Progressive groups like the People for the American Way, ACORN and assorted unions are organizing to fight tax cuts under the banner of Fair Taxes For All.
The group, which formed in February, is attempting to derail a tax plan by pointing out its obvious flaws -- that it's skewed to the rich, that it will further drain the US Treasury and that will leave little or no money for pressing social needs.
The coalition, which at the end of March had more than 250 affiliate organizations, has been lobbying Congress and signing up members in the hopes of stalling Bush in his tracks.
While the House of Representatives endorsed the Bush stimulus package in a narrow vote, the US Senate slashed it in its budget resolution, cutting it to $350 billion.
That figure is too much, but as the Fair Tax coalition points out, it is far better than the plan proposed by Bush and supported by the House.
"Today's vote staves off a disaster, but the fight is far from over," Nancy Duff Campbell, co-president of the National Women's Law Center, a Fair Tax coalition co-chair, said in a press release. "If the final budget resolution looks even remotely like the House budget with its massive budget cuts, American families and the American economy will suffer for years to come."
In a nutshell, here is what the president has been proposing:
The president is selling his $670 billion plan (some estimates put the cost at as high as $750 billion) as a way to jump-start the economy. The 10-year plan includes elimination of personal income taxes on stock dividends (at a cost of $364 billion); acceleration of tax cuts approved last year (at a cost of $64 billion); an end to the so-called "marriage penalty" ($58 billion); an increase in the child tax credit ($91 billion); the moving of lower income taxpayers into the 10% bracket ($48 billion); reform of the alternative minimum tax ($29 billion); and $16 billion in incentives for small business purchases.
In addition, he is proposing to make his 2001 tax cuts permanent at a cost of about $523 billion and has proposed about $272 billion in assorted other new tax cuts. The Fair Tax coalition says that altogether -- including $1.4 trillion in tax cuts enacted in 2001 and 2002, the estimated $575 billion needed to fix the Alternative Minimum Tax and about $900 billion in increased interest on debt of more than $900 billion -- the Bush tax cuts would cost the treasury more than $4 trillion through 2013.
All of this to take care of a small number of taxpayers, as pointed out by Citizens for Tax Justice. The group, which also opposes the budget, estimates that 1% of all wage earners -- those with an average income of a little more than $1 million a year -- will get 32.4% of the benefits of the proposed tax cuts, while those making less than $77,000 (about 60% of all taxpayers) will receive just 39.9% of the total benefits.
What's more, the group says, most of the cuts come from two proposals -- elimination of the personal income tax on stock dividends and a reduction in capital gains on the sale of corporate stock -- benefits that would accrue primarily to the richest 1% of Americans.
And what will the tax cuts and the Republican budget do for the poorest among us? Give them the shaft. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the House budget makes deep cuts in low-income programs -- about $265 billion between 2004 and 2013 -- including $165 billion in cuts to Medicaid, Food Stamps, school lunches and others. Another $200 billion in budget cuts were called for, as well, targeting student loans, the Earned Income Tax Credit, veterans' programs and others.
That giant sucking sound you hear is the massive redistribution of wealth from the bottom and middle to the top.
The Fair Tax coalition said that the spending and tax cuts are out of touch with American priorities.
"There is absolutely no broad public support for the White House's tax plans," Roger Hickey, co-director of the Campaign for America's Future, a coalition co-chair, said in a press release. "The House Republican budget incorporates all the wasteful tax cuts the Bush Administration asked for, and then tries to balance the budget through draconian cuts in virtually every non-military program. The public thinks the Bush administration's priorities are all wrong -- and they have let their representatives know what they think."
The Fair Tax coalition is asking people to work with groups in their states on grassroots campaigns and to sign an online petition, write letters to newspapers and to Congress.
They can be found on the Web at: www.fairtaxesforall.org or email them at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Member groups can be contacted at:
People For the American Way, 2000 M St., NW, Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20036; phone, (202) 467-4999 or (800) 326-7329; www.pfaw.org; email email@example.com.
Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and Leadership Conference on Civil Rights Education Fund, 1629 K St., NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20006; (202) 466-3311/(202) 466-3434; www.civilrights.org.
National Women's Law Center, 11 Dupont Circle, NW, # 800, Washington, DC 20036; telephone, (202) 588-5180; fax, (202) 588-5185; www.nwlc.org; email Info@nwlc.org.
American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, AFL-CIO, 1625 L St., N.W., Washington, DC 20036-5687; telephone, (202) 429-1000; www.afscme.org.
Campaign for America's Future, 1025 Connecticut Ave., NW, Suite 205, Washington, DC 20036; telephone, (202) 955-5665; fax, (202) 955-5606; www.ourfuture.org; email firstname.lastname@example.org.
USAction, 1341 G St. NW, 10th Floor, Washington, D.C. 20005; telephone, (202) 624-1730; fax (202) 737-9197; web usaction.org; email email@example.com.
Hank Kalet is a poet and managing editor of the South Brunswick Post and the Cranbury Press in central New Jersey. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.