity and opportunity.

The Greater Delta will have an important role due to the unfortunately still economically distressed nature of many areas in the eight-state Delta region.

Job creation at good wages will be a key issue. We will urge Congress and the Trump administration to follow through on promises made during the campaign to make major investments in infrastructure to create jobs and repair America’s deteriorating infrastructure.

Health care, hunger and nutrition, housing, energy and education will be key issues as well; we take a comprehensive approach to economic development and equality and will cover a range of issues. We will select a few of these to prioritize since we can’t cover all these issues, and invite feedback on which three or four of these issues you would most like to see highlighted. Reply by email to leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

We are a diverse group including women, African Americans, Hispanics, Native Americans, Asian Americans, whites and people of all demographic backgrounds.

SCHEDULE

HOUSE SESSION: Wednesday evening, May 17, 2017, 4:30 p.m. to 7:45 p.m. The opening session is at the US House of Representatives Rayburn building, Room 2060.

SENATE SESSION: Thursday morning, May 18, 2017, 8:30 a.m. to 11 a.m.; Senate meeting room TBD (Senate rules do not allow room reservations until 90 days before an event)

CLOSING SESSION: Thursday afternoon, May 18, 2017, noon to 2:45 p.m., Lutheran Church of the Reformation on Capitol Hill

Space is limited so please RSVP early by sending in the registration fees ASAP either by PayPal on the website at www.mdgc.us or mailing a check to the address below.

For more information contact Lee Powell, EEC Co-Chair and Delta Caucus Executive Director (202) 360-6347 or by email at LeePowell@delta.comcastbiz.net

REGISTRATION

You register by sending in the early registration fees.

Early Registration fees are $125 each until April 21, 2017. Those who have paid their annual membership dues will receive a reduction down to $100 each.

Late registration fees: After April 21, 2017, registration fees are increased to $160 to provide an incentive to get the fees in on time.

Space is limited so please RSVP by sending in the registration fees ASAP.

You can pay the registration fees in two ways:

Go to the website and use the PayPal process at the top of the site at www.mdgc.us

Send a check by mail. Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

For more information, contact Lee Powell, Co-Chair, EEC and Delta Caucus Executive Director (202) 360-6347

Support McElroy Bill for Seat Belts in School Buses; & Federal Mandate Nationwide

Posted on December 09, 2016 at 01:55 PM

The Delta Caucus encourages all of our partners to support Rep. Mark McElroy’s bill to push school districts in Arkansas to buy new school buses equipped with seat belts; this should be a model for states across the country.

Similar legislation should be pushed in the other seven Delta states, and ultimately it’s the federal government that has the financial and national clout to mandate school bus seat belts across America.

Rep. McElroy (D-Tillar), who is one of the Delta Caucus’ senior advisers, rightly says it’s past time to change decades-old assumptions about school bus safety and protect children in the event of a crash. Back in 1977 federal safety regulations only required school buses to employ “compartmentalization”-meaning the box-like space made by higher seats with protective padding.

At the federal level, the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for the first time changed its stance in 2015, when Administrator Mark Rosekind stated that seat belts should be standard on every school bus in America.

The Delta Caucus urges the Congress, the Obama administration and the incoming Trump administration to make the feds put their money where their mouth is and mandate seat belt usage in every bus, which they have not done.

Back in 2011 the National Highway Transportation Safety Administration concluded that requiring seat belts nationally would reduce the number of school children killed each year from five to three.

Why have the feds stated that seat belts are a vital safety precaution that should be in every school bus, but not mandated it? It would require about $10,000 to include seat belts in every seat.

As McElroy rightly says, “Now (federal government officials) say that seat belts do save lives. They stopped short of mandating because of the money. When they say it’s not about the money, it’s about the money.”

Hey, feds, state officials and bus manufacturers–how much is the life of a child worth? Don’t quibble about $10,000 per bus when children’s safety is at stake.

Why are seat belts in their families’ cars but not when they ride a school bus?

