Local activists from two left-leaning groups converged on U.S. Rep. Tom Reed’s Corning office Monday afternoon with a simple message for the congressman: The wealthiest Americans need to pay more taxes.
Approximately 25 people, members of Citizen Action of New York and the Finger Lakes MoveOn Council, carried signs and staked out the front entrance of Reed’s district office on Market Street. They had a spirited conversation with Reed’s district director, Joe Sempolinski.
“The congressman is open to new revenue. He’s open to finding ways to bring folks together to the table,” Sempolinski said as he spoke to the crowd.
Reed is in Washington right now.
The focus of Monday’s rally is new numbers released today that show only a tiny fraction of the population in Reed’s district making more than $250,000 a year. According to the groups’ data, only 313 people, or 0.8 percent, in Steuben County make that much money. In Chemung County, it’s 371 people, and in Schuyler, just 57.
The activists set this against the 22.8 percent of Steuben County residents on Social Security, and 19.4% on Medicare. Social Security and Medicare are among the programs threatened with cuts as part of the ongoing negotiations over the “fiscal cliff.”
The fiscal cliff is a combination of automatic spending cuts and tax hikes that will take effect Jan. 1 unless legislators can make a deal to avoid it.
“Today we’re here to help convince Congressman Reed to vote along the lines of his contituents. Ninety-nine percent of his constituents are working, middle-class people,” said Brian Dugan of Citizen Action of New York.
“It’s time to make sure the rich pay their fair share, while using the revenue to invest in good, well-paying jobs that will get our economy back on track.”
Reed has made statements recently declaring his openness to increasing tax revenue as part of a deal to avoid the fiscal cliff. Dugan says they’re aware of this.
The goal of the rally was “to keep in the forefront of his mind, when he does vote, that the group of people that are going to benefit the most will benefit from him standing up for his constituents.”
House Republicans have suggested that they’re willing to raise more revenue from top
earners without raising tax rates. They say the same money might be raised by limits on deductions and other changes in tax policy short of higher rates.
Dugan and others at the rally said that’s beside the point. They say they’re focused on getting tax rates for the richest Americans back to pre-Bush-era levels.
But according to Reed spokesman Tim Kolpien: “Revenue is revenue. It doesn’t matter how it comes into the coffers. Tom’s been very outspoken about saying we need to consider revenue. And revenue has all kinds of different forms. It’s not just raising of tax rates.”