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Berry Craig: Kentucky Union Members Who Voted For Trump Are Having Buyers Remorse Now


By BERRY CRAIG

AFT Local 1360

Donald Trump carried all but two of Kentucky’s 120 counties, and he collected a whopping 62.5 percent of the vote.

Kentucky is among only a dozen states where the president’s popularity is 50 percent or higher. He’s at 51 in the Red State Bluegrass State.

Nationwide, Trump received votes from 43 percent of union households, according to a Roper poll. The survey didn’t break down the results state by state. The president probably did as well or better among Kentucky union households.

Anyway, go ahead and call it whistling past the graveyard. But the 51 percent number suggests that buyer’s remorse is creeping up in the border state I’ve called home for all my 68 years.

I’ve packed a union card for about two dozen years. Most of us in organized labor voted for Hillary Clinton, the AFL-CIO-endorsed Democrat. But I’m hearing about rumblings of regret in union ranks.

We said Trump was—and still is—a fraud and a con man. He ran on a standard Wall Street Republican platform with planks supporting:

— “right to work” (On the campaign trail, Trump said he preferred RTW states to non-RTW states.)

— repeal of the prevailing wage on federal construction projects

— deep cuts in Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid

— sharp rollbacks in federal regulations that safeguard worker safety and health on the job, protect consumers and shield the environment from polluters

— hefty tax breaks for corporations and rich people and tax crumbs for the rest of us

The Trump-Republican Robin-in-reverse tax bill came up at this month’s meeting of the Paducah-based Western Kentucky AFL-CIO Area Council, where I’m recording secretary.

“We’ve always preached that what’s good for the union is good for everybody, and it has been historically,” said delegate Jimmy Evans, IBEW Local 816 business manager.

He cited as proof the tax legislation, which AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka called in a statement “nothing but an attack on America’s workers.” He added, “We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits.”

The devil is always in the details. Under the tax bill, corporations can deduct payments to union-busting lawyers, but union members can’t deduct their union dues, according to the USW.

“Previously, employees could potentially write off work-related expenses that added up to more than 2 percent of their gross income, and for which an employer didn’t reimburse them,” explained CNBC’s Annie Nova.

Nova also wrote that the axing of “miscellaneous itemized deductions” for a lot of taxpayers might not sound like a big deal, but she cautioned that their disappearance “will leave a hole in many workers’ pockets, experts say.”

The end of those deductions “was a shot across the bow of union members,” Evans said. “But it also affects a lot of non-union members that work construction, just like it does our construction members.”

Nova also said workers can no longer deduct “work-related legal fees…medical examinations required by an employer, union dues and licenses.”

She quoted Seth Harris, a deputy labor secretary under President Barack Obama: “The really big story of the tax bill is that it favors capital over labor. It’s heavily skewed to benefit people who get money without working, as opposed to those who labor for a living.”

Harris also told her that many workers who itemize have a lot of different expenses — including mortgages — that would still make itemizing worth their while. He added that deductions for corporations are still abundant.

In addition, Nova quoted David Kamin, a law professor at New York University who was an economic policy advisor in the Obama administration: “While people can say there’s a doubling of the standard deduction, those who have significant unreimbursed business expenses will not do as well.”

She also interviewed Martin Davidoff, a New Jersey CPA and tax attorney who said it’s unfair that companies can still deduct the “so-called cost of doing business.”

“Take a look at McDonald’s,” he told Nova. “They spend $50 million on a Superbowl ad, and they get to deduct it.”

Tax attorney Paul Drizner said that under the tax bill, many teachers will be forced to choose between spending less on their classrooms or taking home less from their salaries. (Teachers can still can claim a $250 above-the-line deduction on unreimbursed workplace expenses if they itemize or not, according to Nova). “Teachers shouldn’t be paying out of their own pocket to put their lessons together,” said Drizner in the story.

Evans said it’s not just the tax bill that has union members rethinking the ballots they cast for Trump and other Republicans. “Now they’re wanting to get back on board and be on our side again. They see that those things we fought for is what helped them.”

I carry AFT and NEA/KEA retiree cards. More than a few community college and public-school teachers not only voted for Trump in 2016, they also cast ballots for GOP Gov. Matt Bevin the year before. (Most of us in AFT and KEA also voted for Jack Conway, the KEA and Kentucky State AFL-CIO-endorsed Democratic gubernatorial hopeful.

The fact that the president’s popularity rating in Kentucky is 11.5 percentage points lower that his victory margin suggests that many Trump backers regret their votes. We’ll know more in a Feb. 20 special House election in Bullitt County.

The incumbent, Republican Dan Johnson, took his own life. His widow, Republican Rebecca Johnson, who shares her late husband’s ultra-conservative views, wants to replace him. Her opponent is state AFL-CIO and KEA-endorsed Democrat Linda Belcher, whom Dan Johnson unseated in 2016.

KEA warned that the tea party-tilting Bevin could turn out to be the worst governor for public education in a long time, if not ever. Unions warned he was a union-buster to boot.

In 2017, he and his GOP-majority legislature pushed through a bill authorizing charter schools, which drain much-needed funds from public schools. (With Bevin cheering them on, GOP lawmakers also passed a “right to work” law and repealed the prevailing wage on state construction jobs.

