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May 26, 2006 | Page 4

A giveaway to R.I.'s rich
Fight for the environment

Stop the war on immigrants

PRESIDENT BUSH plans to spend billions of our dollars to turn the Mexican border into a war zone, using paramilitary troops and high-tech equipment. It's a horrible idea that Congress should quash immediately.

Immigration is a result of social and economic forces that the U.S. has a major part in creating, such as poverty and joblessness in South America. The great wealth that undocumented workers create in the U.S. is unacknowledged, while the government illegally declares war on border communities in the U.S. and Mexico.

Who can doubt that Chicanos and Mexicans and other brown-skinned people will be abused and killed by trigger-happy, privatized soldiers whose bosses care only for the money they make? The dismal record of privatized prisons shows what poor and working-class people of color can expect.

Millions of immigrants and their supporters in the streets on May Day displayed a powerful force for change that can also help U.S. citizens who are feeling the contempt of our government for their jobs, wages, pensions and freedom of speech. It's time that unions, women, the elderly and all people of color join undocumented workers and stop the destruction of their rights and ours.
Adrienne Weller, Seattle

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A giveaway to R.I.'s rich

ON MAY 3, the Rhode Island House approved a flat tax by a vote of 52-17, as part of the illogically named Taxpayers' Relief Act of 2006. Democratic leaders proposed the optional flat rate income tax of 5.5 percent as an alternative to the current "progressive" tax schedule, which imposes rates ranging from 3.75 percent to 9.9 percent for the highest earners.

Under this new legislation, a family of three at 150 percent of the federal poverty level ($24,900) would receive of benefit of $60. Those families making $923,000 or more would rake in $4,305!

Democratic House Speaker William Murphy stated, "The ultimate goal is to put more money directly into people's pockets both by giving relief to those who need it and by making Rhode Island a more attractive place for business that will provide high-paying jobs for more Rhode Islanders." How many millionaires need $4,000?

Both parties' complex of believing that businesses and the rich are going to flee to neighboring states and the legislature's lack of concern for working class families were the driving forces behind the passage of this bill. The bill could cost the state as much as $10 million in revenue in 2007 alone. H7720 would result in an average tax break of $1,077 for the 9,282 taxpayers who earn more than $200,000, according to the Poverty Institute.

This flat tax for the rich comes at a time when Rhode Island's budget deficit is creeping towards $300 million. Rhode Island's Republican governor wishes to cut $16 million in RIteCare, Medicaid and child care from low-income Rhode Islanders. Governor Carcieri has also proposed to remove 6,800 working adults from state health care, along with 3,000 undocumented workers' children.

Rhode Island's flat tax is another regressive tax that hurts the state's poorest families. According to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, the state's lowest-income working families pay the highest percentage of their income in state and local taxes.

In 2002, the poorest 20 percent--families earning less than $16,000--paid 11.5 percent of their income in state and local taxes. The wealthiest--those with an income of $826,000--paid only 7.6 percent of their incomes in state and local taxes, and 5.5 percent after figuring in the federal offset.

What would truly benefit Rhode Islanders would be if the state increased its Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC). The EITC is a refundable federal tax credit for working families with low incomes. The federal EITC now lifts more than 4 million people--roughly half of them children--out of poverty each year. It is the nation's most effective antipoverty program for working families. A married couple with 2 children can receive up to $4,400.

As a tax preparer I have seen the benefits of families receiving thousands of dollars more in returns thanks to this credit. Rhode Island's refundable percentage, at 2.5 percentage of the federal, is dead last among the 14 states that have one. The Taxpayer Relief Act offers only a $25 increase in the state EITC.

If Rhode Island is truly looking to duplicate the Massachusetts tax structure, it should increase its refundable percentage to at least Massachusetts' 15 percent level. Vermont's 32 percent level would be even more beneficial to the 44,000 low-income RI's who take advantage of this program. Thirty-five thousand of these families have incomes below $15,000.

The flat tax passed the House with little to no opposition, all under the guise that high-income residents are leaving or will leave the state. This has proven to be not the case, and if someone wishes to move to Massachusetts for a very small tax break...let them flee.

This, unfortunately, looks like it will breeze through the state senate and is another example of how capitalism, and its servants in the Democratic Party, exploits the poor for the benefit of the obscenely wealthy.
Chris Murphy, Providence, R.I.

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Fight for the environment

I'M 14, and a member of the International Socialist Organization's Northampton, Mass., branch. For about 8 months now, I've been a member of the ISO and have agreed with almost all of its politics. I get into political conversations daily, and learn something new every time I get together with a comrade or go to a meeting.

But one issue that I feel we have been missing, or rather, not addressing enough, is the environment. We inform people about tons of excellent politics, but I see a lack of what, in my opinion, is the most important issue that faces our world today, which is the environment.

Certain studies have shown that global warming may become irreversible within 10 years. The number of children being born with asthma (including myself) has increased dramatically within the past 20 years, and we are wiping out species daily. Our attitude towards the Earth has gone from having us fitting the Earth's needs, to us making the Earth fit our needs.

I feel we all need to change our attitudes about the environment and where this planet is headed. I do recognize that helping the environment does not benefit the bourgeoisie and will never be fully successful under this disgusting government, but I feel we can fight for reforms and focus on informing the very many readers of this excellent paper on this extremely important issue.

I'm just brainstorming, but maybe we could have a weekly section of Socialist Worker, dedicated to informing about the Earth's environmental situation and keeping readers updated on this topic. I feel the environment is very important because it is all we have. This may sound cheesy, but I feel that we need to have a certain spirituality towards our planet, which involves making it our number one priority.

The fate of the Earth is in our hands, and I think we should be informing people about the environment as much as possible, and continue fighting for what I hope will become a better planet and society for everyone.
Phil Haggerty, Northampton, Mass.

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