Republicans Are Using Tax Reform to Loot California

By Rohit Reddy

The GOP tax bills will be catastrophic for California’s communities. While the tax scam is not law yet and there will be some changes from the House-Senate reconciliation process, we have enough information to know that it will raise taxes on millions of Californians, and that it lays the groundwork for dismantling Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security, and greatly diminishes the ability of local and state governments to implement policies that benefit their residents.

Tax Hike on Millions of California’s Families

The GOP tax plan at the simplest level is a $5.5 trillion tax cut, funded by $4 trillion in tax increases and $1.5 trillion in deficit spending. The tax cuts skew heavily to benefit the ultra-wealthy and corporations. The shocking part is that the tax increases fall on tens of millions of families that live in blue states like California, New York and New Jersey.

For example, the plan eliminates deductions for state, local, and property taxes (“SALT”), resulting in a $1.3 trillion tax increase. The SALT deduction, which has been around since 1862, is valuable because it protects us from being taxed on money we’re already paying in (local) taxes. And the savings from this deduction are huge for us in the Bay Area:

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 9.28.40 AM

Source: 2015 IRS Data (Individual Returns)

Congressional Republicans’ Betrayal of Their Own Constituents

Repealing SALT is thus a major tax hike on a broad base of taxpayers. And it is not just a coastal Democratic thing; 54% of taxpayers in Republican congressional districts claimed the deduction.

Yet all but three members of the California Republican House delegation support the GOP tax plan:

Screen Shot 2017-12-07 at 9.28.50 AM

Source: 2015 IRS Data (Individual Returns); Blue indicates voting against House tax bill

The GOP Plan Will Depress Local Economies and Home Values

The GOP tax plan will be a gut punch to our local economies. Here’s one way: Californians claimed $112 billion in SALT deductions in 2015. Let’s assume 2018 would be in the same ballpark if the deductions were allowed: that means that next tax year, with the deductions not allowed, the tax savings from $112 billion will get sucked out of our communities by the federal government and redistributed to millionaires, multinational corporations, and their American and foreign shareholders. Now ask yourself, who is more likely to spend their tax savings in the East Bay: the family earning $150,000 per year with two kids? or Tim Cook, Apple’s CEO? I respect and admire Mr. Cook, but I doubt we are going to see him at Ole’s Waffle Shop on Park Street in Alameda, or any of the Pegasus Bookstores, or the San Leandro Costco.

Eliminating SALT deductions also means the cost of owning your home goes up and home ownership becomes a lot less attractive, leading to a decline in home values that economists estimate to be in the 5-10% range. While many rightly bemoan the high cost of housing in the Bay Area, depressing the value of housing stock isn’t the answer for homeowners, who need to maintain the value of their most valuable asset and a vital source for retirement savings.

Cuts in services to the most vulnerable members of our community

We also want homeownership to remain vibrant because property taxes pay for schools and local needs. New homeowners mean new property assessments, which means more revenue to fund teacher salaries, transportation, and local services. For example: 57% of East Bay households are homeowners, but all East Bay families benefits from our schools. If the revenues from our tax base declines, what are we going to do: raise taxes or cut services?

Because the GOP plan will create a $1.5 trillion hole in the federal budget, we will likely see cuts in services due to a federal rule called PAYGO or “pay as you go.”  The rules requires that if Congress is going to pay Paul, it had better rob Peter. The Peter in this case means Medicare (up to $25 billion in cuts per year) and other federal programs. PAYGO is only the beginning as Speaker Ryan has made explicit his intention to cut entitlement program due to … wait for it … deficit concerns.

It doesn’t take economic analysis, though, to realize this about the GOP tax plan: It demands neither shared sacrifices nor delivers shared benefits. It picks as winners those who least need help and losers those who need tax relief and our support. At a time when our nation faces formidable challenges, we need tax policy that advances our common national interest and provides for shared prosperity.

Rohit Reddy is a marketing professional who has a particular interest in bringing facts and evidence to inform decision-making. He resides in Alameda with his wife and two adorable little boys.