Bevin’s proposed 2018 budget takes a meat-axe to education spending from kindergarten through higher education, including community colleges and state universities. He also wants to gut the workers’ compensation program.

Too, in the phony name of pension “reform,” Bevin has proposed a measure that would curb some benefits for current employees and retirees and force most new hires onto risky 401(a) programs.

Teachers are up-in-arms over the pension bill. (The GOP-majority House has been devising its own pension bill behind closed doors but has yet to release it.)

“It’s great to see all the educators getting involved,” Evans said. “But you know what it took to get them involved? Somebody is dipping his hand into their wallets.”

Evans hates to say, “we told you so,” but he reminded the delegates at our meeting that, all along, organized labor has been telling union members what politicians like Trump and Trump fan Bevin “want to do to them. It’s the same in our ranks. It’s taken politicians dipping into their wallets to get a lot of people re-engaged.”

 

Article originally appeared in the Kentucky AFL-CIO blog and reposted with permission.

Don’t Be Fooled By Walmart’s Promotional Stunt About Increasing Wages

This week the nations largest employer made national news by announcing they would raise their minimum wage to $11 an hour and provide a $1,000 bonus to 1.5 million American employees. They say that this move to increase wages and provide employee bonuses is all thanks to the Republican Tax Plan that President Trump signed into law this month.

However a closer review of this new announcement shows that it is all a publicity stunt.  They are also using the publicity stunt to cover up the news that they are closing 60 Sam’s Club stores across the country.

Making Change at Walmart director Randy Parraz explains what is happening in his statement: 

“While pay raises are usually a good thing, this is nothing but another public relations stunt from Walmart to distract from the reality that they are laying off thousands of workers and the ones who remain will continue to receive low wages. The fact is that Walmart is not permanently investing the estimated $2 billion it will receive annually from Trump’s tax giveaway to its workers – it is keeping almost all of it. This announcement is attempt to repair a crumbling image, while ignoring thousands of its workers who struggle year after year to pay their bills or depend on government assistance.

Once you crack the veneer, you see that Walmart’s wage increases does not raise hourly wages for many of its workers. Hourly wages for those workers making above $11 dollars will essentially stay the same. Workers will get a one-time bonus or raise, but not both.

Instead of taking Walmart at its word, we would hope that the Members of Congress, civic and state leaders, and the media, ask Walmart for actual facts about what this means for workers. Empty words will not lift Walmart workers out of poverty, an actual living wage will.”

Looking deeper into Walmart’s own statement you can clearly see that this is nothing more that publicity stunt to continue the myth that tax cuts somehow help corporations fuel wage increases.

The Wage Increase

Walmart’s press release further explains how this pay increase will into effect.

An increase in Walmart’s starting wage rate to $11 an hour, effective in the Feb. 17, 2018, pay cycle. The change is in addition to wage increases already planned for many U.S. markets in the coming fiscal year. The increase applies to all hourly associates in the U.S., including stores, Sam’s Clubs, eCommerce, logistics and Home Office.

Facing backlash over low-wages and protests from OUR-Walmart, Walmart announced they would raise wages from $7.25 to $9 in 2015 and raise them again to $10 in Feb of 2016.  Logic would dictate that a pay raise to $11 was overdue at this point.  Not to mention that Target, one of Walmart’s biggest rivals, announced last September that they would be raising their wages to $11 in January of 2018 and would continue to push wages up to $15 by 2020.

The Bonuses

Praising the newly passed tax cuts, Walmart said they would be giving out $1,000 bonuses to their “associates.”  As Parraz already explained, those bonuses are along going to the people who will not be getting a wage increase.  The devil is in the details.

“A one-time bonus benefiting all eligible full and part-time hourly associates in the U.S. The amount of the bonus will be based on length of service, with associates with at least 20 years qualifying for $1,000.”

So to qualify for one of Walmart’s generous bonuses, you would have to be a full-time employee, making more than $11 already and have at least 20 years with the company.  Since less than 50% of Walmart’s employees are full-time, combined with the high turnover of the retail industry, it really makes you wonder how many of Walmart’s 1.5 million employees will even see that bonus.

The Cost

There is no denying that raising wages and giving away bonuses is going to hit Walmart’s bottom line. But when you put it into perspective, it will not hurt them as much as you might think.

“This increase in wages to associates will take effect in February and will be approximately $300 million incremental to what was already included in next fiscal year’s plan. The one-time bonus represents an additional payment to associates of approximately $400 million,” said Doug McMillon, Walmart president and CEO.

That is $900 million dollars in payouts. Yes, that is a lot of money.  It looks like a ton of money.  However when you take into account that Walmart did $482 billion dollars in revenue last year and collected $13.6 billion in profits. $900 million is less than 10% of their profits. The wage increase would only be about 3% of their profits.

Maybe we should also take into account that in October of 2017, Walmart used $20 billion of its own profits to “buy back” their own stocks to artificially increase their stock prices.

Joe Ciolli from Business Insider wrote:

“Walmart is sweetening the pot for shareholders before its annual meeting, using the oldest trick in the book.

