Tag Archives: non-profits

GOP Tax Plan: A Complete Social Restructuring of the United States

4 Dec

Welcome to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, 500 pages of far-right dreams smashed together in two weeks and rushed to a vote in the middle of the night. While there is an enormous amount of this plan that we should all be mortified about — specifically how it hoards wealth for the top 20% of Americans and steals money from the poor and middle class — there is far more going on here, much of which has little to do with tax “reform.”  I worry that most people are not paying attention to everything it does over time, as evidenced by the fact that most of the people who voted to rush this through have not even read the whole plan, nor have there been any substantive hearings or analysis provided. This massive document is also difficult to read because much of the marginalia is hand written scribbles, eliminating even concerned senators’ ability to read and understand the implication of the entire document before voting on it.

In addition to the sociopathic maldistribution of wealth this plan secures, the social ramifications are profound and are antithetical to what we have worked so hard to accomplish in the ways of equity in the past 100 years.  For example, this plan includes Medicare reductions that will end cancer treatment for people on Medicare. Yes, you read that correctly. This sounds like a death panel to me, and it should not come as a surprise, given that Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell have been working to dismantle Medicare for years now. Oh, and as an added bonus it eliminates the Individual Mandate from the Affordable Care Act, basically robbing 13 MILLION Americans of coverage.

As outlined in the Chronicle of Higher Education, this bill creates even more barriers for people who are not in the top 20% of Americans to afford a college education. For example, this bill puts additional taxes on charitable donations to colleges that allow for financial aid. Small liberal arts colleges are heavily dependent on charitable gifts to survive. The message is quite clear, the GOP does not value education, as further evidence that Betsy DeVos is the secretary of Education. People do your homework here! Obviously, the lack of access to eduction benefits the GOP, as it encourages ignorance and precludes critical thinking skills: skills that would allow people to ask questions of the government, the people that are supposed to be public servants.

Another alarming part of this bill — so alarming I needed to get my smelling salts just to be able to write this — is the reversal of The Johnson Amendment. Yes, this is part of the Religious Freedom Act (specifically Christian agenda freedom) coming from the far right wing, which now controls our government. The Johnson Amendment, created by LBJ in 1954, prohibits all non-profits, or what is called a 501 (c) (3) from making any type of political endorsement or stand to lose their tax exempt status. Trump and his henchmen are now about to reverse this in this tax plan, but ONLY for churches, allowing them to become tax-free lobbying organizations. So much for separation of church and state.

The bill slashes the corporate tax rate, eliminates the bulk of the estate tax, and changes “pass-through” business taxation in a way that benefits only the wealthiest of business owners. These changes are PERMANENT. The tweaks that MIGHT make a small change for poor and middle class taxpayers expire within the first three years. At the end of ten years, the vast majority of households making $75,000 or less will see their taxes rise, often by 20% or more.

Many deductions are eliminated or severely curtailed including bike-to-work incentives, moving expenses, most mortgage and home sale deductions, tax preparation deductions, and disaster relief deductions. State and local tax deductions are greatly reduced, penalizing blue states that fund federal programs for red states.

The bill will increase the deficit by at LEAST $1 TRILLION. So much for the party of fiscal responsibility. Deficit hawks like Sen. Flake and Sen McCain (the Arizona Stooges) believe that wealth will trickle down as businesses have more revenue, even though EVERY major corporation interviewed has indicated that the vast majority of this revenue will be used to pay bonuses and reward stockholders, giving no benefit to the average American. Sen. Murkowski sold out her constituents in exchange for getting drilling rights in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Yeah, that’s a tax issue… Sen. Collins accepted a fig leaf promise for a vote someday on an ACA bill that won’t come close to solving the problems caused by the loss of the individual mandate. Sens. Johnson and Daines pretended that minor changes to the pass-through rules would help small business owners. Overall, over 20% of Republican Senators had major objections to the bill but voted for it with vague changes and vaguer promises.

The most nefarious impact is yet to come. As that big deficit hole comes into reality, Republicans will certainly use it to insist on austerity measures. This is a feature, not a bug. As the deficit grows, they will insist that Social Security, medicaid, and medicare be slashed to balance the budget.

Our only hope for derailing this monstrosity is putting pressure on the conference process that will reconcile the House bill (awful in many different ways) with the Senate abomination. Getting the House to accept all the little tweaks and odditities may be difficult, and losing them may make the final bill impossible to pass again in the Senate.

TAKE ACTION: Contact your Representative and Senators and demand that they stop this horrible bill. It’s not tax “reform”, it won’t serve the middle class, it crushes the poor, and it includes elements that will reshape the social network and basic protections that we rely on today into something mean, nasty, and unrecognizable.

