Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Hoping to Avert a New Gilded Age: Protect Patients! A DC-Day-of-Action to Stop the Tax Scam Bill #cpdaction #housingworks #riseandresistny #protectpatients #forfucksakewhatishappeninginthiscountry

Die in and arrests at the rotunda! by Winnie Wong.
Kill the bill, don't kill us
— with Ivy Arce atUnited States Capitol,
Bottom Hamming it up with code pink. 

my daughter posted the picture below with the words, my dad.

I signed up for the Housing Works/Center for Popular Democracy action on Monday the 18th.

Some are saying that "tax reform” - which is a clever name for a bill that takes away health care for 13 million people, targets students and working people, and jacks up tax rates for millions - is a done deal. But when you look at what’s really going on in Washington, it's far from a sure thing. This is a must-pass bill for Trump, Ryan, McConnell, and their allies, and even if we lose, we’re making it more and more costly to them to take our health care away. We’ve fought them all year, and delayed their disastrous agenda.
They’re going to try to vote on this bill Monday or Tuesday. We are going to stop them.
JOIN US • December 18, 2017 • Washington DC •  

Paul Davis, of Housing Works, sent the following email before the action.

Hi birddog nation and new folks who have signed up for the actions on Monday and Tuesday to stop the #GOPTaxScam and #ProtectPatients!  Over the last six months, he's worked with Flynn to help organize a model of mass civil disobedience that has been open, transparent, and inviting. 

Resending this message to catch a late burst of new sign ups — thank you for your ferocity and dedication to justice and fairness. For your reading pleasure, here’s a good NYT story that was just published. It features a really hot pic of our own Samson, giving our congress critters and earful just last week: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/12/17/opinion/taxes-inequality-charts.html

The Rs *think* they are going to vote. But if enough of us show up, they’ll have another thing coming. With McCain out, Cochran in question, we are still very much in the game. Please sign up now, even if it’s only for Tuesday!

See you Monday and Tuesday, heroes!


On Dec 17, 2017, at 7:58 PM, Molly Sandley <dchealthcaretravel@gmail.com> wrote:

BUT: we are still fighting. We are still alive in this fight. With McCain announcing he'll be out of DC for the vote and Susan Collins and Jeff Flake still gettable, it's more important than ever that we show up IN FORCE. 

 The article Paul was talking about, “A Tax Plan to Turbocharge Inequality, in 3 Charts” by
David Leonhardt DEC. 17, 2017 began:

Obama tried to reverse these broad trends and had some success. The coreof his domestic policy, in fact, was fighting inequality. He substantially raised taxes on the rich, while keeping the Bush tax cuts for the middle class and poor. He also expanded health care and other middle-class programs. Before Obama, there were also bipartisan efforts to expand Medicare and low-income tax credits.
But these efforts haven’t been nearly enough to make up for the soaring pre-tax inequality — or even to make the tax code more progressive than it used to be.  

I left the house at six thirty AM on Monday to make the seven AM bus from Union Square.  Homeless people were still sleeping on the train and throughout Union Square.   We see poverty first in the streets and public spaces in New York.   

The bus was revving up to leave when I arrived after seven pm.

I sat by my friends Wendy and Tim, who I’ve known from ACT UP for two decades. Tim was planning on paying lobby visits to Susan Collins and perhaps Flake, although we all worried they had made up their minds.

“Transportation will be hurt in New York if the bill passes,” explained Wendy.

No one on the bus was sure we’ll win, but we’re gonna make Republicans voting see us and the damage the bill will inflict.

The 538 Blog doesn’t even think this is going to help the Republicans Politically.

“We’re building a community here,” noted Judy Pleune of the Raging Grannies. “This is how we expand the resistance.”

Mark Hannay, of ACT UP, was busy counting possible votes for the legislation.

Sitting on the bus, Tim told me about the story of his activism, that grew out of his concerns for the health challenges faced by gay men as result of homophobia, hate and later HIV/AIDS.   He attended his first Fighting for Our Lives AIDS Candlelight Vigil in 1987.  At the march, one of his friends told him about an angry group that has just formed that was meeting at the Lesbian and Gay Community Services Center in the West Village. Of course, he was talking about the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power, veterans of whom were organizing the healthcare demos in Washington that we were participating with three decades later.

“It was founded in March.  I got involved as a member of the Treatment and Data Committee.  I was always deaf in one ear.  So I sat in the front.  I set up the front row for the disabled in the group.  Harvey Weider and Kim Kritcherson sat up there with me.”

Over the years, he’s watched cohorts drop in and out of the group, yet he stays the course.  “I wasn’t a member of the Swim Team.  I wasn’t fucking around.  Matt Ebert was always the chalk queen. When he left, I became it.”

