You’ve always had the power, my dear; you just had to learn it for yourself. ~The Wizard of Oz.
In the past week, angels have appeared in Houston.
Before Harvey hit, “Mattress Mack” had a mattress store. Now he has two hurricane victim shelters.
More than 200 labs have stepped forward offering to care for fellow researchers’ work – even if that means tending to their fruit flies.
Three bakers were stranded in their bakery for two days, and rather than sitting on their hands, they had a marathon baking session and stocked the entire store. When they were finally rescued, they repaid their rescuers with truckloads of fresh bread that were distributed to rescuers and victims across the area.
Volunteer hair stylists descended upon hurricane shelters to fix the hair of evacuees that left their homes with nothing but the clothes on their backs, explaining “If you make people look good on the outside, they feel good on the inside.”
We saw pictures of paddleboarders rowing children down waterways lined with mostly-submerged mailboxes; of rescuers on jet skis gliding through the front door and past a grandfather clock to pluck a couple from their home; of human chains lifting an imperiled and nameless dog to safety.
They’re all inspiring stories. But they have something else in common: They’re stories of regular people with big hearts and a burning desire to save their community using what might seem like ordinary abilities to achieve extraordinary results. A paddleboard becomes a life raft. A furniture store becomes a shelter.
People with courage and imagination are always a force to be reckoned with. But when you add desperation, that’s when the truly impossible becomes possible.
So, friend. If you’re reading this, then you, too, are a person with a big heart and a burning desire to save your community. You’ve got talents and abilities that you might not have tapped yet. Maybe you’re a little nervous about putting yourself out there. Maybe you think that what you bring to the resistance table is somehow not special enough to share. Maybe now that the dust has settled you wonder if you’re really needed at all.
And you’re not just needed for phone calls and postcards or to finish all of the items on our weekly list.
You’re needed for you.
There’s something out there that you’re intended to do, friend, and it’s my job to tell you to go find it. Just like it’s your job to go out there and do it.
I can’t tell you what exactly you’re intended to do, because the ways that you can help are as unique as you are as a person. But I can tell you that big-hearted people with courage and imagination are unstoppable when confronted with a desperate challenge.
I can’t wait to see what you do.
Tuesday: Defend DACA
As you no doubt are aware, the administration has decided to roll back the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program. It’s both callous and short-sighted.
It’s time to unleash a wave of support for DACA recipients, their families and their communities. To find an event near you, go to Defend DACA – a wonderful resource packed with event information. You can also register an event here.
Script: (For all three MOCs – just choose the Senate Bill number when talking to your Senators, and the HR number when talking to your Rep.) Hi, my name is ____ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling to support DACA recipients. These are not “bad hombres.” By definition they have to have a squeaky clean criminal record. They’re productive, tax-paying members of our society that buy things, have jobs, and contribute to our economy. I would like Senator/Congressman/woman ____ to co-sponsor and support – [SB1615 /HR3951] – bipartisan legislation that protects the Dreamers. Thanks for your time.
Wednesday: Read Our Lips: No Tax Breaks for Millionaires
Last week, Trump announced the GOP’s planned tax overhaul. The speech was pretty light on specifics, but enough is known about the plan that we can start speaking out about it right now.
The folks at Indivisible have outdone themselves with their new toolkit – Trump Tax Scam. The interactive map allows you to see the benefits the wealthy members of your state will receive with this new tax “plan.” Head over to their website, click on your state, and then use that information to tailor your message to your MOCs.
For example, according to the map, the new “plan” gives nearly half of Missouri’s tax cuts to Millionaires – who make up a mere 0.5 percent of the population. Even worse, the average millionaire’s tax cut is 7.9% of their income – a whopping $190,000 per millionaire. Missourians that make less than $45,000 would get about $240 per person. That’s 0.1 percent of their income.
To read more about the specific tax cuts that we know are in the plan and how they will impact you, head over here for a great explainer. (Note that there are other potential cuts – like mortgage interest deductions and taxes to 401ks. We’ll talk more about those in the coming weeks.)
For readers in rural states, I want to make one additional point about the “estate tax,” which would be eliminated in the planned tax overhaul. The estate tax only applies to estates that are worth $5.5 million or more – only around 5,200 families this year. The first $5.5 million is not subject to the tax. And, for many estates, the estate tax is the only time those earnings will have ever been taxed. That’s because of the “capital gains tax,” which is only due when the owner “realizes” the gain by selling the asset. So, if the asset’s value increases and the owner dies before selling it, that income has never been taxed.