The retailer on Tuesday morning announced that it had authorized up to $20 billion in stock buybacks over the next two years. That’s a massive amount of capital to be allocated for repurchases, which are frequently used by companies to boost shares during times devoid of other positive catalysts.”

According to our research, that $20 billion dollars would do a lot for Walmart workers.

Layoffs

On January 12, the day after Walmart announced they would be increasing wages, they announced that they would be closing 63 (or 10%) of their Sam’s Club stores across the country.

“We know this is difficult news for our associates and we are working to place as many of them as possible at nearby locations,” said John Furner, president and CEO of Sam’s Club.

So far this year, Sam’s Club has closed two stores in my area and kicked 250 people out of a job.  Given both of the stores had about 125 employees, it would be safe to assume that nearly 8,000 workers are going to lose their jobs with the closing of these 63 stores.

The Tax Cuts

Walmart is praising the new Republican Tax Cuts for their ability to raise wages. Of course they neglect to mention that they spent millions lobbying Congress to oppose a minimum wage increase and to lower their corporate taxes.

The corporation will shed an estimated $2.2 billion dollars from their annual tax bill next year thanks to Republicans.  That cuts their tax bill by nearly 40%.  I won’t even go into how much the Walton Family is worth and how this tax bill will greatly benefit them. I will say that the Walton Family saved an estimated $670 million just because their income comes from dividends paid out from their Walmart stock holdings which are taxed at a drastically reduced rate compared to “regular income.”

So you see, Walmart the corporation is going to pocket $1.8 billion dollars this year in tax savings even after they spend $300 million to raise wages in their promotional stunt.

Do not be fooled by Walmart’s newly found generosity. They were going to raise wages anyway but now they can use this tax cut as a promotional stunt at the same time.  The Walmart executives are going to use this Tax Scam to line their pockets and continue to pay their low wages. Everyday.


After this post was first published, Walmart announced that they would be laying off an additional 3,500 “Co-Managers” and replacing them with lower paid “assistant manager” position.  Those who are being laid off are encouraged to apply for the new position.

Talk about a slap in the face.

Read more from ThinkProgress


Update: Original publication had the incorrect profit numbers. 

 

Sen Shaheen Blasts Republican Leadership For Putting Partisan Politics Above Working Families

In End-of-Year Remarks on Senate Floor, Shaheen Calls Out Republican Leadership for Prioritizing Partisan Tax Bill Over Needs of the Middle Class

(Washington, DC) — Today, U.S. Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) spoke on the Senate floor about Congressional Republican leadership’s dangerous and callous decision to prioritize partisan politics over the needs of the middle class. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the tax bill’s repeal of the Affordable Care Act’s (ACA) individual mandate means nearly 13 million fewer Americans will have health coverage. Shaheen also pointed out that Republican leadership has failed to enact long-term reauthorization of the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), the Community Health Centers program and the Special Diabetes Program, risking healthcare coverage for 9 million children, 25 million Americans and 1.25 million Americans living with type 1 diabetes, respectively.

During her remarks, Shaheen also argued that Republican leadership missed an important opportunity to address the nation’s severe opioid epidemic. Shaheen argued for a strong federal response, noting, “Just this week, we learned from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention that because of soaring overdose mortality rates, life expectancy in the United States has declined for the second year in a row… 63,000 died from overdoses in 2016. 63,000 people. If we were losing that many people to a war in the Middle East, there would be an outcry in this country. I want to know where the outcry is and when is this body going to act?”

She continued, “On Tuesday, the University of New Hampshire released a study that cited a fivefold increase over the past decade in our state on babies that were born addicted because of their parent’s substance use disorders. And yet in the face of this uncontrolled national public health emergency, the majority has once again failed to find appropriate funding.”

Shaheen urged her colleagues to return to bipartisanship and address the needs of working Americans, saying, “In the new year ahead, I hope to work with Senators on both sides of the aisle to address these urgent needs. The American people deserve better than this legislation. They also deserve a Senate that values bipartisanship, cooperation and compromise in the service of all Americans, not just our largest corporations and the wealthiest in this country.”

(Leo W Gerard) Offshorers Demand: No Taxes, No Risk

Ford is moving its electric vehicle factory to Mexico. PHOTO BY MIKE MOZART/FLICKR

Ford hit Michigan and its auto workers with some crappy holiday news. Instead of building a $700 million electric vehicle factory in Michigan as promised in January, Ford will construct the plant in Mexico.

Ford reneged on its promise to Michigan workers just days after the Senate passed a tax plan intended to end levies on corporate profits made at factories offshore – in places like Mexico. News of the letdown also arrived just days before new negotiations on a revised North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) are to begin in Washington, D.C.

Ford and other giant corporations got what they wanted out of Republicans on taxes, dramatically lower levies on domestic profits and total elimination on foreign profits. That makes Mexico an even more attractive manufacturing site for them than NAFTA did. So now they’re lobbying the Trump administration hard to retain the privileges that NAFTA bestowed on them. If they win that argument, they’ll have secured double incentives to offshore.

