Category Archives: Taxes

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

 

Faces of Our Spirit-Filled Network: Joe Sanberg

Joe Sanberg
April 2, 2019

Tell us a little about yourself and the work you do.

I am a progressive entrepreneur and investor working to end poverty and ensure that everyone can live with financial security and afford life’s basic needs.

I co-founded Aspiration.com, an online financial institution that allows people to bank, invest, and spend in accordance with their values.

In 2015, I helped convinced California lawmakers that our state needed to pass an Earned Income Tax Credit, one of the most effective anti-poverty policies in America. It is a cash back program that rewards work and provides needed support to predominantly single mothers, people of color, and children growing up in poverty. When they agreed but failed to put any outreach money into the program, I created a non-profit organization called CalEITC4Me to ensure every eligible Californian would get the credit they’ve earned. Over the past three years, our innovative ‘surround-sound’ campaign has helped more than 2 million low-income CA families get over $4 billion in tax refunds.

In 2018, I founded Working Hero Pac a people-powered political organization to support elected leaders and candidates who champion policies that support low-income people. This year, I created a national advocacy organization called Working Hero Action.  Its goal is to elevate poverty in the 2020 presidential election while reaching hundreds of thousands of low-income workers who are not yet claiming the EITC that they’ve earned, leaving billions on the table.

What issue area are you most passionate about?

Joe Sanberg at the 2018 Nuns on the Bus: Tax Justice Truth Tour kickoff event

I’m most passionate about the solving the crisis of poverty — poverty of housing; poverty of health care; poverty of education and poverty of freedom from discrimination and prejudice — that afflicts a super-majority of Americans and stymies their ability to live the fullest, most human life as I believe God intends for all of us.

My mission is nothing less than an end to poverty. This country has the tools to do it; what’s missing is the political will. That’s why I’ve been working through Working Hero PAC to support political leaders who share my mission, and Working Hero Action to advocate for policies that will help all Americans afford their basic needs.

How are you engaging your community on important social justice issues?

I am the founder of a California-based organization called CalEITC4Me that connects working families to the resources they need to claim their government refund from their EITC. Millions of EITC dollars go unclaimed every year, simply because so many of the people who are eligible and simply don’t know about it, don’t know how to claim it, or don’t earn enough to have to file taxes. For working families experiencing poverty, that amount of money — up to $6,000 — can be life-changing. So our job is to make sure that every family that’s get the money they’ve earned. In the past three years, our campaign has connected more than 2 million California families with more than $4 billion of tax credits, and this year we’ve expanded to Iowa and South Carolina as well. The movement is growing.

How has your advocacy for social justice shaped your view of the world?

My advocacy for social justice and the impact we’ve been able to create has made me more optimistic about the future, even as I see more and more suffering. My experiences have affirmed my belief that our problems are almost always the consequences of bad choices and failed democracy, where our leaders have strayed from the will of the people. I find hope in that, because that means with better choices and a healthier democracy, we can reverse course and start to solve these problems.

How does your faith inspire you to work for justice?

My Jewish belief in the directive of “Tikkun olam” is my source of energy and inspiration every day, and especially on the hard days. Tikkun olam means that we each have a responsibility to do everything we can and make the best use our abilities to repair the world and help others.

Who is your role model?

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

Is there a quote that motivates or nourishes you that you would like to share?

From Dr King’s “Unfulfilled Dreams” speech of 3/3/68: “One of the great agonies of life is that we are constantly trying to finish that which is unfinishable.  We are commanded to do that.”

What social movement has inspired you?

The Poor People’s Campaign

What was your biggest accomplishment as an activist in the past year?

While I don’t want to call it a personal accomplishment, one of the things that I’m most proud of is the fact that our advocacy & activism in California has led to a dramatic expansion of the EITC over the last two years. In 2017, CalEITC4Me led a grassroots organizing campaign that won a massive expansion of the program to include self-reported freelance income—work, done disproportionately by women and people of color. And then last year, in response to our calls, texts, and emails, the legislature expanded eligibility once more to include workers age 18-24 and over age 65, meaning this tax season more working families now qualify for the EITC than ever. Now, as one of the signature proposals of his first term, Governor Gavin Newsom is proposing more than doubling the California EITC to $1 billion. This is an incredible validation of how successful the program has been, and a testament to the work of our community partners.

What are you looking forward to working on in the coming months?