And, frankly, only people that lack the money required to pay an army of lawyers and accountants to manage their daily affairs pay the estate tax. Which is probably what Gary Cohn, Trump’s chief economic advisor and Director of the National Economic Council meant when he said “Only morons pay the estate tax.”
Enter the GOP’s rural caucus’s favorite justification for the estate tax elimination: its application to family farms. Occasionally, the combined value of the land and equipment can push some family farms over the $5.5 million mark (but only 50 in 2017). The GOP has suggested that those families have to sell land and equipment in order to pay the estate tax, which means they just have to turn around and borrow money in order to buy the equipment and land that they just sold – or give up farming. The image conjured in your head is powerful – and totally inaccurate.
The number of family farms that are even subject to the estate tax is small (only 50 in 2017), but the number that don’t have liquid funds to cover their tax payments is even smaller. According to a CBO analysis, in 2000 just 8% didn’t have enough liquid assets to cover owed taxes. That’s before even more generous rules took effect, so we could expect that percentage to be smaller today. And if the family cannot pay the estate tax immediately, payments for taxes owed can be spread out over 15 years at low interest rates.
So what’s the takeaway? This GOP talking point equates to eliminating a tax on the wealthiest estates to benefit five farming families per year (and that’s rounding up).
Don’t let your rural Congresscritters pull the wool over your eyes here. Educate them and their staff when you speak with them, and let your friends and family know the real deal. And let’s ask them what they’re doing to protect family farms while also ensuring that rich city slickers don’t get richer on the backs of small farmers, because that’s what eliminating the estate tax would do.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ____. I’m calling because even though Trump’s new tax plan is short on specifics, it’s clear that it will do very little to decrease my tax burden – but does a lot to decrease his. Here in [name of state] his tax plan will give millionaires a whopping $190,000 tax cut – but just $240 for people making under $45,000. I want to know what the Senator/Congressman/woman’s plan is to decrease the tax burden for constituents like me – not for his/her heavy-hitting donor class.
Thursday: Promote the ACA Open Enrollment
ACA open enrollment begins November 1, and ends December 15. The Trump administration slashed the enrollment days from 90 days to 45, then slashed the advertising budget by 90% (which is NOT paid for by taxpayers – it’s paid through insurance company fees), then slashed the budget for “navigators” – the groups that help people enroll. Through it all they’ve shrugged and said “nothing to see here, folks!”
We can obviously let our own networks know that the ACA exists and how they can sign up. But our reach is often far less than that of our elected officials.
So let’s ask them: what are you doing to promote the health care of your constituents? It’s a valid question. And heck – it’s an election year, so they need to be doing more outreach anyway.
Script: Hi, my name is ___ and I’m a constituent at ___. I’m calling because the administration has decreased funding for ACA enrollment outreach. In light of that, what is the Congressman/woman/Senator doing to advertise the enrollment dates for the ACA and let his/her constituents know that about the exchanges?
If the staffer says “That’s what federal funding is for, and we don’t have the time/resources to purchase advertising.” you can say: I understand that purchasing advertising isn’t in your office budget, but in this time of social media it costs nothing to promote the ACA exchanges – and the Senator/Congressman/woman has a big platform from which he/she can promote the exchanges – which won’t cost your office a cent. Thanks for your time.
Friday: Help Harvey Victims
Not all of us can head south to physically lend a hand to Harvey victims. So, sometimes financial support is the best way for us to lend ourselves to a cause. But it’s hard to decide which group to donate to, isn’t it? Finding local organizations that have the infrastructure in place to handle donations, and choosing between so many worthy causes – it’s time consuming and often frustrating.
So imagine my glee when I opened my e-mail this weekend to find Senator Elizabeth Warren sharing a link that you can use to split your donation among 17 different non-profit organizations, including:
|Nueces County Community Action Agency|
|Galveston Island Meals on Wheels|
|Gulf Coast Humane Society|
|Food Bank of Corpus Christi|
|Texas Diaper Bank|
|SPCA of Texas|
|Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston|
|Galveston County Food Bank|
|Boys & Girls Clubs of the Coastal Bend|
|Greater Houston Community Foundation|
|Houston Diaper Bank|
|American Red Cross|
|Portlight Inclusive Disaster Strategies|
|Coalition for the Homeless of Houston/Harris County|
|Houston Food Bank|
|Coastal Bend Community Foundation|
|Galveston Bay Foundation|
With one donation, you can help all of those organizations! And, if you want to donate more or less to the organizations on the list, you can also adjust how your donation is allocated. Bravo, Senator Warren!
Thank you for reading. Thank you for writing. I read and respond to every e-mail. (Really! I do!) We’re in this together.
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