Nonprofits Must Let Politicians Know They Should Be Part Of Platform

America's real "social welfare" nonprofits -- the hundreds of thousands of direct-service, locally based, tax paying charities that uphold the great American social contract -- need to step up and engage candidates at every turn.
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This Presidential campaign has been like no other. With the Citizens United decision, and the subsequent avalanche of anonymous money being funneled through alleged "social-welfare" PACS, there has been considerable focus on the money being spent to defend or differentiate each party's platform.

But when it comes to what will happen after the election, I believe there is little difference between President Obama and Governor Romney.

Sure, both candidates are working tirelessly to demarcate their approaches to taxation, job creation, preserving Medicare and Social Security and insuring that our military has the capacity to keep America safe. But in the end, neither candidate is providing details on what will be cut to keep the promises they're making.

Unfortunately, cuts will be a necessary action for either candidate. Between escalating costs associated with care for the rapidly ageing baby boomer generation, the sluggish growth of the GNP, nagging unemployment, a reshuffling of the global economy and the specter of $1.2 trillion in mandatory, across-the-board, cuts over the next ten years; no matter our election outcome, the next President will have to make many "tough choices".

But neither candidate is tough enough to tell you what they'd cut.

This is why America's real "social welfare" nonprofits -- the hundreds of thousands of direct-service, locally based, tax paying charities that uphold the great American social contract -- need to step up and engage candidates at every turn. These essential organizations must compel candidates to explore the economic ramifications of their visions.

Some nonprofits are already deeply invested in this effort. Hospitals and universities clearly understand the impact "tough choices" would have on their bottom-line. As a result, they have dedicated significant resources to lobby and invest in campaigns at levels often similar in scope to those of defense department contractors.

However, the vast majority on nonprofit organizations -- alone, or represented by their state or national associations -- do not have the economic resources nor the board support required to invest in lobbying, make contributions or hold candidates and their parties accountable.

The sad byproduct? When it comes time to cut, they will be the first on the table.

To avoid the economic calamity that would befall local economies should small but essential nonprofits lose their funding, nonprofits must begin spending the currency they do have -- their votes, and the votes of the millions of people who volunteer or support them -- with audacity.

New-media outlets like Twitter, Facebook and You Tube gives the smallest local nonprofit a national megaphone for their individual cause.

It gives previously unaligned organizations the ability to stand together and make a strong case for their combined role in the economy.

It gives 70 million private citizens (possible the greatest untapped swing voters) who work, or serve as volunteers or board members the ability to relentlessly ask every candidate to provide detailed answers to tough questions about the cuts they will make.....and they can do that without jeopardizing the charitable status of the organization they care about.

In a perfect political world, the role of nonprofits in the economic recovery would be part of every party's platform. It isn't, and we aren't. That will only change if we do.

As June Jordan wrote in "Poem for South African Women"...."We are the ones we've been waiting for."

What are YOU waiting for?

This post is part of the HuffPost Shadow Conventions 2012, a series spotlighting three issues that are not being discussed at the national GOP and Democratic conventions: The Drug War, Poverty in America, and Money in Politics.

HuffPost Live will be taking a comprehensive look at the corrupting influence of money on our politics August 29th and September 5th from 12-4 pm ET and 6-10 pm ET. Click here to check it out -- and join the conversation.

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