Rep. McElroy filed his bill before the tragic accident in which six school children were killed in Chattanooga, Tennessee. So McElroy was not just chasing publicity but has advocated for seat belts in buses for a long time.

These accidents have occurred in the past and will continue to do so unless safety standards are heightened. In 2004, a bus in the Siloam Springs, Arkansas area crashed killing one student and injuring seven. In 1983, four students and five teachers were killed when a Jonesboro School District bus crashed.

Local control issue at the state level: The Congress and the President have the financial resources to mandate seat belt usage and provide funding, if they have the will and foresight to do so. However, at the state level, there are local control issues that Rep. McElroy has taken into account.

A bill was introduced in 2001 in Arkansas that required all new school buses to have seat belts and that students wear them. School administrators and bus manufacturers opposed the bill and it died in the House Education Committee.

To allow for local control, McElroy’s bill would require school districts to determine the costs of requiring seat belts on new bus purchases if more than 10% of the district’s voters filed a petition supporting this requirement. Then the district must place a millage tax to cover the costs on the ballot during the next election. If the tax passes, seat belts would be required.

Surely the great majority of school districts would place a very small tax on themselves to pay for safety for school children. Shame on those who don’t, but the local control approach of Rep. McElroy will get over the obstacle that blocked previous efforts.

We would ask for Gov. Asa Hutchinson’s support for this long overdue legislation.

Rep. McElroy’s chief adviser on this issue is a seventh-grade student in southeast Arkansas named Hannah Adler, who approached him at the Cattlemen’s Pie Auction in Star City, Arkansas and discussed a project she was working on regarding the use of seat belts in school buses.

In this case a seventh-grade student is a far better expert than lobbyists in Little Rock or Washington, DC.

While passage of this state law ought to be a no-brainer deserving support from both parties in Arkansas and other states, it’s true that the local input could mean that some districts will not require their use.

For that reason, we reiterate that Congress and the White House should mandate national seat belt use in school buses across America as the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration said they ought to do in order to save children’s lives.

McElroy’s experience on this issue goes back literally decades. There was a dangerous episode when at the age of 17, Mark was hired to drive a school bus full of cheerleaders along the then-perilous “Pig Trail” from McGehee, Arkansas to Fayetteville. The Pig Trail of that era wound around mountainous passes and hair-pin turns in the Ozarks.

Delta Caucus partners grilled McElroy about that adventure, because we suspected that his mind was much more focused on the cheerleaders than it was on the road. He confessed that he often was looking in the rear-view mirror at the girls.

By a fantastic stroke of fate, despite McElroy’s inattention, the bus arrived safely in Fayetteville and no cheerleader was harmed.

This proves the ancient saying that “God looks after crazy people and Southern country boys” (we may be repeating ourselves with that last phrase regarding Mark McElroy.)

Call your state and federal officials and tell them to put seat belts in all school buses.

The Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus focuses primarily on community and economic development issues, but we also advocate for key quality of life initiatives, and increasing safety for school children ought to be supported by Republicans, Democrats and Independents alike.

Annual Membership Dues Request, November-December 2016; & General Plan for 2017

Posted on November 29, 2016 at 02:21 PM

We hope everyone is having a good holiday season. The Delta Caucus/Economic Equality Caucus is engaging in a year-end fundraising drive to request annual membership dues for all those who support our advocacy for economic equality in the Greater Delta Region and across the country.

We are a private sector, bipartisan grassroots advocacy organization and our budget is entirely made up of voluntary donations in the form of annual membership dues, registration fees for the major conferences, and some sponsorships.

We base our budget on a large number of modest contributions, and dues are only required for $25 once a calendar year, although many contribute $50 or $100.

This is our year-end fundraising drive for 2016, so please send in your donation in the next few days before the holidays crunch comes in.

The small amount of $25 once a year is all we require for membership, although larger organizations, universities, banks, foundations, corporations or those who wish to contribute larger amounts usually contribute at $50, $75 or $100.

