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Saturday, January 6, 10 a.m. - 1pm. Corner 4th & Ellsworth St (next to the Courthouse), Albany, with Linn-Benton Community College Our Revolution Club. Bert Guptill, 541-760-5457, Guptill@hotmail.com
Republican Tax Scam
This week, Republicans pushed their tax legislation, H.R. 1, through the House and Senate without a single Democratic vote. It is a dark week for the American people.
Republicans promised their overhaul of the tax code would help working Americans and grow our economy. However, that is not the reality of their tax bill, which was written behind closed doors by special interest lobbyists on a totally partisan basis. The tax breaks in this plan will skyrocket our national debt and only give a pittance to the middle class. Eighty-three percent of the benefits go to Americans making over $400,000, while over half of America’s middle class will see a tax increase.
The plan contains unprecedented tax cuts for the wealthy, including reducing the rate on income over half a million dollars and doubling the estate tax exemption. It also cuts taxes for large corporations and wealthy passive real estate and other investors, which will decidedly not create jobs or increase wages. Under the last major corporate tax cut by the George W. Bush administration, 92 percent of tax breaks for repatriated funds went to stock buybacks, dividends, and executive bonuses, while employment in these corporations actually dropped.
Republicans claim this bill will create jobs. As the top Democrat on the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee, I have been fighting for President Trump to make good on his promise to deliver a trillion dollar infrastructure plan to Congress. According to the White House Council of Economic Advisors, every $1 billion in Federal highway and transit investment would create 13,000 jobs in a year. In comparison, the $3 trillion in lost revenue from the tax bill would create a mere 339,000 jobs over a decade. If we break it down, that’s $8.8 million spent per job created in the Republican legislative handout to the wealthy masquerading as tax reform. Yet a transportation investment package would only cost $80,000 per job, not to mention generate the added benefits of improved bridges, roads, transit, and other proven boons to the economy. The Trump administration says it doesn’t know where to find the money for their infrastructure package – I have a few trillion ideas.
Click below to view my House floor speech on how misguided the Republicans' priorities truly are:
And how are these handouts to the wealthy paid for? Outrageous hits to the middle class. This plan targets states that voted blue by capping state and local income tax deductibility, hiking taxes on Oregonians by forcing them to pay taxes twice on their income. While the few provisions that benefit some in the middle class will expire, the corporate cuts and estate tax elimination are permanent.
The Republican plan increases the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. Our national debt has ballooned to nearly twenty trillion dollars, and raising our national debt even more will create an increase in interest rates and further hurt working Americans that have to borrow for mortgages, cars, and education. Even worse, Speaker Paul Ryan has already begun discussing going after Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid to pay for the additional debt. PAYGO budget rules require legislative changes that increase the deficit to be offset by spending cuts. These would include hundreds of billions in cuts to Medicare, doubling the fees charged for student loans, and cuts to social services, transportation programs, and assistance for workers displaced by NAFTA and other failed trade agreements. Cutting taxes for the wealthy at the expense of these programs is incomprehensible.
I am appalled Republican leadership would push such a cruel piece of legislation, continuing to focus on keeping wealthy political donors happy at the expense of the middle class. While the GOP pops champagne to celebrate the passage of their flawed tax plan, I will be doing everything in my power to protect Americans from tax hikes and cuts to critical programs.
Repeal of Net Neutrality
I was very disappointed to see the Federal Communications Commission (FCC), under the direction of the Trump-appointed Chairman Ajit Pai, vote along party lines on December 14 to undo key net neutrality rules. The FCC’s decision will roll back rules banning the blocking and slowing of websites as well as the rule forbidding Internet Service Providers (ISPs) from charging websites extra fees for favorable access. It will also repeal the “general conduct” rule that allows the FCC to investigate business practices of ISPs that it suspects may be anti-competitive.
The concept of "net neutrality" is simply defined as keeping ISPs from being able to arbitrarily stop, speed up, or slow down your Internet. Without net neutrality protections ISPs will be able to decide what sites you are allowed to visit and how fast they load. There's no question that most Americans face a monopoly in broadband choice, but without net neutrality rules ISPs will have the power to control consumers’ access to content and applications in order to pad their profits even further.
In light of the FCC’s vote, I joined my colleagues in cosponsoring a joint resolution under the Congressional Review Act (CRA) calling for the restoration of net neutrality.
However, the fight for net neutrality rights does not stop here. I am deeply encouraged by the public outcry from my Oregon constituents and millions of Americans across the country. As we look ahead I urge you to remain active on this issue. Public engagement remains the best tool we have to protect a free and open Internet for everyone.
