Here's a letter I got today.
What a difference a few months makes.
Last summer, the Tea Party dominated every political discussion in the nation. The debt ceiling debate in Washington was fraudulent and job creation efforts in Albany were stalled.
Doesn’t that seem like a long time ago now?
Just yesterday, Governor Cuomo, the Speaker and the Majority Leader agreed on a package of taxes and stimulus spending. It’s a decent deal, not perfect, but quite substantial. It asks the exceedingly wealthy to pay more, and cuts taxes on middle-class and upper-middle-class taxpayers. The plan raises more than $2 billion for job creation and retention.
This might just be the first big legislative victory of the Occupy age.
To be clear, the tax deal is not a total win. To garner the support of Senate Republicans, the new rate doesn’t start until $2 million in annual income. (The plan we supported had new rates starting at $665k – the top 1% of earners – and also had higher rates at $1 million, $5 million and $10 million.) And again, the new tax rates come with a sunset date; they'll expire in 2014.
But it is much, much better than what was about to happen: a $5 billion tax cut for millionaires that they do not need and we cannot afford. Next year will be tough enough as is, but this means less budget pressure on the social safety net for the poor and vulnerable and on our roads, libraries, schools, museums, nursing homes, water works and so on.
There’s certainly much more to do. People need jobs, and the state has a role to play in economic development policy. Governor Cuomo deserves real credit for crafting a plan that could pass in the Republican-controlled Senate. And Assembly Speaker Silver and the members of the Assembly never gave up, sounding the alarm and fighting back all year long against the planned expiration of the millionaires’ tax.
The economic inequality and insecurity that threaten America's families has been getting worse for a long time. Since the crash, the Main Street economy has been in free-fall in many sectors. Meanwhile, the money-boys who collapsed the economy have gotten off scot-free, largely on the taxpayers’ dime.
But things change. The 99% movement isn’t just changing the debate – it’s changing the world.
The new movement breathed life and energy into a broad coalition of community groups, students, unions and faith leaders. The movement for fair taxes and job creation – led by our friends at Citizen Action, Strong for All, United NY, New York Communities for Change, the Alliance for Quality Education (and dozens more) has much to be proud of, even as there’s much more left to do.
Yesterday’s budget deal marks a major shift. And if our goal is genuine equality, economic opportunity and broadly shared prosperity, we haven’t won yet – but, if we can continue the momentum, perhaps we’re starting to turn around and head in the right direction.
And it’s not just in New York. Last night, President Obama gave a full-throated populist speech calling for higher taxes on the rich. Around the nation, a group of state Attorneys General is stepping up pressure on the big banks. And Occupy is moving foreclosed families back into their homes. The sense of movement is exciting.
The journey of a thousand miles really does start with a single step. It’s good to be walking in the right direction.
Will you walk with us? Please take a moment to sign up as a monthly donor to Working Families Party and help keep the momentum going:
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Thanks for all your support. We’re stronger together.
Executive Director, WFP
P.S. - We still think that the top 1%, those making more than $665,000 per year (whose average net worth is more than $14 million), can afford to pay a little bit more. If you agree, join our fight with a recurring donation.
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Serious Problems + Serious People = SERIOUS DEMOCRACY
We have a job to do.
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