By Nancy Churchill
A Progressive Visionary
In October, the New York Times exposed “Citigroup’s lobbyists [redrafting] a derivatives trading bill in the House, striking out certain phrases and inserting others” (http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2013/10/29/business/dealbook/29lobbyists-documents.html?_r=0).
With apologies to Bruce Johnston, a takeoff of “I Write the Songs” keeps running through my head: “They write the laws that make the whole world yield/They write the laws that get regulation repealed/They write the laws that make hard workers cry/They write the laws, they write the laws.”
So, I was in Springfield Nov. 6 with the Represent.US group to showcase this with a “money drop” action in the statehouse.
Here’s my recollection of how they wrote the law that day: Over the bedlam that was the House floor, a speaker on a giant screen was discussing a bill to remove a tax “burden” from a corporation that was either moving to a Chicago suburb, or was already located there. This company would seemingly be allowed to keep — as in, pocket — its withholding from employee paychecks, despite its already low corporate tax rate.
Evidently, this special “deal,” which would deprive the state of needed revenue, was being offered to correct some clerical error in the original bill, passed in 2003. Apparently, Illinois is in a race to the bottom to prevent corporations from choosing another state with even lower taxes.
Representative 1 (reassuring the speaker he favored the cut): How many jobs would be created? Answer: 100. Correction: 100 jobs retained, 70 additional jobs created.
Representative 2: How big is this company? Answer: It’s worth several billion dollars. And the budgetary cost of allowing it to pocket employee withholding? A couple of million dollars over 10 years.
So, I’m not saying this company had crafted its own special tax deal, just that lawmakers appeared willing — even eager — to deprive the state of its usual and lawful income. For the jobs, you see.
At that prescient moment, Josh Silver of Represent.US shouted from the gallery, “Members of the House! We are here to get money out of politics!” And so began our action. We shed coats to reveal money costumes, showered fake money onto the House members, and unfurled our banner, “With Liberty and Justice for Sale.” Seconds later, it was over, but we’d made our point (https://represent.us/action/operation-moneydrop).
Corporations craft laws not to create jobs, only to save their precious bottom lines. So, what does this cost taxpayers? Citizens are expected to balance state and federal budgets with cuts to our pensions, Social Security, food stamps, unemployment and much more, while wages and benefits are cut and unions destroyed.
Business Insider put it this way last May: “The short version of this story is that lobbyists are still doing what they do — influencing politics in favor of their clients — and politicians are still doing what they do — letting them” (http://www.businessinsider.com/citigroup-writes-house-financial-bill-2013-5#ixzz2jzJP8ay7). We must convince lawmakers to stop letting them.
Nancy Churchill was raised in the D.R.C. (Congo), raced stock cars on short dirt tracks for 25 years, and is a proud, lifelong member of “We, the People.” She lives in Oregon, Ill.
From the Nov. 13-19, 2013, issue