Children’s Health Insurance Program
The bipartisan Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP), which became law in 1997, provides health insurance to children of households who have incomes too low to provide private insurance, but earn too much to qualify for Medicaid. In the 20 years since its passage, CHIP has proved to be a success, providing lifesaving health insurance for almost 9 million children nationwide every year, including over 140,000 children in Oregon.
As you may know, funding for CHIP expired on September 30, 2017, leaving states desperately scrambling to find other funds to support children’s health care. While you would think that funding to ensure health coverage for our nation’s children would not be subject to political games, Republicans pushed a partisan, controversial CHIP reauthorization to the floor, forcing Democrats to vote against it.
The House Republican reauthorization bill cut $6.35 billion over 10 years from the Prevention and Public Health Fund (PPHF), virtually zeroing it out, which translates into $24 million in cuts for Oregon. PPHF is 12 percent of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) budget, and it funds critical public health and prevention activities. The Republican bill also shortened the grace period for health plans, kicking an estimated 700,000 Americans off of health insurance. I cannot support cutting access to health care to pay for CHIP while Republicans push forward a flawed tax plan to benefit the wealthy costing over $1.5 trillion.
Unfortunately, Republicans are extremely hostile toward safety-net programs that help the most vulnerable populations, and I was disappointed to see that even funding children’s health insurance was no different. Congress had the potential to use the reauthorization as a real opportunity for policy changes to Medicaid and the marketplace to make sure children benefitting from CHIP do not fall through the cracks. But instead, they prioritized attempts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and pass tax cuts for the wealthy.
No parent should live with the fear that their child will become ill and they won't be able to afford the medical treatment they need. Reauthorizing CHIP is a top priority of mine, and I am fighting to include continued funding for CHIP in the government spending bill that must be passed by December 22.
You can be sure I will continue to do everything in my power to protect CHIP and similar critical health care programs from partisan attacks.
Fighting Wildfires from the Air
As you know, this year Oregon endured one of the worst wildfire seasons in decades. In total, forest fires burned well over 600,000 acres in Oregon.
During my September trip to survey the Chetco Bar and Eagle Creek fires in Oregon, I had a conversation with U.S. Forest Service (USFS) Chief Tony Tooke regarding the USFS aerial firefighting program, including whether the agency currently has the tools to battle fires from the air during the wildfire season. I specifically inquired about very large air tankers (VLAT) like Global Supertanker’s 747. I then sent a follow-up letter to Chief Tooke to request a comprehensive update on the USFS aerial firefighting program. In their reply, contrary to what I heard from the USFS in September, the agency did not consider a contract for a VLAT for the 2017 wildfire season.
Instead, the USFS solicited requests for proposals (RFPs) for air tankers with maximum retardant capacity of five thousand gallons. Because of the limitation, Global Supertanker’s 747 - which has a retardant capacity of over 19,000 gallons - was unable to compete for the contract.
Global SuperTanker protested the RFP to the Government Accountability Office (GAO), stating the retardant capacity restriction was unduly restrictive. The GAO upheld Global SuperTanker’s protest, agreeing that there was no reasonable basis for the USFS to limit retardant capacity.
In light of the GAO’s determination, I sent a letter on December 1 to Chief Tooke to determine why the USFS did not solicit a high-capacity aerial firefighting plane to combat this summer’s blazes. I also pushed the agency to describe their plans to ensure they will have adequate fire suppression tools in the future. To be anything less than prepared for next year’s fire season is unacceptable.
Additionally, I am eager to fight for additional resources for the USFS and work with the Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) from my position as Ranking Member of the Transportation and Infrastructure Committee to facilitate the certification and procurement of more air tankers, of all sizes. I have also supported the use of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAV), or drones, for wildfire suppression.
Throughout my time in Congress, I have been fighting for common sense wildfire and forest management policy reforms that can reduce the frequency and severity of wildfires. You can be sure I will continue to do so.
The following commentary appeared Dec. 7 on CNN.com
By Tom Perez and Keith Ellison
Trust holds families together, and our Democratic family is no exception. As we enter the final meeting of the Democratic National Committee's Unity Reform Commission, where members will vote on proposals to reform the Democratic Party, we must focus on ensuring that voters across the nation trust our party.
As chair and deputy chair of the DNC, we are committed to ensuring that our party is inclusive, forward-looking and bold in prescribing an alternative to President Donald Trump's destructive policies and his politics of divisiveness and deception. We know Democrats can win big in 2018 and 2020, just as we did this year in New Jersey, Virginia and across the country -- but we know we can only do that by rebuilding trust with those who share our progressive vision for America and by addressing concerns many have raised in recent years.
Democrats can win big if we're united, and we know that can only happen by healing divisions that still linger from last year's bruising presidential nominating contest.