Tim's old act up buddies Matt Ebert by Jay Blotcher,
harry weider and keith cylar by Michael Wakefield.

I met Tim in one of these meetings two decades ago, connecting with Jennifer Flynn and Paul Davis, during the same period.

“America has no idea what is about to hit them with this bill,” noted Tim, who has combated HIV and cancer for years now.  He depends on just the sort of public health insurance being gutted by this bill.  “Americans who have their parents live with them, who get Meals on Wheels a few day a week, they are going to lose that funding. They are not thinking about that.”  We’ll see it in block grants for healthcare, cuts to entitlements, money for transportation, schools, etc.

Our conversation switched between Tim's past, his getting to know New York and its public spaces, and the present, and current our journey to Washington. “I want to go into Collins’ office and rip the books off the wall,” he groused.  “She doesn’t understand. I’ve been through cancer. This will kill me.  I can’t live without insurance.”

Judy Pleume and Bev Price, of the Raging Grannies, were on the bus in the back.  We talked about why were all on the bus.

“We’ve been here for years,” explained Pleume.  “We are now nothing but a body to get in the way.  It is important to build a community.  We’re not sure we’ll win.”

But Bev argued that it was important for people to see that Americans give a damn. “We’re not sheep.  We can’t just wait for 2018.”

I have known these two since the early days of the anti-war movement in 2003.

I asked Judy when she became an activist.

“I was a Freedom Rider,” confessed Pleume. 

Price was involved with the no nukes movement.

“We are here to voice public opposition to the Tax Bill,” explained Mark Hannay.  “And scare up opposition. Even if they pass something, they are going to have to fight for every inch.”

Arriving in Washington, we all converged at the Capital Skyline Hotel.  I ran into Garrett Wilkinson and Gregg Gonsalves chatting about the Kansas experiment and what happens when you radically slash taxes.  Wilkinson is from Kansas.  The budget robbed the budget of money for police, public education, and even the Kansas Public Employees Retirement System, that administers benefit plans for state and local public employees.

“This is what the federal tax bill will do to the country,” argued Gonsalves, another ACT UP veteran, who now teaches at Yale. “I’m pissed off.”

Waiting for the CD training to start, I spoke with Wendy Brawer, who joined the action at the last minute.  An environmentalist, she explained why she was here.  “I think the focus away from renewable culture makes it harder to make change, to push for renewables. With climate change impacting us in more ways every year, California had to spend some $110 million dollars on fires.  With no revenue, how will that be possible?”

In a crisis, who is the first-person people call, public service employees, police, firemen, social workers. 

The conversation turned to our own process. We all do better when its fun, teenagers and everyone else, notedBrawer. The resistance has to be engaging and alluring we concurred.

Standing talking, we met Stephanie, who was forced to jump out of a third story window during a fire.  “And the ACA coverage saved my life.  It sounds morose, but thank goodness, my accident happened before 2017, when the ACA was still thriving.  This bill takes away this possibility. That’s my healthcare story.”

Jennifer and Paul started the training.

“When we fight we win!” they chanted.  “When we drag this out we win.  When we expose this criminal negligence, we win,” argued Paul. “They thought they could pass ACA repeal and replace legislation the first day of the term.  And then they didn’t get anything passed all year. They thought they could pass tax reform in November.  And now here we are a week before Christmas and nothing has passed.” 

 “How many want to get arrested for the first time?” they asked us.  Many raised their hands. 


“How many have been arrested three times?” I raised my hand along with several others. 


“How many have been arrested over six times this year?” another group raised their hands.  

We gave them a standing ovation.

The plan of the day would be to lobby all day, doing office visits with Senators and members of the house till 8 PM when we’d stage a die-in in the capital Rotunda.

The House and the Senate want to vote this week, Paul explained. 

Some would spend the night.  And keep fighting the bill all week long.  

If congress refused to respond to lobbying, acts of civil disobedience would take place all week long.
Activists had to be aware they might be put through the system if they disrupted congress.

"People are falsely arrested and put through the system all the time," noted Jennifer.  "We have an obligation to bear witness to this pain."

Before we broke into groups according to region, some DACA activists came to speak, pointing out that our struggle was their struggle and vice versa. 

“We love you,” Tim reminded one of the speakers as she became emotional.

“When I say people, you say power. People POWER!!!!” we all screamed in a call and response.

We’d see the DACA folks all day long as lobbied, talking with Congresswoman Tenney’s staff, meeting with David Kinzler, Senator Corker's legislative director.  “This is a bet on the American people!”  he reminded us, arguing that the cuts would be offset with a trillion in new anticipated revenue.  We asked for his source for that.

