A Beginner’s Guide to the Unrecognized Villages of Israel

israel-palestine-villages

Aniqa Raihan

It’s no secret that there is an occupation happening in and around Israel.

Most people agree that the West Bank and Gaza Strip have been occupied since 1967. Much less thought and literature is dedicated to the treatment of Palestinians living inside modern-day Israel proper. I decided to head over there and see for myself.

It is commonly believed that Palestinian citizens of Israel — officially known as Arab Israelis — enjoy full equality in the Jewish State. There are Arab members of parliament, the Arab population in Israel has been growing steadily for decades, and the Arab cultural scene is thriving in places like Haifa. While all of these statements are true, Palestinians insist that occupation still exists inside the state of Israel, and nowhere is that fact more apparent than in the unrecognized Bedouin villages of the Negev desert.

Before the creation of modern Israel, the Negev desert, which constitutes the southern half of the country, was almost entirely populated by Arab Bedouins. Nearly 90 percent fled during the Nakba of 1948. 11,000 Bedouins remained, a population which has now grown to over 200,000.

Of the Bedouins still living in the Negev, half live in government-designated towns and cities, much like Native reservations in the United States, and the other half live in unrecognized villages. The Bedouin are Israeli citizens, but because their villages aren’t formally recognized by the state, they have no access to state services including water, electricity, telephones, sewage systems, and roads.

Today, the unrecognized villages of the Negev desert have the highest unemployment and poverty rates in Israel. I visited three villages to understand the effect of occupation.

Be’er Sheva is the largest city in the Negev desert. It is home to 205,000 people, about 10 percent of whom are Palestinian citizens of Israel.

Originally founded in 4,000 BCE, Be’er Sheva has been at times a Bedouin encampment, part of the Ottoman Empire, and now, the fourth most populous metropolitan center in Israel. It is a thriving college town, a growing tech hub, and interestingly, the chess capital of the world.

Less than 5 miles away are unrecognized villages where people live in tents and tin shacks.

The largest of the unrecognized villages is Wadi an-Na’am. It was established in the 1950s by internally displaced Bedouins from surrounding villages who’d been forcibly removed from their homes and lands, but it’s never been officially recognized.

In the 1970s, Israel built Neot Hovav, the country’s primary toxic waste disposal facility, in Wadi an-Na’am. Since its establishment, the facility has experienced frequent accidents, fires, explosions, and leaks, resulting in birth defects and long-term health problems in the Bedouin community.

The village is also surrounded by military firing zones, where the Israeli Defense Forces carry out military drills and trainings using live ammunition. Unexploded shells are often left behind from these exercises. The last accident killed two children aged 8 and 10.

An electric power plant is clearly visible from the village.

This plant generates electricity for Be’er Sheva and surrounding localities, but not for Wadi an-Na’am or the 45 other unrecognized villages like it. People in the villages depend instead on an inconsistent combination of solar panels and generators. Adalah, a human rights and legal organization, currently has three open cases regarding elementary schools in Wadi an-Na’am that lack electricity.

Israel recently announced its intention to relocate the residents of Wadi an-Na’am to the nearby town of Segev Shalom. The villagers oppose this plan because it would destroy their agrarian lifestyle. In 2015 the Association for Civil Rights in Israel presented two alternative options, both of which would allow the villagers to maintain their way of life, but the relocation will move forward as originally proposed.

I also visited Umm al-Hiran, an unrecognized village on the verge of demolition. Like Wadi an-Na’am, Umm al-Hiran was established in the 1950s by order of the Israeli military governor as part of a state-sanctioned effort to relocate and concentrate the Bedouin. Half of the village was briefly granted recognition in 2008, but the decision was reversed two years later.

The state has marked Umm al-Hiran as the site of a future Jewish development to be called Hiran, a project that necessitates the demolition of the entire village. Residents filed appeals and fought back in court, but in 2015, the Supreme Court of Israel rejected a petition to prevent demolition of the village. Construction was briefly halted following protests led by Adalah, but is expected to continue soon.

