Do I detect a trend?

Prepared by Domenic Ruscio, Partner

The election to replace Boston’s longest-serving mayor, Tom Menino, may signal a trend in the making. Although his name wasn’t even on the ballot, David Ortiz managed to finish third in the mayoral race. Yes, “Big Papi,” the Boston Red Sox designated hitter and World Series MVP.

All right, so maybe it’s not a trend. But with polls reporting that 9 out of 10 Americans disapprove of what Congress is doing (personally, I think the lone dissenter is just being sarcastic) it’s easy to understand how frustrated the electorate is.

The sources of their frustration didn’t blossom overnight. Public debt began to burgeon more than two decades ago. The Great Recession began five years ago. And in every election held since, voters said they wanted solutions, not anarchy or partisan bickering.

In their heart of hearts I suspect most Americans are willing to endure some sacrifice, so long as it’s well-reasoned and equitable. Voters elected individuals whom they believed would judiciously sift through government policies and programs and make some tough choices. What voters did NOT want or anticipate was a ham-handed approach to governing.

But that’s just what they got when sequestration—a fancy term for heedless across-the-board cuts—took effect earlier this year. The so-called “nuclear option” that was supposed to frighten people back to their senses ended up being the norm, with little thought given to the consequences.

A few days after sequestration cuts took effect, some politicians and pundits were quick to point out that nothing bad happened.

But we knew better. Sequestration, piled on top of virtual flat-funding for two years, meant something had to give.

To prove that budget cuts carry consequences, NDD United—a broad-based national campaign working to convince lawmakers to stop the cuts—came up with an idea: Why not give lawmakers a snapshot of the nation, an accounting of the effects budget cuts are having on all walks of life.

As headquarters of the NDD United operation, CRD Associates sprang into action. Our senior VP Emily Holubowich, who is executive director of the Coalition for Health Funding and co-chair of NDD United, coordinated a team of individuals to work on behalf hundreds of organizations to document the real-world implications of budget cuts—on local economies, on jobs and on individuals.

Policy briefs, white papers, and reports—when written for and disseminated effectively to the right audience—are essential advocacy tools. They educate lawmakers and media about an issue, provide evidence and context for your recommendations on what to do about it, and just as importantly, position you and your organization as a valuable resource on the topic. On topics as amorphous and ambiguous as “nondefense discretionary spending” and “sequestration,” a comprehensive report on the impact across all sectors—from education and training, to public health and housing—seemed the appropriate communications tool.

It was a massive undertaking, but what they produced, Faces of Austerity: How Budget Cuts Have Made Us Sicker, Poorer and Less Secure, accomplished several goals. It provided a voice for those harmed by federal budget cuts. It brought visibility to the cause in the mainstream media, on Capitol Hill, and even in the West Wing (see photo). And it positioned NDD United as the leader in the community on the fight to stop budget cuts.

Faces of Austerity is much more than an innovative advocacy tool. At best, it’s a game-changer; at a minimum it should give lawmakers pause to fully appreciate the consequences.

NDD United at the White House

You can read a copy of the full report at www.nddunited.org

Lisa Ellington

Big Thinkery, LLC, 1011 Kenilworth Court Northwest, Concord, NC, 28027