WASHINGTON -- Three influential conservative groups that helped to defeat Speaker John Boehner's "Plan B" before Christmas called for a "no" vote on the fiscal cliff deal struck by the White House and the Senate. The calls of opposition from these groups appear to have been heard by House Republicans, who are refusing to support the deal passed by the Senate. The ultra-conservative Club for Growth stated, "This bill raises taxes immediately with the promise of cutting spending later. Tax rates will go up on marginal income, capital gains, dividends, and even certain estates when a person passes away. But it also delays the sequester for at least two months, breaking the promise made by Congress in 2011 to cut government spending. And, among other things, it includes an unpaid for extension of unemployment benefits." Heritage Action, the political arm of the Heritage Foundation, echoed these concerns, "To be clear, this is a tax increase. ... Heritage Action opposes the kick-the-can tax increase and will include it as a key vote on our legislative scorecard." FreedomWorks President and CEO Matt Kibbe opposed Senate passage of the deal and wrote to his group's members to call their senator to express their opposition. "I urge you to call your state’s two U.S. Senators and ask them to vote NO on the McConnell-Obama bill to raise taxes and postpone the promised sequester savings. We will count any vote on this proposal as a KEY VOTE when calculating the FreedomWorks Economic Freedom Scorecard for 2012." A fourth group, the Koch brothers-controlled Americans for Prosperity, stopped short of calling for supporters to oppose the deal, but did blast both the deal's contents and the way it was being passed. "The package is being rushed through at the last minute, possibly voiding the Speaker’s promise that the country would be able to review legislation for three days before the House voted on it. Much like the President’s health care law, it looks like we’ll have to pass the tax bill to find out what’s in it," Americans for Prosperity policy director James Valvo wrote on AFP's blog. Both the Club for Growth and FreedomWorks are known for getting involved in Republican primary elections to oppose lawmakers that they deem insufficiently conservative. In the past three elections, the Club for Growth defeated four incumbent lawmakers in primaries including Sens. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) and Bob Bennett (R-Utah) and Rep. Wayne Gilchrest (R-Md.). The group's primary opposition to the late Arlen Specter led him to switch parties in 2009 to run for reelection as a Democrat. Despite the opposition to the deal by the Club for Growth, their former president, Sen. Pat Toomey (R-Pa.), who chased Specter out of the Republican Party, voted for the deal in the Senate.
Arguably Detroit's first Occupy group, the nonprofit This Hood of Ours has been setting up tents to draw attention to city problems since last summer, back when Occupy Wall Street was little more than a link on a few activists' websites. While the Occupy Movement is known for protesting the power of big banks and transnational corporations, This Hood of Ours is much more neighborhood-focused. For much of the last year, the organization has been involved in an extensive campaign to beautify and unify the Barton-McFarlane neighborhood on Detroit's west side. Barton-McFarlane, near the intersection of West Chicago and Appoline on Detroit's west side, like much of the city has faced struggles with unemployment, foreclosures, crime and illegal dumping. Working with residents and local stakeholders, members of the group have cleaned up several neighborhood lots, boarded up vacant houses, planted a community garden, put up a basketball hoop and dug a community fire pit. They've also sponsored regular free public meals and held community film nights -- projecting movies onto the sides of abandoned buildings. Jasahn Larsosa, one of the group's founders, said he believes these activities ultimately play a part in more far-reaching changes. "We stay active out here," he said. "The more traffic we have, the more people we're able to talk to about re-imagining the possibilities about the world we're in." This Hood of Ours was founded three years ago by Larsosa with his brother Johanahn Larsosa and Amy J. Hollaway, a former YMCA executive. They now have offices in Ohio and Indiana, as well as Michigan. Prior to their neighborhood work in Barton-McFarlane, they also conducted a pilot program in Anderson, Ind., that concluded in 2010. The group's mission is to strengthen communities, clean up neighborhoods, promote positive growth opportunities for youth, and empower local people and organizations. It consults with community members to identify neighborhood issues and works with them to develop solutions to these concerns. To add some dramatic flair, Hood of Ours also started camping out in tents to highlight its presence. When Occupy Detroit started using the same tactic last fall, Larsosa participated in the local Occupy camp at Grand Circus Park. Eventually the two groups forged a working relationship that has involved sharing resources, such as lawn and movie equipment, and supporting each other's efforts. This cooperation has included holding Occupy Detroit general assemblies in Barton-McFarlane and even hosting a base camp for visitors to the recent Midwest Occupy gathering there. Like Occupy Detroit, This Hood of Ours also was involved in the foreclosure struggle. It has been working with a group called the Housing Is A Human Right Coalition to move people into foreclosed homes. So far it has occupied about five homes in Barton-McFarlane. Larsosa defends the effort as an act of common sense. "We've given billions of dollars to banks ... and have helped them get out of trouble. They don't have the right to evict people," he said. "We'd rather stabilize the community by putting people in these [homes]. They're viable. Why do we have to wait out until they're burned out gutted and useless?" But Joanne Robinson, who has lived in the neighborhood around 40 years, doesn't appreciate the group welcoming squatters into the neighborhood and is skeptical of the group's accomplishments. "I don't see what they're doing to be beneficial at this point," she said, "because I've not seen them doing anything other than to clear some space, gather people around entertainment and not really deal with facilitating the occupants that exist on this particular block." Theo Broughton works with This Hood of Ours, lives in the neighborhood and is a co-founder of Hood Research, a group that analyzes neighborhood issues in Detroit. "I think that what he is doing is energizing the people in the neighborhood," she said of Larsosa. "When someone comes along who has a positive attitude, it serves to give people hope that things will get better, and it helps them to understand that they have to become a part of the process that makes things get better." This Hood of Ours recently wrapped up its work in Barton-McFarlane and has since moved onto a new campaign on Detroit's east side. Kerry Sanders, the president of the Barton-McFarlane Neighborhood Association, said he isn't sure Hood of Ours achieved everything it hoped for, but said it made a significant impact in the community. "When you combine the wisdom of some of the older people such as myself, with the enthusiasm, work ethic and energy of the young people in This Hood of Ours, it's a formidable force," he said. "We can do a lot of things when we work together."