At 3 a.m. on January 18 of this year, Israeli police arrived at Umm al-Hiran to conduct home demolitions. A local teacher named Yacoub Abu Al-Qia’an got in his car and began to drive away, but was shot at by the police.

One of the bullets hit his right knee, causing him to lose control of his vehicle and accelerate into a group of officers. One officer was killed, as was Yacoub. Israeli authorities initially declared him a terrorist connected to ISIS, but retracted when video evidence surfaced proving that he was shot before his car accelerated.

This memorial stands at the scene of the shooting.

And finally, I visited the most notorious of the unrecognized villages, al-Araqib. This village, which was once home to 600 people, has been demolished 119 times. Now, only 5 tents and a tribal cemetery remain. There are more graves than villagers.

Amazingly, the demolitions aren’t even the worst past: Perhaps the most unsettling aspect of this yearslong tragedy is the government’s demand that the residents of al-Araqib pay for the cost of demolishing their homes.

I have been part of the movement for Palestinian justice for a year and a half now. I have spent hundreds of hours reading about the blockade of Gaza, the murders of Mahmoud Shaalan and Rachel Corrie, the intifadas, the checkpoints, the BDS movement, and more, but I was still shocked by what I saw in the Negev desert. The Bedouin are continually displaced and disenfranchised by the state — and too often, they are also erased from the mainstream Palestinian narrative.

This is occupation, pure and simple, and it is 70 years past time the world recognizes it.

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What Happens When Bad Money Supports Good Foreign Policy?

The Koch Brothers’ Moonshine

Truthout/Flickr

In November, the Charles Koch Foundation announced that it would provide nearly $ 4 million in grants to Harvard University and MIT to train the next generation of foreign policy professionals. It’s part of the foundation’s effort to steer U.S. foreign policy away from its emphasis on military intervention and big Pentagon budgets.

Yes, that’s right: Charles Koch.

He’s the same fellow profiled in Jane Mayer’s devastating critique of how right-wing billionaires have injected their anti-government toxins into the American bloodstream. In Dark Money, Mayer describes how Charles and his brother David have funded organizations that have promoted tax cuts for the wealthy, an anti-regulatory agenda that trashes the environment in favor of energy companies (like Koch Industries), and Tea Party formations that want to shrink government to the point of non-existence.

The Kochs subscribe to a radical, right-wing version of libertarianism according to which nothing should stand in the way of free enterprise. No surprise that the Kochs’ philosophy helps their own bottom line. They spent nearly a million dollars in support of George W. Bush and other Republicans in 2000, and then benefited hugely from the Bush administration’s preferential treatment of energy companies (not to mention the tens of millions of dollars in government contracts they secured since 2000). Even during the Obama years, their efforts at the federal and state level to “get government off their backs” helped to double their fortune, from $ 19 billion each in 2008 to $ 41 billion each in 2016.

The Kochs are disgusting in many ways. But they can’t be faulted for being inconsistent in their hatred of government, all government. Most right-wing “deficit hawks” employ a national-security exception when they try to defund all parts of the government except the Pentagon. But the Kochs at least treat defense spending like all other government spending. In this case, it even goes against their pecuniary interests. The Kochs made around $ 170 million between 1996 and 2011 from defense contracts. In the grand scheme of things, of course, $ 10 million a year is a rounding error for billionaires.

Their anti-war and anti-intervention philosophy has meant that the Cato Institute, the libertarian think tank started and funded by the Kochs, has taken consistently good positions on foreign policy over the years. But the Cato Institute, even with its huge budget and swank downtown headquarters, has always been a little off to the side in the Washington policy community. The Kochs crave mainstream credibility.

So that’s why the Charles Koch Foundation is providing money to Harvard and MIT — the very definition of mainstream credibility — to encourage anti-interventionist thinking in academia. The two people who will administer the program are thoughtful critics of U.S. militarism: Harvard’s Steven Walt and MIT’s Barry Posen. Walt and John Mearsheimer wrote a perceptive essay in Foreign Affairs in 2016 laying out the argument for “offshore balancing,” a grand strategy of scaling back U.S. military commitments overseas that Posen also supports.