Right now, all my focus is on tax day on April 15. For the next two weeks, Working Hero and CalETIC4Me are going to be doing everything we can to ensure that every eligible family in California, Iowa, and South Carolina files their tax return and receives the cash refunds they’ve earned. Once tax season is over, we’ll turn to our broader mission: advocating for policies to end poverty and help all Americans afford their basic needs, including expanding the EITC and passing policies like the Green New Deal and Medicare for All.

A Special Message from Nuns on the Bus

A Special Message from Nuns on the Bus

“We the People” Can Create Change!

Meg Olson
January 29, 2019

What a month it has been! As we recover from the anguish of the longest shutdown in our nation’s history, I’ve heard from activists all across the country what a whirlwind of emotions it has been. Despite the cruel insistence for wasteful spending on a border wall from Republicans in the Senate and the White House, it’s been comforting for us to remember the people we met along the road last year during our Nuns on the Bus tour.

During Nuns on the Bus, we heard from people all across the country committed to the common good. We are so inspired by you and all activists working for a more kind and generous vision for our nation and lobbying our elected officials, together. November 6, 2018 was a great day because “We the People” came together to create change.

We created the video above to renew our hope and commitment for the work ahead. Help us continue to care for the 100% in our nation, and take this message to newly elected officials by staying involved with NETWORK and sharing this video on Facebook or Twitter.

NETWORK Urges House to Vote No on Tax and Oversight Package

NETWORK Urges House to Vote No on Tax and Oversight Package

Laura Peralta-Schulte
November 29, 2018

Today, NETWORK sent the following letter to all members of the House regarding the Tax and Oversight Package that may be voted on as early as today. We oppose the package because it adds over $55 billion in debt and fails to make our tax code more just. Read the text of the letter below:


Dear Representative:

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice was founded by Catholic Sisters over 40 years ago and has 100,000 activists around the country.  We writes today in strong opposition to the newly released partisan Tax and Oversight Package scheduled to be taken up on the House floor as early as today.  The bill, unfortunately, mirrors many of problems found in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Law:  it was created in secret, it is loaded with benefits for corporations and wealthy individuals, and it adds over $55 billion in debt. We urge you to oppose this bill.

This fall, NETWORK’s “Nuns on the Bus” campaign toured 21 states over the course of 27 days to educate voters about the problems with the TCJA.  In state after state, we heard stories from people who are struggling and concerned about the viability of Medicare, Social Security and other vital programs.  Working people know the tax law rewarded the wealthy and the well-connected who are already not paying their fair share.  We should not be exacerbating that mistake.

Rather than giving more benefits to the extremely wealthy, Congress should be repealing its 2017 tax breaks for the wealthy and corporations in order to protect Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, and to generate enough revenue to make new investments in helping working families like expanding working family tax credits, creating affordable housing and green-energy jobs and providing healthcare for all.

Now is the time to stop business as usual in Washington.  Americans don’t want to see an end-of-year Christmas tree of gifts for all sorts of wealthy special interests.  It is time for Congress to put the interest of the common good over those of the wealthy few.  We urge you to vote no on the Tax and Oversight bill.

Sincerely,

Laura Peralta-Schulte,
Senior Government Relations Advocate

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

What to Look Out for in Lame Duck!

NETWORK Government Relations Team
November 5, 2018

The Midterm Elections are upon us — and NETWORK is busy looking ahead to the work that must be done for the rest of the year.

Members of Congress will arrive back to Washington, D.C. on Tuesday, November 13 to finish out the final legislative efforts for the 115th Congress. There are some time-sensitive issues Congress must address, as well as others that may be considered if there is time and political will. All the items on the agenda will be affected by two factors: the outcome of Tuesday’s election as well as subsequent leadership elections, especially in the House of Representatives.

With these uncertainties in mind, here is NETWORK’s analysis for upcoming issues in the final days of the 115th Congress.

Must Do: Fund the Government for 2019

Appropriations: Congress outperformed all expectations by passing 7 of the 12 appropriations bills for FY2019 before the start of the fiscal year, which began on October 1.  While kudos are in order, NETWORK is urging them to pick-up where they left off as soon as they return and it’s imperative that they finish the job before the end of the year.  Lawmakers have until December 7th to reach agreement on the 5 remaining spending bills which fund programs at more than 10 federal agencies, or risk a government shutdown.  Several of our Mend the Gap issues are among the log-jam.  These include: programs that fund the 2020 census, affordable housing and keep immigrant families together.

