Saturday, April 21, 2012

AFGE Week in Review - April 20th, 2012

April 20, 2012
Should Congress Pledge Allegiance to Our Nation or to Just One Man? That one man is Grover Norquist, founder and president of Americans for Tax Reform who has gotten nearly every right-wing lawmaker to sign a pledge that they will never increase taxes on anyone under any circumstances, even though it destroys America. With no new revenue but more tax breaks for the rich, there would be no new roads and bridges, no education spending, no food inspections, no processing of Social Security claims, no health care for poor children, the elderly, the disabled, no new teachers, police officers, scientists. That’s why on Tax Day, April 17, AFGE and other groups gathered outside Norquist’s office in Washington, D.C. to condemn the protect-the-one-percent pledge signers and Norquist, who has singlehandedly created gridlock in Washington as all six right-wing lawmakers on the congressional deficit supercommittee have signed his pledge. We also demanded that Congress end tax breaks for millionaires and that the rich pay their fair share. 
“We object to there being a two-tier tax system in America. One tax system for the very wealthy one percent and a couple thousand global corporations and another tax system for everybody else. There’s something wrong with that,” said Chuck Collins, a resident scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies and the author of 99 to 1: How Wealth Inequality is Wrecking the World and What We Can Do About It. “And what Grover has done is help make sure that that tax system for the privileged stays intact and every year he lobbies to make it more and more unfair.”
Brenda King, who has been a nurse for 41 years, asked why nurses should pay higher taxes than Wall St. traders. King was referring to the mere 15 percent tax rate these traders pay as opposed to the 35 percent middle class workers are subject to. She also wondered why giving tax breaks to millionaires is more important than letting kids go to school, reducing the deficit, or providing health care for the disabled and the elderly.
“Grover, we think you are wrong,” she told the crowd. “Giving everyone a chance at American Dream is more important than giving tax breaks to millionaires.” 
The protest outside Norquist’s office was one of the Tax Day events organized by AFGE and our coalition partners around the country.
House Approves $46 Billion Tax Breaks to Corporations: The House this week passed a bill that would give 20 percent tax breaks to 95 percent of the country’s businesses. H.R.9, introduced by Rep. Eric Cantor of Virginia and passed along party lines, would cost the taxpayers $46 billion a year. Rep. Steny Hoyer of Maryland said the bill blows a $46 billion hole in the deficit this year alone and $460 billion for the next 10 years.

“The Wall Street Journal called this bill that you are offering today a tax gimmick,” Hoyer said on the House floor. “And so what did Bruce Bartlett [who served under the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations] say? I quote: ‘It will do nothing whatsoever to increase employment.’  Point number one. This is not a jobs bill, it will not grow the economy, it will not do what all of us think needs to be done. And he went on to say: ‘It is nothing more than an election year giveaway to a favored [right wing] constituency.’”
USDA Delays Start of Dirty Chicken Rule: ABC World News with Diane Sawyer this week delivered a revealing report on the Agriculture Department’s proposal to let slaughterhouses inspect their own chickens and leave a single federal inspector responsible for examining up to 175 chickens per minute. The USDA told ABC it is delaying implementation of the new rule to give itself more time to respond to critics. But don’t be fooled. USDA is simply buying time until the drumbeat dies down. AFGE will not stop protesting until USDA agrees to withdraw the proposal. Despite the USDA’s argument that the proposal is intended to improve food safety, the agency admitted to ABC that the new system does not employ more lab tests that can see salmonella and other bacteria.
On April 20, AFGE along with consumer watchdogs, concerned citizens and federal food inspectors delivered nearly 150,000 petitions to USDA opposing the proposed changes. It’s clear that the public values safe food over cost savings.
How America’s Richest Citizens, Corporations Exploit Tax Loopholes: In a Pulitzer Prize winning series called “But Nobody Pays That,” New York Times journalist David Kocieniewski exposes the tax loopholes that big corporations and the wealthiest Americans exploit. Ronald S. Lauder, an heir to the Estée Lauder cosmetics empire, for example, has qualified for tens of millions of dollars in tax deductions over the years simply by donating his art to his private foundation. One of the tax loopholes essentially forces taxpayers to subsidize executive pay by allowing companies to claim a tax deduction on the stock options granted to executives, costing the federal government tens of billions of dollars in revenue over the next 10 years.

“It is one of the many obscure provisions buried in the tax code that together enable most American companies to pay far less than the top corporate tax rate of 35 percent — in some cases, virtually nothing even in very profitable years,” Kocieniewski wrote.
Right Wing Sides with the Rich, Votes Down Buffet Rule: Right-wing lawmakers in the Senate voted down the Buffet Rule that would have ensured the wealthy don’t pay lower tax rates than middle-class Americans.  Even though Americans favor the Buffet Rule by 60 to 37, these lawmakers rejected it anyway – not a surprise considering the fact that most of them have signed the Norquist pledge to protect the 1 percent.  

