Progressive Caucus blasts Trump-GOP tax cut plan
Keith Ellison demanding no more money for tax breaks for the rich. | Twitter

WASHINGTON – As might be expected, members of the House Progressive Caucus – the largest group of House Democrats – blasted the tax cut plan unveiled by GOP President Donald Trump and Congress’ ruling Republicans as an enormous giveaway to the rich at the expense of the rest of us.

But an outdoor press conference on October 4, a key leader of the caucus, Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn., warned they can’t stop it alone. He told the outside groups gathered there to cheer lawmakers on that their members must hit the streets, too, to defeat the Republican scheme.

“It is the progressive community that must act,” Ellison, known for his organizing acumen, said.

But they may not have much time to do so, the lawmakers admitted: The Republicans are trying to grease the skids to pass their tax overhaul by the end of this calendar year.

And the first step in that forced march came the same day, when the House GOP majority pushed through a budget resolution for calendar 2018 – which has already begun.

If the Senate’s ruling Republicans agree to a budget blueprint like that, senators then can use the arcane “reconciliation” process to jam through the tax cut bill with no Democratic filibuster, and with only 50 GOP votes, plus Vice President Mike Pence as a tie-breaker. That’s how they tried to kill the Affordable Care Act, too.

Progressive Caucus co-chair Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., a Painters Union member, called the tax plan – and Trump‘s claim it would not help him personally – “absurd.”

“They can’t guarantee it won’t hurt the middle class” overall, added Pocan. He cited studies showing that families with an adjusted gross income of $50,000 yearly would pay an average of $880 more in taxes under the Trump plan.

“Eliminating the personal exemption” from individual income taxes, which all taxpayers now take, “will hurt middle-class families the most,” added Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn. “There is no commitment to these folks – none.”

And 80 percent of the plan’s tax cut benefits will go to the top 1 percent of all earners, said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas. “Those making more than $730,000 will see a tax cut, while the rest of us will see a tax increase,” he predicted. He also said the GOP leaders of the tax-writing House Ways and Means Committee, on which he sits, “will try to get this approved within a month.”

Whether all the Dems will stick together to derail both the budget blueprint and Trump’s tax cut is uncertain. Trump is putting pressure on Democratic senators up for re-election next year who hail from red states he carried – West Virginia’s Joe Manchin, North Dakota’s Heidi Heitkamp and Indiana’s Joe Donnelly – to yield. And both congressional Democratic leaders, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., were no-shows for the press conference.

The AFL-CIO also did not send a representative, but it joined with other groups in a letter the day before strongly opposing a provision in the Trump-GOP tax cut plan that would make corporate tax avoidance, offshoring and export of U.S. jobs easier.

“This is an incredibly bad idea. Ending taxation of offshore profits would give multinational corporations an incentive to send jobs offshore, thereby lowering U.S. wages. It would also be a giant loophole for corporations to use accounting gimmicks to move their profits to tax havens, resulting in the loss of billions of dollars in tax revenue for the United States,” the letter said.

“I’ve got to hand it to them. They’ve really outdone themselves this time. It must take a lot of effort to come up with an idea this bad,” federation President Richard Trumka said. “It takes a lot of nerve to propose tax incentives for offshoring and then try to fool people into thinking you’re doing the exact opposite. Up is down, black is white.  What a con job.”

“Trump talks like a populist, but governs like a plutocrat,” said Doggett.

Ellison was also blunt about what the rich and the corporations would do with added money they’d get if Congress enacts the Trump-GOP tax cut: Add to their clout in D.C., at the expense of the rest of us.

Gesturing to the sun-splashed Capitol behind him, Ellison said the rich and corporations “want to take the money and use it to buy more politicians in the building behind you.”

To stop the tax cut plan, “We have to buckle up and organize all over the country,” he declared.


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.