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Thursday, Dec. 7, 2017 12:08 am

Persistent resistance

Area protests mounted against Senate tax bill, Net Neutrality vote

Mary Hardy-Hall Randolph addresses demonstrators during the protest against the recent Senate Tax Bill held downtown on Tuesday Dec.4
Photo by Scott Faingold

 

One month into the second year of Donald Trump’s presidency, resistance efforts in response to various policies of his administration have shown no sign of slowing. This week, Springfield has already seen a well attended, demonstration against the recently passed Senate tax reform bill; a protest in favor of maintaining the FCC’s current Net Neutrality rules is slated for 5 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 7. to be held outside the Verizon store at 3424 Freedom Dr. in Springfield.

In an event organized by a coalition of the area groups Action Illinois, Springfield Call 2 ACTion, Indivisible Illinois, Indivisible Springfield, Sangamon Democratic Socialists of America, Organizing for Action Springfield and Sierra Club Sangamon Valley Group, a peaceful and enthusiastic group of about 100 gathered at dusk on Monday, Dec. 4, in front of the Sixth St. office of 18th District U.S. Rep. Darin Lahood, R-Peoria, who, along with all but 13 of his fellow Republican representatives nationwide, voted in favor of the House version of the tax bill last month.

 “I’m glued to the television,” said Mary Hardy-Hall Randolph, executive director of the former Springfield YWCA and past president of Frontiers International, Springfield Club, addressing the crowd through a plastic bullhorn being shared by the event’s various speakers. “These people are scaring me. I have lived through some of this before and some of the rights they are systematically trying to take down are things I thought we already fought for in the sixties.” Randolph discussed her views on the economic aspects of the bill. “If you make under $50,000, excuse my language, you’re screwed,” she said. “At $75,000 you’re kinda screwed. Under $30,000 you are totally screwed. I’m blessed enough to make a little bit more but I have friends and family that don’t. And I have many Republican friends who agree with everything being said here, they just aren’t saying it out loud.”

 “They are sneaking another repeal of Obamacare into this tax bill by taking away the individual mandate,” said Bridget Leahy of Planned Parenthood Springfield. “They are going to push about 13 million people off of health care. We know the Affordable Care Act has helped women across the United States – the number of uninsured women in the U.S. dropped by half. We cannot afford to go back. A tax reform bill is no place for a repeal of health care – if they want to reform health care, they can do it in separate legislation and do it right.” She also pointed out that the House version of the bill includes a provision that allows for setting up a college savings account for an unborn child. “If you want to set up an account for a future child, you can do that already,” she said. “This language, defining a child as ‘unborn,’ is part of the GOP’s agenda to pick away at a woman’s right to an abortion.”

 “What we are facing right now is not just about a tax bill, not just about dollars and cents, it’s about violence in people’s lives,” said Louis Goseland, downstate organizer for the Illinois Alliance for Retired Americans, an organization with about 25,000 members made up of union retiree subchapters from across the state. “When we talk about hundreds of billions of dollars in cuts to Medicare and Medicaid, what we’re talking about is whether seniors – who have worked for these programs and are entitled to them, because they chipped in to them – are going to have the freedom and independence to decide how to age with dignity.”

Dr. Amy McEuen, associate professor of biology at University of Illinois Springfield, discussed the ways the tax bill is poised to impact graduate students. “The bill proposes to treat tuition waivers as if they were income for graduate students,” she said. “Tuition waivers are not income. Grad students never see a penny of those waivers.” Under this proposal, the waivers are potentially added to a subsistence-level stipend for teaching or research. McEuen said graduate students could potentially be taxed at a $70,000 or $80,000 level while earning less than $30,000, causing these students to either take out additional loans (“to pay for their ramen noodles”) while meanwhile increasing the student debt crisis, or else simply drop out. “This would impact research programs, impact those individuals’ education and impact the country because we would lose those amazing minds,” she continued.

“Let’s not be naïve about who would be most affected by this. First generation grad students and people of color – people who are already struggling to fund their education. All so already wealthy people can get even wealthier. I call that immoral. And I’m gonna fight it.”

Scott Faingold can be reached at sfaingold@illinoistimes.com.

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