Trump administration officials don’t sound like they’re buying the corporate line, however. And they shouldn’t. NAFTA has cost Americans nearly a million jobs as thousands of factories migrated to Mexico. As he campaigned, President Trump promised untold numbers of factory workers and their families across the nation’s industrial belt that he would fix or end NAFTA to keep jobs and industry in America. He needs to keep that promise.

That means elimination of the Investor State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) scam that allows corporations to sue governments in secret courts presided over by corporate lawyers when legislatures pass laws corporations don’t like. That means standing strong on the Trump administration demands that the new pact expire in five years if it’s not working and that a substantial portion of automobiles – including Fords – be made in the USA to attain duty-free status. It means strong protection for workers’ right to organize and collectively bargain. It means substantially raising the Mexican minimum wage, which now stands at $4.70. That’s for a day, not an hour.

What it really means is prioritizing the needs of workers over the demands of corporations, something that was not done the first time around by NAFTA negotiators. As it stands now, NAFTA places all of the jeopardy on the shoulders of workers and communities while substantially eliminating normal business risks for corporations.

The jeopardy NAFTA created for workers is that its corporate-friendly provisions prompt employers to close American factories that sustain both workers and communities and move them to Mexico. This exodus of American manufacturing to Mexico has continued apace this year, even as the Trump administration began renegotiating NAFTA, probably because corporations assume they’ll get everything they want in the end. They have, after all, always done so in the past because they are, after all, massive political campaign donors and lobby firm patrons, while hourly workers are not.

Bloomberg reported in October, for example, that firms whose function it is to help corporations move factories from the United States to Mexico had a boom year in 2017, with one reporting it had done more offshoring this year than in any during the previous three decades.

Mexico is alluring because of its dirt-cheap wage rates, the paucity of environmental enforcement and the ISDS scam that lets corporations sue the government if Mexico would regulate in a way some CEO claims would crimp his profits.

The ISDS along with NAFTA’s unlimited lifespan reduce risk for corporations. Normal business decisions in capitalist systems involve some jeopardy. A chemical company could, for example, invest in developing a new pesticide, but then lose when the government bans the product after determining it kills babies as well as bugs.

NAFTA provides corporations with investment protection because it ensures they’ll get their profits even if a government changes regulations. ISDS enables corporations to sue to recoup money the corporations supposedly would have made if the government hadn’t issued new laws or regulations. The corporate-run court can order a country’s citizens to pay tens of millions to the corporation.

Some say this government-financed investment insurance corrupts capitalism. Among the significant people who have is U.S. Trade Representative Robert Lighthizer. He said corporations are insisting the government absolve CEOs of political risk. CEOs are using ISDS as a guarantee rather than buying risk insurance or factoring political risk into economic decisions about whether to move.

Lighthizer said businessmen have literally told him the administration cannot change ISDS because corporations wouldn’t have invested in Mexico without it. “I’m thinking,” he said, “‘Well, then, why is it a good policy of the United States government to encourage investment in Mexico?’”

These are the same corporate honchos who object to a five-year sunset clause for a new NAFTA, he said. They want a free eternal warranty on the provisions of a deal they describe as the world’s greatest. Lighthizer’s response is that if the deal is so great, why would the government choose to end it after five years? What are they really worried about?

The worry may be that those CEOs know NAFTA is great for their bottom line but not for the workers who elected Donald Trump President.

They know NAFTA was drafted by CEOs for CEOs. Its priorities were determined by corporate bigwigs behind doors closed to the public. Corporations designed it at the expense of workers and ordinary citizens, Joseph Stiglitz, the Nobel Prize winning economist, said in an op-ed in the Guardian newspaper this week.

It often seems, he wrote, “that workers, who have seen their wages fall and jobs disappear, are just collateral damage – innocent but unavoidable victims in the inexorable march of economic progress. But there is another interpretation of what has happened: one of the objectives of globalization was to weaken workers’ bargaining power. What corporations wanted was cheaper labor, however they could get it.”

U.S. corporations like Ford got it by writing a trade deal that gave them market-distorting profit protections, then abandoning their dedicated American workers and moving to Mexico where they could pay $4.70 a day and pollute unfettered.

President Trump has threatened to withdraw from NAFTA if his negotiators can’t get new reasonable terms that protect American manufacturing and American workers.

That is right. It’s appropriate that corporations like Ford sustain the actual risk of offshoring rather than workers bearing it all.

InZane Times: Corporations Got Their Tax Bill the Old-Fashioned Way

6,243 Lobbyists Or 11 Lobbyist For Every Member Of Congress,
Registered To Lobby Congress On Taxes In 2017

Remember a few years ago, when those talking about “tax reform” said they wanted to lower corporate tax rates, but would close loopholes to balance the impact? That’s not what’s in our stocking.

NPR says, “Trump might get the gift he’s been wanting for a while right before Christmas.” It’s not just a political gift; it’s a gift to the investor class, of which the president is, of course, a member.

But maybe “gift” is the wrong term. After all, the tax bill Congress will vote on this week is the result of untold hours of work by literally thousands of corporate lobbyists. Think of it more as return on investment, investment in political influence, that is.

According to a recent report from Public Citizen, “a total of 6,243 lobbyists have been listed on lobbying disclosure forms as working on issues involving the word “tax” in 2017. That equals 57 percent of the lobbyists who have reported any lobbying activity in 2017 and is equivalent to more than 11 lobbyists for every member of Congress.”