 

Halt the Heist Tax Scam Rally

Tax rally photo by Charles Moehle
Photo credit: Charlie Moehle from Pro-Bono Photo

On December 4, 2017, IEB and other local Indivisible chapters held a rally in front of Senator Kamala Harris’ San Francisco office to protest the tax scam bills making their way through the Congress. Below are accounts from several IEB members who attended the rally, beginning with rally co-lead Nancy:

By Nancy:

I walked up from Civic Center BART to the UN Plaza to be met by gorgeous rally weather – blue skies and gentle winds. A few wonderful team-mates from the rally organizing team were already there, with set-up well underway – and two frenzied weeks of planning were about to pay off. 

A little before noon people were gathering, some singing tax carols and chanting. I’m an introvert, and was waiting to get nervous but I never did – I think I was too angry. Or more likely I was just too happy to look around and see this radiant gathering of the community – of people who know that this is what Democracy looks like. Honestly, most of the rally feels like a blur at this point. All I really remember is that it was a gorgeous show of solidarity, caring, and action. The beautiful crowd wanted EQUITY, and they wanted it NOW!

Most of us didn’t even know each other until we threw our hats in the ring together to plan this rally, but we were united in our rage at the unfairness, wrongheadedness, and bottomless bad faith of the tax heist. I am in awe of the willingness of everyone to say at every turn: “sure, yes, I’m on it.” No matter what else they had going on, they just got it done – and with brilliance and boundless good humor. I’m so grateful to the whole amazing team! Clear heads, valiant hearts, speaking truth to power: that’s who we are, dammit.

Tax rally photo by Charles Moehle
Photo credit: Charlie Moehle from Pro-Bono Photo

Meet the team (with a partial list of their duties):

  • Karen (Indivisible Sonoma County): Rally Co-Lead, Press List Wrangler, Tireless Promoter, Warrior Goddess and Cat Herder
  • Lisa (Indivisible Sausalito): Rally Co-Lead, Warrior Goddess and Mover-Alonger of Rally Activities
  • Ted (IEB): Steward of Rally Signs and Doer of Everything that Needs to be Done
  • Heather (IEB): Media Advisory Writer, Ruthless Editor, and Keeper of Captive Designer of Rally Signs
  • Robyn (Indivisible Sonoma County): Harris Team Liaison and Person Bonding with Rally Crowd
  • Shana (Indivisible Sonoma County): Keeper of Rally Central on Rally Day, and Cheerful Rememberer of Small Details Leaders Have Forgotten
  • Rohit (IEB): Writer of Harris Letter, Prolific Live Tweeter, and Knower of All Things Tax Bill/Healthcare-Related
  • Barbara (IEB): Storyteller and Person Making Sure All is Well with the Sound System

And special thanks to:

  • Amelia (IEB), who reached out to and coordinated with staff from Harris’ and Pelosi’s office
  • Christine (ISF) who edited our Media Advisory
  • Gen (Indivisible Sonoma County) who helped with the press list and sent out the Advisory and Press Release
  • Charlie Moehle (IEB) who documented the rally

Remarks to the crowd by George McRae:

Immediately after my 16th birthday I had to, by law, begin to have deductions made from my paycheck. There was the shock of a take-home amount much, much less than I had been used to. But I understood, and accepted that this was my responsibility as a citizen to contribute to the common good of the nation. Among the deductions were Social Security and Medicare, money I have since been faithfully paying into my account my entire working life. I always had the expectation that this money would be there for me when I needed it. Now at 64 years old I have no expectation, because the government is planning to steal this money to make up the budget shortfall with the tax scam. The Republicans admit to this and Senator Sanders got them to admit it the other day. Mitch McConnell himself said that the middle class would be screwed.  I played by the rules, and now I’m about to get screwed. No one held a gun to my head and told me — you are now 64. You get to this age automatically. And I didn’t get here with the expectation that I would be screwed for just getting here. The only way to stop this is to flip the congress. I urge everyone to work tirelessly to do that. Here in California that means the primaries in March, only three months away! Unless we get these sons of bitches out, this will continue. Thank you.