“No real economist believes that,” noted Arlene Geiger, a CUNY economist.

Trickle down has never worked.

When he asked how this bill could hurt the poor. Gregg Gonsalves  began with a discussion about excess death or mortality, caused by a specific disease, condition, or exposure to harmful circumstances such as radiation, environmental chemicals, natural disaster and austerity measures.

Gregg described the meeting.

So, a bunch of us got to meet with David Kinzler, Senator Corker's legislative director, yesterday.
What was disheartening was the disingenuous of his remarks to us.In defending the Senator's flip-flop on the bill, Mr. Kinzler--who was in his early 30s I think--ended up making a case that the bill would pay for itself through economic growth. I'm not sure why the office had this late-stage conversion to supply side economics, but there we were.
He said all this with a straight face and the group of us in the room got more and more agitated.
There were tears and heart-wrenching stories of health problems, and of the need to keep our investments in Medicare, Medicaid, the ACA individual mandate.
Mr. Kinzler held the hands of the crying, looking concerned, but this young man was cold as ice.
What does it mean to go to work each day and lie for a living? Perhaps he believes all this, although the Senator's own views "evolved" over the course of the week and after some well-place provisions in the bill for him.
There is a generation of young Republicans who now have been led into the cult and I am sure this isn't the last we've seen of Mr. Kinzler. He'll be swinging a gavel one day, still telling lies for a living, mostly to himself.

Then we talked about how the bill would hurt people. Mr. Kinzler seemed baffled. We talked about PAYGO, the well-announced plans to tackle entitlements next, but he kept saying that this bill doesn't touch health programs and PAYGO won't be invoked.

Watching him speak dismissively of the 13 million people who the independent Congressional Budget Office argues will lose their health insurance if this passes, I was reminded of Stalin’s adage that a hundred deaths is a tragedy, a million is politics.  This is just politics for these senators. 

They did not want to meet with us.
Sen Collins refused to meet disability activists. Several locked their doors on us.  One told us the office is private property.

Really we asked.

Lindey Graham ran away from the disability activists.

Activists chased a senator from Arkansas to the elevator.

The senator from Kansas hid from his constituents who'd come all the way from home to meet with him. 

There is something wrong when those who represent us refuse to hear or talk with us. 
Its a reflection of a broken democracy.

At the Capital Rotunda, Ady Barkan, the disability activist with advanced ALS who gained national recognition after he confronted Senators Jeff Flake and Susan Collins over their support for the Republican tax scam, reminded us that democracy is beautiful.  It is empowering. And this is our country.

As we were speaking, the police told us the protest was illegal. At this point, we lay down for a die-in and began to sing “This land is your land” and “This little light of mine.”

The energy of our frustration bursting through the air. 

But so did love.  Paul proposed to his fiancé at the action.

Those in the CD reached out to hold and support each other, lccking arms.

Ady and several other disability activists, ACT Uppers, veterans of the Women’s March, and many others joined the action.

Some 65 of us were arrested, mostly women, screaming for the democracy to hear us, to include our voices, to kill the bill, to reflect our voices, the voices of the majority, who voted for someone else besides Trump.   Democracy is broken, but we are going to fix it, one direct action at a time.

We pushed back a lot this year.

We won back a lot with our bodies, movements and solidarity. 

There is more we are going to do.

In the streets, with my comrades, it fees like democracy might be on the mend.

But looking at the homeless sleeping on the subways, I fear we are entering a new gilded age, with more and more kids unable to afford school, find homes, or insurance.  I fear our New York will become Sister Carrie’s New York, a place where the poor face more and more challenges than they can endure.  

After the arrests, Tim was there to greet us with others, giving everyone a hug, pointing us to the hotel where Jennifer had ordered food for everyone.

We shared a slice of beer and got home by 430 AM.  

Riding home, the subway was filled with people sleeping on the trains. 

After the arrests, Joe Dinkin, of the Working Families Party wrote:

They just arrested Ady Barkan
I’m down in D.C today to show my support for Ady. He has been flying across the country and meeting with key lawmakers to highlight how the tax scam will result in drastic cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security.
And he hasn't been alone. Today, activists across the country stood with Ady on his 34th birthday to protest the tax scam. Tomorrow, as the House plans to vote, we'll be out there again. We’re not stopping now.
Last week, when Sen. Collins explained to Ady that she would support the tax scam because Republicans assured her there would be no cuts to Medicare to pay for the bill, he told her, “They’re lying to you.”2 He was right.
Republicans aren’t even hiding the fact that their next step will be to try and slash Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security.3 So there you have it -- people like Ady will lose access to critical health care they need to survive, all so their billionaire campaign contributors can get a massive tax break.

