OAW 2010 wrapped up on Friday with our last day of meetings. As is often the case, Congress was out of session, so most members had gone back to their districts/states on Thursday night, which tones down the atmosphere and energy on the Hill. It also usually means that we get more focused attention from the staffers we meet with, who are not torn in as many different directions with their bosses out of town. The exceptions to that rule this week were the staffers whose offices are deeply involved in bank reform, who spent the day knee-deep in negotiation of new rules for derivatives.
Now I'm finally back at Hard Times Cafe having my traditional OAW lunch of Chili Bubba and sweet tea. I'm usually here just before OAW starts, not after it ends -- just another tragic delay indirectly caused by a volcano named Eyjafjallajoekull.
Before I wrap up this blog for the year, here are a couple of random items I now realize I let slip by through the week:
- On Monday, three of us (myself, Kathleen deCarbuccia and Jackie Bugnion) were interviewed by Brian Knowleton of the New York Times. The interview was not for a specific article, but was part of Brian’s years-long, ongoing effort to keep up with our issues, so that he can publish something when the time is right.
- I discovered this week that accessible wifi has finally reached Capitol Hill. That came in handy for on-the-fly research between meetings, but didn’t help much with this blog. After I posted one item using Capitol Hill wifi, I got an error message each time I went back to the blog and couldn’t access it again. Here’s what it said: “Access restriction. The category listed is filtered due to unsafe content. Reason: Sex.” I don’t know what sexual content the system found in my ramblings, but hopefully that will help drive traffic to the blog.
- Looking back at the five years I’ve been doing OAW and, in particular, the three years I’ve been doing this blog, I now realize that I should have been giving an annual award to the strangest staffer we encounter. This year’s award would have to go to the military affairs staffer we saw in a certain Senate office (we sometimes see the military staffer because they also cover foreign affairs, which is the category some offices put our issues into). When I say “military affairs staffer”, I’d bet you’re picturing a frighteningly large jock with biceps as thick as the tires on my Jeep. What was noteworthy about this particular military affairs staffer was how many ways she was not what you are picturing. First of all, she was a she; second, her voice was dog-whistle-high-pitched; and third, she was decked out in eight shades of pink. She looked like a schoolteacher, but on the inside she is probably the Marine you were picturing.
Looking back at the week, I think this OAW went relatively well, particularly in light of the extraordinary obstacle thrown at us by our new nemesis Eyjafjallajoekull. Many of our delegates from Europe were unable to attend, but were still able to participate in certain meetings by conference call. The rest of us were either already in the US or were able to reroute through another part of the world to get to DC.
My hope is that our work this week on tax laid the foundation for future change. While it is unlikely that Congress will act quickly to address the issue, they hopefully won’t move quickly in the other direction either by repealing the foreign earned income exclusion that so many overseas Americans count on. Most offices told us that wide-ranging tax reform is likely in the next year or two and that it was important for us to be there this year (as it will be next year) to plant our flag on this issue so we are not, yet again, the low-hanging fruit that is picked to pay for something else.
I end this week even more convinced than before that in order to make concrete progress on our issues, we need to take this effort up a notch by enlisting new sources and types of support and by creating a PAC through which we would centralize our resources and manage our initiatives. If you have thoughts on how to do that or any other feedback on our advocacy work in Washington, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.