they are sticking to their vow to stop George W. Bush's proposed
tax cut, these days there's a distinct tone of
concern coming from the leaders of the Fair Taxes for All Coalition.
The coalition, organized by the liberal advocacy group People for
the American Way, held a news conference in Washington Wednesday
to announce a new campaign including radio ads and demonstrations
in 42 cities across the country against the tax cut. Coalition
leaders told reporters the issue has become particularly urgent
in light of the Senate's passage of a resolution calling for a more
than $1.2 trillion cut.
"We consider that a first-step victory," Ralph Neas, head of People
for the American Way, said of the Senate's decision to trim $400
billion from the president's original $1.6 trillion proposal. "But
$1.2 trillion is still far too large and far too irresponsible."
Neas hopes to trim the size of the cut, but the problem for his
coalition is that the resolution got 65 votes in the Senate
all 50 Republicans plus 15 Democrats. And the White House and its
allies on Capitol Hill are determined to increase the final cut
to a figure closer to the president's original proposal.
That's where the new campaign comes in. Neas announced that the
coalition will target some of the states with Democratic senators
who voted for the tax cut. For example, when discussing a new study
on how the tax cut will affect people in each state, Neas specifically
pointed to Delaware, where Democratic senator Thomas Carper voted
for the cut, and to Louisiana, where Democrats John Breaux and Mary
Landrieu also voted yes. In Delaware, according to the coalition's
new report, 29 percent of the people including 70,000 children
would receive no benefit at all from the tax cut. In Louisiana,
Neas said, 41 percent of the people including 496,000 kids
would receive no benefit at all. When Democrats who voted
for the cut see those numbers, Neas added, "they are going to start
But Neas's argument, which has become the basis of the coalition's
strategy to stop the cut, suffers from an inherent flaw. The president's
income-tax-cut proposal is across-the-board, which means that the
only people who would not benefit from it are those who already
pay no income taxes at all. When asked about that, Neas passed the
microphone to Christine Owens of the AFL-CIO. Owens did not dispute
that the families in question pay no income taxes, but said those
families remain burdened by other taxes. "These are families that
pay payroll taxes," she explained, "which for low wage working families
are in fact the biggest hit." But no one on the panel was willing
to speak up in favor of a cut in payroll taxes.
Or any other taxes, for that matter. When a reporter asked Gerald
McEntee, head of the American Federal of State, County, and Municipal
Employees, whether anyone in America any group at all
is overtaxed, McEntee could only make a joke. "Yeah, me!" he answered,
laughing loudly. The labor boss then went on to endorse Senate Minority
Leader Tom Daschle's proposal for a one-time only tax rebate.
So the coalition faces a difficult situation. There are 65 senators
on the other side of the issue. And even though Neas believes he
can change minds and votes on Capitol Hill, he clearly faces an
uphill battle. Perhaps because of that, Neas's oratory has become
a bit more apocalyptic in recent days. "This is truly the first
time since 1932 that right-wing leadership controls so much of the
federal government, and there are so few checks and balances," he
said Wednesday. "Everything that this nation has stood for for the
last 30, 40, 50 years, going back to the New Deal, is at risk. Everything
that we've ever cared about, everything that we've ever believed
in, everything that we've ever fought for is in jeopardy."
Not the words of a man with momentum on his side.