Gulf Coast Families Struggle While Millionaires Get Massive Tax Giveaway

Oct. 18—Working families are mobilizing to stop congressional Republicans and the Bush administration from slashing as much as $50 billion in vital safety net programs—funding that will finance $70 billion in tax cuts for the wealthy. The Republican leadership claims the cuts in health care, education, housing, nutrition assistance and unemployment insurance will help pay for Gulf Coast recovery efforts following Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

Yet the programs on the chopping block offer the vital support Gulf Coast families need to rebuild their lives after the hurricanes’ destruction, which shows Republicans in Congress are using the funding needs of the Gulf Coast rebuilding to ram through their long-held agenda to decimate the nation’s critical safety nets, union leaders say. Republican leaders also want to raise Medicare premiums and co-payments by as much as $10,000 over five years.

On Oct. 17 and 18, hundreds of thousands of activists are taking part in a phone campaign telling their senators and representatives to reject the budget priorities of Republican extremists and the Bush administration and urging them to set a new direction for America—one that puts people first and invests in good jobs, health care for all, schools, hospitals and highways.

Billionaire Tax Cuts not America’s Priorities

Although recent tax cuts for capital gains and dividend profits that go almost exclusively to the wealthy don’t expire until 2008, Republican leaders claim it’s urgent to extend them for another five years. Some 97 percent of the tax cuts from these two measures will go to the 3.7 percent of households that have incomes over $200,000 a year, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.

The tax cuts "are absolutely the wrong priorities for Congress and the nation. We need to set a new direction for America," AFL-CIO President John Sweeney says.

These proposed cuts are in addition to the Bush administration’s suspension of federal Davis-Bacon laws in the Gulf Coast, a move that slashes pay for workers rebuilding the hurricane-devastated Gulf Coast, where skilled, full-time workers average less than $20,000 a year in pay.

A new grassroots group, Emergency Campaign for America’s Priorities is mobilizing union members, community, civil rights, student, family and other activists to stop the spending cuts and tax breaks for the wealthy.

"The Republican leadership’s agenda—more tax breaks for the wealthy and destructive cuts in vital programs—are proof positive that they are completely out of touch with America’s priorities," says AFSCME President Gerald McEntee.

Americans Oppose Priorities of Bush, Republican Congress

A recent poll by Peter D. Hart Research Associates shows that by a 2–to–1 margin, Americans believe cutting programs for the middle class and poor to fund tax cuts for the wealthy are the wrong priorities. By an even larger margin—71 percent to 25 percentthey oppose the $70 billion in tax cuts and the billions in family services spending cuts.

Senate and House committees will detail specific spending cuts before the end of October and both chambers are expected to vote on a package of cuts soon after. The Senate is expected to stick with $35 billion in cuts, but House leaders have said they will try for $50 billion—or even more—in cuts. A vote on the tax cut legislation likely will happen before Thanksgiving.