Category Archives: Austerity

‘Anti-Trump Rhetoric Not Enough’: Bold, Progressive Agenda Demanded for 2018

“We must act together. And we must act strategically. 2018 is the year the people fight back like never before.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 1-1-2018

“Empty platitudes and anti-Trump rhetoric is not enough to win seats in Congress,” said Rep. Ro Khanna (D-Calif.). (Photo: Molly Adams/Flickr/cc)

As Republicans and President Donald Trump turn toward the new year with destruction on their minds, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) joined a chorus of voices in expressing the urgent need to reach beyond merely resisting the right’s agenda and articulate an inspiring alternative that will sweep progressives into positions of power.

“Here is a New Year’s resolution I hope you will share with me,” Sanders wrote on Twitter just before midnight on Sunday. “In 2018, we will not only intensify the struggle against Trumpism, we will increase our efforts to spread the progressive vision in every corner of the land.” Continue reading

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Trump’s Christmas Gift to Himself: Study Details How President Will Profit Off GOP Tax Bill

Americans for Tax Fairness found that Trump could save “at least $11 million a year and perhaps as much as $22 million” from GOP tax plan he just signed

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-25-2017

Photo: YouTube

President Donald Trump has repeatedly described the Republican tax bill he signed into law on Friday as “an incredible Christmas gift” to low-income and middle class Americans—despite the numerous analyses showing that the legislation will ultimately raise taxes on millions in the middle class.

The president hasn’t, however, called the tax bill a massive “check to himself.” But a new study (pdf) published on Friday by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) demonstrates that this would, in numerous ways, be a more accurate description of the $1.5 trillion plan. Continue reading

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#CorkerKickback Trends After Last-Minute Tax Giveaway Benefiting GOP Lawmakers Exposed

“He promised he wouldn’t vote for a deficit increase… Then traded his leverage for cold hard cash.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 12-17-2017

Senator Bob Corker. Photo: US Senate (Public domain)

Though many initially shrugged it off as just the last domino to fall in terms of ending the myth that any Republican Party lawmaker actually ever gave a whiff about the deficit, increasing evidence on Sunday reveals that Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) dropped his opposition to the GOP tax proposal after the last-minute inclusion of a provision that would directly enrich him, President Trump, and other members of Congress who hold substantial financial interests in the real estate market.

As David Sirota and Josh Keefe first reported for the International Business Times on Friday night: Continue reading

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We started a revolution over this once

Do you remember voting for lobbyists to decide who pays what in taxes? We don’t.

Photo: Daniel Huizinga/flickr

On Friday night, the Senate passed their version of the #GOPTaxScam. The bill, all 479 pages of it, was presented to the full Senate just hours before the vote. The vote was along party lines, with the one dissenting vote among the Republicans coming from Senator Bob Corker of Tennessee.

So, what was in this bill, and why did they vote on it before all the Senators could actually read through the bill? We’re glad you asked. First, what’s in it.

A lot of the bill is what you’d expect. For example:

  • The top individual rate is reduced from 39.6% to 38.5%, and the threshold at which the top rate kicks in is increased from $418,000 for a single/$480,000 for married filing jointly to $500,000/$1,000,000
  • The estate tax exemption is doubled, to $11 million for a single taxpayer and $22 million for married taxpayers.
  • The corporate rate is reduced from 35% to 20%.
  • The top rate on the income earned by owners of “flow through” businesses — S corporations and partnerships — is reduced from 39.6% to a shade below 30%.

Questions about these measure that we were forced to ask include; how is it that corporations are able to keep the tax deductions that have now been excluded from individual tax bases? Why is the corporate tax is now LOWER than the top individual rate? If corporations are people too, why is there ANY difference in these tax rates?

Then, there’s the “Why are these items in a tax bill, anyways?” parts. These include:

  • A provision that explicitly allows parents to use tax-free college savings plans, known as 529s, for a “child in utero.” This is essentially a personhood bill, setting a precedent for the legal definition of life beginning at conception.
  • The bill repeals the Johnson Amendment, which bans non-profit groups from engaging in political activism. This would mean that churches and the like could actively engage in elections without disclosing individual donors; think of it as Citizens United on steroids. This serves the purpose of blurring the lines between the separation of church and state, allowing the churches to donate and promote individual candidates in local and national elections, all while cloaked under the donation secrecy this provision allows.
  • Eliminating the individual mandate of the ACA. While this actually does deal with taxes (the fine for not being insured is paid as part of your taxes), removing the mandate means that younger and healthier people won’t buy insurance until they need it. These are the people who currently offset the cost of providing healthcare to the older and sicker people. Without this in place, premiums will rise dramatically more than the anticipated 10% over the next 10 years.
  • A provision that would open part of Alaska’s Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, or ANWR, to oil and gas exploration. While this would raise revenue, it only amounts to $2 billion over the next ten years, at the cost of almost assuredly ruining the local environment and ecosystem. Additionally, it is worded in such a way that it is actually ILLEGAL to not drill, forcing Alaska to accept ANY drilling permits and fields desired.

