portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article announcements portland metro

actions & protests | economic justice

Picketing and Leafleting outside "Our Budget, Our Economy Town Hall" on 6.26.10

The "Our Budget, Our Economy Town Hall" organized by a group called America Speaks (Saturday 6.26.10) as part of a national series of events is susceptible to misuse to advance this deficit scare agenda with its attacks on economic recovery spending, unemployment benefits and human needs spending.

The purpose of the actions on Saturday outside of the "town hall" is to demonstrate rejection of the deficit scare agenda and to demand protection of human needs spending and cuts to destructive and bloated military spending.
What: Informational picketing and leafleting outside "Our Budget, Our Economy Town Hall"
When: This Saturday, June 26th, 7:45-8:45 a.m. (start gathering 7:30 a.m.)
Where: Oregon Convention Center, 777 NE Martin Luther King Jr. Blvd, Portland

Public transport:
#6 bus, Red, Green & Blue Max lines; street parking nearby)

(Quote from JwJ website)
The JwJ Economic Crisis committee believes that people going to the Town Hall should go with eyes open. But even more, we are concerned that the Town Hall is one tactic in creating a new narrative that the corporate and governmental elites are writing in this time of economic crisis. This offensive creates the fear of soaring future debt and sets the overwhelming economic priority of balancing the budget.

Why:
As many people are aware, the right wing and corporate media have been ginning up a scare over federal budgetary deficits. The scare is being used in the short term to obstruct extension of unemployment benefits and more vigorous efforts to create jobs and bring the "recovery" to ordinary people.

In the long term, it is being used to set up an attack on Social Security and Medicare, despite the fact that these programs have their own revenue streams through payroll taxes and in fact subsidize other federal spending, notably the bloated military with its thousands of bases and destructive, wealth-draining wars.

The "Our Budget, Our Economy Town Hall" organized by a group called America Speaks as part of a national series of events is susceptible to misuse to advance this deficit scare agenda with its attacks on economic recovery spending, unemployment benefits and human needs spending. The purpose of the actions on Saturday outside of the "town hall" is to demonstrate rejection of the deficit scare agenda and to demand protection of human needs spending and cuts to destructive and bloated military spending.

These actions are part of a national response being coordinated by Social Security Works and Healthcare-NOW!

Contact: For more information or to RSVP (useful though not required), or if you would like to have a quote included in a press release, contact Chris at or 503 788 2543.

------------
------------

Background:
A key vehicle for the attack on Social Security and Medicare (as well as Medicaid and other human needs programs) will be the National Commission on Fiscal Responsibility and Reform, appointed by President Obama in February, and stacked with known enemies of "entitlements" (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid).

On June 26th, in 20 cities across the country, including Portland, America Speaks is running free "town hall" meetings called "Our Budget, Our Economy" to bring together people from a wide variety of backgrounds and views to deliberate about priorities for future budgets and for reducing the federal deficit and the growth of the national debt. America Speaks is a non-partisan organization which has run similar kinds of events on various issues going back to the mid-1990s. For general information about them, see http://www.americaspeaks.org/ . For information on the June 26th "town halls" see http://usabudgetdiscussion.org/ . The results of these deliberations are to be delivered to the National Commission on June 30th, according to America Speaks.

America Speaks as an organization appears to try to play an "honest broker" sort of role in discussions it organizes. It explicitly aims to foster serious public engagement in important issues, a worthy goal, and attempts to define itself as neutral on the issues. Even more so, the people who are participating in the "town hall" on Saturday are doing so on those terms, honestly according to their own views. Many of them will be progressive people taking part in order to defend funding for human needs. Therefore the action this Saturday is not a criticism of those who choose to participate, nor an attempt to disrupt the event.

For a useful perspective on the context from the Portland Jobs with Justice Economic Crisis Committee, see:
http://www.jwjpdx.org/jwjnews/2010/beware-the-201cbalance-the-budget201d-hype

Concerns about pre-slanting the results: Despite America Speaks' apparently sincere efforts at neutrality, and the undoubted goodwill of local organizers, the funding, process and materials for the "town hall" raise troubling issues that appear likely to pre-slant the results against Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

Funding:
A key source of funding, though not the only one, is the Peter G. Peterson Foundation. Peterson is a prominent enemy of "entitlements" (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) who uses exaggeration and misrepresentation as scare tactics to advance his views.

Process:
The "town halls" actually will be composed of many small groups, like focus groups. Groups will work through a series of questions and choices that are presented to them, seeking to reach agreement on answering them, with answers recorded using electronic technology that will allow all of the answers to be collated. In order for this technology to work, only ideas and approaches that are in the choices offered can be chosen. So, for example, there is no option to choose to cut military spending by more than 15%, nor is there an option to choose either a national improved Medicare for all single payer system (on the left side) or medical vouchers (on the right) as ways to address rising health care costs, because the organizers pre-determined that these choices were "off the table." Participants thus will not be allowed full deliberation.

Materials and assumptions: Participants will work with two main documents, a "curriculum" called "Budget 101" and an "Options Workbook" which defines the actual choices available. These materials contain many assumptions that tend to pre-slant the results against Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid, and other human needs: Among the most important are:

1)
Definition of fundamental problems as mainly rising health care costs and aging population (implying cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security).

2)
Downplaying overall military spending, confusing it with Iraq and Afghanistan war & occupation spending, & lack of clarity about whether "black budget" military/intelligence/security spending is included.

3)
Assumption that Bush tax cuts will never be sunsetted ever because President Obama is delaying doing so in the depths of the recession.

4)
Assumption that expenditures and revenues will rise at the same rate.

5)
Putting single payer/improved Medicare for all "off the table," despite its advantages for cutting massive annual private bureaucratic waste and insurance company profits costs as an option for discussion, on the claim of being politically unrealistic (self-fulfilling limitation of discussion) -- even though the date aimed for 2025.


VIDEO: From Protest at Convetion center on 6.26.10 26.Jun.2010 12:05

((( i )))

10 min video:
 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_cu7Pbdh3ZA

A doctor and two activist/citizens talk with me about why this *lack of discussion inside the meeting is critical to the meeting being honest and meaningful and how it is being billed as democratic when it is not.

video (corrected link) 26.Jun.2010 13:11

joe anybody

Here is the CORRECT version of the 10 min video

 http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bBRH4iaVEwE

IF I HAD A TRILLION DOLLARS.... YOUTH VIDEO CONTEST 27.Jun.2010 06:42

A Friend

As of May, 2010, the cost to the United States people of waging the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan reached One Trillion Dollars! (Ironically, the budget deficit, which citizens at the America Speaks Conference were expected to whittle by cutting social service programs, is $1.2 trillion.) What would YOU do with One Trillion Dollars???!!!

IF I HAD A TRILLION DOLLARS ....
YOUTH VIDEO CONTEST

Sponsored by the American Friends Service Committee and National Priorities Project

Youth between the ages of 13 and 23 are invited to submit a one- to three-minute video addressing the cost of war, "If I had a trillion dollars...."

Deadline: November 30, 2010 (This is an extension from the original deadline of July 30.)

First Prize: $500 and a trip for two to Washington, D.C. to show the film to your legislator
Second and Third Prizes: Flip Video Cameras

Further contest details, including talking points, curriculum on the cost of war, and videos thus submitted by youth, can be found at:
 http://afsc.org/action/if-i-had-trillion-dollars-youth-video-contest