Tax protest Friday in downtown Toms River
"We wish you a corporate tax break, and a tax haven too." - One of the "Christmas carols" marking demonstrations against current federal tax reform plans.
TOMS RIVER - Taxpayers fearful of federal tax reform that they are certain will send them off an economic cliff stage protests nationwide, Wednesday through Saturday. In Ocean County, they plan to speak up Friday afternoon near the Toms River Municipal Building - within earshot of Representative Tom MacArthur's (R-3) district office.
The projected start time is 1 PM. They promise to sing sardonic "carols," traditional hymns reworded to reflect their acrimony over what they perceive as a Republican-driven giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of the middle class.
Protests are organizing through moveon.org, aided by chatter across several social media platforms. That's how Rich Wieland, a Toms River retiree, says he became involved.
"I'm not a Republican, not a Democrat," and not a moveon minion, Wieland said. "I'm a taxpayer, and a voter." Characterizing it as "the 1960s of the 21st Century," Weiland said that he's urged his grown children, elsewhere in the country, to pay attention and take action.
Tuesday, the U.S. Senate Budget Committee approved the upper-house version, moving it toward a vote of the full membership.
"They're trying to jam it through quickly, to give huge tax cuts to millionaires, billionaires, wealthy corporations," Wieland said. "They're trying to raise taxes for many middle class families, and attempting to repeal the Affordable Care Act, at the same time."
Assuming passage, Wieland contends, middle class wage earners would be left in a lurch created by tax cuts in higher brackets. "Middle class people get only temporary tax cuts," he said. "Teachers can't buy pencils for their students. It's not deductible anymore. Meanwhile, corporations can still deduct expense-account lunches. That's not fair."
The February 2017 protests in the township against Obamacare repeal efforts drew Rich's attention, and, he says, the urgency is bringing him back.
"Back in the '60s, I never participated in any protests. I was busy going to college, raising a family, and working," he said. "'The Civil Rights movement, Women's Lib, anti-war protests - I was an interested bystander. Now, I have the time and the passion to do something."
Much of the thought behind the tax reform movement is linked to what was called the "trickle-down" theory of the 1980s, in which corporate revenues no longer owed to Uncle Sam would encourage job creation, private infrastructure investment, and wage improvements. It didn't really turn out as advertised, and Rich is fairly certain that it won't this time.
"That's why it's being rushed, without much thought, openness, transparency," he said. "In the 'trickle-down,' we are peons, if you'll pardon the pun."
MacArthur, who worked several provisions addressing middle class economic concerns into the House tax package and the scuttled American Health Care Act, cautions that a reasoned dialogue requires seeing the big picture.
"I have looked at every income bracket, not only from my Congressional district, but also the whole state of New Jersey," he said earlier this month. "I have not found a single bracket where the average tax payer's bill doesn't go down." He went on to say that, with core issues resolved to his satisfaction, he was extending his search to taxpayers facing economic hardships, and figuring ways to rectify them.
Revisions in the package-in-progress resolved the potential loss of property tax deductions for New Jersey filers. The cancellation of deductions for state taxes survived that cut.
"But the standard deduction is doubling," MacArthur said. "A family will have no tax on their first $24,000 of income. The child tax credit has been increased. We've given a credit for people taking care of somebody who's not a child, such as an elderly parent. When you look at the standard deductions and credits, there will be people earning as much as $150,000 who won't even itemize. Those who itemize won't have that same deduction, but they also won't have the AMT (Alternative Minimum Tax) which has been taking it away from them.".
In Washington, a scheduled meeting of President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi failed to materialize this week. MacArthur today issued a message urging a setting-aside of partisanship.
"We have important work to get done in Washington and I’m disappointed that President Trump, Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi could not put partisanship aside and get together to discuss important issues, like growing our economy and strengthening our military. Since I came to Washington, I’ve been willing to roll up my sleeves and work with anyone to solve big problems facing our country—it’s unfortunate some in Washington can’t do the same."
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