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Who Gets The Money, Money, Money

My guess is that quite a few of you can remember the power of Schoolhouse Rock videos, and one of the best was "I am just a bill." When I moved to Washington DC in 1986 it was my honor and pleasure to see this process work as a committee staffer in the U.S. Senate, and then as a Legislative Director in the House of Representatives. For many years I worked in government affairs to work with Members of Congress on both sides of the aisle to advocate on behalf of constituents -- both community and corporate -- on public policy that would work under unique and often challenged circumstances. To engage in the oversight and negotiation of consensus building in the shaping of final legislation that would be approved by both bodies -- and signed by the President of the United States -- even one in the opposing political party, was amazing.

Of course, that was then. This is now.

I am quite tongue-tied on what exactly to say about what is happening with the tax bill that is barreling its way through the Congress -- eagerly awaited by the President, pen in hand, to sign. This is legislation that certainly did not follow the Schoolhouse Rocks rules. It was written totally behind closed doors, no hearings were held on it, the bill was shared with the full Senate less than a week before the committee legislative markup at which strictly limited amendment or debate was allowed. Citizens, many disabled and cancer-stricken, protested the Budget Committee vote and were carried out, handcuffed and arrested for disruption. It was most recently hammered down on a strict party line vote (12 Republicans yes, and 10 Democrats and 1 Independent no). That was the last hurdle. Now it is ready to go to the Senate floor.

I am deflated again by the fact that I live in Washington DC, and I cannot do much to influence the process as a constituent. I cannot write my Senator to ask his help, since he has no vote as D.C's "shadow Senator." Note: this is one reason why I am taking steps to relocate to my home state of Missouri next year! Congress is not paying attention in D.C., but I think we can get their attention back home.

For now, though, my duty is to share this unrest with you, and urge all of you to reach out to your elected representatives in the U.S. Congress. The bottom line is that tax cuts are good, but only if they benefit hard working people struggling to climb the ladder in a transitioning economy. But the GOP plans provide massive benefits to the upper wealth tiers -- those who constructed and are now doubling down to lengthen a really long ladder to separate us and make it so much harder, if not impossible, to climb up. Note: at least one new rung was added under the fast-moving legislation that requires you to claim as income any stipend you may receive for school expenses. In exchange, they offer promises to the rest of us that these wealthy beneficiaries will pass these benefits down to us.

Here is the money-money-money breakdown. This tax plan will increase taxes on ALL households earning less than $40,000 -- making them pay between $1688-1900 more than they pay today over the five year life of the bill. This increase, along with the total elimination of insurance subsidies under the Affordable Care Act (known as "Obamacare") will help to finance massive tax cuts to the wealthy and uber-wealthy. Their piece of the pie will increase by $75000 - $242,000 per household that makes over $500,000 a year (such as Treasury Secretary Mnuchin who just can't seem to wait).

Most of us can live for years off that tax cut alone.

Those that fall in the middle, between $40,000 - $100,000, will see cuts totaling between $544 - $4462; and cuts that range from $7667 - $24000 for those earning between $100,000 - $500,000. I do not think this "tax cut" factors in what is anticipated as increased premiums of 10% per year that are projected to occur as insurance markets constrict when health care subsidies to the poor are eliminated under the bill. But they might. And they expire after five years. In any case, they pale in comparison to the permanent cuts to the wealthy. This link will bring you to a PBS Newshour three-chart summary of how this breaks out.

These are just the individual tax cuts. The bill also includies cuts to the CORPORATE tax rate, lowering it from 38% to 20%! And additional cuts for pass-through businesses are being negotiated to win the votes of hold-out Senators, cuts that will directly benefit primarily highly profitable LLCs like the 300-plus pass-through companies under the Trump empire. It just kind of stinks, really.

I am not trying to depress you (or me). I know that if we actually sit down and talk about this we can find common ground that can lead us to common purpose that will benefit the greater good as part of a caring and regenerative economy. We can agree on tax cuts that benefit those who need it most, especially small and medium size businesses that operate across America. We can even include cuts to the corporate tax rate, tied to bringing jobs back to the U.S. But not down to 20%.

But mostly, I ask us to question why we are being asked to rush through this "Christmas reward" for an upper class of American billionaires who have squirreled away money earned off the labor of working Americans -- based on a feint promise of trickle-down economics that has NEVER materialized in the past. There are so many red flags and undercurrents to this moneyed control of our government. If it is the right thing to do, it will stand the test of transparency and open deliberation. Bring it home to the constituents and ask how it will impact us.

Since they are planning to use our money, it is up to us to tell them we "just don't buy it."

Please write your Senators to urge them not to rush a vote on the tax bill before hearings and legislative negotiation occurs. Something this important can wait until next year AND should be scrutinized fully AND garner support from both sides of the aisle.

I promise you, we can do this.

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