Alabama Upset Sparks Calls to Slow Down GOP Tax Push

Doug Jones-Alabama-Senate

(Photo: Digital Campaign Manager Doug Jones for Senate)

With Democrat Doug Jones scoring a huge upset in the Alabama senate election, Republican lawmakers are facing even more pressure to ram through a final tax bill by the end of the year.

If negotiations to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate versions drag out until after Jones is sworn in, a “no” vote from just one more Senate Republican would be enough to block the legislation. Sen. Bob Corker (R-Tenn.) is already steadfastly opposed.

Rather than rushing it through, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer is calling on the GOP to commit to not holding a vote on the final legislation until after Jones is seated. Several other Democrats demanded that Jones be allowed to immediately take his seat.

A slowdown would give the public more time to learn about the bill and all the ways it’s designed to further enrich the wealthy. In this video, I had the opportunity to identify just a few of the provisions hidden in the GOP tax plans that are designed to stick it to the poor and middle class.

One of the Senate bill provisions that struck me as particularly petty would ban employers from giving their employees gift cards as end-of-year bonuses. Apparently these Republican  lawmakers are determined to prevent ordinary American workers from pocketing a $ 25 or $ 50 gift card for Home Depot or Target without reporting it as taxable income.

Other examples of bias against the middle class include provisions to prohibit teachers from deducting the cost of school supplies and to force graduate students to pay income taxes on tuition waivers. The House version would also repeal the deduction families can take for medical costs that exceed 10 percent of their income.

Meanwhile, these same politicians are planning to dole out billions of dollars in tax breaks to the very wealthiest Americans. According to the Tax Policy Center, by 2017, 62% of the tax cuts would go to the richest 1%.

While the Alabama race was dominated by questions of sexual misconduct rather than tax fairness, Jones did raise objections on the campaign trail to the GOP tax plan, saying it was “overloaded” with tax breaks for the wealthy. And exit polls show that support for President Trump among Alabama voters has declined dramatically since the 2016 election. Trump won 62 percent of votes last year. On Tuesday, only 48 percent of Alabama voters said they now approved of his performance.

“Americans in even the reddest areas firmly reject the Trump-GOP agenda,” said Frank Clemente, Executive Director of Americans for Tax Fairness, in a statement after the election upset. Like Senator Shumer, Clemente also called on the GOP to slow down the process to “allow the nation’s newest Senator to have a vote on this legislation that will affect the next generation.”

Hidden Tax Provision: No More Gift Cards

Buried in the Republican tax plan are hidden provisions designed to stick it to the poor and working class while the rich and corporations get billions of dollars in breaks.

Posted by U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders on Friday, December 8, 2017

The post Alabama Upset Sparks Calls to Slow Down GOP Tax Push appeared first on Institute for Policy Studies.

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On Electric Cars, the U.S. Is Stuck in the Slow Lane

electric-car

(Photo: Noya Fields / Flickr)

The French government recently announced a plan to ban sales of new gas-powered cars by 2040. Not to be outdone, the UK government is now rolling out a similar plan of its own.

These plans sound shockingly radical, but in fact many analysts think those transitions will happen anyway.

For instance, the Dutch bank ING recently predicted that all the cars sold in Europe will be electric by 2030. More conservative estimates put it at 2050. Either way, most experts now see this change on the horizon.

Electric vehicles — or EVs — are already more efficient than their gas-powered counterparts, and could soon become cheaper too. High-end models already outperform conventional engines for speed and acceleration.

Yet potential buyers will continue to be wary as long as the range of batteries remains small, and the network of charging points — think gas stations for electric cars — remains patchy.

Rapidly developing technologies could help overcome this “range anxiety,” as the distance between charges could rise from around 100 miles to over 400 in the next decade. But it’s public policy, rather than technology, that’s the real driver of the EV revolution.

Take Norway, where EVs already account for more than 40 percent of new cars sold.

There, a publicly funded network of free charging stations is driving the surge. The government also offered a range of other perks and incentives: scrapping sales and registration taxes for EVs, exempting them from parking charges and road tolls, and allowing them to dodge heavy traffic by using bus and taxi lanes.

As sales of EVs come to overtake gas-powered cars, the subsidies are being phased out. Yet the benefits continue: A growing fleet of clean vehicles will massively reduce air and climate pollution, and Norway is now well placed to develop and export technologies in a fast growing new industry.

As other European governments get more serious about supporting EVs, some conventional automakers are already embracing an electric future. The Swedish company Volvo recently announced that all of its new cars will be electric or hybrids from 2019 onwards.

U.S. manufacturers, on the other hand, could scarcely be more different.

Oil companies and automakers have successfully lobbied the Trump administration to consider reversing Obama-era fuel-economy standards, which could have supported a shift to hybrids and EVs, as well as cutting pollution that leads to thousands of premature deaths every year.

No wonder the big three U.S. automakers — Ford, GM, and Chrysler — lag way behind their global competitors in developing new EVs. Even stock markets are questioning the wisdom of that bet, as Tesla’s value starts to rival its Detroit competitors.

Fortunately, states and cities can still lead where the federal government is failing.

California is sticking with its fuel-economy standards — the nation’s toughest — and mandating automakers to sell “zero emission vehicles” alongside conventional cars.

California’s cities are also leading the way with public charging points, but they’re not alone. Cities from Seattle to Atlanta are embracing EVs through incentives ranging from tax incentives to carpool lane access.

Of course, promoting EVs alone won’t solve our air pollution problem, or help the U.S. meet its share of global action on climate change — especially where electricity is still produced from coal and other fossil fuels.

We’ll also need better public transportation and changes in how cities are planned, to bring homes closer to shops and workplaces. But electric vehicles will be an important part of getting air pollution and climate change under control.

Local politicians need to step up where the Trump administration is failing, or we risk getting left in the slow lane.

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A Flower-Farming Renaissance: America’s Slow Flower Movement – Modern Farmer


Modern Farmer
A Flower-Farming Renaissance: America's Slow Flower Movement
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Slow progress in DR Congo’s M23 rebel deal risking peace – Daily Mail


Daily Mail
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French Start Slow and Finish Strong – New York Times


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