I have a lot of respect for Walt and Posen. I have also worked with folks at Cato on various foreign policy initiatives.

But in the current political climate, when the Trump administration is launching an all-out assault on federal programs and a Koch-supported tax bill is making its way through Congress, should progressives welcome the few crumbs that the Kochs are throwing in the direction of anti-war initiatives?

The Kochs and Trump

As a candidate for president, Donald Trump made some noises about opposing military interventions and reducing the Pentagon’s footprint overseas. Thanks largely to his senior advisor Steve Bannon, Trump also came to embrace the radical anti-government positions that right-wing libertarians favor.

But Charles and David Koch actively disliked Trump (a third brother, Bill, supported the Republican nominee). As the 2016 campaign heated up, rumors circulated of a Koch-funded anti-Trump campaign and of Charles Koch even supporting Hillary Clinton. Those turned out to be false. The Kochs didn’t activate their network to support Trump, but they also didn’t rule out cooperation.

Indeed, a number of Koch-friendly politicians and operatives were embedded in the campaign, from Mike Pence (Trump’s running mate) to Corey Lewandowski (Trump’s campaign manager, fired in June 2016). Marc Short, Pence’s communications advisor and then Trump’s legislative director, once headed up Freedom Partners, a Koch-funded organization. “The vacuum in Trump not having his own network is filled by people who’ve been cultivated for years by the Koch network,” Richard L. Hasen, a UC Irvine law professor told the Los Angeles Times.

It wasn’t long after the administration took office that the Koch brothers began to investigatehow the Trump team could advance their agenda. They welcomed Trump’s pullout from the Paris climate accord, the various environmental regulations that the administration rolled back, and the congressional effort to kill the Affordable Care Act.

By May, the brothers identified Trump’s tax plan as something they could get behind — in a big way. As the fight intensified in Congress, the Koch network was going all out. Tim Phillips, president of the Koch-affiliated Americans for Prosperity, told the Boston Globe: “It’s the most significant federal effort we’ve ever taken on.” The Koch network has pooled $ 400 million for the next two years of political work, and it’s applying a good chunk of that to getting the tax bill passed. It’s been a full-court press with op-eds and $ 8 million in attack ads.

So, let’s dispense with the notion that the Kochs can be relied on to fund a big-tent effort against Trump. They don’t like his positions on immigration, marijuana, or criminal justice reform. But they’re eager to exploit Trump as a “useful idiot” in their campaign to pillage the commonwealth.

Against the Globalists

It’s easy for me to take a principled stand against taking money from the Kochs. They haven’t offered me any. But here are some reasons why others might think twice about taking their anti-war resources.

The ideological reason: A progressive anti-war position is part of a larger internationalist program that supports global peacekeeping and post-conflict reconstruction, robust environmental programs, transnational anti-poverty efforts, and human rights mechanisms that hold countries and individuals accountable. The Kochs aren’t interested in any of that.

All of the prescriptive elements of the progressive internationalist agenda require strong states. The Kochs believe that the invisible hand of the free market will solve all problems, without any state guidance or interference. In the same way that Margaret Thatcher didn’t believe in society, only individuals, the Kochs don’t really believe in the international community. The only transnational force that has any import for them are transnational corporations. Their anti-war funding thus comes with some serious (if often hidden) ideological strings attached.

The monetary reason: So far, the Charles Koch Foundation has shelled out less than $ 15 million to support programs at educational institutions to look at a less militaristic foreign policy. That’s a pittance compared to what it’s spending on efforts to unravel Obamacare or get Trump’s tax plan passed. It’s also about what the Kochs make every year off the U.S. military. Perhaps if Koch Enterprises announced that it was divesting from all military-related activities, their charitable giving would have more impact.

