Hitting the streets for the budget

Volunteers knock on doors for health care, education and clean energy

WASHINGTON — Organizing for America volunteers have gone door-to-door in all 50 states and collected more than 640,000 signatures on pledges of support for President Obama’s 2010 budget spending for health care, education and clean energy.

The Salt Lake Tribune reported that Maggie Flanigan, 14, and Rose Nelson, 15, answered the president’s appeal and recruited 12 people to knock on doors in Salt Lake City, March 28. Flanigan had volunteered as much as 40 hours weekly in the Obama election campaign last year.

Denise Mavor, who was Flanigan’s third grade school teacher, joined the effort. She told the Tribune, “I believe in what President Obama is trying to do for the people of our country. He has the best interests of everyone in mind and heart. It’s the way he listens to people, as if to say, ‘Together we can do this.’”

Organizing for America is Obama’s post-election group that will help push through the new president’s agenda.

Retiree Robert Archuleta, who spent 34 years in the Salt Lake City public schools as a teacher and administrator, hailed the door-to-door effort in his city. “Everyone in Utah is feeling good about Obama’s education budget,” Archuleta told the World by phone. “Cutbacks were being planned but funds from the stimulus package arrived and they were able to put those layoffs on hold.”

Archuleta praised the youth in Utah for jumping on the bandwagon. “A lot of the credit for that goes to Obama himself who has inspired young people to get involved and make the changes. There is a spirit in Utah and in the country that change for the better is coming,” he added.

Obama’s budget allocates $115 billion next year in federal aid to education, nearly three times more than ex-President George W. Bush’s budget. For health care reform fund, Obama allocates $634 billion, and for alternative energy and green jobs, $150 billion.

Charles Strickland, 65, of Port Angeles, Wash., telephoned his senators, Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray, both Democrats, to ask them to support

Obama’s budget.

Strickland accused Republicans of “hypocrisy” in whipping up hysteria against deficit spending. “This is not the time to worry about running up the national debt,” he said. “They should have been worrying about that debt over the past eight years when they were pouring tens of billions down that rat-hole in Iraq.”

Washington State’s government, he said, is struggling because of the economic crisis. “Only the federal government can help prevent a collapse,” he told the World in a phone interview.

The Republican leadership, stung by charges that they snipe at Obama but offer no alternative, prepared a 19 page summary of their budget but with no funding levels specified.

Budget Director Peter Orszag said the GOP has now morphed from the “Party of No” to the “Party of No Details.”

Organizing For America Media Director Natalie Wyeth told the World via email that one of the volunteers in Denver, Colo., had voted for Republican John McCain but spent last Saturday collecting pledges for the Obama budget. A canvasser in Pennsylvania knocked on the door of a Republican and opened a friendly conversation about the need for Obama’s budget.

“That speaks to one of OFA’s objectives,” she said, “to engage voters across the country in a dialogue regardless of their political affiliation about the important issues facing our country and provide them with the tools needed to play a part in the legislative process.”

The House and Senate are racing this week to finish the 50 hours of debate and vote on the Budget Resolution, the first step in approving the president’s $3.6 trillion budget that will take effect Oct. 1, 2010.

Obama went to Capitol Hill to meet with Democratic Senators to urge rejection of cutbacks proposed by the Republicans and a handful of conservative Democrats. After that meeting, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) and Senate Budget Committee Chair Kent Conrad (D-N.D.) said virtually all of Obama’s program will be approved.

It requires only a simple majority vote to pass the budget resolution so it is impossible for the Republicans to block it with a filibuster.

WCCO-TV in Minneapolis-St. Paul reported that OFA volunteers fanned out across the Twin Cities to collect pledges in support of the budget. “Almost all the contacts we have had have been positive. People have signed,” said Chris Kramer, 17.

Americans United for Change released a statement signed by 100 mass organizations that said in part, “It is our firm belief that if (Obama’s budget) priorities are enacted we will turn back the trend of rising poverty, unemployment, hunger and homelessness.”

Jeremy Funk, the group’s spokesperson, said the coalition is planning a series of events starting with town hall meetings on health care reform and following with tax day protests against the Republicans hard line defense of Bush tax cuts for the rich at post offices around the country on April 15.

Americans United for Change has been broadcasting TV ads accusing the Republicans of having a one word program for meeting the crisis: “No!”