By Rohit:

When we come together, anything seems possible. Over 200 people attended the protest in front of Senator Harris’ office. Many courageously shared personal stories of how the GOP tax plan will hurt our communities. Representatives from Harris’ and Pelosi’s office listened and reiterated their resolve to do everything possible to stop the Trump tax heist. Special thanks to the indefatigable organizers at Indivisible chapters of East Bay, San Francisco, Sausalito, and Sonoma County, for bringing us together, and a shout-out to our partner indivisible San Francisco, who helped so much with promotion and who brought a big contingent to the rally. Check out Facebook to see how we are continuing the fight.

By Barbara Kluger:

I’m overwhelmed with the continuous daily political assaults and relieved whenever I can be with others who actually want to talk openly about it. Some people shared their personal stories on paper we made available on the info table; we will send these to Senator Harris. Others shared stories aloud by microphone to the crowd. Everyone attending was keen on meaningful human interaction: singing the satirical songs, chanting slogans, encouraging speakers with focused attention. It’s good to be together when so much of our time is spent keeping up with the latest news and interacting online. I had planned to tweet our activities during the rally, but never had time. I’m not sure my tweets would have made any impact on anyone, but I know that talking face-to-face with others was good for me.

Tax rally photo by Rohit Reddy
Ted speaking at tax rally. Photo by Rohit

By Ted:

For several weeks, a team of amazing Indivisibles from Indivisible East Bay, Sonoma County, and Sausalito planned the December 4th anti GOP tax rally in United Nations Plaza in San Francisco. The goal of this noon rally was to get Senator Kamala Haris’ staff and as many concerned citizens involved in this blatant “rob from the poor to give to the rich” GOP tax bill.

IEB’s Nancy kicked off the rally with an introduction of the terrible tax bill and its near certain bad effects. She and Karen of Indivisible Sonoma County led the large crowd in chants of “Kill the Bill” and similar messages. Many progressive groups showed up to show their support in creative ways: one group sang “Kill the Bill” Christmas carols! After ten people told the crowd how the tax bill would negatively affect them personally,  Robyn from Indivisible Sonoma County gave a letter, drafted by all the Indivisible groups present, to Daniel Chen from Senator Harris’ office, urging Harris to stand strong against the GOP bill. Mr. Chen then addressed the large crowd and reiterated Senator Harris’ opposition to the bill and her efforts to fight it.

Tax rally photo by Charles Moehle
Photo credit: Charlie Moehle from Pro-Bono Photo

Overflow Crowd Packs DeSaulnier Town Hall

Along with a standing room only crowd of over 200 people, CA-11 Team members Kristen, Ted, Colleen, and Elizabeth attended Representative Mark DeSaulnier’s 90-minute Town Hall at Miramonte High School in Orinda on November 20, 2017. Overflow attendees listened in the School’s library.

DeSaulnier highlighted many of the negative aspects of the House and Senate tax bills, and gave the sobering historical perspective that whereas in 1986 it it took 11 months to pass tax reform, the current GOP plan is to rush the bills through in two months. He also mentioned the mind-blowing amount that the bill will add to the national debt over 10 years: $1.5 trillion.

Pointing out that CA-11 is the twenty-third most impacted of all 435 congressional districts in terms of housing costs, DeSaulnier added that 45% of CA-11 residents use the local and state deductions that save them an average of $20,000 a year. If some version of the tax bill is passed, the deductions could be severely impacted or eliminated completely. In addition, DeSaulnier pointed out that 44% of CA-11 residents use student deductions, also on the GOP chopping block.

Of special interest to Indivisible members and other activists using the tactic of engaging our Members of Congress, DeSaulnier said he previously didn’t believe that making calls to Senators and Congresspeople worked — until he saw for himself that it does! He urged CA-11 residents and people in all congressional districts to call their Members of Congress, because it does make a difference.

As he does at each Town Hall, DeSaulnier reminded the crowd that as citizens we need to be engaged and to stay engaged. California District CA-11 is truly fortunate to have Mark DeSaulnier represent us in Congress.

