Stop taxing the poor!

Vigil in Queens, N.Y., for Roy Kim, a taxi driver who committed suicide in November 2018.

New York — “Only the little people pay taxes,” bragged the late hotel boss Leona Helmsley. Capitalist politicians always prove her right.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo and New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio wanted to give Amazon a $3 billion handout in return for building a new headquarters. Last year, this anti-union goliath raked in $11.2 billion in profits ― that’s $30 million a day ― while paying zilch in federal taxes.

Meanwhile, the New York state Legislature, with Cuomo’s and De Blasio’s support, has passed a series of new fees that will fall heaviest on poor and working people.

Karl Marx described the impact of these taxes 150 years ago in the book “Capital,” where he referred to the Netherlands during the 1600s:

“Overtaxation is not an incident, but rather a principle. In Holland, therefore, where this system was first inaugurated, the great patriot, DeWitt, has in his Maxims extolled it as the best system for making the wage laborer submissive, frugal, industrious, and overburdened with labor.”    

Already in effect is a $2.50 surcharge on yellow taxis picking up or dropping off fares in Manhattan south of 96th Street. ($2.75 for other taxis.)

This transportation tax will hardly make a dent in traffic, but is guaranteed to make life more miserable for disabled people who need to take a cab. Just one out of five New York subway stations have elevators.

It isn’t just rich folk who use taxis. Working people who can’t afford to own cars often need cabs in order to go shopping.

If Malaysia Goodson could have afforded a taxi, she wouldn’t have fallen to her death on Jan. 28. The 22-year-old Black mother died protecting her baby daughter at the 7th Avenue/53rd Street stop in Manhattan, another station without an elevator.

There are 100,000 cab drivers in New York City, many of whom work a 12-hour shift.  Five out of six New York City cab drivers are immigrants with probably a majority being Muslim.  

They’re calling the new fee “a suicide surcharge.” Last year, eight people in the city’s taxi industry committed suicide.

Bhairavi Desai, executive director of the New York Taxi Workers Alliance, said that with this surcharge “taxi drivers would earn less and could have to cut back on food, medical care and other necessities.”  

Taxing paper bags

The oceans are choking to death with 150 million metric tons of plastic garbage. Another 8 million tons are being added annually.

Everyone should be upset at dolphins, whales and every other creature in the seas being poisoned. So why can’t the capitalists invent a biodegradable packaging material?

Following California’s example, New York state has now banned plastic bags, with the ban taking effect next March.

New York’s legislation also allow cities to collect a nickel tax on every paper bag used instead.

That’s even more unfair than sales taxes, which fall heaviest on the poor and should be abolished.

Paper can be recycled, with 68 million tons of paper being recycled in the U.S. And we can plant millions more trees to combat capitalist climate change.

Forcing shoppers at a bodega or a supermarket to pay a nickel for each paper bag is just another attack on poor people.

Paying a toll to enter Manhattan

Trump wants to close the U.S. border with Mexico. Cuomo and De Blasio want drivers to pay a toll to enter lower Manhattan.

“Congestion pricing” will force drivers coming into Manhattan south of 60th Street to pay $11.52 for a daily pass. Trucks will pay double. The money is in addition to bridge and tunnel tolls, as well as the outrageous prices charged by private parking lots.

With the closing of the High Line to rail traffic and the closing of all the railroad freight terminals on the waterfront, about 90 percent of freight coming into New York City is by truck. Forcing them to pay more may well jack up food prices all over the city.

The funds raised by congestion pricing are to be used for mass transit, with 80 percent going to New York City subways and buses.

Because of this pledge, both the Transport Workers Union (TWU) Local 100 and the Community Service Society support this legislation. We urge them to reconsider.

Mass transit has been starved since at least the 1940s. The subway fare has gone up 55 times since 1948, when it was a nickel.

Manhattan real estate is worth an estimated $1.9 trillion. But all of Gotham’s skyscrapers would be worthless without subways and buses and the TWU members who operate them.

It’s the landlords, and the banks and insurance companies owning the mortgages, that should pay for mass transit. TWU founder Mike Quill once called for the fare to be free.

That’s what we need to fight for.