Starting today, the Not One Penny campaign includes a seven-figure ad buy in eight Republican-held congressional districts,* all with large numbers of white voters without college degrees, who voted for Donald Trump in 2016 but have not historically been passionate about tax cuts. It’s a fraction of what pro-tax reform groups like the American Action Network have pledged, but it mirrors what progressive groups and allies did during the effort to stop the Obamacare repeal in the Senate.
The competitive advantage of Not One Penny, say organizers, will be direct action and activism, building on the Tax March — an April 15 rally to demand the president’s tax returns — and on the victory of the anti-repeal campaign. In mid-July, as the fight to kill repeal was underway, more than 50 organizers from the “resistance” underwent training on best practices for organizing against tax cuts. They’ve fanned out to create anti-tax-cut presences in congressional districts over the long August recess.
The goals of Not One Penny (as in, “not one penny in tax cuts for the rich”) are laid out in a pledge on the campaign website. “The last thing we need is for the tax code to be even more rigged in favor of millionaires, billionaires, and corporate insiders,” write organizers. “Even more tax breaks for the super rich will undermine our commitment to Social Security, Medicare, and Medicaid, and make it impossible to invest in the middle class.”
The anti-“rigging” rhetoric runs right into the messaging that tax cut supporters began using this week. At a series of events at the Newseum, two hubs of the Koch donor network — Freedom Partners and Americans for Prosperity — debuted a logo for their “un-rig the economy” campaign, which had been underway for a month.
Progressives see an opening in that message — an admission, by the supporters of tax cuts, that reform can’t be seen as a benefit only for the very rich. Polls this year from Pew and Gallup have found supermajorities of voters skeptical that corporations pay sufficient taxes. In April, 63 percent of voters said that the rich were taxed “too little” in the current system; 67 percent of voters said the same of corporations.
“If it’s about whether or not the rich should get a tax cut, then conservatives will lose,” said Michael Linden, a senior fellow at the progressive Roosevelt Institute. “It’s why they frame their plans as tax cuts for the middle class, or for competitiveness; if they talked about the distributional consequences, they’d lose.”
*IA-01, IA-03, AZ-02, KS-03, ME-02, TX-23, AR-01, CA-49