The educational reason: As Jane Mayer points out in Dark Money, the Kochs have funded programs at universities to shift academic discourse away from liberal and progressive thinking. Their funding of programs on “law and economics,” for instance, has helped to shift the legal profession toward more laissez-faire thinking. And it’s not as if the Kochs have been particularly transparent about their methods. Jane Mayer quotes a Koch advisor, George Pearson: “Traditional gifts to universities, he warned, didn’t guarantee enough ideological control. Instead, he advocated funding private institutes within prestigious universities, where influence over hiring decisions and other forms of control could be exerted by donors while hiding the radicalism of their aims.”

The legitimacy reason: The Kochs have been trying to give the appearance of being transpartisan. They have collaborated with progressives on sentencing reform, though as Mayer points out they’re probably more interested in getting reduced sentences for corporations than for the poor. They work with the Negro College Fund, but the money goes toward demonstratinghow “principled entrepreneurship, economics, and innovation contribute to well-being for individuals, communities, and society.”

The term “well-being,” as Mayer details, was something the Kochs came up with to put a smiley-face on funding that otherwise destroys communities, social welfare programs, and the environment. Even if their new foreign policy funding doesn’t come with such strings, it still helps with the image makeover of the Kochs.

So, even though Walt and Posen, not Charles Koch, will be administering the funds at Harvard and MIT, the program could well be the thin edge of the wedge. If the Kochs decide to pour money into foreign policy, they could successfully untether the anti-war position from its internationalist foundations.

If such arguments prove successful, the United States will scale back its military presence, but the world won’t become any safer as a result. Overall global military spending might increaseto compensate for U.S. retrenchment. U.S. allies — South Korea, Japan — might decide to acquire their own nuclear weapons programs if the U.S. nuclear umbrella becomes frayed. Absent a strong international security framework, other countries will inevitably fight each other for the mantle of U.S. hegemonic authority.

The Kochs don’t care. They welcome global anarchy because they think they’ll be able to profit by it. Perhaps Walt and Posen believe that they are successfully using Charles Koch toward their own end of constructing a more realist U.S. foreign policy. But the Kochs, with billions of dollars at their disposal, are more likely to be the ones manipulating, not being manipulated.

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The GOP’s Great Depression Tax Plan

great-depression-taxes

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Critics of this fall’s tax reform spectacle on Capitol Hill never seem to miss an opportunity to contrast the GOP’s rush to judgment today with what they hail as the measured, bipartisan approach to tax reform back in 1986.

Back then, the line goes, legislative statesmen from both sides of the aisle joined and vanquished tax policy’s most ornery sacred cows. They slashed individual tax rates while closing loopholes favored by corporations—without party line votes or deceitful math.

But if we want a historical analogy that illuminates our present political moment, we would do well to ditch 1986 and look back to 1932, a year when America’s political elites made an amazingly brazen tax move to comfort America’s already comfortable. Sound familiar?

At that time, we were in trouble. The Great Depression had left government barely able to function. New revenues, almost everyone agreed, simply had to be raised.

Where to get these revenues? According to the political elites, top Democrats and Republicans alike, only tax breaks for the rich could start the nation down the road to prosperity.

Read the full article on Fortune.

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New Report Underscores Massive Tax Giveaways to Private Jet Set

For Immediate Release: November 30, 2017

Contact:
Jessicah Pierre (617) 401-1470, jessicah@ips-dc.org
Chuck Collins (617) 308-4433
Josh Hoxie (508) 280-5005

Washington, D.C. – The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) today released a comprehensive report highlighting the massive tax giveaways extended by the tax bill under consideration in Congress to the private jet industry. The report also looked at the significant security threats presented by private jets and the detrimental impact they present to our environment.  

The report: High Flyers 2017: How the Private Jet Lobby Shifts Costs To the Rest of Us, Threatens Our Security, and Fuels a Warming Planet,” authored by Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie shows that while the Republican majority in Congress proposes to extend massive tax breaks for private jet fliers, they also propose nearly doubling fees for commercial airline passengers.

The study examines the $ 56 million dollars spent by the powerful private jet lobbying industry in Washington over ten years to receive more than a billion dollars in the form of outrageous tax giveaways by Congress every year.