Ady arrested Monday night. 

After a few hours sleep, I started writing this blog.

After getting out of jail, Kyle Moore wrote:

"I just got out of jail in dc for interrupting the House vote on the tax bill. On December 19, a group of 19 of us got tickets to the House Gallery, and individually and in groups we stood up and chanted "shame" and "kill the bill, not us". We all received misdemeanors and have to return to court January 10. There r no phones allowed in the gallery so the only way to hear about this is to watch C-span and u can hear us chanting. The house went silent each time we chanted until we were kicked out. Also it was amazing to get arrested with nurses, women of color, clergy, intellectuals, people with disabilities including those in wheelchairs, and lgbtq members including many who fought the AIDS crisis back in the 1980s. And I'm proud to have chanted with this coalition at the nearly all-white republicans. Even the democrats on the floor clapped in support of us."

HCAN posted the following statement.

Republican Tax Package Rewards the Richest 1% and Wall Street While Cutting Health Care and Raising Taxes for the Rest of Us
President Donald Trump and Republicans in Congress are calling their tax bill a Christmas gift to the middle-class—but instead, it’s a lump of coal that hands trillions in tax breaks to the rich and Wall Street paid for by cuts to health care and tax hikes on middle-class families.
Changes in the final Tax Cuts and Jobs Act passed by the House and Senate made an already bad bill worse, but did nothing to protect the health care, education and economic security programs from cuts that Republicans want to make to pay for their massive tax giveaway.
The Republican tax plan gives the biggest tax breaks to the richest 1% of households and corporations like Apple, Pfizer, and Wells Fargo, while at the same time raising taxes on middle-class families. 
·         Even though giving Wall Street tax breaks has never created more jobs, the bill cuts corporate taxes by $1.4 trillion by permanently reducing corporate tax rates from 35% to 21% and eliminating the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax).
·         The bill encourages more companies to move jobs and profits offshore by eliminating taxes on foreign profits. It gives huge multi-national companies like Apple and Microsoft a discount on taxes they already owed on existing profits they have hidden offshore—instead of making them pay their fair share like the rest of us, the bill allows them to pay $400 billion less.
·         Over the next 10 years (by 2027), the richest 1% of Americans will get 83% of the tax breaks in the Republican tax plan. In 2018, millionaires will get an average tax cut of $51,000 while the bottom 60% of tax payers will get about a dollar a day.
·         At the same time, 92 million middle-class families (households earning less than $200,000) would get a tax increase under the Republican tax plan. Over half (53 percent) of all Americans – 100 million households – would get a tax increase in 2027.

To pay for tax breaks that mainly benefit the rich and corporations, the Republican tax plan guts health careleaving 13 million more Americans uninsured, raising premiums for millions more, and forcing cuts to Medicaid and Medicare.

·         To pay for permanent corporate tax cuts in the bill, the Republicans will repeal the individual responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act, which will destabilize markets, strip 13 million Americans of health insurance, and raise premiums 10%.
·         Because the tax bill adds over a trillion dollars to the deficit, it will trigger automatic cuts to important government services—including $25 billion in cuts to Medicare (the national insurance program for seniors and people with disabilities) in 2018, increasing to $400 billion in cuts over 10 years. Over 55 million people depend on Medicare for their health care.
·         Republican Speaker Paul Ryan has also announced that he plans to cut Medicare, Medicaid, Social Security and a slew of other critical programs next year to address the increased deficit resulting from the tax bill. Medicaid is the largest source of federal funding to states and provides health care for over 70 million Americans; the largest number of enrollees are children.

The Republican tax plan unfairly punishes families and children while giving big perks to wealthier households and corporations.

·         On average, all families with children will get a tax increase – unless they earn more than $1 million. At the same time, the new tax bill ends the Child Tax Credit (CTC) for about 1 million of the nation’s poorest children—many of them Dreamerswho don’t have Social Security numbers even though their parents pay taxes into the system. The new CTC also provides only a token amount$75 or less to 10 million kids in low income families while allowing upper income families (incomes up to $500,000 a year) to claim up to $2,000 on the CTC.
·         The final bill also changes important deductions in the current tax code that help middle class families lower their tax bill including capping the federal deduction for state and local taxes (SALT) at $10,000, which will raise taxes for about 8 million families. One-third of taxpayers making $50-75,000 take this deduction for state and local income and property taxes, as do half of those making $75-100,000. Capping this deduction hurts middle class families and adds pressure on state and local budgets to cut education, health care, and infrastructure.

