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Republican tax bills are theft from working people


(Nov. 29, 2017) — By now you have a clear sense that the tax proposals by Republicans in Congress create a permanent shift in wealth from the public sector to corporations and the very wealthy. And yes, the working class — poor and middle — will receive some temporary tax breaks but will end up paying more in taxes and getting less in services in several years.

These Republican proposals will also exacerbate the offshoring of corporate investments and U.S. jobs, create further fiscal crisis in many states and localities deepening our inability to adequately fund education and infrastructure improvements, and 13 million Americans will lose their health insurance and health insurance premiums will rise for many.

But that’s not the most insidious part of the plan!

Here is how Paul Ryan put it at a recent National Review forum, “We are on the cusp of doing something that we have long believed in.”

That something is no less than completing the task of destroying the New Deal and Great Society programs that have formed the core of our social safety net and common wealth. Ryan calls it “entitlement reform,” but we need to call it what it is — outright theft from seniors, the sick, the disabled, the poor, and everyday working Americans. He, along with Senator McConnell and President Trump, want to shift the common wealth of society to the individual wealth of their corporate donors.

If this trio of corporate shills are successful they will have accomplished what Grover Norquist set out to do 30 years ago, which is “not to abolish government… (but) to reduce it to the size where I can drag it into the bathroom and drown it in the bathtub.”

Now we don’t need Sherlock Holmes to figure this out. If they shift public wealth to the corporate wealthy and balloon the U.S. deficit/debt by a staggering $1.5 trillion over the next 10 years, then they have created their justification for cutting Medicaid, Medicare, Social Security, Veterans Benefits, education spending, infrastructure expenditures, etc.

The ultimate kick in the pants is when they push through austerity budgets after they have given all the tax money away to the rich. “What else can we do,” they will argue, “we can’t afford the benefit levels provided by these entitlements.”

If any of us fall for that then what P.T. Barnum allegedly said is true, “There is a sucker born every minute.”

The raw truth is that America is not taxed enough!

Now before you tell me I’m full of it, hear me out.

I am not suggesting that the poor and working class pay more in taxes. Though, if in return, they didn’t have to worry about health care costs, the cost of living when unemployed, keeping a roof over their heads, or retiring with enough income to live in dignity, then that would be a different story.

The problem facing the working class is not that we are taxed too much, but that our wages and benefits are way too low. Real wages have been stagnant for several decades and not enough family wage union jobs have been created, widening and deepening the economic insecurity felt by the majority of workers. And the magnitude of income and wealth inequality has never been greater in our country.

This type of deep and prolonged economic insecurity makes populism, progressive or regressive, true or false, attractive. Unfortunately, the 2016 elections ushered in the false populist. We got the one who makes false promises about the economic revival for the coal industry, taking on Corporate America, providing better health care than the Affordable Care Act, and that tax cuts for banks, corporate America, and the wealthy will create economic growth.

If we are to truly rebuild our transportation, maritime, housing, and energy infrastructure, if we are to really make the transition to a clean, renewable energy economy, if we are to build the best educational system possible (pre-K through apprenticeship and other 2- and 4- year higher education programs), if we are to build a Medicare-for-All health care system, and if we are to build a 21st century safety net, then we need to raise more public money, more taxes — not less.

And yes, Corporate America and the wealthy will have to pay their fair share. They will have to pay higher wages and benefits, bring corporate money home and invest in good jobs in the United States, stop their efforts to take away the voice of unions, stop their efforts to suppress the votes of people of color, and yes, they will have to pay significantly higher taxes, not less.

What is happening in Congress right now is not about which tax breaks get eliminated and which ones stay on the books, or whether tax breaks will be temporary or permanent, but whether we will rebuild our economy and society on the basis of equity and equality or whether we will continue be divided by race, gender, income, and class.

Please call Sens. Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell, as well as our entire House delegation, and tell them to oppose this historic shift in wealth away from the public sector to corporate and wealthy individuals’ pockets.

Jeff Johnson is President of the Washington State Labor Council, AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the Evergreen State, representing the interests of more than 600 local unions and 450,000 rank-and-file union members.

CHECK OUT THE UNION DIFFERENCE in Washington: higher wages, affordable health and dental care, job and retirement security.

FIND OUT HOW TO JOIN TOGETHER with your co-workers to negotiate for better wages, benefits, and a voice at work. Or go ahead and contact a union organizer today!