D-Day upon us: People reject GOP tax cut for the rich
AP image.

WASHINGTON—If it is possible to make a bad tax cut bill, tilted 80 percent towards the rich, worse? The Senate’s ruling Republicans just did that.

And, citing the GOP’s latest brainstorm addition – throwing 13 million people out of health care and increasing health insurance premiums for everyone else by 10 percent a year – speakers at a November 15 Capitol rally urged lawmakers to “Kill the bill!”

The specter of such damage, along with other harms from the legislation, HR1, brought a parade of congressional Democrats plus National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen-Garcia to lead crowd of hundreds in “Not One More Penny” chants against the Republican legislation, while highlighting its harms to the middle class.

But for all their fervor, the GOP-run U.S. House plans to pass the tax cut on a party-line vote this week, possibly even today.

With all voting House Democrats opposing HR1, its foes – including Communications Workers attending the rally – need around two dozen Republican defections to succeed in killing the bill. So far, informal counts show only eight GOP foes of the bill, seven of them from New York and New Jersey.

The latest addition to the tax bill, unveiled by Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., would repeal the $700 tax imposed on people who do not get health insurance through their employers, federal programs or the Affordable Care Act’s exchanges.

Repeal of the “individual mandate” would raise some $338 billion over a decade, to help offset the $1.5 trillion in red ink the Republicans’ tax cut for the rich would produce, not counting interest on the debt.

The non-partisan Congressional Budget Office calculated repeal would lead to millions of healthy, younger people dropping insurance, forcing a 10 percent yearly rise in premiums for everyone else. That would make insurance even more expensive than it is now, leading to more dropouts.

The combination brought the protesters against the tax cut to Capitol Hill, on the eve of the key House vote on the GOP scheme on November 16. And unions, including the Steelworkers, the Teamsters, the Communications Workers and the AFL-CIO, urged members to redouble their efforts by phone and e-mail against the legislation.

“It’s a classic bait-and-switch,” Eskelsen-Garcia, a Salt Lake City elementary teacher who heads the nation’s largest union, told the crowd.

The bait she referred to is the doubling of the personal exemption, to $12,000 per taxpayer. The switch is elimination of deductions for everything from state and local taxes to home mortgage and student loan interest to medical care to even the $250 teachers may take for buying pens, pencils, sharpies and “breakfast bars for hungry kids,” she said.

“For most of us who, like me, had to take out student loans to get through college, this matters,” she said of one deduction the GOP would axe. And the $250 deduction for teachers rarely goes far enough, and certainly “not when I have to buy my class of 39 6th-graders each a copy of Charlotte’s Web,” a children’s book classic.

The GOP majorities in Congress also want to cut the printed corporate tax rate from 35 percent now to 20 percent. But thanks to deductions and credits – which would remain in their legislation for firms – most companies pay far less in percentage terms.

The measure would kill other personal deductions regular taxpayers use, while leaving the same breaks in place for corporations. The dead deductions would include those for health care expenses, state and local taxes, charitable contributions and losses to hurricanes, floods and other disasters. That led Rep, Lloyd Doggett, D-Texas, to dub the denial of medical expenses “the Alzheimer’s deduction” that would get killed.

“When big business is already pocketing sky-high profits and the top 1 percent are seeing their incomes significantly grow, it is confounding why Congress would focus on increasing their wealth at the expense workers,” Teamsters President Jim Hoffa said in a statement. “Working Americans would see much-needed deductions for medical costs ended under this legislation. The bill would also cap deductions on local and state taxes as well as home mortgages, deductions that middle-class families rely on.’

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center calculated 80 percent of the measure’s benefits would go to the 1 percent. And HR1 not only cuts corporate tax rates, but would let corporations offshore profits and virtually completely escape taxes.

The combination led House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., to exclaim the GOP tax cut bill puts the U.S. on the road to being “a plutocracy of the wealthy and the powerful at the expense of the American people.” And Rep. Keith Ellison, DFL-Minn., said the rich would either pocket the proceeds or “use the money to buy influence right here” in the Capitol building “and to corrupt politicians” or produce “more and more mergers” and monopolies.

But rallies in D.C. won’t kill the tax cut bill, Ellison and Rep. Rosa DeLauro, D-Conn., warned the crowd. Pressure from home will. That pressure already led another speaker, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., to pledge his chamber’s Dems would totally resist the bill.

“We need your voices,” DeLauro declared. “We need your voices” to campaign for funds not to cut taxes for the rich but “to create good-paying jobs that can’t be outsourced.”

“They won’t raise your pay and they’ll offshore your jobs,” if HR1 becomes law, Ellison predicted. “But it is external pressure on the institution that makes it move. Keep up the noise. Keep up the pressure. Say ‘no’ to them now – and say ‘no’ next November.”

An earlier posting of this article included an inappropriate photo in error. This was caught by an alert reader! Thank you. Editors


Mark Gruenberg
Mark Gruenberg

Award-winning journalist Mark Gruenberg is head of the Washington, D.C., bureau of People's World. He is also the editor of the union news service Press Associates Inc. (PAI). Known for his reporting skills, sharp wit, and voluminous knowledge of history, Mark is a compassionate interviewer but tough when going after big corporations and their billionaire owners.