Republican claims that this tax package helps the middle class, creates jobs and will give everyone in America a tax break are plainly untrue. Instead, the true beneficiaries will be Wall Street corporations that have already spent years shirking their fair share of taxes, wealthy households who will get huge tax breaks, and rich real estate tycoons like President Trump himself who will enjoy new loopholes for millionaires created in the bill.

The rest of us—working families, seniors, children, and the middle class—will pay for the Republican tax giveaway with higher taxes and cuts to health care, education and public services for decades to come.

In 2018, it’s up to us to tell Americans the truth about his historically unpopular legislation and remind them who pays for tax breaks for the rich and corporations in the Republican bill.
House Votes to Strip Health Care from Millions of Americans,  Raise Taxes on Working Families to Pay for a Massive Tax Giveaway to the Very Wealthy and Big Corporations
Washington, D.C. –  After the U.S. House voted for the final tax bill that would repeal the individual responsibility provision of the Affordable Care Act, gut Medicaid and Medicare, and raise taxes on the middle-class to pay for tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations, Health Care for America Now Co-Directors Ethan Rome and Margarida Jorge released the following statement:

 “This tax bill is a scam. It’s not about reforming the tax code or creating jobs – its’s about raising taxes on working families and taking away health care from children, seniors, and people with disabilities to increase the wealth of the top 1 percent and big corporations. The GOP is engineering a massive redistribution of wealth from low- and moderate-income families to wealthy individuals, Wall Street CEOS and corporations.

 “The Republicans are lining the pockets of Wall Street elites by taking health care away from 13 million Americans, raising premiums for millions more, and taking away tax deductions the middle-class depend on. The Republicans should be ashamed of their vote and this attack on America’s health care and families. While big pharma and CEOs win with this bill, the rest of America pays the price.

 “If Senate Republicans will put partisanship aside, they can stop this disaster by simply rejecting this dangerous bill that will harm our economy, our health, and our families. If not, when voters head to the polls in 2018, they won’t forget that the GOP took their money and health care to give to the rich.” 
 Health Care for America Now (HCAN) is the national grassroots coalition that ran a $60 million five-and-a-half year campaign from 2008-2013 to pass, protect, and promote the Affordable Care Act (ACA) and protect Medicare and Medicaid. HCAN has come back together to fight the Republicans’ all-out effort to take away America’s health care and put people at the mercy of the health insurance companies again.

Mark Hannay confirmed:
 Re:  House vote today… the final tally was 227 to 203.  12 Rs voted no, including 5 from NY: Zeldin, King, Donovan, Faso, and Stefanik.  The other 4 NY Rs voted yes:  Tenney, Katko, Reed, and Collins (all from central and western NY.)

Senate will begin its debate by late afternoon today, with a vote expected by mid-late evening.

After the bills passed, John Weir wrote about the spectacle of self interest in the passage of a bill that would rob from future generations.
McConnell admits the tax bill was written to kill Obamacare. Cornyn tells nationwide TV they cut a deal with Bob Corker to make him and 13 other GOP Senators richer. Orrin Hatch admits he wrote the deal memo. Admits? Nay, brags. Susan Collins says she's the victim of sexism, by which she means, everyone in her state told her not to vote for the bill.

They are a confederacy of dunces, only worse, because they still have power.
We must get rid of them and then rewrite laws to drain their wealth and therefore their power.

 Robert Reiche puts it:

The House just passed the disgraceful Trump-Republican tax bill -- with large and permanent tax cuts for corporations (that is, the richest 1 percent who own 40 percent of all shares of stock), and temporary cuts for individuals (the lion’s share going to the richest 1 tenth of 1 percent). The Senate is expected to approve it tonight or tomorrow, and Trump will sign it into law before Christmas.
A decade from now, according the nonpartisan analysts, the richest 1% will have received 83% of the gains from this tax cut, and the richest 0.1% will get 60% of the gains. But 13 million Americans will have lost their health coverage, the national debt will be $1.5 trillion larger, and Republicans will use the debt as an excuse to target Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security.
Never before in American history has this much money been transferred from the poor and middle class to the rich. Shame on the Republicans and on Trump. We must, as the saying goes, throw these bums out.
So, we'll keep on pushing forward, putting our bodies on the line for what we believe in, for the America is the Kansas students who came to speak to their senator, the disability activists, the parents, the students, the homeless, the people in wheelchairs speaking out for what kind of an America we want to live in.

As Amy Kapczynski  puts it:

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for being there and doing this for those of us who couldn't. Just b because you couldn't stop it doesn't mean you aren't heroes!