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Wed Apr 17, 2013 at 11:49 AM PDT

DFA Wants to Send You to Netroots!

by Arshad Hasan

The progressive movement isn’t about the bright lights and TV cameras, it’s about community. That’s what grassroots organizing is all about, and Netroots Nation is where it all comes together. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. We all love the panels, speakers, trainings and all the progressive organizations represented there. But for me, it is about the passionate community of grassroots activists. These are the people who work hard every day for progressive change, and it is a truly amazing experience to get so many of us under one roof for a few days.

Unfortunately, we know that not everyone fighting the good fight can make it to Netroots Nation. Sometimes work, family or that epic backpacking trip get in the way, and we can’t do anything about that. However, we never want people to be unable to go because of cost.  

That’s why I am once again thrilled to announce Democracy for America is offering our Netroots Nation Scholarship.  We’ll pay for your registration and hotel -- but you have to earn it. We give our scholarships to the rising stars of the progressive community, and in the spirit of the progressive digital community, you get to choose who we send.

Here’s what you do:

     1. Apply! If you have always wanted to go to Netroots, but don’t have the spare  
        cash, this could be your opportunity!
     2. Nominatesomebody who you think deserves to go, they’ll be flattered.
     3. Most of all, vote for the activists you think most deserving.

Past scholars include folks who have successfully run for state office, prominent gun violence prevention activists, radio personalities, and well-known bloggers. This could be your chance to attend Netroots Nation and make the connections you need to take your activism to the next level. Apply now.


PhotobucketYou know what I like most about Social Security? It’s not just the fact that it keeps millions of seniors out of poverty, or helps kids who’ve lost a parent, or even that it’s just a really successful program. The aspect of the program I love most is the sheer ambition of it all: Social Security created an inter-generational compact that has been the backbone of our American community and ensures that, after decades of hard work, everyone can retire with dignity. Think about that – it’s the promise of dignity one generation makes to another, knowing that the same promise will keep passing down from one generation to the next.

Unfortunately, even though it is widely considered America’s most successful social program, 60 percent of working Americans think that Social Security will not be there when they retire. The Republicans have used this common misperception to try and push through three major policy changes that would make Social Security disappear in the name of “strengthening” it. These changes – sometimes couched in moderate, earnest-sounding proposals are raising the retirement age, chained CPI, and means testing. The purported “benefits” of these policy changes short-changes working Americans somewhere down the line and actually does very little in the way saving any money. All the while, we are missing the most common sense solution for maintaining Social Security for decades to come… closing the Social Security tax loophole.

But first, let’s start by taking a closer look at these policy proposals by the right, starting with raising the retirement age. While it might be easy for a white collar worker to spend a couple more years behind a desk, try asking the bricklayer, carpenter or restaurant worker if they want to be forced to work a few more years past 65 or 67. In many cases it is not a matter of wanting to work longer, but simply not being able to do it. In a 2010 study the GAO found that raising the retirement age, would in fact shift more people from standard retirement benefits to disability benefits as health issues would impact their ability to work. The most telling finding is that some changes to the retirement age could actually reduce rather than improve the solvency of Social Security. Even worse, some economists argue that raising the age of retirement will have a trickle down effect on job openings for those entering the work force, with young people finding it difficult to find work as older employees stay in their jobs even longer.  

While many have tried to paint Chained CPI as the grand solution for maintaining Social Security years to come, the truth is that it’s a benefit cut, plain and simple. The Chained CPI keeps the growth of payments each year at a fixed rate, which sounds all well and good except for that this fixed rate is actually less than the cost of inflation. So a .25 percent cut your first year of retirement is a 2.5 percent cut after 10 years of retirement. What’s worse is the Bureau of Labor Statistics has recently found that, when looking at items seniors buy, their inflation rate is actually higher than standard rate of inflation. Meaning the chained CPI is an even deeper cut than many initially thought.

The next “fix” put forward by those on the right is means testing, which is the biggest fallacy of them all. For means testing to have any significant savings it would have to cut benefits for those making $60,000 a year or less. That is not exactly what I would call a wealthy American. There are a myriad of other reasons why means testing is just plain bad news for working families, chronicled here by our friends at the AFL-CIO.

Here are the facts: Social Security doesn’t add one cent to the deficit because it is funded entirely separately of the federal budget, but if we really want to sure it up for decades to come, there is one logical solution— ending the Social Security tax loophole.