“Many of the discrete tax issues that these lobbyists and organizations have sought to influence are at the heart of the debate over the current legislation,” the group founded by Ralph Nader said in its report, “Swamped.” Corporate tax rates, repatriation of corporate profits, intra-organizational transfers of assets, depreciation rules and deductibility of interest were among frequently listed topics by the organizations that have hired the most tax lobbyists.”

The NY Times reported that the Business Roundtable, “desperate to remove the corporate alternative minimum tax, worked behind the scenes, calling lawmakers and raising concerns about how it would effectively kill the ability of companies to utilize the prized research and development tax credit.” They succeeded.

Remember Donald Trump saying on the campaign trail that “hedge fund guys are getting away with murder,” by using a tax break commonly known as the “carried interest loophole?” The loophole survived the “reform.”

The GOP bill ends taxation on most of the foreign-profits gained by so-called “American” firms, a measure that has long been on the agenda of the multi-national corporate lobby. Take a look at this 2013 report from the Heritage Foundation, which says a “territorial tax system would create jobs and raise wages.” The argument goes something like this: if multi-national corporations are taxed less on their foreign operations, they will have more incentive to invest in job-creating enterprises in the USA, and that will create jobs. In other words, take a walk on the supply side.

Not only could this have been predicted, it was. I’m currently reading People Get Ready: the Fight Against a Jobless Economy and a Citizenless Democracy,” by John Nichols and Robert McChesney, who single out the tax system as an example of the rigged system. “Americans are told that tax cuts for the wealthy and for multi-national corporations must simply be accepted on faith as the necessary cost of doing business in modern times,” they write.

“Speaker of the House Paul Ryan” they write, “has long been a supporter of the ‘territorial tax’ scheme, which would let US-based multi-national corporations avoid paying taxes on dividends they receive from foreign affiliates… Ryan is always pitching proposals to balance budgets on the backs of working people while opposing tax hikes for wealthy campaign donors and corporations.”

If you didn’t look at the title page, which says the book was published in 2016, you might think you were reading the morning news.

It’s not all over; there’s still a chance that two or more GOP Senators could rebel. If you live in Maine or Arizona, pick up the phone and call your Senators.

This article first appeared in InZane Times by Arnie Alpert

Disability Advocates Speak Out Against The GOP Tax Scam

Granite Staters return to New Hampshire and tell their stories after risking arrest in Washington D.C. protesting the GOP Tax Bill 

A delegation of Granite State disability rights and health care advocates who traveled to Washington, DC this week to protest the damaging Senate bill that guts Medicaid and Medicare for working families to fund massive tax breaks for the rich and corporations held a press briefing about the bill and their participation in a large-scale protest this week in the nation’s capital – which in some cases, included being arrested –  in Concord yesterday.

In a fast-tracked process that required Senators to vote on a 500-page draft bill with notes still in the margins, Senate Republicans passed a tax giveaway to the very wealthy and big corporations that will pave the way for massive Medicaid and Medicare cuts, strip 13 million Americans of health care coverage and increase insurance premiums by 10 percent for millions more. Millions of people with disabilities and seniors, working families, and children will be stuck with the bill and cuts to critical services and basic human rights all so the rich can get richer. Governor Chris Sununu has praised the bill as a “net positive.” 

The press conference highlighted the actual impact on middle and lower income Granite Staters and share the personal stories of those who traveled to Washington DC to protest it.

“I traveled to Washington D.C. to protest this bill because I know this bill will hurt the people who can least afford to be hurt, the struggling middle class and the working poor,” said Melissa Hinebauch, Human Rights Co-Chair of the Kent Street Coalition. The mother of three spoke out against the GOP Tax Bill highlighting the harm working families will suffer under the proposal.

Hinebauch also spoke about how the bill will add over $1 trillion dollars to the national debt while Senator Orin Hatch said “we no longer have the money” to fund essential programs like the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP). “This tax bill is just mean and heartless.”

Video of Melissa Hinebauch

“People with disabilities will be the hardest hit by this tax bill for the wealthy,” said Forrest Beaudoin-Friede a member of ABLE-NH who traveled also traveled to Washington D.C. to protest this GOP tax bill.  “This tax bill takes away tax credits that help small businesses become ADA (Americans with Disabilities) compliant. This credit is equal to half of their expenses above $250 dollars. This effectively raises taxes on small businesses who want to open their doors to both customers and workers with disabilities who need reasonable accommodations.”

“This bill will force cuts to Medicaid that will harm people with disabilities, like me, and some will die,” Beaudoin-Friede stated.

Eddie Gomez went to Washington to speak out against this tax bill on behalf of his seven year old nephew who suffers from the genetic disease, Muscular Dystrophy.   The program that helps Gomez’s sister, a single parent, is funded through charitable donations and receives no federal funding.

“This tax bill eliminates deductions for charitable contributions and discourages charitable giving while threatening enormous cuts to Medicare and Medicaid. How will my sister be able to afford the care for my nephew on a lower-middle class income?” asked Gomez.