This has never been more important. This is one of the biggest stress tests our democracy has ever faced. Middle-class families and the working poor have not shared in the Wall Street boom. The Koch brothers and their band of ultra-conservative billionaire friends continue to assert an already outsize influence on our elections.
Republicans are leading a coordinated, nationwide effort of voter suppression and partisan gerrymandering, both of which threaten the right of the American people to exercise power over their government and hold their representatives accountable. And there is growing evidence that the Russian government and the Trump campaign may have conspired to interfere with the 2016 election.
We've made considerable progress over the past year, but there is no doubt that we have a long way to go. We believe Democrats can win everywhere if we organize and lead with our values. That's why we've implemented our "Every ZIP Code Counts" strategy and changed the DNC's mission so that we're no longer just focused on electing the president, but on electing all Democrats from the school board to the Oval Office.
Rather than spending money on TV, we've focused our efforts on organizing and connecting directly with voters. In fact, through our Resistance Summer program, the new Democratic Party knocked on more than 1 million doors to invite Americans of all walks of life to join us. We made historic investments in Virginia, New Jersey, and in mayoral and legislative races that helped pay big dividends with our major victories last month.
The challenge that lies ahead is to build on the successes of 2017 and continue the progress we're making to rebuild our party, organize, modernize and win. We have opportunities at every level in 2018. We can win back governorships and state legislatures. And we're looking to 2020 to make sure the process is as fair and transparent as possible.
In addition to our commitment and in advance of the Unity Reform Commission's report, we also want to express support for additional reforms that will help ensure the 2020 presidential primary is the most fair, transparent and successful in our history.
We will not win the future by re-litigating the past. But we do have to learn from our past mistakes. That's why we hope DNC members and our Unity Reform Commission will vote to pass the following reforms
Fair and transparent primary process
It's critically important that the DNC doesn't put its thumb on the scale -- in perception or reality -- or that any primary candidate has an unfair advantage. As chair and deputy chair we also believe that we must ensure:
• No party officer should be allowed to support, endorse or favor any candidate in the primary process.
• The debate schedule is decided in advance, instead of negotiating it after all our candidates have entered the race.
• Any and all joint fundraising agreements will be transparent and available to all official campaigns.
In addition, we need to give voters more opportunity to participate in our primaries. In too many states, deadlines to change one's party affiliation are months before voter registration deadlines. This doesn't make sense and only hurts voters by forcing them to choose their affiliation long before Election Day.
These reforms should be part of our broader efforts to make it easier for eligible people to vote. At the DNC, we've been hard at work challenging the Republican assault on voting rights across the country. But we must work with states to implement policies that make it easier to vote, including vote-by-mail laws, automatic voter registration, same-day voter registration, expanded access to the polls and more robust voter protection efforts.
Making caucuses more accessible
There are too many working people, members of the military, older Americans and students who are left out and not able to make their voices heard at their caucuses because of work, child care or other obligations. That's unacceptable. We can and we must do better. That is why it's critical that the Unity Reform Commission provide recommendations that acknowledge the grass-roots benefit of the caucus process while also finding ways for those who have been excluded on caucus nights to have their votes counted.
'Super delegate' reform
In 2016, unpledged delegates, or what some call "super delegates," made up almost 15% of all delegates at the national convention. To create a fairer process for all candidates and empower grass-roots voters, it is critical that the Unity Reform Commission provide recommendations that uphold the mandate passed by the 2016 Democratic National Convention and provide for a significant reduction in the number of unpledged delegates. Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders both agreed on this mandate.
Reforming our party
If we want Democrats to win and stay in power, we have to reform our party in ways that rebuild it from the ground up. A unified Democratic Party is a party that understands that every ZIP code counts and there's no such thing as an off-year. We've already begun making new investments in our state parties and down-ballot races, and our efforts have helped Democrats secure critical victories -- from Virginia and New Jersey to Oklahoma and New Hampshire.
In addition, we must continue to empower diverse grass-roots Democrats at the leadership table. We will build on our recent successes with small-dollar fundraising. And we changed our rules in October to ban corporate donations from political action committees whose goals conflict with our platform. We look forward to finding new ways to make sure we are supporting candidates and state parties across the country in order to succeed in 2017, 2018, and beyond.
The DNC has come a long way since the 2016 election, but we know we have much further to go to earn the trust of voters and bring more people into the electoral process. We have our values and the support of the vast majority of the American people by our side. And when we lead with those values, we win.
The Unity Reform Commission is making our nomination process fairer for all. This work is critical to empowering voters, strengthening our party, and ensuring that Democrats are successful in 2018, 2020 and beyond.
om Perez is the chairman of the Democratic National Committee. Keith Ellison is the US representative for Minnesota's 5th Congressional District and the deputy chair of the DNC.