Not one penny for billionaires, says coalition against GOP tax cuts
Sen. Bernie Sanders addresses the "Not One Penny" rally outside the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 1. | Not One Penny Campaign

WASHINGTON—Even as Congress’ ruling Republicans haggle over the final details of their 10-year, $1.5 trillion tax cut for the rich, a massive mobilization of citizens and groups is underway to halt it in its tracks, speakers at a kickoff rally in D.C. said Wednesday.

Plans call for members of the “Not One Penny” coalition, including the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, the Teachers, the Communications Workers, Health Care Action Now, Public Citizen, Indivisible.org, MoveOn.org, Credo.org and Organizing for America, to descend on lawmakers’ officers and flood Congress with phone calls and e-mails against the GOP plan.

“We’ve built a remarkable structure with more than 400 organizations, groups in more than 20 states and enormous involvement by their members,” veteran organizer and activist Heather Booth said during the D.C. rally. They’ll need it: Party leaders in the GOP-run House want to jam the tax cut through by Thanksgiving, and Senate Republicans are shooting for passage before Christmas.

In their push to upend the Republicans’ plans, the groups speaking at the D.C. rally and their allies emphasize several key themes, and aim for citizen mobilization similar to the masses who derailed the Republicans’ repeated schemes to kill the Affordable Care Act. Key themes include:

— 80 percent of the tax cuts in the plan would go to the richest 1 percent of the country.

— The tax cuts would cost so much the GOP would use them as an excuse to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Pell grants, environmental protection, other domestic programs, and even food for the poor.

— The tax cut would also force cuts in local schools, roads, firefighting, and police, Teachers President Randi Weingarten said, by starving state and local governments through yanking the deduction millions of taxpayers now use to partially offset their state and local tax payments on their federal tax returns.

— And, just to drive the point home about how the tax cuts would further enrich the already rich, speakers said Republican President Donald Trump and his millionaire Cabinet members would get $3.5 billion in tax cuts all by themselves—which the middle class and the poor would pay for.

Also among those hurt: Working women, said Morris Pearl, board chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, a group of progressive wealthy people that alternates between lobbying for higher taxes and satire.

“By lowering taxes at the top, they’re increasing them for everyone else,” he explained in an interview during the D.C. rally. Most of the top 1 percent who would benefit are men, while working women are disproportionately hit with the tax hike the GOP plans for the lowest-income earners.

“This is really a question of ‘Which side are you on?’” Weingarten said.

The Republicans plan to roll out their plan on November 2 and the tax-writing House Ways and Means

Committee will start working on its details on November 6. Meanwhile, GOP members are thrashing out conflicts over it behind closed doors, freezing out Democrats—including speakers at the rally—and citizens as well.  Trump has hit the campaign trail for it, saying it will help middle class families.

That’s a lie, speakers said. But they emphasized the need for speed in mobilizing against the GOP tax cut plan. “They want to do this before anybody can get an idea of what’s in it,” one explained. The campaigners’ objective: Kill the tax cut in the GOP-run House before it ever gets to the Senate, Sen. Ron Wyden, D-Ore., top Democrat on the tax-writing Senate Finance Committee, said in an interview.

The overall parameters of the GOP tax plan now include: Four tax rates, ranging from 12 percent for the lowest bracket – a 2 percentage-point increase – to 39.6 percent for the top bracket, elimination of the estate tax, a cut in corporate tax rates from 35 percent now to 20 percent, and increased incentives, including zero percent taxation, to firms that offshore jobs.

“Despite their cloak of secrecy, we know this bill is a jobs killer,” said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas.

“They want to give more to the lobbyists and hedge fund managers, and raise the taxes on people like you and me who work hard and pay their fair share,” exclaimed Nicole Gill, the young executive director of the Not One Penny coalition.

Enacting that massive tax cut would also starve the government of funds for needed programs, while ballooning the federal deficit, several speakers said. They added the GOP would use its own red ink as an excuse to cut programs the middle class, the old, and the poor rely on.

Top congressional Democrats took turns at the mike denouncing the GOP tax plan, thanking the several hundred participants—and millions more outside of Washington—for campaigning against it, and inveighing against its details that would slam women, workers, and the poor while enriching the rich.

“This is an emergency,” declared Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass. “Their plan would grant giveaways” worth $2 billion, she calculated, “to giant corporations and billionaires. We are here to deliver a message: No corporate giveaways.” Warren drew cheers and anti-tax cut chants. She said another $700 billion would go “to wealthy foreign investors” who would use it to fund jobs overseas, not here.

“Everything you need to know about the Republican proposal is in a recent headline from The Boston Globe: ‘The Koch brothers and their friends want Trump’s tax cut—very badly,’” said Sen. Bernie Sanders, Ind.-Vt., who made the widening gap between the rich and the rest of us a central theme of his 2016 Democratic presidential primary campaign.

“The American people are watching,” House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., declared. “It is a statement of their values to say that if you start a business on Main Street USA, you pay full taxes, but if you send it and jobs overseas, you pay no taxes.” And the GOP plan to kill the federal estate tax “would give about 5,000 families a quarter of a trillion dollars,” she added.

“The economy is already rigged, but they want to create an economy for the rich, while taking money away from the rest of us,” Weingarten said.


CONTRIBUTOR

Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of Press Associates Inc. (PAI), a union news service in Washington, D.C. that he has headed since 1999. Previously, he worked as Washington correspondent for the Ottaway News Service, as Port Jervis bureau chief for the Middletown, NY Times Herald Record, and as a researcher and writer for Congressional Quarterly. Mark obtained his BA in public policy from the University of Chicago and worked as the University of Chicago correspondent for the Chicago Daily News.

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