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 —
WORKING TOO LONG AND HARD?
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
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 taxes.
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 tax system.
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
Chris Townsend is Political Action Director of the United Electrical,
Radio, and Machine Workers of America (UE).