Border Wall

The most contentious issue will be funding for the Department of Homeland Security; which President Trump has already threatened a government shutdown if Congress fails to appropriate roughly $5 billion for his border wall.  A government shut-down would be detrimental just weeks before Christmas and would coincide with the anticipated arrival of thousands of migrants trekking toward the Southern border.  NETWORK has joined hundreds of advocacy organizations in calling for Congress freeze spending at FY 2018 levels for immigration enforcement officers, agents and detention beds.   And we urge Congress to pass a separate short-term extension for the Department of Homeland Security.  NETWORK is ready to kick our advocacy efforts into high-gear if we perceive threats around funding for our immigration and census priorities.

2020 Census

Funding for the Census Bureau, which requires a significant ramp-up for Census 2020 preparations and planning.   If Congress returns to the dysfunction we saw last year with repeated funding delays via Continuing Resolutions, it could seriously threaten the ramp-up and preparations for our government’s largest peacetime undertaking, the decennial.  Fiscal Year 2019 is the pivotal year leading up to the 2020 Census so postponing full funding would have dire consequences on the preparations and outcome of the count.  While the proposed funding levels from the Senate and the House seem acceptable, it is unclear what the budget impact would be on the impending court ruling on the controversial citizenship question.

Click here to read more about NETWORK’s FY 2019 appropriations priorities.

That being said, there are some outstanding “Maybe” issues that Congress could address: the Farm Bill, Criminal Justice, and the Low Income Housing Tax Credit.

Farm Bill: Protect SNAP

There has not been much apparent progress since the Farm Bill moved into conference in August.  One of the primary sticking points in negotiations is the nutrition title and reauthorization of the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP).  The partisan House Bill—which passed by 2 votes on the second try—includes harmful provisions that would undermine the program’s effectiveness and cut nutrition assistance for millions of Americans.  The Senate bill, which saw the strongest bipartisan support of any prior Farm Bill (86-11), makes key improvements to strengthen SNAP without threatening food security of participants.  The 2014 Farm Bill expired this month but, fortunately major programs like SNAP have a funding cushion that minimizes the impact of Congress missing that deadline.  It’s highly likely, though, that the Farm Bill conference committee will kick into high gear when Congress returns on November 13th.  During Lame Duck NETWORK will need your help to ensure that the nutrition title from the Senate bill is what’s ultimately adopted and voted into law.

Criminal Justice

There is wide speculation that the Senate could join the House and take up a modest criminal justice reform package during the Lame Duck session, if 60 Senators agree to proceed.  In May, the House passed the First Step Act, a bipartisan bill purporting to be a significant step forward in prison reform.  Over the summer the President tentatively agreed to include several sentencing reform elements into a prison reform package. The Senate was split on the issue of separating prison reform from sentencing reform but has changed course given the President’s willingness to negotiate a compromise.  While NETWORK supports sentencing and prison reform as a joint legislative package we did not take an official position on the First Step Act.

Read NETWORK’s thoughts on the First Step Act, from when it passed the House, here.

Low Income Housing Tax Credit

As Congress concludes work for the year, there is a tradition that of a small group of tax bills that are bipartisan, non-controversial and relatively inexpensive get passed.  This group of tax bills is called “extenders.”  Members of the tax writing committees are now reviewing what their priorities are for any extender bill.  One of the tax initiatives under consideration is passage of “The Affordable Housing Credit Improvement Act of 2017” (S. 548) which expands the Low Income Housing Tax Credit (LIHTC) to meet the housing needs of extremely low income renter households. This credit is the primary tool to encourage private investment in affordable housing development and is responsible for 90 percent of all affordable housing developments built each year.  Since it was passed in the bipartisan Tax Reform Act of 1986, the credit has incentivized the creation of 3 million affordable rental homes around the country.  NETWORK will work with

Given the national shortage of affordable housing, NETWORK believes it is critical that new build more low income housing units. Passage of this bill will go a long way to meeting the needs of the homeless and other vulnerable low income individuals and families.

Remarks from Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Nuns on the Bus in South Bend

Jessica Brock
October 19, 2018

The following remarks were delivered by Jessia Brock, attorney, at the Nuns on the Bus Rally in South Bend.

Good afternoon.   Your presence here is so important.  Thank you for being here.  Your voice needs to be heard.  And your vote is your voice.

My name is Jessica Brock.  I am an attorney here in South Bend, and my law practice has primarily served people living below the federal poverty line.  Most of my clients rely on income from SSI or Social Security Disability.  They rely on Medicare or Medicaid for healthcare coverage.  And they rely on other human needs programs like housing vouchers and food stamps in order to make ends meet, put food on their tables, and keep their families safe. I see on a daily basis how these programs make the difference, quite literally, between life and death.  One unexpected and expensive life event  – like the illness and death of a loved one or flooding like we experienced in February – can put a family barely making ends meet in serious financial trouble, and it is often difficult if not impossible to recover from such a setback.