Gomez explained that over 8 million working families used the medical device deduction, that would be eliminated under the GOP tax plan, to help offset the costs of high priced equipment and medical expenses.

Video of Forrest Beaudoin-Friede and Eddie Gomez members of ABLE-NH

“We are fighting against this ‘Reverse Robin Hood’ tax bill” said Lisa Beaudoin, Executive Director of ABLE NH.  This tax bill makes “deep cuts to a whole range of programs that are critical to people with disabilities.”

“This tax bill will be a slow death sentence to people with developmental disabilities,” she added.

Video of  Lisa Beaudoin, Executive Director of ABLE NH

This bill will cause “13 million people to lose their healthcare and increase the premiums of millions more,” said Zandra Rice-Hawkins, Executive Director of Granite State Progress.

The GOP Tax Bill passed the senate in a 51-49 party line vote and now moves to a committee of conference to hash out differences between the House and Senate versions of the bill.

Mark Fernald: Voodoo Economics

Supply-Side Economics: Fool Me Once, Shame on You; Fool Me Twice, Shame on Me; Fool me Three Times?  You Have Got to be Kidding.

Since the Reagan Administration, the Republican Party has been enraptured by what the first President Bush called “Voodoo economics:”  the ‘theory’ that tax cuts pay for themselves by boosting economic growth and tax receipts.

Republicans have acted on this misguided theory over and over, with the same results:  record-high deficits, soaring debt, and reduced economic growth in the long run.

The Reagan tax cuts caused huge deficits.  In the short term, the economy grew, as the borrowed money sloshed around the economy.  It was ‘morning in America.’  Or, as Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan put it, we borrowed a trillion dollars from the Chinese and threw a party.

When the party was over, we endured the severe recession of 1989-1991.  Nearly every major bank in New Hampshire failed.  The re-election campaign of the first President Bush failed along with the economy.

Our next Republican president, George W. Bush, copied the Reagan playbook:  huge tax cuts for the rich, a temporary rise in the economy, followed by the Great Recession.

Recent Democratic administrations provide the counterpoint to “voodoo” supply-side economics.

In 1993, President Clinton signed a tax increase on the rich.  Republicans claimed a tax increase would throw us into recession.  Not a single Republican in Congress voted for the Clinton plan.  What followed was the longest and strongest economic boom in American history, and the first balanced budget in a generation.

During the Obama administration, many of the George W. Bush tax cuts were allowed to expire, particularly the tax cuts for the wealthy.  Under Obama, we experienced nearly eight years of steady growth, during which time the unemployment rate and the deficit were cut by more than half.

The last 37 years of economic history present us with two stark choices:

  • Republican tax cuts, huge deficits and a temporary boost to the economy, followed by a bust.
  • Democratic tax increases on the wealthy, followed by steady growth, falling deficits, and no bust.

Incredibly, Republicans appear to be poised to repeat the failed policies of the past.  Their dream is a tax cut bill that gives its biggest gifts to large corporations and the wealthy, while increasing the deficit by “only” $1.5 trillion over the next ten years.

The point in reviewing economic history is not that all deficits are bad.  Temporary tax cuts, and temporary deficits, are standard macroeconomic practice when the economy is weak.  When tax cuts are permanent, so are the deficits, but the boost to the economy is temporary.  Increased government borrowing to fund the deficits pushes interest rates up, making business investment more expensive.  Short-term deficits can boost the economy out of recession, but long-term deficits harm the economy in the long run by crowding out private investment.

It is true that tax cuts could be paired with spending cuts.  But consider this:  excluding spending for Social Security and Medicare (which is increasing as the Baby Boomers retire), federal spending is a smaller part of our economy than at any other time over the last four decades.

Republican faith in tax cuts and ‘supply-side’ economics is so strong, it has killed off the traditional Republican fear of deficits.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Democrats claimed that deficits did not matter, passing one unbalanced budget after another.  The stagflation of the 1970s followed.

Republicans won the debate about deficits in the 1970s.  Deficits do matter.  But here’s the irony.  Democrats started talking about fiscal responsibility.  When they gained control in Washington, they acted to reduce the deficit.  Republicans kept railing against deficits, but when they gained control of Washington, in 1981 and again in 2001, fiscal responsibility went out the window and the deficit soared.

The current Republican plan began with a good idea:  a revenue-neutral simplification of the tax code that reduces deductions and loopholes, and lowers tax rates.  That good idea has been swamped by the mania for tax cuts, with no regard for the deficit.  If the Republican plan passes, we will cut taxes for the big corporations and the wealthy by at least $1.5 trillion, and we will borrow every penny needed to pay for those cuts.

We have a lot that needs fixing, including the tax code.  Unfortunately, we are stuck with this Congress until 2018.  They don’t do balanced budgets.  They don’t do hearings.  They don’t listen to experts.  They don’t do science. They do tax cuts for the wealthy, no matter what the cost.

 

Mark Fernald is a former State Senator and was the 2002 Democratic nominee for Governor.  He can be reached at mark@markfernald.com.

Leo W Gerard: GOP Goes for Win on Taxes, Consequences be Damned

An entire year of legislative defeats has grated on the GOP.

