Looming vote on tax cut for the rich leads to mobilization
Resist Arizona

WASHINGTON—With the Senate planning to vote on the massive GOP tax cut for the rich by or before the end of November, unions and progressive groups cranked up their campaign to convince enough dubious lawmakers to vote “no” and kill it.

Urged on by leaders such as the Teachers’ Randi Weingarten and Lily Eskelsen-Garcia of the National Education Association, testimony from people who’d get hurt, and e-mail blasts from Democracy for America, Indivisible.org, and Moms Rising, constituents responded with phone calls and e-mails to Capitol Hill.

Tax cut foes got extra ammunition on Nov. 21, when non-partisan sources’ analysis of the Senate GOP’s bill revealed it would, by 2025, lower taxes on the rich but raise them for more than half of the U.S. population at all other income levels.

The GOP tax cut also could take away health care coverage from 13 million people, the non-partisan Joint Committee on Taxation warns.

Mobilization is what’s needed now. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., plans to pass the tax bill by Nov. 30 using special budget “reconciliation” rules. They require only 50 Republican votes for it, plus Vice President Mike Pence as a tie-breaker. The rules bar Democrats and independents from talking it to death with a filibuster.

McConnell has only 52 GOP senators to work with. One, Wisconsin’s Ron Johnson, already unexpectedly defected. He says it gives too much to big business and not enough to small business. Several other Republicans—notably Maine’s Susan Collins—are on the fence.

In lobbying Collins, the Maine People’s Alliance, which includes the state AFL-CIO, neatly summed up the tax bill’s impact: “The rich will get richer and the sick will get sicker.”

In urging resistance to the tax cut for the rich, other leaders and groups offered more details.

“Donald Trump and the GOP leadership are laser-focused on pushing through their so-called tax reform plan. I call it their ‘tax scam,’” said Weingarten.

“Most congressional Republicans are siding with big business, big-time, at the expense of America’s hardworking working- and middle-class families,” she added. Even McConnell and House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis. “will admit this is going to raise the taxes of a large number of middle-class families”—those earning less than $75,000 yearly, the Joint Committee says.

The tax hike would be $6,167 next year alone for a typical middle-class family, Weingarten said, quoting another foundation analysis. “Your members of Congress need to hear from you. Write them now and tell them to oppose the GOP tax scam.”

Democracy for America echoed those points and added its own, saying the tax cut would blow such a big hole in the federal budget that “sequestration”—mandated cuts in spending—would kick in and cost Medicare and Medicaid billions of dollars.

“Republicans are out to rig the tax system to benefit big corporations and wealthy individuals even more than it already is—but if we mobilize right now, we can stop them. As we saw with Trumpcare this summer, we just need a few Republican senators to flip and vote no in order to stop this horrible tax plan,” DFA Senior Campaign Manager Robert Cruickshank added. He appealed for phone calls to the GOP senators.

“Hypocrisy is at the heart of the” Senate’s tax plan, said NEA’s Eskelsen-Garcia, a 6th grade teacher from Salt Lake City. Her state’s senior senator, Republican Orrin Hatch, chairs the Finance Committee that approved the bill on a party-line vote in mid-November.

Hatch’s bill “reveals the ill-conceived and misguided priorities of Republican leaders in Washington,” she added. “Their plan takes from working families and students to pay for tax giveaways to corporations and the wealthy: it eliminates the state and local deductions for people but keeps it for corporations. It leaves 13 million Americans without health insurance while cutting tax rates for corporations and boosting the incomes of wealthier people.

“It is irresponsible to put funding for 370,000 education jobs at risk” through budget cuts needed to pay for the tax bill. “It is outrageous to give massive tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations paid for by students and working families. This is not normal. This is a terrible bill for the American people and Congress should soundly reject it.”

NEA also drew pungent comments against the tax cut on social media. “New tax bill in a nutshell: Jet owners can write off jets. Teachers can’t write off school supplies,” Zach Braff tweeted. He drew 59,722 retweets and 124,459 likes. One, teacher Deborah Clark, replied: “I spend $500-$1000 annually” on school supplies for her kids “and get to claim $250. Not even that if this goes through. I need a damn jet apparently.”

After listening to their president, Mary Kay Henry, campaign against the bill, the Service Employees mobilized rank-and-file members to talk about how the GOP tax cut would hurt them.

“I have sacrificed and worked very hard to build a decent, yet modest life for my family. I often work extra hours so my wife can stay home and take care of our son, who is disabled,” University of Miami janitor Antonio Vento, a member of 32BJ told the union. “Trump’s tax plan will raise taxes for working people like me and threatens benefits my son depends on. This isn’t a middle-class tax cut. This is an attack on hard-working people who are doing our best to build a good life for our families.”

Labeling the tax cut the “#TrumpTaxScam,” the Center for American Progress told members to make the bill’s defeat their “action of the day.”

“Next week the Senate votes on a tax bill that raises taxes, increases health premiums, and causes 13 million Americans to lose health coverage. These tax hikes and cuts will be used to finance tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations. With Members of Congress home for Thanksgiving, find a rally, local town hall, or protest near you at ResistanceNearMe.org and oppose tax cuts for the wealthy paid for by the rest of us,” CAP said.

And The Stand, the newspaper of the Washington State Labor Council, reported the tax cut bill had an extra slam against the Pacific Coast states, including Alaska. That state’s senior GOP senator, Lisa Murkowski, is undecided.

But on Nov. 21, Murkowski said she backs the bill’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate—the fine people pay if they don’t buy health insurance. That repeal would lead to the 13-million person drop off of health care rolls, the Joint Committee says.

“The congressional tax bills could cost Western states $1.3 billion annually in federal oil, gas, and coal payments—funds those states use to pay for roads, schools, firefighters, and other public services. Automatic sequestration cuts triggered by the tax bill would zero out all mineral leasing payments made to states over the next decade,” The Stand reported.


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.