Congress Approves Tax Reform Bill

December 21, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Congress has officially passed the GOP tax bill backed by Pres. Donald Trump, after a procedural error forced the House of Representatives to take a revote early Wednesday to fix differences from the bill approved the 51-48 Tuesday by the Senate.

As expected, the vote ran mostly along party lines, with 224 votes – all Republicans – cast in favor, and 201 votes, including 12 from Republicans, opposing the measure.

Following the vote, Republicans cheered passage of what is the largest tax cut in decades.

The president is expected to sign the legislation into law this week, possibly as early as today. The bill is the first major tax cut since 1986 and the president’s first major legislative victory since taking office 11months ago.

During a celebration Wednesday in the White House Rose Garden, Trump, surrounded by the GOP leadership and the primary architects of the bill, said the effort had been “an incredible experience.”

On Tuesday, the House of Representatives voted to approve the GOP backed bill, but some parts of the bill conflicted with some of the Senate’s procedural rules had to be corrected before it could be sent to the president.

“[On Wednesday], Congress passed a tax reform bill that happens once in a generation. This is the end of a long journey to offer a great tax relief to the American people,” said House Speaker Paul Ryan after the vote was done.

“Now, this historic legislation will be sent to the President’s desk so we can start 2018 with a new tax code,” added Ryan, who has been fighting for a tax reform, such as the one approved on Wednesday, since the beginning of his legislative career.

The bill is fundamentally aimed at cutting taxes on high income earners and corporations, which will see their tax contributions significantly reduced from 35 percent to 21 percent, while generating seven personal income tax brackets.

In addition, according to the calculation of the Congressional Budget Office (CBO), the tax reform promoted by Republicans will add $1.5 trillion to the national deficit in its first 10 years.

Reducing the deficit has long been a rallying cry among conservative Republicans, many of whom nonetheless voted in favor of the Republican led tax reform plan saying the cuts would fire up corporate investment and hiring, which would in turn lead to substantial growth in the economy and ultimately help reduce the budget deficit.

Among the most controversial aspects, beyond the tax reduction to higher income earners, the legislation also repeals a portion of the Affordable Care Act, or Obamacare, which requires every individual to have health insurance, or to pay a tax penalty.

Corporate giant Comcast announced Wednesday that it will give $1,000 bonuses to over 100,000 of its employees as a result of the passage of tax-cut legislation in Congress, and the FCC’s repeal of net neutrality rules.

Comcast plans to invest $50 billion over the next five years in infrastructure towards its “broadband plant and capacity, and our television, film and theme park offerings,” House Speaker Ryan said in press release.

Ryan said Comcast expects to bring on thousands of new employees because of the investments.

Comcast’s announcement comes following AT&T saying it would offer $1,000 holiday bonuses to roughly 200,000 of its employees, a direct result of added profits the company expects to achieve under Congress’ tax reform legislation.

AT&T’s announcement comes as the company courts support from the Administration for its merger with Time-Warner.

President Trump mentioned AT&T’s news Wednesday at the White House as he celebrated passage of the tax bill with congressional Republicans.

Greenlining Institute President Orson Aguilar said Wednesday that the “’reform’ bill passed by the House and Senate spells disaster for Americans of color and all working families…

“There’s a reason this bill has been called the #GOPTaxScam on social media. It pretends to be a tax cut, but most working families will eventually see their taxes go up. Worse, it selectively targets Americans of color, who already sit on the losing end of a racial wealth gap that this bill will make worse,” Aguilar said in statement released Wednesday.

The Greenlining Institute’s statement criticizes the bill that it says will give “huge, permanent tax cuts to corporations and wealthy individuals but only modest and temporary relief to working families.”

According to Greenlining, African-Americans, Asian-Americans and Latinos, who have for decades lacked health insurance at higher rates than their white counterparts, will see gains made under Obamacare destroyed as “cuts are made to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs essential to working Americans.

“By sabotaging Obamacare, this fake reform puts the health and economic survival of millions of Americans of color at risk,” Aguilar said. “By exploding the deficit, this tax scam sets the stage for devastating cuts to Medicare, Medicaid and other programs upon which tens of millions depend.”

EGP Managing Editor Gloria Alvarez contributed to this story.


Local Battle Starts to Save Internet ‘Neutrality’

December 1, 2017 by · Leave a Comment 

Two Los Angeles City Council members introduced a resolution Tuesday calling on their colleagues to oppose the Federal Communications Commission’s proposed actions to eliminate net neutrality.

“The internet is a resource organized on the principles of openness, fairness, and freedom. It is an essential resource that fuels the creative engine of our city’s economy and preserves our right to communicate freely,’” Councilwoman Monica Rodriguez said.

“Abandoning net neutrality would be an abandonment of the principles on which this country was founded.”

The FCC is expected to vote Dec. 14 on a plan that would dismantle regulations put in place by the Obama administration that requires all internet traffic be treated by service providers equally.

The rules prohibit providers from charging websites different fees that could create a “fast” or “slow” lane of traffic that critics say would harm small startups that cannot afford larger fees. Critics also say doing away with net neutrality would allow providers to censor content, prioritize its own content or block the content of a competitor.

“We need to find ways to make the internet more affordable and accessible to Angelenos. What the FCC and the Trump administration are proposing to do is a huge step backwards and only serves the stockholders of major communication companies,” Councilman Bob Blumenfield said

“The reality is that there are kids in Los Angeles and across the country who have limited access to the internet and we owe it to them to bridge the digital divide.”

At a rally Tuesday in front of the Los Angeles Federal Building, supporters of net neutrality called on the public to reach out to their elected officials and demand they protect a free and open internet.

Net neutrality rules prohibit providers from charging websites different fees that could create a “fast” or “slow” lane of traffic that critics say would harm small startups that cannot afford larger fees.

Net neutrality rules prohibit providers from charging websites different fees that could create a “fast” or “slow” lane of traffic that critics say would harm small startups that cannot afford larger fees.

Carlos Marroquin, one of the event’s organizers, said the change would give too much power to the service providers, who will be able to charge large website owners big bucks to make that site load faster – something of a toll-road system that puts small business, personal and nonprofit sites at a big disadvantage.

“They will purposely be able to slow things down, especially if it is against their corporate agenda,” he warns.

President Trump’s FCC Chairman Ajit Pai, who used to be an attorney for Verizon who is leading the effort to wipe away net neutrality, has said the rules are unnecessary regulation that can stifle innovation.

“For almost 20 years, the internet thrived under the light-touch regulatory approach established by President Clinton and a Republican Congress,” Pai said in a statement last week.

“This bipartisan framework led the private sector to invest $1.5 trillion building communications networks throughout the United States. And it gave us an internet economy that become the envy of the world.”

Hundreds of protests are planned between now and then, including dozens in California, many in front of Verizon stores.

Verizon has pledged not to discriminate. But Marroquin says he fears that ISPs could make it difficult for political activists to marshal their forces into action.

“That is contrary to freedom of speech,” he says. “If you have providers that are friendly to a political party that usually sides with corporate America, they may actually block certain information to undermine democracy. We would be targeted to slow down our sites.”

Information from the California News Service used in this report.



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