Monday, April 22, 2019

Tax Day 2019 Events in Des Moines

by Virginia Wadsley

Tax Day, April 15, 2019.  A coalition of Des Moines area Peace and Justice organizations sponsored a petition demanding a change of priorities for our tax dollars.  The petition was delivered to the offices of Senators Charles Grassley and Joni Ernst following a rally at the Federal Building that addressed each of the points in the petition.
           Demonstration in front of Federal Building before delivering petition.(Sheller/ IPN)

  The petition read:

This I know:  Government is of, by, and for the people.
This I believe:  Tax dollars should be used for:
  •          Peace NOT War
  •         Planet NOT Greed
  •       Public Services NOT Privatization
  •       Protecting Health NOT Profiteering
                People gathered at the Federal Building before delivering petition.  (Sheller/ IPN)

The petition delivery was followed that evening by a forum—“Tax Justice, Where Should Our Taxes Go?”—at the Northwest Community Center.  All declared Presidential candidates were invited to address three questions in person, by video, or by written statement.  Questions posed and introduced by Tom Leffler, Rick Smith, and Sue Dinsdale from the sponsoring organizations were:
War and military action have led to gigantic military expenditures and huge obligations in future budgets to service debt and provide crucial care for our veterans.  Do you support reducing U.S. military spending and increasing spending for urgent social and human needs?
In light of recurring environmental disasters, like the floods currently being experienced in Iowa and Nebraska, how do we better use our tax dollars to prevent and mitigate the effects of the climate crisis?
In the United States, income and wealth inequality have greatly increased over the past 50 years, while money in politics has led to a greatly diminished tax burden on the wealthy.  Do you agree that this is a priority to be addressed in federal tax policy?  What specific tax changes would you propose to address the problem?

Tulsi Gabbard, U.S. Representative, 2nd District, Hawaii, reported personally about the heartbreak of her Iraq War experiences while serving in the Hawaii Army National Guard.  She saw people suffering as their countries were torn apart.  As a member of the medical unit for a brigade of 3,000, she was responsible for reviewing casualty lists to determine care and evacuation.  She witnessed the tremendous price paid not only by combatants but by their families and loved ones at home, while members of Congress were minimally affected.
                                            Tulsi Gabbard speaking at forum.  (Krieg/ AFSC)

“This is why I’m running for President, why I’m asking to serve as Commander in Chief…because I know the cost of war,” Gabbard declared.  All taxpayers, she asserted, quietly pay the price as dollars from their pockets go to war rather than meeting the needs of single mothers, students, homeless veterans, and Flint residents seeking potable drinking water.

“The corruptive and corrosive influence of big special interest money in our politics is at the heart of obstacles toward making the kind of change that we all want in a variety of issues,” she continued.  The “pay to play” culture of government of, by, and for the special interests and powerful leaves behind all, Republicans and Democrats alike.

Our leaders have failed us as they escalate tensions initiating a new cold war without regard to its costs, she said.  Factors noted were war risks with Russia and China, a renewed nuclear arms race, and withdrawal from the Iran Nuclear Deal and Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces (INF) Treaty.

Gabbard advocated shifting the trillions of dollars spent on war to a “peace dividend” invested in people’s needs:  health care, teacher pay, infrastructure, agriculture, a green economy, climate, and other urgent needs.  Noting that monumental change has come when “we, the people” have stood up, organized, and made our voices heard, she closed, “We cannot discount the power of our own voices.  Together we can change the course of our destiny and walk down the path toward a brighter future with peace, prosperity, and opportunity for all.”

In follow-up questions regarding the We the People Act, impact on Palestinians of U.S. aid to Israel, the Green New Deal, and health care, Gabbard responded:
We need to follow the money trail to gain more understanding of how our tax dollars are spent and where they should go.
We need to be aware of unintended consequences from sanctions which are only one tool for dealing with Israel’s treatment of Palestinians.  Objective, achievable goals and effectiveness must guide the purpose and objective of any sanctions or other measures.
An actionable plan, beyond the scope of the Green New Deal (which leaves nuclear on the table), is needed to combat the urgency of worldwide climate change.  The Paris Agreement must be rejoined.  The Off Fossil Fuels Act she introduced transfers the fossil fuel workforce and resources to communities through investment in renewable energy.
Medicare for All should be the goal of a move from private insurance.

Andrew Yang (entrepreneur founder of Venture for America):  video emphasized his proposal for Universal Basic Income (Freedom Dividend) of $1,000/month for every adult, using a public option to achieve Medicare for All, and human centered capitalism which values people over money and markets that serve common goals and values.

John Delaney (U.S. Representative, 6th District, Maryland, and businessman):  video presented the wise use of funds derived from a fair tax system committed to shared values as the means to national success and viewed the Iraq war as waste, a $1 trillion infrastructure plan to pull carbon out of the atmosphere, and investment in community Opportunity Zones and family farms while increasing the capital gains tax to address inequality.
                                            video of John Delaney speaking. (Krieg/ AFSC)

Bernie Sanders (Senator from Vermont):  printed statement provided many specifics that call for a shift from military spending to investment in people and public service, transforming the energy system through the Green New Deal and infrastructure development, and creating equality through changing the tax codes that favor the wealthy and corporations.

                                                      attendees at forum  (Krieg/ AFSC)

Videos of the rally and forum by Rodger Routh are available at:
·         Petition rally:
·         Forum introduction of questions:
·         Tulsi Gabbard speech:

Sponsors of both events were:  Catholic Peace Ministry, Des Moines Education Association, Des Moines Faith Community for Peace, Iowa Citizens Action Network, Iowa Main Street Alliance, Iowa Peace Network, Methodist Federation for Social Action, Middle East Peace Education Coalition, Physicians for Social Responsibility, Progress Iowa, Southwest Iowa Federation of Labor, Stop the Arms Race PAC (STAR*PAC), WILPF (Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom) Des Moines Branch.

Virginia Wadsley, West Des Moines, is a veteran of the Civil Rights, Anti-War, and Women’s Liberation movements of the 1960-70s and worked as a community organizer in low income communities in Atlanta, Georgia, through the mid-1980s.  She has written several books and is currently active with a variety of social justice activities.  Reared on an Iowa farm, she maintains an interest in agricultural sustainability and regeneration and Iowa history.

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