Capitol Hill Shop Steward
In case you didn’t notice it, the International
Labor Organization released a report back on Labor Day that
exposed one of the dirtiest little secrets of the United States.
The report explained how people in our country now work longer
than anyone else in the industrial world, averaging 1,966 hours
per year. That’s an increase of 83 hours per year just since
1980. Congratulations, everyone! Now get back to work.
The average working person already knows that we
work too much. Except for the unemployed, who would be glad to
work at all. So what have our lawmakers been doing about this
national disgrace? You guessed it — nothing.
WORKING TOO LONG AND
HOW ABOUT A $160 TAX CUT?
Instead, the big political topic of discussion
here in Washington, D.C., has been "tax cuts." A greedy
Big Business tax cut scheme flew through the House of
Representatives on July 22, picking up the votes of 217
Republicans and six Democrats. Just eight days later, the Senate
followed suit, passing the same disgraceful plan with the support
of 52 Republicans, four Democrats, and the new Independent
super-conservative Senator Bob Smith from New Hampshire. The
Republican robbery plot was, thankfully, inked out by President
Clinton’s veto pen on September 23.
Make no mistake about it, though: The same
corporate lobbyists who dreamed up this tax cut rip-off are
guaranteed to be back for another stab at it. In the meantime, the
Republicans will gleefully use the Clinton veto as a campaign
issue. Look, they’ll say, at how this big-spending Democrat
refused to cut taxes for us good working people.
So let’s take a look at the tax legislation so
enthusiastically supported by Big Business Republicans.
First of all, it would have cost the government
almost $800 billion over a ten-year span.
The big tax "surplus" the GOP wants to
"cut" is mostly a prediction. The Republican members of
Congress who helped create our massive federal debt, then
complained about it constantly, are the same forces pushing for
this enormous tax reduction.
Of the $792 billion projected to be part of the
tax cut, $523 billion would have gone to the richest 10 percent of
taxpayers. The wealthiest one percent of taxpayers would have
netted about $46,000 per year! As for you and me, we would get
squat — about $160 per year. That’s $3.07 per week, or enough
money to send the Labor Party a nice contribution and then take
the family out to dinner — but only once a year.
Ignored by the media is the fact that almost 20
percent of the total "tax cuts" the GOP proposed were
actually new and expanded forms of corporate welfare. Big
companies like General Motors, Lockheed Martin, Microsoft, and
Tyson Foods lined up special deals to drastically reduce their own
Now you might be wondering what the Democrats were
doing to try to stop this crime in progress. A good number did a
half-decent job of trying to expose this corporate scheme to rip
off taxpayers. But some Democrats opposed the Republican plan by
trying to substitute a watered down version that would only give
rich people about half as much as the Republican plan. And as you
can see from the congressional votes, a handful of Democrats
decided to go for the extreme Republican plan itself.
WHO REPRESENTS US?
What’s wrong with this picture? It’s obvious.
The Republicans have a very clear idea of what they want, and they’re
willing to fight and even lose for it. They want to deliver
billions of dollars to the corporate forces who put them into
office, and even when they fail, they create a campaign issue to
use against the Democrats. You have to at least give these guys
credit for having a plan.
This entire tax battle is another fine example of
the failure and inability of the Democrats to organize a solid
defense, let alone a good counterattack. Where is the Democratic
leadership’s comprehensive plan to shift the tax burden from
over-taxed working people to the woefully under-taxed corporations
and the rich? Are the Democrats demanding an elimination of
federal taxes on low-income working people? Are the Democrats
proposing to close the hundreds of billions of corporate tax
loopholes and corporate welfare schemes to give ordinary working
families a little tax relief? Are they promoting any pro-worker
solutions in a unified way? Nope.
I think that for now we can depend on the
Democrats to stop a full-blown Republican raid on the U.S.
Treasury. But let’s not wait around for them to mobilize working
people to demand a total reconstruction of our corrupt antiworker
So when you look at your next pay stub, just
remember that we won’t get a shorter workweek or a fair system
of taxation until we build the Labor Party. Have you asked anyone
to join the Labor Party today? What are you waiting for?
Chris Townsend is Political Action Director of the United Electrical,
Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).