Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) is on the floor right now conducting an old-fashioned, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington style filibuster. The Senate talks a great deal about filibusters, but usually they are referring to not having the 60 votes to end debate. In this case, Senator Sanders is holding the floor and not yielding.
The term filibuster comes from the Spanish filibustero, which translates as "pirate”. Senator Sanders is hedging a bit in calling what he is doing a filibuster, but he has certainly pirated the Senate floor. He sees injustice in the Bush tax cut extension deal that was struck between the White House and Senate Republicans.
I see the same injustice and wonder where the moral outrage is when a tax deal disproportionately favors millionaires over the middle class. This bill gives proportionally more to the top 3 percent of earners than to the other 97 percent of Americans.
At a time when the country has a $13.8 trillion national debt, the middle class is falling apart and the gulf between very wealthy and everybody else continues to grow, the tax deal asks that we borrow nearly a trillion more dollars to help the rich get richer. I would like to say I am astonished at the influence the top three percent of wage earners have over Congress, but I am not. For weeks the other side has refused to extend unemployment benefits to two million people out of work who are desperately struggling to pay their bills.
Our friends on the other side are literally saying nothing is more important right now than giving the very rich an additional tax break. The same people who campaigned on driving down the debt and controlling reckless spending are now fine with borrowing every dime of the money needed for this deal.
Keep in mind, that in the last decade the incomes of the very rich have nearly doubled while their tax burden has been cut in half. Middle income households made less this last year when adjusted for inflation than they did in 1999.
Let me take that further. Last year, Exxon Mobile became the most profitable company in the history of the planet. Last year, they reported a record breaking $42.5 billion in profits. That is not income --- that is how much they made after all the bills were paid and the books were closed.
Not only did Exxon Mobile not pay a single dime in corporate taxes, under the Bush tax code, the US Treasury actually gave the company a refund of $158 million. And yet, if this tax deal passes, those in the very lowest income brackets may actually pay MORE in taxes than they did last year.
How is it that the best we can do after borrowing another trillion dollars is to actually increase the tax burden on the least able to afford it? Our job is not to lower taxes for people who are already extraordinarily wealthy.
In Missouri’s Fifth District, I represent 204,959 households. According to the 2009 Census, 4,288 of those households make over $200,000 a year. That represents 2 percent of all the people I represent. And yet, 100 percent of the children I represent will have to pay for the extra tax cut this bill will give to the highest earning households in my district.
I thank Senator Sanders for asking his colleagues to say “no” to increasing the deficit by giving tax breaks to the wealthy and “no” to holding the unemployed and the middle class hostage. If we are going to borrow this much money, we should demand we get our money’s worth in simulant effect.
This week, I joined a small group of my colleagues to meet with Vice President Biden and inform him that the overwhelming majority of Congressional Black Caucus members are opposed to the current tax plan.
We are also opposed to the estate tax provision that lowers the inheritance tax rate for less than three-tenths of one percent of Americans. To be exact, 99.7 percent did not pay one cent in estate taxes. Members of the Congressional Black Caucus support extending unemployment benefits and provisions to create jobs, but we want to support something responsible.
We understand there are tough choices to make next year. This package as it is now will disproportionately hurt the poor and low-income communities. We cannot hurt the least of these this way.
Friday, December 10, 2010
Cleaver: Compromise was flawed
Rep. Emanuel Cleaver, D-Mo. was not happy with President Obama's compromise with Republicans on continuing the Bush tax cuts: From his latest EC from DC column: