Leo W. Gerard

President’s Perspective

Leo W. Gerard USW International President

Republican Tax Plan: Make America Grieve Again

A giant sucking sound, louder than a freight train, noisier than a tornado, shriller than Ross Perot yelling, “I told you so,” blasted across the nation Thursday as Republicans in the U.S. House passed their tax plan.

It was the terrible sound of jobs swept out of this country. When Perot ran for president, he said the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) would siphon off American jobs. And he was right. It did.

But this is much, much bigger.

House Republicans approved a scam exempting corporations from all taxes on their foreign operations. Under the GOP proposal, corporations like Carrier and Rexnord can benefit from protections provided by American patents, courts and armed forces, while moving their factories from the United States to Mexico. Or to other low-wage, high-polluting countries like China. Or to countries that charge little or no corporate tax. Once there, instead of paying the new, super-low 20 percent corporate rate Republicans propose for U.S-based producers, the expat factories will pay no taxes to the United States. Nothing. Not a cent.

Rather than Making America Great Again, Congressional Republicans plan to Make America Grieve Again as even more family-supporting factory jobs get shipped offshore to take advantage of the new tax rate of zip. 

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Republicans are threatening to repeal the individual mandate. Here’s why that’s a terrible idea.

Amanda Michelle Gomez

Amanda Michelle Gomez Think Progress

Jim Cooke is looking to purchase health insurance this open enrollment period on Maryland Health Connection, the state’s Obamacare exchange. He usually pays the penalty for not having insurance, due to the individual mandate under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). But for him, this year is different.

“It’s not urgent, I’d just feel more comfortable,” Cooke told ThinkProgress. “I’m 61 now, and I think I better have this coverage.”

Cooke makes just over $48,240 — or 400 percent of the federal poverty level — which disqualifies him from earning premium subsidies. He says the lowest cost plan on the exchange costs more than the penalty, and this is why he typically pays the penalty — which is 2.5 percent of his income.

But now he’s beginning to “feel 61 years old” and would really like to get regular checkups with a primary care doctor. Of course, this is contingent on if he can afford a health plan. Maryland insurance companies raised premium rates by an average of 33 percent, although the brunt of increases were loaded on one type of plan.

Whether Cooke actually follows through and purchases insurance for 2018 is to be determined; he’s still shopping around. If health plans are a lot more expensive than last year’s, then that means he’ll have to pay the penalty and he’ll be without health reassurance. (A quick scan on Kaiser Family Foundation’s premium tracker paints a pretty bleak picture of what health plans this year will cost consumers without federal help.)

As Congress is looking to pass tax reform, people have begun discussing the individual mandate again. Last week, several Republican Senators indicated they would look to include repeal of the individual mandate — an unpopular provision in the current health law — in the Senate’s tax bill as a way to pay for corporation and individual tax cuts. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that by repealing the mandate, 13 million people will go without insurance and the federal government will save $338 billion by 2027. The idea is the government will no longer need to spend billions of dollars on subsidies.

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Two Workers Assassinated in Mexico: NAFTA Renegotiation Is More Important Now Than Ever

Celeste Drake AFL-CIO

The need to fundamentally improve the labor provisions of the North American Free Trade Agreement took on a new urgency over the weekend, as a group of armed civilians, calling themselves the “Tonalapa Community Police,” (Policía Comunitaria de Tonalapa) attacked striking workers, killing two, at the Media Luna mine in Guerrero, Mexico. The murders occurred just five hours south of Mexico City, where representatives from the United States, Canada and Mexico are in the midst of their fifth round of talks about rewriting NAFTA.

The aggressors, meanwhile, were released after being briefly detained by an army squadron.

The striking workers, who want to be represented by the National Union of Mine, Metal, Steel and Related Workers of the Mexican Republic (Los Mineros) and are demanding the removal of the employer-dominated "labor" federation CTM (Confederación de Trabajadores de México), identified local CTM leaders as among those responsible for the attack. The practice of false unions siding with the employer over workers is a common feature of Mexico’s failed labor relations model. Employer-dominated "labor" federations are antithetical to the idea of democratic worker-led unions whose goal is to help workers build better lives.

The strike, which has been joined by residents of nearby communities of Cocula, Eduardo Neri and Tepecoacuilco, began in response to longstanding demands over pay, safety equipment and decent food. The workers and local residents maintain that the mine has broken a string of promises to its employees and the communities. The Mexican mining company, Media Luna, is owned by a Canadian global corporation, Torex Gold Resources.

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Union Matters

Biden His Time

On May 2, 2011, hours before I underwent brain surgery, news broke that Osama bin Laden had been killed by Navy Seals. “At least I outlived you, you son of a bitch!”

Sitting up, I had accidentally pulled several EEG leads loose from my partially shaved head. An alarm sounded. I apologized to the responding nurses.

I described that moment to Beau Biden a year later, after he led a group of veterans marching in a Fayetteville, North Carolina voter registration drive.

I was still catching my breath and wiping my brow when the Vice President’s son walked over and asked if I was doing alright.

“Yes sir, I’m fine, thank you.” Sketching a salute with my walking stick, I said, “We’ve got other things in common besides we’re both voting for your dad.”

“Is that right?”

“Yes sir. We both served in Iraq—and we both battled brain illness afterwards.”

“And here we still are.” Biden smiled and the genuineness of his expression touched my heart.

I offered a quick account of my medical marathon, including the night bin Laden’s death cheered me up, then identified myself as a 2012 Obama organizing fellowship selectee. I expressed my regret that due to medical setbacks I wasn’t able to do more for the campaign.

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Today, and Every Day

Today, and Every Day