Monday, January 16, 2012

I Have a Dream of Economic Justice

Olympia Snowe has spent the last 33 years in Washington. That’s 33 years -- and counting -- that have made her one of the wealthiest people in America.

Lately, that wealth has been showing up in votes that put profits before people.

When Snowe voted against the Senate jobs bill in October, she identified only one provision of the bill she disagreed with: the surcharge on taxpayers who earn more than $1 million in adjusted gross income.

According to a study by Citizens for Tax Justice, only one-tenth of one percent of Maine taxpayers would be affected by the surcharge — about 375 people.

The legislation would have created 2 million new jobs and cut taxes for virtually all Maine taxpayers. While her constituents struggle to survive the bleakest economic conditions in generations, a small segment of Mainers -- 375 -- have a senator on their side.

Did she vote against a small tax increase for only 375 Mainers because she is one of us?

Or one of them?

According to the Media Matters Action Network, Snowe’s estimated net worth -- between $12.6 million and $44.7 million -- makes her the 10th richest member of the Senate, a millionaire's club in itself.

But she makes only $174,000 a year as a U.S. senator. Though Snowe's most recent official financial disclosure form does not list specific income for her husband, John McKernan, it does indicate two income sources that make them millionaires.

McKernan serves as chairman of the board of directors of Education Management Corporation.

Education Management's corporate filings describe a "McKernan Agreement" under which he is paid an annual salary of $330,000, plus a target bonus of $412,500. McKernan is also a member of the board of directors of BorgWarner, which paid him $328,000 in cash and stock awards in 2010, and he serves on the board of directors of Houghton Mifflin Harcourt.

Snowe's vote against the jobs bill is thus much easier to understand, since Snowe and her husband are among those fortunate few.

Everyone knows we need to change the dynamic in Washington to protect the many against the privileges of the few, to unleash the middle class and create a broad-based economic recovery.

But we can't keep sending the same people over and over again and expect a different outcome.

We need a senator who is one of the people.

A member of the middle class who wants to reduce taxes on middle-class families and keep alive the American Dream. Someone who believes everyone deserves an equal opportunity to succeed.

Someone who demands those who have reaped the biggest rewards pay their fair share to the nation that nourished that wealth.

Olympia Snowe never will.

I already have.

1 comment:

CJ said...

That's the thing of it: Money gets in the way more than it helps.

I don't begrudge Olympia her millions; however, when she votes against critically important legislation that would serve her constituents well because a handful of Mainers with adjusted gross incomes of over 1 million would pay more in taxes, that's not serving the folks who elected her, it's serving folks who already have servants.

And we're talking ADJUSTED GROSS INCOME.

Keep on pointing these things out, Cynthia. They need to be articulated clearly and often.