Many people don’t know this, but the method we use to fund Social Security is incredibly regressive. People only pay the FICA tax on the first 113,000 dollars they make. After that, you no longer have to pay a dime more. That means, if you earn $60,000 a year, Social Security taxes are taken out of 100% of the income you earn. Meanwhile,  f you make $1.1 million a year, FICA taxes are only taken out of 10% of your income.  Ending the Social Security tax loophole would eliminate this discrepancy and require that all income is taxed under FICA, significantly strengthening Social Security.

When we end this loophole, Social Security goes from being secure for the next 25 years to being secure for 75 years into the future. This makes it sufficiently funded into the future further than any other government program in existence, securely cementing Social Security as America’s most successful social program for generations to come.

Ending the Social Security tax loophole would actually increase benefits across the board. First, recognizing that wealthy Americans would be paying in more, they would receive more benefits in return. In addition, ending this loophole would also allow us to lift benefits across the board for all retirees by shifting the system to the “CPI-E” which is a more accurate measurement of inflation on goods that seniors buy, and is a bit higher than a standard CPI.

Get ready for the best part… This plan isn’t just a pipe dream, but a real piece of legislation introduced by Senator Mark Begich. If Congress were to act, this bill could be in place starting tomorrow.

The bottom line, the Tea Party and its allies in Congress are trying to use budgetary scare tactics to systematically dismantle a shining beacon of success for the progressive values they hate. If they were truly serious about strengthening Social Security as they say they are, they would be supporting the movement to end the Social Security tax loophole, not these schemes to dismantle this vital program that allows millions of Americans to retire in dignity.  

"HandsOffMySS" Blogathon: March 25th thru March 29th, 2013
Diary Schedule - All Times Eastern Standard


Social security is a concept enshrined in Article 22 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights which states that Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security.

A limited form of the Social Security program began, during President Franklin D. Roosevelt's first term, as a measure to implement "social insurance" during the Great Depression of the 1930s, when poverty rates among senior citizens exceeded 50 percent.

Let your voice be heard.

Members of the Daily Kos group Social Security Defenders have organized this bogathon to promote the truth about the financial condition of the Social Security trust fund, and the impacts of various so called reforms and fixes.

Understanding how benefits are calculated, the History of Social Security, where the Wisconsin Idea came from, and how over the years changes have been made to Social Security, all increase awareness and hopefully improve the discussion.

  • Monday, March 25th

11:00am:Roger Fox
1:00 pm: Joan McCarter
3:00 pm: Roger Fox
5:00 pm: Jamess

  • Tuesday, March 26th

10:00 am: Roger Fox
11:00am: joanneleon
1:00 pm: joe shikspack
3:00 pm: Arshad Hasan DFA
5:00 pm: Roger Fox

  • Wednesday, March 27th

11:00am: poopdogcomedy
1:00 pm: teacherken
3:00 pm: priceman
5:00 pm: Bruce Webb

  • Thursday, March 28th

11:00am: Jim Dean DFA
1:00 pm: BernardPliers
3:00 pm: One Pissed Off Liberal
5:00 pm: floridagal

  • Friday, March 29th

11:00 am: Economist Dean Baker
1:00 pm: VCLib
3:00 pm: Armando
5:00 pm: Liberal Thinking

Please remember to republish these diaries to your Daily Kos Groups.  You can also follow all postings by clicking this link for the Social Security Defenders Blogathon Group. Then, click 'Follow' and that will make all postings show up in 'My Stream' of your Daily Kos page.


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It seems to get harder every year. DFA had planned for this to be the final round of our Netroots Nations Scholarship competition, but we have had more entries and more votes cast than any previous year. Applicants have amazingly diverse perspectives on organizing and activism and are working on so many important issues.

I figured it'd be a big year and recruited more help to sift through applications, but it didn't make it any easier. In both Rounds 1 and 2, there were probably as many conversations starting with "Wow, [applicant] is such an awesome choice. S/He's in!" As there were starting with "Hold up. What do you mean we don't have enough slots, have you even READ [applicant's] profile? We'll just have to make the space."

Well, I have two pieces of news.

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You know as well as I do that the best grassroots work doesn’t come from politicians, or from talking heads or even from grassroots organizations. It comes from you and everyone else who takes time out of their day and fights for what’s right. Because I’m always looking to activists for my inspiration, I love hearing about and meeting the people who fight the fight.