Of course, the individual tax cuts are set to expire, meaning that the middle class will see a tax increase. And, what’s going to pay for these? The GOP mantra’s always been that tax cuts pay for themselves, but others, such as Marco Rubio, have already admitted that the tax reform is part one of a two-step process designed to defund and eventually dismantle Medicaid, Medicare and Social Security; the very programs designed to help the elderly, disabled and poorest members of American society.

Now obviously, a lot of these proposals don’t sit well with the electorate. So, why the rush to pass it? The GOP needs a victory. Even with controlling both houses of Congress and the White House, this administration’s been notably inept in getting meaningful things accomplished. Furthermore, the GOP donor class has stated that the campaign money will dry up if they don’t get the tax cuts they want.

Photo: Represent.US

So, who came up with most of the amendments? Lobbyists. Out of the 11,000 registered lobbyists in Washington, more than 6,000 said that they worked on taxes this year. That works out to 11 lobbyists for each member of Congress. Do you remember electing lobbyists to write our laws? We sure don’t.

We still have a chance to stop this. The House and Senate bills now go to a conference committee. The bill that comes out of that will need to be passed by both houses. The healthcare fiasco this summer proves that if we’re loud and persistent enough, our message gets through. And, with the bill only having 37% approval before the vote, there’s enough of us to make the message get through.

And what if it doesn’t? The last time that the GOP had won control of both houses and the presidency before 2016 was 1928. The new tax bill looks even more extreme than the policies put into place by the Republicans after the 1928 election. Does anybody remember what happened in 1929?

Another annoying historical factoid that you may wish to remember at a time like this: 244 years ago, a group of people decided that they weren’t going to pay taxes without proper representation, and what became known as the Boston Tea Party took place. This in turn led to a revolution, and the founding of this country.

“Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” – George Santayana

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‘Kill the Bill, Don’t Kill Us’: Protesters Arrested as GOP Push Senate Tax Bill Forward

Resistance groups hold protests across country as Republicans clear committee vote, advancing bill to Senate floor

By Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-28-2017

Photo: Brynna Quillin/Twitter

As the Senate Budget Committee debated the Republican tax bill on Tuesday before passing the proposal in a 12-11 vote, about a dozen people were arrested after disrupting the meeting to demand that senators reject the bill.

The demonstrators chanted, “Kill the bill, don’t kill us,” repeating the refrain that was commonly heard in protests against the Republicans’ plan to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) over the summer. Continue reading

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All Evidence Shows #GOPTaxScam Is Horrible. Only Question: Can It Be Stopped?

“No good can come of this plan unless you are wealthy or a corporation.”

By Jon Queally, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-18-2017

Photo: LinkedIn

While informed critics and experts say they are now “running out of adjectives to describe how horrible” the GOP’s House and Senate tax plans are, the evidence continues to mount showing the manner in which the party’s overall approach is a gift to the rich and corporations at the expense of low- and middle-income families, millions of whom who will see their taxes actually go up while key social programs like public education, Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security will face massive cuts.


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House Approves $700B ‘Cash Cow for Weapons Companies’—But Single Payer ‘Too Expensive’

“What if we tell House Republicans and Democrats that North Korea wanted to close schools, take our healthcare away and pump CO2 into our air—we could suddenly, magically find $700 billion dollars for all of it.”

By Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-15-2017

“This is a massive cash cow for weapons companies, nothing more,” writes Alex Emmons of The Intercept. (Photo: mariordo59/Flickr/cc)

In a bipartisan show of support for endless war and out-of-control military spending, the House of Representatives on Tuesday overwhelmingly approved the nearly $700 billion National Defense Authorization Act of 2018 that aims to boost war outlays by $80 billion—an amount that critics noted would easily cover the costs of free public college tuition and other initiatives that are frequently dismissed as too expensive.

The final vote tally was 357-70, with 127 Democrats throwing their support behind the bill. Sixty-seven Democrats—including Reps. Barbara Lee of California, Keith Ellison of Minnesota, and John Conyers of Michigan—voted against the legislation. Continue reading

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In ‘Twisted’ Push, Trump Admin Encourages States to Impose Work Requirements for Medicaid

Healthcare experts warn changes would jeopardize healthcare for poorest and most vulnerable Americans

By Jessica Corbett, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 11-7-2017

Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, and U.S. President Donald Trump met in March 2017 in the Oval Office of the White House. (Photo: Shealah Craighead/White House)

In a move called “twisted” and “absolutely awful” by healthcare experts, Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) administrator Seema Verma said Tuesday that the Trump administration will encourage states to force work requirements on people enrolled in Medicaid.

In a speech to the National Association of Medicaid Directors, Verma explained her approach to managing CMS, which emphasizes deregulation and transferring more control to the states. Verma vowed to fast-track approvals of states’ proposals for amending how they implement Medicaid and denounced the Obama administration’s rejection of work requirements for Medicaid recipients, promising to “approve proposals that promote community engagement activities,” which she defined as “working, volunteering, going to school, or obtaining job training.” Continue reading

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‘People Are Dying’ But Trump Gives Himself Perfect ’10’ for Puerto Rico Response

“The lasting image of this administration may well be Puerto Ricans having to drink contaminated water from polluted streamswhile waiting for timely, appropriate federal aid.”

