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Grad students are safe, but the GOP is still attacking poor people

Last night, the GOP passed the Republican tax scam which will devastate poor and working-class Americans.

In the last step of the process before the bill goes to Trump’s desk, the House and Senate were tasked with reconciling two different bills into one final bill, which was ultimately most similar to the Senate version. It repeals the individual mandate for healthcare, lowers taxes for the richest Americans and slashes the corporate tax rate. However, the Republicans made some changes to get the votes they need, such as adding real estate tax cuts to buy Sen. Bob Corker’s vote and removing the heavily criticized graduate student tax increase.

The graduate student tax was wildly unpopular with students and higher ed institutions, Democrats and even some Republicans. Since it was dropped from the final bill, colleges and universities have celebrated, including at the University of Minnesota and my own alma mater, Harvard, which emailed us to say that University President Drew Faust was in Washington lobbying against the graduate tax increase and to protect Harvard’s endowment.

I’m not surprised to see powerful and monied institutions lobbying against a piece of legislation that will affect them, or to see Republicans catering to middle and upper-class voters in opposing it. The fact that this has been dropped from the bill is good news, but it does nothing to prevent the most devastating impacts of this bill.

Refusing to advocate for those who will bear the brunt of the tax bill demonstrates that wealthy conservatives and liberals alike will protect their interests at the expense of the poor.  

In addition to the impact of higher taxes for middle and lower-class people and the repeal of the healthcare mandate, Paul Ryan has admitted that in this bill, the GOP will finance blowing a 1.5 trillion dollar hole in the economy by gutting Medicare and anti-poverty programs. This is part of a strategy to continue dismantling what little remains of the American social safety net after decades of erosion by both Republicans and Democrats alike. The bill is a naked cash grab, an attempt to seize poor and working class people’s resources to line the pockets of wealthy corporations and their puppets in Washington.. The removal of the grad tax increase doesn’t change that.

My family is working-class, and my parents do the kinds of ”unskilled labor” that are without a doubt more skilled and demanding than anything Mitch McConnell has ever done in his life. I am also the first person in my family to earn a bachelor’s degree. As a white elite-college-educated citizen, I have the privilege to consider someday attending grad school (now that the related portion of the bill has been removed) rather than worrying about my day-to-day survival. But I refuse to be a bargaining chip for the wealthy and powerful on any side of the aisle. Because my family and people like them will suffer if this bill passes.

Poor people will pay with their lives for this latest display of greed by the wealthiest Americans. Around the world, conservative governments kill people. Poor people, people with disabilities, people of color, LGBTQ folks die from conservative policies that gut lifesaving programs like food assistance, subsidized housing and healthcare while pouring money into the prison industrial complex and global war machine. In a country with extreme poverty and ballooning wealth inequality, this is unconscionable.  

Of course, I encourage you to vote against any of your representatives that voted for this tax scam. But I also want us to explore what other options we have, investing our energy in supporting living wage campaigns like Fight for 15, fighting for health justice through Medicare for All, and so many others. Please share your ideas with me, if you have them. And don’t stop fighting for economic justice, because all of our lives depend on it.

Header image by Susan Watts via NY Daily News

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Jess is a first-gen college graduate, LGBTQ person and cat lover living in Boston, MA. At Feministing, Jess writes about the intersection of state and interpersonal violence, LGBTQ communities and radical activism. Jess can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

Jess is a first-gen college graduate, LGBTQ person and cat lover living in Boston, MA. Jess can usually be found on public transportation or the internet.

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