Kali Akuno: Tax Bill is One of Greatest Transfers of Wealth from Working Class to Rich in History

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Republican lawmakers are pressing forward on a final vote on President Trump’s tax plan, which would shower billions of dollars upon the wealthiest Americans, including Trump and his family members. The New York Times reports those who will be most hurt by the tax plan include the elderly, low-income families, immigrants, people buying health insurance, the island of Puerto Rico and homeowners in the states of New York, New Jersey and California. The Congressional Budget Office estimates 13 million Americans are projected to lose their health insurance under the plan. It will also impose a new requirement that families must provide a Social Security number to claim the child tax credit—meaning many undocumented parents will no longer be able to receive this credit even if their children are U.S. citizens. We speak with Kali Akuno, co-founder and co-director of Cooperation Jackson, a network of worker cooperatives in Jackson, Mississippi.

This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: Kali Akuno, you’re up from Jackson, from Jackson, Mississippi. Can you—you’re deeply involved with issues of economic democracy. Talk about this tax bill. What does it mean?

KALI AKUNO: Well, Amy, it’s one of the greatest transfers of wealth from the working class to the rich, I think, in history—not just American history, but history. I think when you look at all the details that are coming out and all of these little backdoor deals, these plausible denials by folks like Corker, they only go so far. But the details are there. You know, this is going to help a narrow sliver of folks within the United States. And folks like, you know, myself and a lot of the folks in Mississippi, we’re going to be drastically hurt by this bill.

You mentioned one of the kind of the fallouts, which is already happening, around millions of people losing their healthcare. I’m likely going to be one of those people, as a result of this tax bill. When I filed for my application, it said that my rates were going up from $900 a month, which is already outrageous, to damn near $2,000—excuse me for that, but just the emotion of what I’m going to have to deal with. And given my income, that largely makes it almost impossible for me. And I earn a little bit more than the average person in Mississippi. So you can just imagine, if there’s only one healthcare provider now that’s going to be within the affordable healthcare markets in Mississippi, and if that’s the rate that they’re charging, as a result of, you know, the pullbacks from Trump, with the subsidies that he already had announced, and you look at what this tax bill is basically going to do, we’re going to be suffering, this next period, immensely.

AMY GOODMAN: What about Roy Moore losing, Doug Jones winning, even with Obamacare, the Affordable Care Act, being passed only by Democrats? President Obama said, “We will wait for Scott Brown”—who had been elected in Massachusetts, a Republican senator—”to be seated, before we go for this major vote, because the people of Massachusetts have spoken.” But Mitch McConnell has clearly said that this vote will take place before Christmas, so that—well, what that will lead to is Doug Jones—

KALI AKUNO: Not being able to participate.

AMY GOODMAN: —ho was elected in the special election, will not be able to participate in this.

KALI AKUNO: Right. Well, I think Doug was trying to aim to allay some fears yesterday, on his CNN interview, when he basically said that he was going to look to try to find some common interests, you know, with the Republicans. He was clearly aiming at a re-election bid, you know, coming up in 2020. So it’s also another case we’re not quite sure, even if he’s seated, honestly, right now, where he would vote. I mean, he’s clearly what we would call in the old-school days a Dixiecrat. And I think he self-described himself as a Blue Dog Democrat. So, it’s not quite clear.

We would hope that he would be one of the people who stands in opposition to this tax bill. And we would hope that Corker would come to his senses and also oppose it. But that’s a lot of hope. And I think, you know, that we’re kind of stretching thin. I think the real question is: How are we going to organize in the long term? To not only defeat this tax bill, but they’re coming for Medicaid, they’re coming for Medicare, they’re coming for Social Security. Paul Ryan has already said that they’re going to look at that next year. So, we’ve got a serious fight on our hands that we’ve got to get prepared for.

AMY GOODMAN: They will so disadvantage states and cities that they will then be forced to cut services.

KALI AKUNO: That’s right. That’s right. I mean, they’re already looking at that. And then, in our case, in Mississippi, we have a tea party super legislative majority in our state Legislature. They’re already looking to add more cuts to what the federal government is also doing with this tax cut. So, for places like Jackson, it could be severe austerity the next couple of years. So that’s something that we hope is not the case, but we’re kind of gearing up, expecting to, you know, prepare for the worst.

AMY GOODMAN: I’d like to ask you to stay after the show so we can do Part 2, particularly looking at Jackson, Mississippi, and what you’ve done there and how the Trump administration impacts that. But before we go, a very quick comment on your deep concerns about white supremacy in the United States right now under President Trump?

KALI AKUNO: It’s not just here, let me state that. I was recently in Europe, and I witnessed reports on the fascist threats in Italy, and now there’s a far-right member sitting in the Austrian government. I have deep concerns about this playing out throughout the world, but particularly here, looking at Donald Trump. There is white supremacy, and then there’s neoliberalism, which is emerging, as I would argue, and I think many people would argue, with a serious fascism, that could threaten life on this planet as we know it. So it’s not just a minor concern. I think it’s a deep concern that all of us should have.

AMY GOODMAN: I want to thank you for being with us. Kali Akuno is with Cooperation Jackson and has written the book Jackson Rising: The Struggle for Economic Democracy and Black Self-Determination in Jackson, Mississippi. And I also want to thank David Sirota, who broke the story in the International Business Times about Senator Corker and his surprise switch vote on the taxes—though who knows? He might switch back, being opposed to the tax bill—with a provision that was put in that would personally enrich him. We’ll continue to follow that story.

When we come back, what’s next in the fight to preserve net neutrality, the principle of a free and open internet? Stay with us.

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