In South Bend, almost 1/5 of the population lives below the federal poverty line.  That means there’s no wiggle room in the household budget – certainly no money for big, unexpected expenses.  The poverty rate here for whites is about 17%, for people of color as a whole it’s about 33%.  For African Americans in South Bend it’s about 42%.  Not only do we have income inequality.  We have racial inequality.

Republicans passed an immoral tax law in 2017, which prioritizes tax cuts for the highest income brackets and biggest businesses on the dime of basic human needs.  In 2017, the federal deficit went up 17%, and Republicans are blaming this on Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid.  The truth is the immoral tax law is to blame for the deficit increase as well as increased government spending approved by the Republican-controlled Congress.  We do not have reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

People here are already struggling to meet basic needs.

  • There are women, survivors of domestic violence, in South Bend who are unable to afford to change the locks on their homes in order to protect themselves and their children from their abusers.
  • There are older adults in South Bend who cannot afford to pay for their burial.  They may have a family burial plot, but they can’t afford to pay for the cremation/burial and transportation to be buried with their loved ones.
  • We lost my father unexpectedly to brain cancer this April.  A simple funeral can easily cost $10,000.  All of the expenses were due upfront.  That’s a financial burden many cannot handle.

The truth is that Social Security and Medicare are paid for through separate payroll taxes.  They do not add to the national debt.  In fact, Social Security has a $2.5 trillion surplus right now.  The sad truth is that we are using the Social Security trust funds to finance our overspending on programming that does not meet basic human needs like being safe in our homes, having food to put on the table, healthcare, and dying with dignity.  We are robbing human needs programs in order to cut taxes for the rich and for big business.

There seems to be little we can agree on these days, as our leaders have played on our fears in an effort to divide us.  But there is much we have in common.  We all want to be safe.  We all need to eat and sleep.  We all want to be healthy, and we will all get sick.  We will all encounter unexpected, traumatic, and expensive life events that can quickly change our financial stability.

At times, it can seem like there is nothing we can do.  But that’s not true.  We can vote.  It’s free.  It doesn’t matter who you are, each vote counts the same.  Your vote is your voice.

Vote!  If you think that the government shouldn’t take from the poor to benefit the rich.  Vote!  If you want reasonable revenue for responsible programs.  Vote!

It’s We The People.  It’s us.  And we have a job to do.  No one can do it for us.   Let’s get out and vote!

View more photos from this event here.

Studying the Damaging Effects of the Republican Tax Law

Studying the Damaging Effects of the Republican Tax Law

Laura Peralta-Schulte, NETWORK Senior Government Relations Associate
October 17, 2018

On December 22, 2017 President Trump signed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act into law. The new law significantly rewrites the tax code to make wide-reaching, regressive changes to our federal tax system, largely benefiting corporations and the highest-income households with little relief for middle and lower-income households. The law also permanently eliminates the individual mandate of the Affordable Care Act, hurting the viability of our healthcare system. These major changes did not receive a public hearing in either chamber before passing on a nearly party-line vote. Republican Congressional leadership put the bill on a fast track to President Trump’s desk from day one.

NETWORK opposed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act because it violated basic principles of tax fairness and encouraged even greater economic inequality. The bill violated NETWORK’s Principles of Tax Justice, which state that any changes to our tax policy must: make the tax code more progressive, raise revenue to support programs that invest in people and communities, and decrease inequality. The law fails to do these, in fact, it adds $1.9 trillion to the federal deficit over ten years, draining the treasury of valuable revenue for human needs programs.

Since passing the law, President Trump and House Republicans, like Speaker Paul Ryan, have used the increase in the deficit as justification for proposing deep cuts to programs including Medicaid, Medicare, the Affordable Care Act, Social Security, and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program. It is clear that the Trump Administration and the Congressional Republicans would like to cut funding for these programs to pay for their tax law.

Despite increased annual corporate profits this year, corporate tax revenue is more than $100 billion lower than last year because of the law’s corporate tax rate cut. These corporate tax cuts are not trickling down. Nine months since the law went into effect, working families have not received the economic benefit they were promised. 4.4% of workers have gotten a pay hike or bonus connected to the tax law— only about 7 million out of 155 million— and most increases were a one-time bonus, not a permanent wage increase.

The provisions of the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act put our country on a dangerous path to higher economic inequality and decreased investment in our communities. We must put an end to these policies that enrich those who are already thriving and make changes to help those struggling while generating reasonable revenue for responsible programs.