“When you think of who benefits from this GOP tax plan, think about the private jet set,” said report author Chuck Collins, lead author of a 2008 report on the same topic. “The private jet lobby and their wealthy constituents have used their clout to shift costs onto the commercial flying public.”

“The bottom line is that every day American flyers, those stuck in the middle seat of commercial flights, are basically paying for the rich and affluent to jet from coast to coast on their Learjets,” said Josh Hoxie.  “While students, teachers, and middle class families see their taxes rise as a result of the Republican tax bill, private jet owners continue to be heavily subsidized. It’s absurd.”

Some of the key findings of the study include:

  • The tax cut package under consideration in the Senate maintains and expands the private jet tax carve out, while the Republican budget plan almost doubles the fees on commercial airline passengers.
  • Private jets contribute less than one-tenth of the resources they use from the federal aviation administration trust fund. Commercial airline passengers heavily subsidize private jet passengers.
  • Commercial jets are taxed at up to 40 times the rate of private jets on the exact same route despite identical needs in terms of transportation infrastructure.
  • Private jets threaten our national security as owners can obscure their identity and passengers face zero security screening.
  • A single private jet trip burns more greenhouse gases than the average American does in a whole year.

The study also calls attention to a push by GOP in Congress which would make it more expensive for commercial airline passengers to fly. A recent provision inserted in the Senate Transportation Appropriations bill would nearly double the Passenger Facility Charge (PFC), a fee collected by commercial airports paid by airline passengers on every flight.  If the provision passes, a family of four flying round trip cross-country with a layover would see their PFC rise from $ 72 to $ 104 by next year.  

Read the full report here: http://www.ips-dc.org/report-high-flyers-2017/ 

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Report: High Flyers 2017

The private jet lobby – and their super-wealthy passengers – have created a parallel universe of perks and privileges that would shock most commercial passengers if they knew about them. In both tax policy and homeland security, the high flyers have used their power to create one set of rules for themselves and another set of rules for the rest of us.

This report examines how they are publicly subsidized, the security threats they pose, and the detrimental environmental impact they present. This report follows the work of a report released by the Institute for Policy Studies in 2008 of the same title.

Some major takeaways:
• The private jet lobby spent $ 56 million lobbying over the past ten years to save more than $ 1 billion in annual taxes they avoid due to preferential tax treatment.
• The tax cut package under consideration in the Senate maintains and expands the private jet tax carve-out, while the Republican budget plan increases fees on commercial airline passengers.
• Private jets contribute less than one tenth of the resources they use from the Federal Aviation Administration Trust Fund. Commercial airline passengers heavily subsidize private jet passengers.
• Commercial jets are taxed at up to 40 times the rate of private jets on the exact same route despite identical needs in terms of transportation infrastructure.
• Private jets threaten our national security as owners can obscure their identity and passengers face zero security screening.
• A single private jet trip burns more greenhouse gases than the average American does in a whole year.

Solutions:
• End the private jet tax carve-out and tax private jets at the same rate or higher than commercial air travelers. Don’t make it more expensive to fly commercial while subsidizing private jet travel.
• Close the security loopholes in private jet travel and tax carbon emissions effectively to account for the environmental impact of private jets.

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Stop Talking About ‘Winners and Losers’ from Corporate Tax Cuts

Dollar bill being cut up

(Photo: Tax Credits/Flickr)

Republicans are pushing a huge corporate tax cut bill through Congress. You might’ve seen a lot of coverage trying to sort out “who wins” and “who loses.”

All that misses the point.

The driving motivation behind this bill, rhetoric and packaging aside, is to deliver a whopping $ 1 trillion tax cut for a few hundred badly behaved global corporations — and another half a trillion to expand tax breaks and loopholes for multi-millionaires and billionaires.

All the other features of proposed tax legislation are either bribes (“sweeteners”) to help pass the bill or “pay fors” to offset their cost.

The news media has been talking about “winners and losers” like this were some sort of high-minded tax reform process with legitimate trade-offs, as in 1986.

