WASHINGTON - A coalition of unions and progressive groups, led by the AFL-CIO, AFSCME and the Service Employees, launched a grassroots effort to end the Bush tax cuts by the end of this year.
The cuts, which mostly benefit the top two percent of the population, are scheduled to sunset then, but House Speaker John Boehner, R-Ohio, wants to keep them all.
The Coalition for Tax Fairness wants to keep the cuts that help the middle class and anyone else making up to $250,000 yearly, Democratic President Barack Obama's original proposal. Other ideas floating around would raise that upper limit to $1 million, by House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.
"We established Americans for Tax Fairness to help make the economy work for all," said its campaign manager, Frank Clemente. "To achieve this goal, we need adequate levels of investment in critical areas like education and rebuilding infrastructure that create and sustain jobs. We also need a balanced and equitable approach to the federal budget challenges we face, which includes protecting critical services for the middle class and the most vulnerable. This requires that we all pay our fair share of taxes, especially big corporations and the richest two percent."
Raising the upper limit to $1 million would wipe out 43 percent of the overall gains - $400 billion over a decade - that could be used on either rebuilding the country or closing the federal budget deficits, a Citizens for Tax Justice study shows.
"AFSCME strongly supports President Obama's call for ending the tax breaks for income over $250,000 for joint filers and $200,000 for single filers, and has joined with other progressive allies in calling on Congress to end the Bush tax breaks for the richest two percent," political staffer Ed Jayne said.
The coalition wants to use the funds gained by letting the Bush tax cuts die for infrastructure and education "to create and sustain jobs," Jayne added. "This requires that everyone pay their fair share of taxes, including big corporations and the richest two percent with incomes above $250,000 a year."
Besides the AFL-CIO, AFSCME, and SEIU, other unions in the coalition are the National Education Association, AFGE and Working America. Progressive groups in the coalition include the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights, the National Council of La Raza, United for a Fair Economy, and the National Women's Law Center.
Photo: Teachers protest tax breaks for the rich. Rich Pedroncelli/AP