Getty Images/marvinh

Their promised Affordable Care Act repeal failed – again and again and again. Their Muslim ban was, well, banned by the courts. And now, in the waning days of November, their infrastructure bill, big beautiful border wall and brand new NAFTA are all missing.

Republicans have lost so much, they’re downright desperate for a win. And that’s why they’re pushing a tax scam supported by a mere 25 percent of Americans, according to the latest Quinnipiac Poll.

They’ve just got to rack up a win, consequences and American workers be damned. They’re so desperate that GOP Sen. Bob Corker, a self-described deficit hawk, agreed in committee Tuesday to send the bill to the floor for a vote after he got promises for changes. What he wants is cancellation of the bill’s tax breaks if they don’t stimulate economic expansion as Republicans say they will. The GOP keeps swearing the cuts will cause growth despite the fact that the Bush tax breaks didn’t and despite the fact that the Congressional Budget Office (CBO) projects the cuts will add $1.44 trillion to the deficit.

Some deficit hawk. But, hey, anything for a win.

Republicans are so desperate that they’re shoving this scam through what is supposed to be a deliberative process without any of that deliberation – without, for example, routine hearings or assessment by the Treasury Department or Joint Committee on Taxation. So there’s no bipartisan government evaluation of the GOP assertion that the tax breaks will generate economic growth sufficient to account for the massive revenue losses they’ll cause.

Americans hate this scam for good reason. And they do hate it. The latest Harvard-Harris survey showed 54 percent oppose it and the same percent say the scam is likely to hurt them financially. They know a swindle when they see one.

But Republicans feel like they’ve got to have a win. No matter what. Poor people, working people, old people be damned.

And damned they are by the GOP scam.

The GOP bill delivers massive tax cuts for the wealthy and corporations. The House version, for example, eliminates the estate tax. This is charged only on estates worth $5.49 million or more. So only the richest of the rich, the top 0.2 percent pay. And among the tiny number nationwide that owe estate tax in 2017, the average effective rate paid is less than 17 percent, according to the Tax Policy Center. That’s because the rich employ experts to exploit loopholes so they never pay the official rate of 40 percent.

In addition to generating essential funds for the federal government for more than a century, this tax prevents America from reverting into a kingdom dominated by royal dynasties whose pampered scions thrive by the merit of their grandfathers rather than by the sweat of their brows. This was the system Americans fought a revolution to escape.

But Republicans are voting to bring it back. Anything for a win.

Their scam also bestows on corporations the privilege of paying zero U.S. taxes on the profits of their foreign factories. So instead of the current 35 percent, or the new, low 20 percent rate that Republicans plan to award companies in their tax scam, corporations will pay nothing at all if they move manufacturing from Iowa to India or from Idaho to Mexico.

This will kill American manufacturing and American jobs. Factories will flee even faster to low-wage, high-pollution countries like China where Republicans will absolve them from paying any U.S. income taxes at all! Those Michigan and Ohio auto parts factories – gone. Those Pennsylvania and Illinois steel mills – gone. Those family-supporting jobs – shipped overseas by Republican tax policy.

Republicans are appeasing fat-cat CEOs and shareholders to get themselves a win on taxes. Family-supporting jobs be damned.

The fattest of those cats, the richest 1 percent, rake in 62 percent of the benefits of this tax con by 2027.  Many in the middle class will get tax cuts in the first few years too, but by 2027, their rates rise back up. At that time, this GOP tax fraud would stick 87 million families making less than $200,000 a year with tax increases.

But by then, by 2027, many of those Republicans will have left Congress to become overpaid lobbyists – the kind now demanding income redistribution from the pockets of the poor and middle class up and into the treasure chests of the wealthiest. The tax scam seems like a win for Republicans now, and secure job offers from lobby firms later.

The CBO has estimated that those tax breaks in the Senate GOP bill will dig a $1.44 trillion deficit over 10 years. This hole will be dredged by the party that spent 8 years while President Barack Obama was in office decrying anything that would increase the deficit by a penny. But policy consistency be damned. Anything for a win.

To keep the deficit “down” to $1.4 trillion, Republicans slash and burn programs vital to workers and the elderly like Medicare and the tax credit for student loans.  Democrats have estimated the tax scam will slash $470 billion from Medicare over 10 years. The CBO has estimated those cuts will start next year with $25 billion.

Worse though, is the real potential for Republicans to contend by year five or six, as their tax cuts for the rich and corporations gin up government debt, that programs workers cherish like Social Security and Medicaid must be gutted as well.

So what looks like a Republican win in 2017 could be a tragic loss to American workers by 2027.

Ok. The American people get it. Republicans have had a rough year. They are aching for a win. But doing the wrong thing just to do something is not a win. It’s a scam perpetrated on American workers.

Republicans Ram Through Their Tax Scam

Senators were given two hours to read the 400+ page bill before being asked to vote on it.

Unless you have been living under a rock for the last three days by now you have already heard that Republicans in the Senate rammed through their wildly unpopular tax proposal that will raise taxes on the middle class and strip healthcare from 13 million people. The bill would also raise our national deficit by over $1 trillion dollars over the next ten years.