If you couldn’t attend the Town Hall, watch the archive video. You can also subscribe to his newsletter, and here’s his contact info, let him know your opinions:

  • Email
  • Richmond Office phone: (510) 620-1000
  • Walnut Creek Office phone: (925) 933-2660
  • Washington DC Office phone: (202) 225-2095

Photograph © Rep Mark DeSaulnier

Giving Thanks for Social Security and Medicare – TAKE ACTION NOW!

At Thanksgiving we remember what we’re thankful for. For many seniors among our family and friends, thankfulness includes financial security in old age through Social Security and Medicare. But Trump’s go-for-broke tax bill gives big tax cuts for the wealthiest people in our country, and this will cause large budget deficits to threaten Social Security and Medicare.

The Congressional Budget Office has warned that Trump’s tax cuts for the very rich would add $1.5 trillion to the national debt. Because of the pay-as-you-go rule, Medicare could be cut by $25 billion as soon as next year. Afterwards, our government would have to cut “mandatory spending” – which means Social Security and Medicare – because of even bigger deficits from Trump’s tax plan.

We’re thankful for the support people receive from Social Security and Medicare. But if we want to keep it we have to take action now. Please call your U.S. senators and ask them to vote NO on Trump’s go-for-broke tax plan. And please pass this message on to everyone you know, all over the country!

WHAT TO SAY:

My name is [name] and I’m a constituent from [zip code]. Trump’s tax cuts will benefit the wealthy over the middle class and they will cause big budget deficits for years. I’m afraid Social Security and Medicare benefits will be cut because our government won’t have enough money to pay for them. My family, friends, and I all benefit from the financial security that Social Security and Medicare give to seniors. Their health and financial peace of mind matter to us.  Please vote against Trump’s tax plan.

California Senators:

Sen. Kamala Harris (email)
(415) 355-9041 • DC: (202) 224-3553

Sen. Dianne Feinstein (email)
(415) 393-0707 • DC: (202) 224-3841

Contact your Senator (anywhere in the country)

More info:

 

 

 

Kill the Tax Scam Bill

There is widespread agreement among experts that the tax scam is a horror show. Huge tax cuts to the hyper-rich are paid for by the poor and middle class. It will take Obamacare down. It will do nothing to help our economy. Inequality – already bad – will get worse. The racial wealth gap will widen.

Here’s a partial list of the folks who will lose under the tax bill: women, seniors, students paying back their loans, teachers paying out of pocket for school supplies, those with incomes less than $75K, non-rich families with children, those facing high medical costs, people who need health insurance. In other words, all of us.

Hard to believe something this awful could become the law of the land very soon – but it absolutely can, and we are getting perilously close.

With our constituent power, we showed up, called, rallied, put our bodies on the line – and we killed Trumpcare. We must do it again with the tax scam! Here are some some actions you can take:

  • Use Indivisible’s tool to call fellow progressives in key #TrumpTaxScam target states and patch them through to their Senators. Indivisible HQ has brought back a super effective peer-to-peer calling tool from the TrumpCare fight so you can take action to stop this bill by reaching out to progressive constituents in Alaska, Arizona, and West Virginia. Find out more here and sign up to start calling! And, the IEB cookie competition is back and better than ever!
  • Phone bank with your East Bay neighbors to mobilize red state progressives. Phone banks are happening in Berkeley November 25 and 26. Find out more and RSVP here.
  • As Ben Wikler from MoveOn has instructed: MELT THE PHONE LINES the whole week of November 27th, when the bill will probably come to the floor of the Senate. We especially need to demand that our wonderful Democratic senators withhold consent. Scripts, numbers, and info here.
  • Come to the UN Plaza in San Francisco for a Tax Heist Rally from 12-1:00PM on December 4. IEB is partnering with Indivisible Sonoma County and Indivisible Sausalito so we can deliver a letter to Senator Harris, tell our stories in the public square, and make some noise! If you want to know more, or join the planning committee, come see us in the #tax-scam-action channel on slack.