But this isn’t tax reform. This is a money grab by powerful corporate interests.

The key question isn’t who wins and loses, but whether we should undertake any of these trade-offs to give massive tax breaks to companies like Apple, Nike, Pfizer, and General Electric — companies whose loyalty to U.S. communities and workers is historically abysmal.

These companies have been dodging their taxes for decades while small businesses and ordinary taxpayers pick up their slack to care for our veterans, maintain our infrastructure, and educate the next generation.

Apple alone is holding $ 250 billion in offshore subsidiaries to reduce their taxes.

For wealthy individuals, the proposed House tax bill eliminates the federal estate tax, which is paid exclusively by families with over $ 11 million, mostly residing in coastal states.

It eliminates the Alternative Minimum Tax, a provision that ensures that wealthy taxpayers chip in at least a few dollars after gaming all their possible deductions.

And while the top tax rate on high earners remains roughly the same, Congress is proposing to open up a “pass through loophole” that will enable wealthy people and their tax accountants to convert their income to be taxed at a lower tax rate.

We should avoid distracting debates over whether to reform one provision or another, such as the home mortgage interest deduction. The real estate industry understands the score. “These corporations are getting a major tax cut, and it’s getting paid for by the equity in American homes,” said Jerry Howard, chief executive of the National Association of Home Builders.

Reforming the home mortgage interest deduction makes a lot of sense — the current tax break mostly benefits the already wealthy and fails to expand homeownership. But we shouldn’t restructure housing tax incentives to pay for a massive tax cut for billionaires and badly behaved global corporations.

Nor should we eliminate the deductibility of student debt, eliminate the deduction for state and local taxes, or require families with catastrophic health expenses to pay more to reduce taxes on big drug companies and Jeff Bezos of Amazon. This tax bill would do all of those things.

The good news is people aren’t falling for the marketing baloney that this tax cut will help the middle class. Fewer than 30 percent of voters support these tax cuts, and solid majorities believe that the wealthy and global corporations should pay more taxes, not less.

But this won’t stop Republicans who care more about their campaign contributors than they do about voters.

If the GOP majority in Congress were responsive to voters, they’d invest in updating our aging infrastructure and in skills-based education, as we did after World War Two. Instead of saddling the next generation with tens of thousands in student debt, real leaders would be figuring out how to lift up tomorrow’s workers and entrepreneurs, just as we did in previous generations.

Under this tax plan, small business and ordinary taxpayers will be the big losers. That’s the only score that matters.

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America’s Wealth Inequality Has Reached Staggering New Levels

wealth-billionaires-forbes

Shutterstock

Jeff Bezos recently became the richest person on earth.

Bezos, head of the online retail behemoth Amazon, saw his wealth jump by $ 10 billion in just the past month to now more than $ 90 billion. That’s a stunning leap. But what’s truly stunning is that Bezos and the next two wealthiest Americans, Bill Gates and Warren Buffett, together now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined.

The rich are getting richer.

We tracked the rise of today’s uber-wealthy in a new report, “Billionaire Bonanza 2017: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us,” published by the Institute for Policy Studies. We compared those at the top to the rest of the nation, whose economic condition isn’t plastered on the glossy pages of Forbes magazine, but instead buried in a study the Federal Reserve releases every three years.

We looked specifically at wealth — the money left over after totaling a family’s assets and subtracting their debt. Wealth is where the past meets the present. It’s a more accurate depiction of economic status than income, which just shows how much money one makes in a given year.

When Forbes first started compiling their famous list of the 400 wealthiest Americans in 1982, just $ 75 million would get you ranked. Even after accounting for inflation, that’s still less than $ 200 million in today’s dollars.

These days, the price of admission is a record $ 2 billion — more than 10 times higher.

This group of just 400 multi-billionaires owns a combined $ 2.68 trillion. That’s trillion with a T. And it’s more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 204 million people. That’s more people than the populations of Canada and Mexico combined.

