The Billings Outpost

Locals urge fiscal deal

Protesters sing alternative Christmas carols to Montana’s U.S. senators at their Billings offices this week.Story and Photo By ADRIAN JAWORT - For The Outpost

To the tune of “Jingle Bells,” a dozen or so organized labor supporters and other concerned citizens entertained representatives of Democratic Sens. Max Baucus and Jon Tester with an alternative Christmas carol Tuesday in the lobby in front of their Billings offices.

They sang, “The voters spoke last month, / And we heard what they said: / The top rates ought to rise a bit / Our budget’s in the red. / Oh revenue, revenue! It cannot be just cuts / We need a balanced, sane approach, / There’s no ifs, ands or buts!”

Afterwards, they sang “Vote for Income Tax Equality” to the tune of “Deck the Halls” before moving to North 32nd Street and Third Avenue North to catch the attention of passing cars honking to show their support.

As the U.S. edges closer towards the edge of the so-called financial fiscal cliff that marks the end of the Bush era tax cuts, the protesters aren’t alone in their demands. The group was part of a National Day of Action in 100-plus cities that called for the similar proposals.

A recent Gallup poll said 70 percent of Americans want Congress to back away from hard line stances and compromise to make sure benefits for the middle class in a precarious economy remain. If no compromise is made, tax rates for all go up Jan. 1.

Darrell Johnson, president of the Greater Yellowstone Central Labor Council representing union workers across the region, thanked the Tester and Baucus offices for their continued support of the middle class and fight to preserve current Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid benefits. He said, “We’re counting on their leadership in Washington to protect those programs from proposed cuts that some in Congress want.”

Democrats have mostly been sympathetic to the group’s demand that tax rates for the richest Americans rise to the same rates as pre-Bush years to help alleviate the deficit. Most Republicans, however, support letting the tax cuts remain the same for all economic tiers while favoring heavier cuts in benefits as a means to balance the budget.

A copy of a letter addressed to Montana Congressman Denny Rehberg representing 30 local businesses asked for his support to extend middle and lower class tax cuts – which Republicans and Democrats agree upon – while letting tax cuts on the top 2 percent of the economic tier rise as President Obama wishes.

The letter to Rehberg read, “The middle class has always been the economic engine of our country, and when the middle class grows, we all benefit. Unfortunately, middle class taxes are set to go up on January 1st. Tax hikes for the middle class could not come at a worse time, while the economy is still weak and millions are still looking for work.”

Johnson said, “Working and middle class Americans didn’t break our economy, but we’ve been stuck with the bill in the form of lost jobs, failing wages and growing economic insecurity. It is time we asked the richest 2 percent to do their fair share, and focus on jobs and economic security for the middle class.”

The state organizer for Montana Fair Share, Colin McKellips, said while both political parties want middle class tax breaks, “Unfortunately, the Republican leadership is holding the middle class hostage so they can give tax cuts to the top 2 percent at the same time.”

Among the consequences for the middle class if the U.S. goes over the so-called fiscal cliff, McKellips noted, was the average family would pay $1,500 more in taxes per year; consumer spending could go down $200 billion; and income tax credits like the $1,000 child credit would be cut to $500.

Along with the gift of song, Liz Moran of the Labor Council gave the senators’ representatives homemade Christmas cards in appreciation of their efforts to fight for the middle class. She said, “This is our way of letting our senators know they have the backing and support of the average person in Montana.”

Copyright 2012 Wild Raspberry Inc.

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