“This partisan tax bill is a giveaway to corporate special interests, not something that will help the middle class,” said Senator Maggie Hassan. “I am extremely disappointed that my Republican colleagues passed a bill that non-partisan experts have shown will raise taxes on millions of hard-working families, increase health care premiums by 10 percent annually, and add $1.5 trillion to the national debt – all to give tax cuts to corporate special interests and the wealthiest few. There is strong bipartisan support for real tax reform that would benefit hard-working people and small businesses, but this is not that bill.”

“We need bipartisan tax reform to simplify our tax code, bolster the middle class, support small businesses and create jobs. But the partisan bill forced through the Senate and passed on a party-line vote failed to address any of these critical needs,” said Senator Jeanne Shaheen. “This legislation asks middle-class families to foot the bill for massive tax breaks for the wealthy and large corporations, and will have serious ramifications for Granite Staters who rely on important tax benefits that are eliminated under this bill. I am tremendously disappointed by the secretive manner in which Senate Republicans crafted this legislation, and I’m concerned about how the middle class, seniors, homeowners, teachers and so many others will suffer as a result of this legislation. As the tax overhaul process moves forward, I’ll continue to push for bipartisanship and to protect essential New Hampshire priorities, including the state and local tax deduction and the student loan interest deduction.”

The Republican tax bill will add nearly $1.5 trillion to the national debt and make most families who earn less than $75,000 a year pay more in taxes by 2027. According to the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office, by 2019, Americans earning less than $30,000 a year will be worse off. The bill would lead to $25 billion in cuts from Medicare, harming seniors, and repeals part of the Affordable Care Act, which will raise healthcare costs and leave more Americans uninsured. Additionally, the Republican tax plan could prevent homeowners in New Hampshire from deducting state and local taxes and increase the tax burden on work-study students at colleges and universities.

“At a moment when 10,000 Americans are turning 65 every day, members of the Senate have stolen the retirement health benefits that Americans have earned over a lifetime to provide an unneeded windfall to the top 1%. They seem determined to create a retirement crisis that will take decades to reverse,” said Richard Fiesta, Executive Director of the Alliance for Retired Americans.

“The GOP tax bill that passed the Senate by one vote is nothing but an attack on America’s workers,” said Richard Trumka, President of the AFL-CIO. “We will pay more, corporations and billionaires will pay less. It’s a job killer. It gives billions of tax giveaways to big corporations that outsource jobs and profits.”

“President Trump said that he wanted to lower taxes for everyone as a Christmas gift to America, but this bill is simply a lump of coal to working families across the country. The only real gift is the major tax giveaways to Wall Street, big corporations and the super-rich, when what our country needs is investment in our schools and infrastructures that creates jobs,” Trumka added.

“In voting to give a tax break for millionaires, billionaires, and wealthy corporations, Senate Republicans have made an enemy for themselves in their own constituents,” said Tax March Executive Director Nicole Gill. “As a result of this monstrous bill, 87 million middle-class families would pay more in taxes so that Republicans can reward their rich donors with even more unearned tax breaks. Not only would working families see their own taxes go up, this bill threatens massive cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and critical funding for programs that hardworking Americans rely on. Senators who voted for this scheme should be ashamed and will not avoid the repercussions from voters – we won’t forget.”

“The bill passed today is nothing more than a giveaway to the richest households and corporations, period,” said Josh Bivens, of the Economic Policy Institute. “It will raise taxes on many low- and moderate-income households, and the deficits it will leave in its wake will be used to attack Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid—a strategy clearly telegraphed by both the Republican budget resolution from last month as well as by Senator Rubio more recently. Besides lying about who would benefit most directly from the tax cut, defenders of today’s bill have also lied about the trickle-down benefits that will accrue to workers in the form of higher wages. Simply put, this bill will not raise wages for typical workers—but it will deny health insurance to 13 million workers, a measure Senate Republicans included to help contain the overall cost of giving large tax cuts to rich households and corporations. This bill is a scam through-and-through.”

For years Republicans in the Senate have used the “Debt and Deficit” as a way to justify their votes against a variety of bills. They even shut down the government for almost two weeks because they refused to raise the debt ceiling. Yet, all of those issues seemed to disappear as they voted to increase the national debt by over $1 trillion dollars.

The Concord Coalition is a right-leaning government watchdog group that is focused on reducing the national debt and opposes these cuts.

The Concord Coalition said today that the tax legislation considered by the Senate is based on flawed economics, reckless fiscal policy and blatant budget gimmickry. It would worsen the nation’s fiscal outlook and introduce new complexities in the tax code at a time when policymakers should be aiming to lower deficits and make the tax code more efficient.

“This is the wrong bill at the wrong time,” said Robert L. Bixby, Concord’s executive director. “Like its counterpart in the House, the Senate’s tax bill is based on the flawed premise that another trillion dollars or more of new debt is needed to spur higher economic growth.”

He added: “The economy does not need short-term stimulus from a major tax cut at this time. And over the long term, adding more debt to the already unsustainable path of current fiscal policies would act as a restraint on future growth. Revenue-neutral tax reform would not have this problem.”

Because the Senate version and the House version are different, a committee of conference will be created to iron out the details before it must come back for an “up and down” vote.

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