On the other side of the economic spectrum, where the rest of the country resides, economic conditions are largely stagnant. The median family owns about $ 80,000 in wealth, excluding durable consumer goods like cars and appliances. This figure is essentially unchanged from 1983, when the Federal Reserve first started tracking household assets using a uniform survey.

In other words, despite 30 years of economic growth, the typical American family has barely seen a budge in their economic standing.

Today, about one in five households lives in “underwater nation,” with either zero or negative wealth. That figure is even higher for black and Latino households, the result of decades of discrimination.

We are witnessing the rising concentration and consolidation of our nation’s wealth into fewer and fewer hands. Most concerning is the potential for these wealth hoarders to use their outsized bank accounts to buy outsized power over our government.

A surefire way to make today’s economic inequality greater is to offer a massive tax break to the very wealthy, as President Trump’s “tax reform” plan would do. In fact, major tax breaks for the already wealthy is a big part of what’s created the inequality we see today.

When three people own more than half the country, and when a fifth of us have nothing, that’s the exact opposite of what we need to be doing.

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Private Jets and Trust Fund Kids Show Where the GOP’s Tax Priorities Lie

private-jet-gop-tax-plan

Shutterstock

It’s hard to keep track of the fast-flying tax legislation making its way through the sausage-making process in Washington. It’s even harder to know just what’s in each bill, as the thousands of pages of provisions are constantly in flux. To know what’s really behind the Republican tax cutters’ priorities, cut out all the noise and consider just two things: private jets and trust fund kids.

You’ve likely heard of some provisions included in the Senate tax bill under consideration right now, like lowering the corporate tax rate and changing the tax brackets for individual income tax returns. Less discussed is how the bill treats private jets: A measure in the bill exempts private jet owners from paying taxes on all the costs that go along with owning a private jet such as storing it, maintaining it, hiring staff to fly it and cater on it, and so on and so on. In other words, this is basically a blatant gift to folks who own private jets.

Who likes private jets? Well consider the major controversy of Trump administration officials racking up seven-figure private jet fees on the taxpayer dime this year. Such behavior cost former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price his job, and probably should have cost others theirs as well.

The private jets provision is indicative of who’s at the table when details are getting hashed out in the Senate – the wealthiest presidential cabinet in American history. Also at the table: their multi-millionaire and billionaire friends.

The idea that private jet owners need a tax break is absurd on its face. Private jets are heinous for the environment, clog up our airports and already receive massive tax advantages. If you can afford a private jet, you can afford to pay taxes on it. That just seems basic.

Also underreported is the Senate plan to first weaken, then fully eliminate, the federal estate tax, a levy on the intergenerational transfer of immense wealth. The bill will give a tax break to just 5,000 people a year, all of whom will be heirs and heiresses to multi-million and billion dollar wealth dynasties. Seriously, in what world do these people need a tax break?

To really understand just how nuts this is, consider this: The billionaires who make up the full Forbes 400 list now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 80 million households or 204 million people — more people than the populations of Canada and Mexico combined.

Never before has so much money funneled into so few hands in the modern history of the United States. And what we’re witnessing, before our very eyes, is the transfer of that wealth into political power.

No one wants to see the rich pay less in taxes except the rich themselves and folks who think they’re about to get rich – but they’re not a majority of this country. Year after year, polling from Gallup (as well as a bunch of other polls) shows that most people want to see the rich pay more, not less, in taxes.

The backers of this tax plan have seen these polls, and they know that it’s bad optics to ask a nurse to pay more in taxes while the descendants of the Mars, Koch and Walton families, the nation’s three richest, all get handouts.

The folks who need a break are the 1 in 5 households that have zero or negative wealth, meaning they owe more than they own. That break comes in the form of basic public programs, funded by tax revenue, that form the backbone of civic society and generate economic opportunities for folks who weren’t born rich to build wealth. Eroding the tax base through tax cuts for the rich, and eliminating those public programs by extension, is bad economics.

This tax plan is irreparable. Congress should start over with the needs of working people at the forefront, not the billionaires.

