Labor fights anti-middle class tax proposal

By Sheri Williams

Labor, activists and politicians came together in early November to fight against a proposed federal tax bill that will harm America’s working families and raise taxes on the middle class.

Backed by labor leaders and activists in Sacramento, U.S. Congresswoman Doris Matsui spoke forcefully about the need to protect middle-class and low-income families from a bill that would increase their taxes while giving corporations massive benefits.

“House Republicans just voted for a tax bill that pulls the rug out from under families in California and across the country,” she said in a Nov.17 statement. “As young people are struggling to afford college, Republicans have voted to eliminate their student loan interest deduction. As teachers are working every day to create opportunities for the next generation, Republicans have voted to eliminate their deduction that helps them purchase supplies for the classroom. As young families are looking to buy their first home, Republicans have voted to limit their mortgage interest deduction. As seniors and people with chronic illnesses are planning their long-term care options, Republicans have voted to eliminate their medical expense deduction. The list goes on and on. Now, after voting to drive up the deficit, House Republicans are going to go after the earned benefits, like Medicare, that my constituents rely on. That is shameful. This is all so President Trump and Republicans can take a legislative victory lap. I urge the Senate to reject this tax scam and instead focus on how we can work together to give the American people a better deal.”

Congressman John Garamendi also spoke out against the bill, specifically warning how it could harm graduate students like those at University of California at Davis. Under the proposal, tuition waved for graduate students would be taxed, saddling many students with thousands of dollars in increased taxes.

“If you’re looking for logic, economic logic, or to improve the society, don’t bother,” Garamendi told the Davis Enterprise. “There is no logical, rational reason for this tax cut, period … Don’t you want people to go to school? Don’t you want them to reduce their student loans?”

The Enterprise reported that data provided by UCD showed the university gave about $60 million during the 2015-16 academic year in qualified tuition expenses that would count as taxable income on students under the proposed tax bill. The proposal would also end tax deductions on student loan interest.

Garamendi also spoke out against other aspects of the proposed bill.

“Under this bill, fat cats win and you lose,” Garamendi said in a statement. “Half of the money from this $1.5 trillion tax scam go to America’s richest one percent. Meanwhile, taxes on the middle class will go up. Over 18,000 people in my district will no longer be able to deduct their medical costs. 128,000 of my constituents will be barred from deducting their state and local taxes. Graduates will be barred from deducting the interest on their student loans. And all of it is being done to allow multimillionaires, major corporations, and the Trump family to get a massive tax break.

“But it’s even worse than that. This tax scam will blow a massive hole in our deficit and trigger the automatic spending reductions mandated by the Budget Control Act. Because of this bill, we will be forced to cut $136 billion from programs such as Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid. This bill is a disaster that raises taxes on the middle class and cuts Medicare and Social Security to shovel even more cash to millionaires. It is an unconscionable violation of our moral values. I cannot understand how anyone, especially those who represent California, could vote for this bill.

“Franklin Delano Roosevelt once said that the test of our progress is not whether we add to the abundance of those who have much, it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little. This tax scam is a massive failure of that test.”

Both the Senate and House have version of the tax bill currently under consideration. President Donald Trump has said he would like tax reform to be passed by the end of the year, and votes could be taken in coming weeks.

Unions have sharply criticized the proposed tax plan as a blow to working people.

“President Trump and the Republican Congress have been trying to sell this corporate tax cut to working families by making big claims about wage increases, investment and job growth that don’t seem to be supported by the evidence,” said Chris Shelton, the president Communication Workers of America, in The New York Times. “We’re going straight to the people who know how corporations plan to spend the billions of dollars being handed over to them — the C.E.O.s — and asking them if they intend to keep the promises that Trump is making on their behalf.”

An analysis by the non-partisan Congressional Budget Office found that people making less than $100,000 a year would be hit the hardest.

The bill would end the mandate for all Americans to purchase health insurance. The CBO analysis estimated that ending that requirement would leave about 4 million Americans without health insurance by 2019, and 13 million people without insurance by 2027.

Premiums for all people would likely jump as well.

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