Right Wing Lawmakers Target Food Stamps: When it’s time to choose which programs to cut, right-wing lawmakers made it clear once again whose interests they are protecting. In order to fund tax breaks for the wealthy and big corporations, House lawmakers are aiming their budget axe at food stamps and child tax credits to immigrant children. Under a proposal approved by a House panel this week, the food stamp monthly benefit for a family of four would be reduced by $60 beginning next year and up to three million people would be dropped from the program.  

Catholic Bishops Criticize Plans to Cut Food Stamps, Programs for the Poor: Even the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops thinks the right wing’s plan to cut food stamps and child tax credits to immigrant children is going too far.

“Cuts to nutrition programs such as the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) will hurt hungry children, poor families, vulnerable seniors and workers who cannot find employment. These cuts are unjustified and wrong,” wrote Bishop Stephen E. Blaire in a letter to the House Agriculture Committee. Lawmakers should “protect essential programs that serve poor and hungry people over subsidies that assist large and relatively well-off agricultural enterprises.”
The bishop also criticized cuts to child tax credits to immigrant children. “To deny the (child tax) credit to children of working poor immigrant families — the large majority of whom are American citizens — would hurt vulnerable kids, increase poverty, and would not advance the common good,” he wrote.
ALEC Shuts Down Task Force on ‘Stand Your Ground’, Voter ID Laws: Thanks to grassroots activism, the controversial lobbying group American Legislative Exchange Council this week announced it will shut down the task force that lobbies and drafts model legislation for voter ID and ‘Stand your ground’ gun laws. The voter ID laws that many states have adopted make it more difficult for the poor, the elderly, and minorities to vote while Florida’s version of ‘stand your ground’ law was the reason neighborhood watch volunteer George Zimmerman was not initially charged when he shot and killed an unarmed African-American 17-year-old boy, Trayvon Martin. Big corporations such as Coca-Cola, Pepsi and McDonald’sdropped their ALEC membership after Trayvon Martin’s death ignited protests across the country and civil rights groups launched a campaign calling on corporate sponsors to cut ties with the extremist lobbying group.
ALEC, however, vowed to double down on their lobbying efforts on other areas such as the war on workers and their unions and a big push for fewer government regulations and lower tax rates for the rich and big corporations. Their goal: "free-market, limited government, pro-growth policies."
FLRA to Hold First Virtual Town Hall Meeting Next Week: The Federal Labor Relations Authority (FLRA) is holding its first virtual Town Hall meeting next Thursday, April 26, to introduce various FLRA online resources such as the newly launched e-filing system and web-based training modules. Participating in the town hall are FLRA Chair Carol Pope, General Counsel Julia Akins Clark, Federal Service Impasses Panel Chair Mary Jacksteit, and senior staff. The town hall will be held from 1-3 p.m. EST via webcast, but you can also participate in person in the Office of Personnel Management’s Alan Campbell Auditorium in Washington, D.C.
To register, send an email with your name, title, and affiliation to by April 20 and indicate if you will participate in person or via webcast. Please list “FLRA Town Hall” in the subject line. The instructions for webcast viewing will be provided prior to the town hall.

Tweet of the Week: “Tomorrow is tax day: when we give the top 1% nearly $4K each to help pay their mortgages. How small would their house be w/out our help!”  ~@BetseyStevenson
This Week in Labor History: April 19, 1995 – An American domestic terrorist’s bomb destroys the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, killing 168 people, 99 of whom were government employees. 

Inside Government: Tune in now to AFGE’s “Inside Government” for a closer look at the “Buffett Rule” tax legislation. The show, which originally aired on Friday, April 20, is now available on demand. Campaign for America’s Future Co-director Roger Hickey discussed the legislation, which recently failed to garner enough votes in the Senate, and how it would have impacted public services. Hickey also addressed key issues in the upcoming presidential election. GovLoop Founder and President Steve Ressler then previewed the Next Generation of Government Summit July 26 – 27 and also detailed GovLoop’s career guide and mentor program. Lastly, National Women’s Law Center vice presidents Emily Martin and Judy Waxman joined Center for American Progress Senior Constitutional Policy Analyst Ian Millhiser to discuss the constitutionality of the Affordable Care Act and its impact on women.

Listen LIVE on Fridays at 10 a.m. on 1500 AM WFED in the D.C. area or online at

Quote of the Week

Rep. Steny Hoyer on how right wing lawmakers passed legislation that would give the rich big tax breaks again while cutting programs most Americans rely on:
“The Wall Street Journal called this bill that you are offering today a tax gimmick. And so what did Bruce Bartlett [who served under the Reagan and George H.W. Bush administrations] say? I quote: ‘It will do nothing whatsoever to increase employment.’  Point number one. This is not a jobs bill, it will not grow the economy, it will not do what all of us think needs to be done. And he went on to say: ‘It is nothing more than an election year giveaway to a favored [right wing] constituency.’” 

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO 80 F Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20001 | Tel.(202) 737-8700 | Fax (202) 639-6492

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