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Private Jets and Trust Fund Kids Show Where the GOP’s Tax Priorities Lie

private-jet-gop-tax-plan

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It’s hard to keep track of the fast-flying tax legislation making its way through the sausage-making process in Washington. It’s even harder to know just what’s in each bill, as the thousands of pages of provisions are constantly in flux. To know what’s really behind the Republican tax cutters’ priorities, cut out all the noise and consider just two things: private jets and trust fund kids.

You’ve likely heard of some provisions included in the Senate tax bill under consideration right now, like lowering the corporate tax rate and changing the tax brackets for individual income tax returns. Less discussed is how the bill treats private jets: A measure in the bill exempts private jet owners from paying taxes on all the costs that go along with owning a private jet such as storing it, maintaining it, hiring staff to fly it and cater on it, and so on and so on. In other words, this is basically a blatant gift to folks who own private jets.

Who likes private jets? Well consider the major controversy of Trump administration officials racking up seven-figure private jet fees on the taxpayer dime this year. Such behavior cost former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price his job, and probably should have cost others theirs as well.

The private jets provision is indicative of who’s at the table when details are getting hashed out in the Senate – the wealthiest presidential cabinet in American history. Also at the table: their multi-millionaire and billionaire friends.

The idea that private jet owners need a tax break is absurd on its face. Private jets are heinous for the environment, clog up our airports and already receive massive tax advantages. If you can afford a private jet, you can afford to pay taxes on it. That just seems basic.

Also underreported is the Senate plan to first weaken, then fully eliminate, the federal estate tax, a levy on the intergenerational transfer of immense wealth. The bill will give a tax break to just 5,000 people a year, all of whom will be heirs and heiresses to multi-million and billion dollar wealth dynasties. Seriously, in what world do these people need a tax break?

To really understand just how nuts this is, consider this: The billionaires who make up the full Forbes 400 list now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 80 million households or 204 million people — more people than the populations of Canada and Mexico combined.

Never before has so much money funneled into so few hands in the modern history of the United States. And what we’re witnessing, before our very eyes, is the transfer of that wealth into political power.

No one wants to see the rich pay less in taxes except the rich themselves and folks who think they’re about to get rich – but they’re not a majority of this country. Year after year, polling from Gallup (as well as a bunch of other polls) shows that most people want to see the rich pay more, not less, in taxes.

The backers of this tax plan have seen these polls, and they know that it’s bad optics to ask a nurse to pay more in taxes while the descendants of the Mars, Koch and Walton families, the nation’s three richest, all get handouts.

The folks who need a break are the 1 in 5 households that have zero or negative wealth, meaning they owe more than they own. That break comes in the form of basic public programs, funded by tax revenue, that form the backbone of civic society and generate economic opportunities for folks who weren’t born rich to build wealth. Eroding the tax base through tax cuts for the rich, and eliminating those public programs by extension, is bad economics.

This tax plan is irreparable. Congress should start over with the needs of working people at the forefront, not the billionaires.

The post Private Jets and Trust Fund Kids Show Where the GOP’s Tax Priorities Lie appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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The GOP Tax Bill Does Nothing to Address Our Racial Wealth Divide

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Wealth is concentrating upwards in this country — we’ve known that for years. But new numbers really drive home just how severely.

According to our new report, Billionaire Bonanza 2017, there’s been a rapid updraft of wealth into the top echelon of multi-billionaires. The wealthiest 400 Americans now have more wealth together than the bottom 64 percent of the population, over 200 million of us.

That’s bad enough. But through the lens of race, these statistics reveal another dimension of the story. Only seven of the 400 wealthiest Americans are black or Latino — the rest are almost entirely white.

It takes barely half of that list to blot out the total wealth of blacks and Latinos alike. The wealthiest 269 billionaires equal the combined wealth of the entire African-American population of 47 million people. For Latinos, it takes just 252 billionaires.

Read the full article on the Hill.

The post The GOP Tax Bill Does Nothing to Address Our Racial Wealth Divide appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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