 

Congressional Votes on the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act by State

See how your Members of Congress voted on last year’s tax law here and hold them accountable for their votes!

The Consequences of the 2017 Tax Law

The Consequences of the 2017 Tax Law

Tralonne Shorter and Ashley Wilson
Published in the October issue of Connection Magazine

In February, touting the benefits of the Republican Tax Law, Paul Ryan tweeted “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA said she was pleasantly surprised when her pay went up $1.50 a week… she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year” with a link to an article “Workers are starting to notice larger paychecks following tax overhaul.”  Assuming this teacher gets paid over the course of 52 weeks – which isn’t a given in many teaching contracts – this unnamed teacher would receive $78/year from the tax bill. A basic Costco membership is $60.

In comparison, a Republican Member of Congress, Rep. Vern Buchanan (Fla.) bought a yacht valued between $1 and $5 million on the same day the House passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The Center for American Progress estimates that just through one provision of the tax bill, Rep. Buchanan will receive a $2.1 million tax cut.

So, the so-called “benefit” from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act isn’t exactly distributed with justice in mind. The authors of this law – and those who voted for it – made their decisions based on how they (and their wealthy donors) would personally benefit. And, they attempted to appease their constituents by making a false claim that everyone would receive great benefit.

Nuns on the Bus is on the road this fall – before the midterm elections – because the Republican Tax Law robs our nation of reasonable revenue for responsible programs. The law increases our federal deficit by giving handouts to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in our nation and claiming that everyone gets a tax break.

In fact, we know that not only do we not all benefit – the Republican Tax Law actively undermines the common good. Instead of shaping inclusive tax policies that promote equitable growth, the Republican Tax Law also exacerbates the racial wealth gap. Going forward, as we begin to feel the effects of the tax law and Congress debates additional cuts to federal programs, Congressional leadership will disinvest in the common good, especially programs that support individuals and communities of color.

Now, Republican leadership is again using their flawed argument to justify outrageous federal budget cuts to health, housing, labor and other human needs programs. These cuts are an attack on the common good of our nation! We know that when people at the economic margins of society do better, we all do better. To make the situation worse: while claiming we must cut human needs programs because of lack of revenue, President Trump continues to push for increased spending on border wall, Pentagon spending, and other programs that we don’t need.

When it comes to human needs programs, Republican leadership thinks our national purse is empty, but no fiscal constraints exist when immigration or war get considered. The vicious cycle of tax cuts for the wealthiest, spending cuts for human needs programs, and increased funds for border security and war have gotten us into a bit of a mess.

Explaining the Republican Budget Cuts

President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal called for at least $57 billion in cuts to non-defense programs. Those cuts to programs that contribute to the common good are counter to the bipartisan spending caps agreement that Congress reached just a short time before President Trump’s proposal. Further, President Trump is also pushing Congress to cut $3 trillion over 10 years to entitlement programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, Medicaid, and other critical programs.

Here’s how just some of the funds compare between President Trump’s most recent budget proposal and President Obama’s final budget proposal:

 

Program President Obama
(FY 2017)
President Trump
(FY 2019)
Net Change
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) $733 Million $0 -$733 Million
Federal Work Study $983 Million $200 Million -$783 Million
Department of Education $69.4 Billion $63.2 Billion -$6.2 Billion
Housing and Urban Development $48.9 Billion $39.2 Billion -$9.7 Billion
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (Program Operations) $2.9 Billion $2.4 Billion -$500 Million
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) $3 Billion $0 -$3 Billion
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) $82 Billion $73 Billion -$9 Billion

 

Let’s make sure we’re clear on this: These cuts President Trump is proposing aren’t “savings.” Instead, they are cuts to essential programs that will put already vulnerable individuals at greater risk. This threatens the stability and wellbeing of our communities.

In President Trump’s first year, Republican leadership showed us their priorities. Instead of working to improve the health of our nation, they attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (numerous times) and finally dismantled the individual mandate. Instead of working to reduce poverty, they proposed budget cuts that would risk the livelihoods of some of our nation’s most vulnerable people. And, instead of using principles of tax justice to make sure everyone pays their fair share, they rammed through legislation that benefits the wealthiest in our nation.

This is the opposite of mend the gaps – they make them wider. The faithful way forward is to promote tax justice, promote reasonable revenue for responsible programs, and work for the common good.

As you cast your vote this November, ask yourself, “Which candidate will help mend the gaps in economic inequality? Which candidate demonstrates concerns for the common good? Which candidate will undo the damage of the 2017 tax law?” and vote for that person.