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Northampton protesters: Tax plan panders to rich

  • Jennifer Taub speaks at a tax reform sit in on the Northampton city Hall steps Monday afternoon. Behind her is Rachel Maiore and Debby Pastrich-Klemer. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Jennifer Taub speakes at a tax reform sit in on the Northampton city Hall steps Monday afternoon. Behind her is Rachel Maiore. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Barbara Reed, above, takes part in a tax reform sit-in on the Northampton City Hall steps Monday afternoon. Left, Jennifer Taub, left, along Rachel Maiore, speaks. Taub and Maiore are dressed up as Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly, wearing top hats, black coats and holding large bags marked with a dollar sign. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Peter Kocot speaks at a tax reform sit in on the Northampton city Hall steps Monday afternoon. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS

  • Gerald Friedman speaks at a tax reform sit in on the Northampton city Hall steps Monday afternoon. GAZETTE STAFF/CAROL LOLLIS



@kate_ashworth
Tuesday, November 28, 2017

NORTHAMPTON — On the steps of City Hall Monday, some people were dressed up as Rich Uncle Pennybags from Monopoly, wearing top hats, black coats and holding large bags marked with a dollar sign.

Others in the crowd of about 40 people held signs such as “Tax the rich” and “Cut, cut, cut is middle class abuse.”

Tax reforms moving forward in Congress are touted as providing relief for middle-class families as well as businesses, and ending incentives to ship jobs, capital and tax revenue overseas. The House has passed its version of the bill, while work continues in the Senate. The reform’s motto states “More jobs. Fairer taxes. Bigger paychecks.”

But those at the sit-in Monday argue that the proposed reforms would benefit the rich, eliminate necessary deductions and increase the deficit by $1.5 trillion.

The demonstration was organized by Lindsay Sabadosa, of Pioneer Valley Women’s March, and Debby Pastrich-Klemer, of Indivisible Noho. They urged people to call politicians and passed out phone numbers of U.S. senators who are on the fence about whether to vote for the reform.

State Rep. Peter Kocot, D-Northampton, called the tax plan “political violence” against families, those who are sick and those who are poor.

“These plans cut out $1.5 trillion from important federal programs over the next 10 years,” Kocot said. “Medicare funding for Americans will be threatened if these plans pass. Let’s stop them now.”

The crowd cheered and Kocot continued.

“These plans would cost students and their families over $71 billion in new costs over 10 years, making college much more expensive for working families,” Kocot said.

He added that the plans would help oil companies invest in fracking and drilling while also hurting investments in solar power. Kocot said the proposals also threaten insurance coverage for many Americans.

Jennifer Taub, a local lawyer and author whose writing focuses on corporate governance and financial market regulation, read a tweet from Speaker of the House Paul Ryan on the proposed tax reform.

“Meet Cindy: a single mom, making $30,000 per year, who hopes to one day get beyond living paycheck to paycheck,” she read. “With a $700 increase in her tax refund each year under our tax bill, Cindy can start saving for her future.”

The crowd laughed.

Taub went on to read a response tweeted by Michael Linden, the policy and research director for the Hub Project, a nonprofit focused on economic justice.

“Cindy’s daughter qualifies for CHIP (Children’s Health Insurance Program) ... which you let expire, and which is worth way more than $700 a year to Cindy and her family,” Taub read. “And with the medical expense deduction eliminated, Cindy better hope no one gets sick.”

Taub said along with the plan’s tax cuts come huge cuts in benefits and government spending, which will cost people more money.

Evan Kuras, 25, a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, said students are directly attacked by proposed reforms such as repealing the student interest loan deduction and repealing the waiver on tuition on graduate students.

And if students are taxed on tuition, Kuras said, the typical UMass student’s taxes would go from 5 percent of their income to 25 percent.

“And when we make less than $20,000 a year, that is unacceptable,” Kuras said.

He created an online “grad student tax calculator” using Google spreadsheet that calculates how much taxes could increase under the proposed reform based on income and tuition costs.

As she sat on the steps of City Hall Monday, Barbara Reed, 66, said Social Security is threatened by the reform. She doesn’t have children, and her nieces and nephews will be impacted by the reform.

Reed’s attire and sign also revealed what she thinks of the plan. She wore a pink knitted so-called “pussy hat” and held up a sign that read “Pandering to the top 1 percent and mega-corps is not tax reform.”

Caitlin Ashworth can be reached at cashworth@gazettenet.com.