That’s why I love Netroots Nation. If you’ve been there, you know what I mean. Of course the panels are cool, and the speakers are great, and lots of different progressive organizations are represented. But for me, it’s about meeting people in the hallways, the social events, the meals... the bars.

Unfortunately, not everyone who is fighting the good fight can make it to Netroots Nation. So three weeks ago, DFA and America’s Voice launched our 2011 Netroots Nation Scholarship Competition. Since then, 170 outstanding bloggers and activists have applied.

I am absolutely thrilled to introduce you to the twenty winners from Round One. It may sound trite to say that we had an incredibly talented pool of applicants, but this time it’s actually an understatement.

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Tue Jun 22, 2010 at 01:59 PM PDT

Drumroll Please...

by Arshad Hasan

The end is always bittersweet but to be honest, the third and final round of Netroots Nation Scholarship Competition put on by DFA has been more sweet than bitter.

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1,351 is the number we need to hit to defeat Blanche Lincoln in tomorrow's run-off election. Hang on to that number for just a moment and I'll get back to what it means in a moment.

Here's the thing. I'm in Arkansas right now and I need your help.

The final phase of campaigns is always more than a little crazy: everyone is tired, campaigns run through all their funds, the opposition starts going super negative, and curious election irregularities always seem to suddenly pop up.

Through all of the drama, one fundamental principal of campaigns becomes truer than ever – the campaign that stays focused and gets more of its supporters out to the polls wins.

I know that statement should be obvious, but it's easy for it to get lost in the drama. So I'm going to repeat it one more time.

The campaign that gets more of its supporters to the polls by Election Day wins.  

And we’ve got a huge asset that the opposition doesn’t have.


We need you more than ever right now.

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Wow.  What a response to our Round 2 Democracy for America Netroots Nation Scholarship Competition.

Out of all those who applied, I want to congratulate this round’s sixteen winners on their scholarship to attend the 2010 Netroots Nation Convention in Las Vegas.

You can check out all the winners to find out more about each of them – what they do, why they won, and how they’re going to contribute at Netroots Nation and make a difference in progressive online activism.

So without further ado, congratulations to:

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Oof. What a process.... And this is just round one!

Okay, so about a month ago, we kicked off our DFA Netroots Nation Scholarship program. The responses have been incredible. We had 112 applicants in the first round (and another 10 since the weekend), from around the country and in at least two other countries. People ranged from 15 to 77 years in age. We have applicants representing perspectives within our own community that I think we all need to pay attention to.

Some are activists offline, some stay online and blog, most do both, and all are deserving. In the end, we had to pick 10 for this round (the first of three rounds), and the winners are after the jump.

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In the beginning of the year former candidate for Congress, Steve Young, posted his opinion on training progressives. He’s right. We don’t have the training infrastructure that the GOP has. In fact, they’ve been ahead of us for years.

But all that’s changing. You might have noticed in Steve’s and other posts how many people commenting here on Kos have been to a progressive training. Progressive training organizations are undergoing a small revolution – we’re growing, we’re multiplying, and we’re even (gasp) coordinating.

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DFA Night School is back, baby! The fall semester will teach you the advanced skills you need in order to get voters to the polls this November. Participating is easy, fun, and free!

We have a very special guest for the first lesson, which we'll hold on Tuesday, Sept. 19 at 8:30 PM Eastern. I'm sure many of you know UC-Berkeley professor George Lakoff, author of "Don't Think of an Elephant" and more recently "Whose Freedom?". When you're standing at a voter's doorstep, or you're phonebanking voters through a call list, how do you really persuade them to get out and vote for your candidate? We'll answer that and teach you how to develop a message that will sway voters at the deepest levels. RSVP for the live, toll-free conference call right now:
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It's time to make more strategic use of online media.

Studies show that the internet is an increasing force in political campaigns. Duh. If you're reading this diary right now, I bet you already know that. But online organizing and online media is so new in politics that we're all still figuring out how to use it to make the greatest impact. Right now most progressive organizations and campaigns misuse or even shun blogs, much less make it a part of their strategy.

We're going to change that.

Join me and Tim Tagaris, Internet Communications Director for Ned Lamont's Campaign, tonight at 8:30 ET, for a free conference call on how to leverage online media:

More after the jump...

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