West Palm Beach, FL Nov. 2
Nuns on the Bus. Well, this blog is political. Fair warning. One of the reasons we are down in Florida is to support the “Nuns on the Bus”; a group of Catholic religious women who are going around the country to educate the public about the inequalities in the 2017 tax bill. They make stops: at congressional offices, at local non-profits helping those in need of assistance, and at town hall locations to explain the tax bill.
This is the 6th time they have made a similar cross-country trip for justice. This trip began 27 days ago in California and ended today with a gathering that drove by Mar-a-Lago. Last night, they held one of their town hall meetings to explain the tax bill. Their explanation is easily understood. I will see if I can briefly highlight it. (They made it easier to visualize by having five individuals represent a person they actually met on the tour who are in one of the five quintiles.)
First divide the country in to quintiles by income. That is, the bottom 20% of the people by income, then the next 20-40% (the lower middle quintile), then the people in the 40-60% of income (the middle class), then the people in the 60-80% of income (upper middle), and finally the top 20% by income. The KEY STARTING FACT is that from 1940 to 1980, each quintile grew by an equal percent. There were still top earners and people at the bottom, but each group’s income grew at the same rate.
Starting with the Reagan tax cuts and continued with the Clinton and Bush tax cuts, this equal growth in income changed dramatically. From 1980 to 2016, the list below shows how dramatic that has been:
Bottom quintile income grew by 8%
Lower middle income quintile grew by 17%
Middle income quintile grew by 20%
Upper middle income grew by 32%
Upper quintile income grew by 66%
Oh, and by the way, the top 1% income grew by 205%
Quite a difference from a 1940 to 1980 growth pattern that was equal for all quintiles. The town hall meeting visualized this by having the person representing each quintile take a proportionate number of steps to dramatize the difference.
But the second part of the meeting discussed the proposed program cuts that MUST be made (as legislators such as Sen. McConnell has indicated just recently) to pay for the tax cuts. In this enactment of the proposed program cuts, first each person took steps forward to demonstrate average tax refunds. The lower quintile average refund was $90, the top quintile was $193,000. Then our representative individual took steps backward to represent the dollars they lose by the elimination of such programs as food stamps, Children’s Health Insurance Program, school lunches, Pell grants, etc. The lower two quintiles lost money; the top quintile’s gains far outpaced everyone else.
Personally I regret the lost opportunity for the country. If we were to spend well over a trillion dollars; an infrastructure program would have attracted bipartisan support. Jobs would have been created, business (large and small) would have revenue and profits, and streets, bridges, water and sewer plants and lines could be improved, electrical lines upgraded, and state and national parks improved. Probably the worst travesty is that the tax cut and ignoring infrastructure reflected true Republican priorities; support the donor group and ignore Americans.
Today the gathering at Meyer amphitheatre in West Palm Beach and the drive of a caravan of cars past Mar-a-Lago represented hope but possibly a futile gesture. When we wake up Wednesday morning, we should have a better indication.
Some personal tid bits. We are staying at a Hampton Inn in West Palm Beach. Unknown to us, the nuns stayed here also and we talked with several of them at breakfast. We were also able to renew acquaintance with several nuns we had met at the Cedar Rapids IA town hall meeting we attended earlier in October. At the drive to Mar-a-Lago we gave a ride to a couple; she was one of the original founders of Network Lobby. Network Lobby is the advocate arm of the U.S. women religious groups. She is married now and has four kids and 12 grandchildren. Her brother was one of the founders of Outback Steakhouse. He is out of that now and starting a new chain called Bolay, meals based on a bowl and healthy food options to fill it. As we left the rally and went to lunch, we happened to pass one and stopped there for lunch. It was quite nice.
Ed and Chris