iMail For Thursday, April 6, 2006

Rich Rewards in Bush Tax Cuts

With the federal deficit soaring into record territory and individual states struggling to provide basic services, its small comfort to learn that individuals with incomes of more than $10 million saw their annual investment tax bill cut by an average of $500,000 while their total annual savings under the Bush tax cuts approached $1 million.

According to an analysis of Internal Revenue Data for 2003 by the New York Times, the benefit of the Bush administration’s investment taxes was far more concentrated among the wealthiest Americans, even more so than his two previous tax cuts. In contrast, working class families have seen their share of the national income decline under the Bush tax cuts. As Federal Reserve economist Arthur Kennickell dryly observed in the Wall Street Journal, “Wealth moved in relative terms to the upper half.”

The impact of the Bush tax cuts extends far beyond short-term benefits for the wealthy. According to the Center for Budget and Policy Priorities, the amount of tax cuts enjoyed by the top 1 percent (incomes over $400,000) will exceed national spending on homeland security and cut deeply into funds available for education, veterans’ health, medical research, environmental protection, emergency preparedness and programs for low-income families.

Take Action NOW! to Protect Seniors

The GOP’s Medicare Part D Prescription Drug plan has been a disaster since it took effect on January 1. In its first weeks alone, six million poor, elderly and disabled patients were denied prescription drug coverage.

More than 20 states were forced to provide emergency coverage to their low-income seniors. Five states sued the federal government to recover their costs. Seniors, their caregivers and their pharmacists cannot get prescriptions filled quickly. Some cannot get them filled at all.

 Rather than helping seniors, Part D has been a massive giveaway to HMO’s and drug companies. We can no longer afford to idly sit by and watch our parents continue to be “mugged” by Republican leaders and corporate America.

Click to tell your Representative in Congress to support legislation that would: Extend the May 15, 2006 enrollment deadline; Repeal the provision that prevents Medicare from negotiating lower drug prices; Give seniors the option to Opt Out of the drug plan at their will; Fill in the coverage gap so seniors receive coverage for drug costs between $2,251 and $5,100 and prohibit drug plans from denying seniors coverage for the drugs they need.

Satellite Voting Urged for New Orleans’ Evacuees

A coalition of civil rights groups is calling for satellite voting locations to be established in states that continue to house evacuees displaced by Hurricane Katrina.

The evacuation and destruction of poor and predominantly black neighborhoods in New Orleans is leading to concern that many African Americans will be unable to cast ballots in what is widely seen as the most important election in New Orleans history. The National Policy Alliance said that as many as 153,300 potential voters won’t have easy access to the ballot for the cities upcoming April 22 municipal election.

An emergency vote plan established by Louisiana officials, and approved by the U.S. Department of Justice, establishes 10 polling stations in Louisiana cities and allows for absentee ballots to be used by displaced residents. But the National Policy Alliance said those measures fall far short of what is needed.

“There must be satellite polling places set up in states housing large numbers of evacuees,” said Johnny Ford, Mayor of Tuskegee, Alabama, and the co-chairman of the National Policy Alliance. “Many of these people have lost their homes, and lost friends and family members. We must take every step possible to ensure that they don’t lose their right to vote. Many of them can’t afford to travel home for the elections. Our nation has the resources to do this right; but we must have the conviction.”

Multi Employer Option Proposed for Pension Legislation

Pointing to the actions of United Airlines, Rep. George Miller (D-CA) is calling on Congress to prevent companies from dumping their employees’ pension plans without first exhausting alternatives, including joining a multi-employer plan.

“United Airlines exploited weaknesses in our nation’s bankruptcy and pension laws in order to dump its employee pension plans onto the federal government,” said Miller, the senior Democrat on the House Education and the Workforce Committee. “Dumping pension plans should be a last resort for companies in serious financial distress – not just another way for them to cut costs.”

Congress is currently considering changes to the nation’s pension laws. Miller said the legislation should include language to prevent companies from dumping their employee pension plans without first exhausting all other alternatives, such as: developing alternative funding schedules, purchasing reinsurance, or joining a multiemployer plan. 

Miller also said that a company should not be allowed to terminate an underfunded plan as part of a reorganization unless it is necessary to emerge from bankruptcy.  Miller said that the right to challenge terminations under these tougher standards should be extended to workers and retirees in both employer-initiated and PBGC-initiated terminations.

Wal-Mart Opposes Port Security Rules

Wal-Mart is teaming up with its Washington, D.C. lobbyist, the Retail Industry Leaders Association (RILA), to block rules that would make our nation’s seaports and supply chains safer from terrorist attacks.

A new report from the AFL-CIO, Unchecked: How Wal-Mart Uses Its Might to Block Port Security, outlines how the retail behemoth is using their deep pockets and the RILA, to push Congress to oppose the introduction of anti-terrorist ‘smart containers’ and electronic seals for cargo containers coming into U.S. ports. Wal-Mart is also opposing tougher rules that would require the company to let U.S. Customs officials know what it’s shipping in and where it comes from.

The AFL-CIO report calls on Congress to shore up port security, including increasing physical container inspections, mandating the use of anti-terrorist “smart containers” and requiring CEOs to certify that supply chains are secure.