Written by Julia Conley, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-19-2017.

Image via Twitter.

Despite an estimated one million people still living without drinking water, 80 percent of the island wihout electricity, and fresh reports that people are “dying” on the island, President Donald Trump stirred outrage on Thursday by giving himself a perfect “ten” on his response to the crisis in Puerto Rico.

“The people in Puerto Rico are dying,” said National Nurses United (NNU) vice president Cathy Kennedy, who returned Wednesday from a two-week relief trip with the union’s Registered Nurses Response Network (RNRN). “Nurses have been going out into communities, where all they ask for is water and food. And when you have to make a decision of who’s going to get the food today or the water — we shouldn’t have to do that. The United States is the richest country in the world; Puerto Rico is part of the United States.”

Yet Trump told a different story about the recovery in the Oval Office on Thursday, speaking to reporters as Puerto Rican governor Ricardo Rossello looked on.

“I would give myself a ten,” he said. “We have provided so much, so fast.”

“Trump’s callous, self-appointed grade reflects everything that is wrong with the alleged relief effort in Puerto Rico,” Bonnie Castillo, director of National Nurses United’s Registered Nurse Response Network (RNRN), told Common Dreams via email.

The nurses who returned from the relief trip, she continued, “are horrified by the massive damage, dislocation, and trauma they have witnessed. It includes one million people living in darkness, many of them in homes with roofs blown off, soaked furniture, dangerous black mold growing everywhere, lengthy waits for food and water from FEMA that often never comes, a decimated transportation system, and hazardous materials abundant.”

About one million Puerto Ricans were still without drinking water as of Thursday. According to status.pr, a website that is maintained by Puerto Rican officials with daily updates on the recovery, 80 percent of the island was still without electricity as Trump was speaking. More than half of the island’s cell phone towers are still not working and more than 4,000 people are still living in shelters.

FEMA has distributed about 23 million liters of water throughout the island—accounting for only about nine percent of Puerto Rico’s drinking water needs. Forced to drink from rivers, many on the island are being exposed to harmful bacteria and toxic chemicals.

The president put Rossello on the spot after grading himself, asking, “Did we do a great job?” The governor declined to give him a rating. He carefully thanked the administration for sending relief, while emphasizing that the island needs the same efforts that were afforded to Texas after Hurricane Harvey. “We need equal treatment, we need all the resources we can get.”

According to Castillo, “the lasting image of this administration may well be Puerto Ricans having to drink contaminated water from polluted streams, putting their health in serious danger, while waiting for timely, appropriate federal aid to millions of U.S. citizens.”

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Trump Revives Notorious GOP Dog Whistle in Call for ‘Welfare Reform’

Like Reagan before him, Trump is deploying the infamous “welfare queen” myth to justify shredding the safety net

Written by Jake Johnson, staff writer for CommonDreams. Published 10-16-2017.

President Trump. Image via youtube.

Rehashing a notorious Republican Party trope that accuses some Americans of cheating safety net programs, President Donald Trump on Monday saidhis administration is looking “very, very strongly” at “welfare reform.”

“People are taking advantage of the system and then other people aren’t receiving what they really need to live and we think it is very unfair to them,” Trump said during a meeting with cabinet officials. “Some people are really taking advantage of our system from that standpoint.”

Watch:

The welfare system was last “reformed” during the administration of former President Bill Clinton, and the results were devastating.

According to research by sociologists Kathryn Edin and Luke Shaefer, extreme poverty more than doubled in the two decades following the passage in 1996 of the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act, which imposed draconian work requirements on welfare recipients and converted federal welfare funds into block grants.

Now, Trump appears to be preparing to shred what is left of the social safety net. And as Clio Chang of Splinter News points out, Trump is deploying the same rhetorical formula as his welfare-slashing predecessors.

“It’s not difficult to decode what Trump’s saying,” Chang notes. “It’s the same tired line that politicians from Ronald Reagan to Bill Clinton have been using for decades: that some (read: mainly black) people are unfairly receiving welfare benefits and siphoning resources away from good, hard-working (read: mainly white) people. Reagan infamously spread the ‘welfare queen’ myth in the 1970s, a dog whistle that asserted black, single mothers were bilking the government’s welfare system.”

While Trump didn’t propose any specific changes to the welfare system on Monday, previous reports—along with his administration’s previous actions—have indicated that crucial safety net programs are squarely in the president’s crosshairs.

In one of his first speeches as president, Trump asserted that the American welfare system is “out of control,” and that people on welfare need to get “back to work”—despite the fact that most welfare recipients already have jobs.

And as Politico reported earlier this month, Trump is “mulling an executive order that would instruct federal agencies to review low-income assistance programs [as] part of a coming effort to make sweeping changes to the country’s welfare system.”

Trump’s Republican allies in the Senate, meanwhile, are gearing up to vote on a budget that would make room for $1.5 trillion in tax cuts and over $5 trillion in non-defense spending cuts—including $470 billion from Medicare and $1 trillion from Medicaid over the next decade.

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