We have such a large number of partners that this will add up to a significant amount. We are sending out more reminders than we used to and we feel sure that for those who have not yet sent in their dues it was just an oversight.

Again the only requirement is $25 once a year. This will help the budget in a major way and can’t be a burden on the vast majority of our colleagues’ finances.

Please make out the check to “Delta Caucus” and mail to:

Delta Caucus

5030 Purslane Place

Waldorf, MD 20601

Alternatively, you can go to the website at www.mdgc.us and use the PayPal process to pay if that is more convenient for you.

Many organizations and leaders pay the dues now and we are making this a requirement if you wish to be a member–meaning that if you wish to attend our conferences, be invited to them, receive group email newsletters and otherwise stay in touch with and be involved with our organization, we do require the simple, minimal action of sending in the $25 membership dues once a year.

We never want to send these requests or any other information to anyone who is not interested. Please advise if you do not wish to be a member by sending an email to us at leepowell@delta.comcastbiz.net and we will remove your name from the data base and the group email list.

A grassroots organization needs to raise funds by a large number of modest contributions, to avoid dependence on a few “big bucks” donors. We do ask for a few sponsorships but do not want to depend on a few large donors and we have a diversified financial base. We are placing increasing emphasis on collecting annual dues from all partners, at least for $25 once a year.

Our only sources of income come from voluntary donations in the form of annual membership dues, registration fees for larger conferences, and sponsorships. We are not and cannot be a 501c3 because we need to have complete freedom to engage in all forms of political expression that a 501c3 cannot.

Delta/Economic Equality Caucus Activities for 2017:

–Year-round advocacy by individual or small group emails, phone calls, or small meetings: Every week we contact federal, state and grassroots partners regarding key issues such as job creation, infrastructure, health care for underserved populations, hunger and nutrition, USDA programs, renewable energy/energy efficiency, education and other initiatives crucial to bringing about broader economic progress.

Group email newsletters on key issues-we encourage people to make a quick phone call or email to federal and state powers that be on initiatives that they agree are beneficial to economic equality.

Website postings at www.mdgc.us

News releases on key issues issued when legislation or other matters are pressing.

News conferences in the Washington, DC area or the Arkansas state Capitol.

Washington, DC conference-national in scope–on Economic Equality on Capitol Hill, spring, 2017: the Delta Grassroots Caucus will be joined by our partners representing other major regions and populations including Appalachia, Southwest Border, parts of the Midwest, Native Americans, New York, key inner cities like New Orleans, Memphis, St. Louis, Baltimore and Washington, DC; and the Mid-Atlantic region of Virginia/DC/Maryland, which is relatively prosperous overall but has significant areas of economic distress.

Conference at the Clinton Presidential Library in Little Rock, Arkansas, October, 2017-this will highlight the Greater Delta Region but will also include some national participants.

The largest region of economic distress is unfortunately the Greater Delta Region, which we expansively define as extending from Missouri and Illinois down to New Orleans and eastward to the Alabama Black Belt.

The Delta Caucus is reinforced by allies in Appalachia, Southwest, Midwest, New York, Mid-Atlantic region to amplify our influence in recent years: Over the last three or four years, we have joined forces with like-minded partners in the other key regions mentioned above-Appalachia, SW Border, Midwest, Mid-Atlantic, etc.-because they have very similar views on key economic and community development issues as the Delta partners do and our voices will be greatly strengthened by allies from all over the country.

We have been advocating year in and year out for 15 years now, in good times and bad. We will continue our advocacy as vigorously as ever in 2017 to the Trump administration, Congress, federal and state officials, and grassroots partners.

Organizational status: We are not a 501c3 because we need to have complete freedom of action to engage in political dialogue on some issues that some may feel are somewhat controversial at times, to engage in lobbying for broad-minded initiatives supporting the prosperity of the majority of Americans, and to otherwise speak our minds as we see fit after feedback from our many partners across the country.