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Paul Ryan’s Not-So-Charitable Activity

16 Oct

Well, something in this kitchen is dirty…

It’s not unusual for politicians at every level of government to look for opportunities to show off their good works. They’ll pose with underprivileged kids, pound in a few nails for Habitat for Humanity, speak at a charitable conference, all sorts of things. Some of the resulting photos and news stories show real commitment to social change, some are casual photo ops. Rarely, however, are such things as contrived and ill-conceived as Paul Ryan’s recent moment of let’s pretend.

Last Saturday, the VP hopeful was campaigning in Youngstown, Ohio. One of his stops was at a soup kitchen, where he rolled up his sleeves and pitched in. Sounds great, right? The problem is, the meals had been served, the clients were gone, and the dishes were clean and put away. Ryan bullied his way into the kitchen by pressuring a volunteer and had his picture taken [wait for it] washing a clean pan. Apparently there were no charities in Youngstown that actually needed hope at that moment. Besides, it’s so much nicer dealing with volunteers in a clean kitchen than actually handling food near the >gasp< poor!

Sadly, Ryan’s “out damned spot” moment takes an even darker turn. The Mahoning County St. Vincent De Paul Society that Ryan visited was not contacted by the Romney campaign ahead of the Saturday morning visit. Brian Antag, president of the Society, was aghast and alarmed because his organization prohibits participation in political events.

We’re a faith-based organization; we are apolitical because the majority of our funding is from private donations. It’s strictly in our bylaws not to do it. They showed up there and they did not have permission. […] I can’t afford to lose funding from these private individuals. For us to even appear like we’re backing somebody, it’s suicide.

Yes, you read that correctly. Paul Ryan bullied a volunteer to enter a facility without permission to wash a clean dish for a handy campaign photo. While doing so, he caused the facility to violate its bylaws and potentially put its funding at risk. Way to care for the needy, Rep. Ryan. It’s not as though we need more evidence of the callous disregard the Romney/Ryan ticket has for anyone outside their lily-white Randian pillars of “justice.” Sadly, the proof just keeps coming, and let’s face it, Romney/Ryan is a dirt that just won’t wash clean!

Bigot of the Week Award: February 3, Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation

3 Feb

Bigot of the Week

Thank you to the many people that helped to inspire this week’s BWA with their outrage.  A special thanks to Cecile Richards, Sara Swain, and Voice of the Trailer.

It’s always disappointing when an organization that should be seen as an ally and champion stumbles. This week’s BWA winner managed worse than that with a stumble that turns into a full-fledged fall from grace. The Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation has announced that it will stop supporting lifesaving breast cancer screening for low-income and underserved women at Planned Parenthood health centers. Over the past five years, Komen funds have enabled Planned Parenthood health centers to provide nearly 170,000 clinical breast exams and referrals for more than 6,400 mammograms. Alas, who cares if poor women have breast cancer?

These cancer detection and prevention programs saved the lives of women who often had nowhere else to turn for care.  Women of color, minorities, the poor, and the transgender community depend especially heavily on services like those provided by Planned Parenthood. Komen for the Cure’s decision has a perhaps accidental but nonetheless potent impact on the most needy members of our society. Badly done!

The reason given for the decision is baffling, shallow, and hypocritical. Bowing to pressure from right-wing groups, the Foundation said that it will cease the funding because of a policy prohibiting contributions a grant applicant or any of its affiliates if it is “currently under a local, state or federal formal investigation for financial or administrative impropriety or fraud.” This refers to the Congressional witch-hunt launched by Rep. Cliff Stearns (R – FL) who has stated unapologetically that his whole mission is to destroy Planned Parenthood.  Even worse for Komen, this policy seems only to apply to money that flows outward. They accept huge partnership donations from Bank of America, a corporation which is currently the subject of at least five state and federal investigations. How’s that for self-serving hypocrisy?

The Foundation is in desperate spin mode as more people react with justifiable outrage at this decision. The negative comments on their Facebook page are mounting up faster than the Foundation can manage them. Dozens of major donors are encouraging people to give their money to other cancer charities unless Komen reverses itself; New York Mayor Bloomberg gave Planned Parenthood $250,000 to help defray the loss. The Executive Director of Komen’s Los Angeles chapter has resigned in protest. Komen founder and CEO is spewing alternate explanations on every available news channel at a speed that would make Herman Cain dizzy.

Let’s hope this pressure has the desired effect: the Susan G. Komen for the Cure Foundation must reverse this deeply flawed decision and recognize that pressure from the right will never serve the interests of American women. Until then, anyone interested in funding cancer research and prevention should look for another home for their dollars.  At this point, I fear the Komen Foundation is so utterly corrupt that it is now beyond repair.

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