2011 Year in Review
has proven to be a challenging one for public policy advocates. As we are
all aware, the decision making deadlock in the halls of Congress has resulted
in disappointment and frustration for those engaged in the work of justice
advocacy. We have seen over and over that there are those among our
elected officials for whom political gamesmanship and the pushing of a rigid
political ideology has eclipsed any desire to serve the people whom they were
elected to care for and represent.
of the common good is a bitter pill to swallow, but despite all the obstacles
we faced as a nation in 2011 scripture reminds us that we cannot give up hope.
not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest
if we do not give up." - Galatians 6:9
part, members of the Justice and Peace Action Network refused to be silenced.
Together you sent nearly 33,000 letters, faxes and phone calls to decision
makers. There is much we can do by lifting our voices together in 2012. Get
ready for a year of action by reviewing some of the issues you advocated on and
preparing for what comes next.
Not signed up for the Justice and Peace Action Network? Sign up now!
- Face to Face with Extractive Resources
The PR battle against the destructive processes of mining coal,
drilling and mining for oil, and fracking for natural gas intensified
enormously in 2011. The Gulf Oil disaster in 2010 set the stage, mountaintop
removal/clean water legislation in Congress raised the public policy discussion
to a new level, and Moving Planet/350.org energized voices in local
communities. The September demonstrations in Washington, DC against the XL
Pipeline helped President Obama delay approval of the enormous environmental
destruction and climate change potential of the tar sands pipeline. So in 2011,
the new awareness has become Extractive
Industries? - No! Clean Water? - Yes! Learn more about Environmental Ministries.
During 2011 Congress repeatedly debated federal budget issues. Policymakers disagreed over many issues but especially over cutting the
deficit, the need for additional stimulus spending, and raising taxes on the
wealthy. In mid-summer the federal government reached the limits of its authority
to borrow money. Just in time to prevent a default, Congress passed the Budget
Control Act of 2011 which raised the debt ceiling and imposed reductions in the
federal deficit of $2.1 to $2.4 trillion over 10 years. Nearly half the deficit
reduction will occur through spending cuts specified in the BCA and additional reductions
of at least $1.2 trillion were to be identified by a bipartisan
“super-committee.” But when the super-committee failed to reach an agreement, the
BCA’s automatic spending cuts were triggered. Starting in January, 2013, the
budget deficit will be reduced by $1.2 trillion through a mix of tax increases
and cuts spread equally between military and non-military spending. The year ended
with a final clash over whether to extend payroll tax cuts and long-term unemployment
insurance benefits into 2012. In late December, Congress voted to extend both but
only through February, 2012, when policymakers will need to revisit these
Food Policy and Agriculture
You advocated for two
bills during Mission: 1—the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act and the Local Farms, Food,
and Jobs Act. Both bills have numerous cosponsors and support
for inclusion in the every-five-years-or-so (Food and) Farm Bill that is
expected to be considered by Congress during 2012. The UCC will be working to
make sure these two pieces of legislation get in the Farm Bill. We will also
work for strong soil and water conservation policies in the Farm Bill. We will
support other issues that come up that are in line with UCC food and
Health Care - Let's Move!
The signing of the Affordable Care Act by President Obama introduced
more focus on prevention with the goal of creating healthier communities. Last
year the United Church of Christ joined First Lady Michele Obama to reduce
and/or eliminate childhood obesity and to call attention to the devastating
effects of obesity in adults by participating in her Let's Move three million walking
challenge across the nation. United
Church of Christ congregations wholeheartedly embraced this campaign and
contributed over 300,000 walking miles to the White House. Our efforts assisted the
First Lady in meeting her goal.
Approximately 2600 individuals in over 200 UCC churches participated.
The 112th Congress has not considered any legislation
that may alleviate our immigration situation, leaving it to individual states
to adopt an array of laws that have resulted in legalized intimidation against
immigrants. In places like Alabama, farm workers fled the state leaving behind
crops rotting in the fields. The spread of state laws modeled after Arizona’s
infamous S. B. 1070 underscores the need for the Congress to address
The Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA), whose most
recent version, No Child Left Behind (NCLB), has now shaped federal public
education policy for ten years, is long overdue for reauthorization. A
senate committee agreed on a reauthorization bill in October of 2011, but
this version does not eliminate many of the worst features of NCLB. Even
if the full senate were to adopt the bill, there is little chance the House
would agree to the senate version. Many believe the reauthorization will
now drag on until 2013. The Department of Education has offered states
waivers as a way to escape some of NCLB’s most punitive consequences.
Many are watching whether the waivers will be granted only if states adopt the
Department’s priorities, or whether the Department will offer some
latitude to states for creativity. More information.
The strategy of those whose goal is to overturn Roe v. Wade
has shifted to state legislation. In December, Ohio became the latest
battleground. HB 125, known as the “Heartbeat Bill,” would outlaw
abortion once a fetal heartbeat is detected with no exception for pregnancies
which result from rape or incest. United Church of Christ leaders testified
powerfully in opposition to HB 125 basing their statements on long-standing General Synod support for reproductive justice. HB 125 is now on hold. The statements of Ohio
Conference Minister, the Rev. Bob Molsberry, the Rev. Dr. Leslie Taylor, and
UCC member and NARAL Pro-Choice Ohio Executive Director, Kellie Copeland, are
posted on the OH Conference website.
Despite the severe unemployment crisis – nearly one in six
potential workers is jobless or working too few hours – Congress has done very
little to create jobs. Over the year the unemployment rate fell from 9.0% to
8.6% but other, more inclusive data show the share of the population who is
working at its lowest level since 1983. Over 1.4 million new jobs were created
in 2011 but this is barely enough to keep up with the natural growth in the
workforce. This pace of job creation is too slow to significantly reduce
joblessness. American families need jobs. Job creation must be Congress’ first
priority. More information.
After a decade at war, the ceremonial lowering of the American
flag on December 15th marked the end of the Iraq War. As a nation, we honor the over 1
million Americans who served in Iraq and remember the painful costs associated with war. 4,500 American soldiers gave their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom as did an
untold number of Iraqi soldiers and civilians. We mourn this loss and for
years we will shoulder the financial cost of the war estimated at over $3
trillion. As we mark the end of formal operations in Iraq, we also join
our voices with many calling for a responsible and expedited
end to the war in Afghanistan. Read faith letter on war in Afghanistan.