As you know, 501c3 organizations have limitations on their freedom of political expression and lobbying activities. Our entire purpose as an organization is to engage in bipartisan public policy and political advocacy and occasion lobbying for broad-based initiatives. Thus all of our funding comes from private sector donations, we do not have any tax benefits, and we do not get funding from the government (except for routine matters like registration fees to pay for attendance at a conference, or on rare occasions funding to help disseminate information in emergencies like floods or hurricanes.)

We are all familiar with organizations who had or sought tax-exempt status who were discriminated against by the IRS because of their public policy positions. We are invulnerable to that kind of pressure, because we are not a 501c3 and do not have tax-exempt status in the first place. This is a longstanding decision made after careful policy, financial and legal analysis.

Thanks so much. Lee Powell, Economic Equality/Delta Caucus (202) 360-6347

Economic Equality is Widespread Nationally, Oct. 28 Meeting in Arlington, Virginia

Posted on October 25, 2016 at 10:34 AM

Economic equality is an issue across the country. Even in relatively affluent areas like Virginia, Washington, DC and Maryland, there are areas of poverty and economic inequality.

The Economic Equality Coalition (the national affiliate of the Delta Caucus) will hold an event in Arlington, Virginia on Friday, Oct. 28, 2016 to scrutinize economic issues in the context of this year’s historic elections.

While economic inequality is most serious among populations like Appalachia, parts of the Midwest, Southwest Border, Native Americans, the Greater Delta region, and inner cities, the problem is widespread nationally and exists even in some areas of the Mid-Atlantic.

We urge the next Congress and the next administration to take much stronger action for economic equality and much broader prosperity.

The confirmed speakers will each give very brief, quick-hitting messages on the theme of economic, racial and gender equality.

List of confirmed speakers:

–Rodney Fisher of Alexandria, health care and education expert with extensive experience on Capitol Hill and in state government;

–Dave Snyder of Falls Church, long-time local elected official in northern Virginia;

–Jim Livingston, President of the Virginia Education Association, on education as vital for our economy’s future;

–Walter Tejada of Arlington, bipartisan Virginia Latino Leaders Council, on economic equality and justice for the growing Hispanic population in Virginia and across the country;

–Mike Town, Virginia League of Conservation Voters Voter Action Fund executive director, for expansion of the US clean energy industry to create jobs, reduce dependence on foreign oil and help the economy;

–Jennifer Rodriguez, American Federation of Teachers, (AFT);

–Tilly Blanding, SEIU dynamic African American woman from Fairfax representing the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) on job creation at good wages;

–Kay Goss, EEC Co-Chair of Alexandria, President Bill Clinton’s Associate Director of FEMA, noted author and educator;

–Sen. Barbara Favola of Arlington, dynamic northern Virginia woman leader– on equal pay for women and their key role in the economy;

–Lee Powell, EEC Co-Chair.

Economic Reports Show Decline in Economic Inequality & Poverty: Departure from Recent Trends

Posted on September 14, 2016 at 12:35 PM

Poverty and income inequality are still serious problems in the Delta, Southwest Border, Appalachia, inner cities including Washington, DC and many other areas, but median incomes rose 5.2% in 2015 and poverty rates fell by 1.2%, the biggest decline since 1968. Census Bureau reports show some relative progress even for lower income groups, despite the continuing problems.

What may be even more surprising to many people who take the erroneous, defeatist view that America has accomplished nothing to fight poverty over the past 50 years is this conclusion based on exhaustive research by the City University of New York:

Many of the poorest states from 1990 to 2014 experienced the largest increase in income for the lowest income groups: the top four of these states were Arkansas, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi, with Oklahoma sixth and West Virginia in the heart of Appalachia eighth.

The figures on economic inequality and the rise in wages from 1990 to 2014 for the poorest states were based on meticulous research by the City University of New York, which has been extensively reported in the New York Times and other media across the country. As the New York Times summarized the research of CUNY’s Branko Milanovic:

States that have lagged economically “like Arkansas and Mississippi are the ones where economic inequality has narrowed the most…federally funded social programs will have a greater impact on the lower percentiles of income in the South in percentage terms.” (Income Inequality by State,” by Quoctring Bui, New York Times, Sept. 6, 2016).

Stepping back and looking at the bigger picture since Medicaid, Medicare, the expansion of major USDA nutrition programs and other anti-poverty initiatives began in the 1960s, again there is a major change in the states where economic inequality was greatest: in the 1960s, those states were all in the South–Mississippi, South Carolina, Arkansas, Alabama and North Carolina.

By 2010, the most unequal states were California, New York, Texas, Arizona and Georgia. These states are characterized by extremes of both great wealth and poverty within their borders.

The CUNY report took cost of living into consideration, and therefore avoided making inaccurate comparisons between areas with widely divergent costs of living.

For the recent nationwide figures, there were 3.5 million fewer people in poverty in 2015 than there were in 2014.

The percentage of Americans lacking health insurance continued to decline, this time by 1.3% to a new lower level of 9.1%. The Affordable Care Act was the major force behind an increase of 4 million people who gained health insurance coverage.

This still leaves 43.1 million Americans in poverty, and that’s far too high. We have a long way to go.

In a departure from the expanding income inequality in our recent history, wages grew most for the lowest-earning workers and least for the highest earning ones, and all racial and ethnic groups improved-although the gap for women and minorities still remains as a problem.

Nonetheless, there was improvement: income for the poorest 10% of households expanded by a robust 7.9%, as opposed to just 2.9% for the wealthiest 10%.

The limited progress was a result of falling unemployment, rising wages in most areas, and a labor market where employers are being forced to compete for workers, along with low inflation.

Even in areas like Washington, DC/Virginia/Maryland there are areas of poverty despite the general affluence of this region, and the high cost of living in the area creates pressures even for many middle class families.

Arkansas and Mississippi unfortunately rank 49th and 50th in median income, so the relative position of these states at the bottom remains an issue.

However, Arkansas’ median income did grow by 1.7%, and the much lower cost of living in Arkansas tempers the lower income numbers, according to Michael Pakko, chief economist at the Institute for Economic Advancement at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Arkansas’ cost of living is 12.5% lower than the national average.

Arkansas, Mississippi and Missouri in particular have much lower housing costs than other states.

Disappointing results nationally: minimal improvement in income for women and people in rural areas: While unemployment fell in many rural areas in Arkansas and the Delta and the cost of living is lower there, rural areas nationally did not see a median income increase, so that is a significant finding that remains disappointing.

Another disappointing result showed that women on average earned 80% of income compared to men in 2015, a minor improvement from 79% in 2014.

For the longer term picture, not surprisingly the CUNY report indicated that the worst period of depressed incomes for the middle class and the poor was after 2000 and especially during the Great Recession.

Both the longer term data and the latest Census Bureau reports indicate two fundamental realities: for the short term, the economic recovery is finally starting to reach middle class and lower income groups, and for the long term the worst instances of poverty, hunger and inadequate health care have been significantly reduced since 1960. But this is only because poverty was relatively speaking so severe in that era and the progress is only relative to that low point.

It cannot be emphasized too strongly that the Delta Caucus and our national affiliate, the Economic Equality Coalition, believe poverty and economic inequality are far too high both regionally and nationally. Our deep concerns on those points are in fact the reason for our existence. We are talking about some relative progress that has not gone anywhere near far enough.

We should also emphasize that the relative improvement in the poorest states and populations was substantially influenced both in the longer term data and the recent recovery from the Great Recession by the fact that those groups were so far behind to begin with. The progress was relative to the very low beginning points and America still remains the most economically unequal among the affluent nations.

We need major investments in expanding and improving the major economic progress programs like Medicare, Medicaid, SNAP, WIC, childhood nutrition programs, Earned Income Tax Credit, investments in infrastructure to create jobs and improve our deteriorating infrastructure, and other initiatives to fight poverty and hunger. The Affordable Care Act needs significant improvements and many in our coalition believe the next President should support the public option in health care.