“Unaccountable and Unaccessible”: Sinema’s Green Supporters Feel Jilted

Wildfires, deadly heat, drought and flooding show how climate change has “already arrived” in Arizona and action is desperately needed, according to climate and progressive advocates who helped elect Kyrsten Sinema to represent the state in the Senate.

Many of them are wondering why their senator seems to have “turned her back” on her background in environmental politics and is now blocking Democrats’ multitrillion-dollar legislation to address climate change. “The climate crisis is here—it has already arrived in Arizona,” said Vianey Olivarria, a director of Chispa Arizona, the state branch of the League of Conservation Voters, which had endorsed Sinema for senator. “We don’t have a lot of time to waste.”

Sinema is one of two centrist senators—with Joe Manchin of West Virginia—who have opposed the Biden administration’s $3.5 trillion budget bill that contains the bulk of the Democrats’ climate change agenda.

This summer, the earth in parts of Arizona cracked—desiccated by decades of megadrought. But some communities also flooded. Ferocious wildfires have eaten through half a million acres this year. And a prolonged, record-breaking heatwave—supercharged by human-caused climate change—killed dozens in Phoenix and surrounding suburbs.

This week Sinema was back at the White House for private talks with Joe Biden on the legislation, which would need the votes of all 50 Democratic senators to pass. It would enact dramatic cuts to greenhouse gas emissions, boost renewable energy programs and fund climate resiliency programs.

Sinema’s office has emphatically contested New York Times reporting earlier this month that Sinema demanded $100 billion in cuts specifically to climate programs. But she has said little in public on her position and her obstruction of the reconciliation package overall has confused, disappointed and angered progressive voters and climate activists in her home state.

Indeed, Sinema began her political career leading the Arizona Green party. Over the years, her politics shifted and she positioned herself as a moderate Democrat willing and able to work with Republicans that dominated state politics—but even then, she said she modeled herself after the late John McCain, the Republican senator of Arizona who pushed for bipartisan climate action throughout his career.

“When Senator Sinema ran for office, she promised to fight for climate change and invest in our communities,” said Casey Clowes, an organizer with the Sunrise Movement in Tempe, Arizona. In 2018, Clowes said she voted for Sinema, and volunteered for more than 250 hours to help send Sinema—the first Arizona Democrat in 30 years—to the Senate. “Now she’s been unaccountable and inaccessible,” Clowes said. “I think a lot of us are fed up.”

On Thursday, a group of veterans advising Sinema resigned, and accused her of hanging her constituents “out to dry.”

Unlike Manchin, Sinema has not publicly voiced her concerns with the reconciliation bill—aside from rejecting its overall price tag.

Manchin, a conservative Democrat who has received more in political donations from the oil and gas industry than any other senator, has made clear that he objects to provisions that would slash planet-heating emissions. But Sinema—who has become infamous for evading questions from constituents and journalists—recently told the Arizona Republic that she had “an interest in policies addressing climate change”, without offering much detail on which policies she was interested in. The senator has resisted raises to individual income and corporate tax rates to fund climate change and social safety net programs but hasn’t made clear what alternative funding schemes she would support.

“Since she’s been in office, it’s been nearly impossible for community members to connect with her,” said Columba Sainz, a consultant with Moms Clean Air Force in Arizona. “We don’t know whether Sinema will protect us.”

Sainz, whose youngest daughter has wheezing episodes and respiratory problems triggered by poor air quality, said: “In my family, heat is our enemy. It interacts with stagnant air to create and trap ozone pollution.” She works with other families who cannot afford air conditioning during punishing heatwaves. The state recorded more than 500 heat-related deaths in 2020, which public health experts say is probably an undercount. In Maricopa county alone, officials tallied at least 113 heat-related deaths this year so far.

“We need funding for adapting to climate change,“ said Gregg Garfin, a climatologist at the University of Arizona. Several cities in Arizona, including Phoenix and Flagstaff, have already made climate change a priority, starting community programs to harvest rainwater amid drought or plant trees to shield poor, urban neighborhoods from the punishing summer heat. “But addressing the crisis has been an unfunded mandate,” he said. “They need more investment.”

The budget bill endorsed by the majority of Democrats in Congress would finance a Green Bank to help communities install solar panels and electric vehicle charging stations, and create a Civilian Climate Corps of young Americans to build climate-resilient infrastructure.

Clowes, who has a chronic illness that makes her especially vulnerable to heatstroke, said Sinema’s resistance to legislation that could help fund cooling centers and heat-defying infrastructure, and bring down the emissions fueling extreme heat in the region, has left her angry. Along with other members of the Sunrise Movement, Clowes camped outside Sinema’s office in Phoenix this week. “It’s really painful to watch my home become uninhabitable,” she said. “And see Senator Sinema turn her back.”
https://www.motherjones.com/environment ... n-manchin/

She is just asking for a primary challenge in her next election.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

Re: “Unaccountable and Unaccessible”: Sinema’s Green Supporters Feel Jilted

Hope she gets one. From a liberal green to a conservative republican in 10 years. She’s bought by her corporate donors.

https://www.jacobinmag.com/2021/03/kyrs ... nimum-wage
Come a Long Way

Sinema is now in the US Senate, seemingly a vindication of her political strategy to abandon everything she ever believed in and do the bidding of the country’s rich and powerful. Having entered politics to wage a decades-long campaign to affect “real political change,” somewhere along the way, that effort became a decades-long campaign to get Kyrsten Sinema elected to higher and higher office.

The result of that has been not just Sinema’s rise up the Democratic ranks, but a perpetual rightward slide that has made her one of the party’s most conservative members, even as its centrists, and her own state, are moving in a more progressive direction. The puzzling state of affairs is perhaps no better symbolized by Sinema’s gleeful vote weeks ago against the $15 minimum wage, a policy supported by a majority of Republicans, and which won more votes in Florida than Trump.

Far from simply antagonizing the Left, Sinema does all the things that most infuriate the Democratic Party’s squishy center: she went after Obamacare, didn’t bother to campaign with Hillary Clinton a week before the 2016 election, voted in line with Trump half the time, and wouldn’t even back her own Democratic counterpart in the Senate when he ran for reelection. Years back, groups like MoveOn threatened to primary Sinema for her rebellions. Once she became the first Democrat since 1988 to win a Senate race in Arizona, those voices seemed to go silent.

Her supporters, perhaps even Sinema herself, might argue that she’s playing the long game. Maybe she doesn’t really mean any of it and every favor for Wall Street, every vote to let polluters off the hook or give corporations more power over the lives of ordinary people is part of a finely tuned act to stay in her seat and keep someone much worse out.

Perhaps that’s true. But like the debate over whether Trump ever really believed the things he said and did or was merely playing along for points, at some point, it ceases to matter anymore.

"Resistance is futile. You will be assimilated!" Loquacious of many. Texas Chapter Chief Cat Herder.

Re: “Unaccountable and Unaccessible”: Sinema’s Green Supporters Feel Jilted

Just another example of her being open to the highest bidder.
Sinema Shatters Democrats' Plan to Raise Corporate Tax Rate

Thanks to the intransigence of right-wing Democratic Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona—who has refused to support proposed tax hikes on corporations and wealthy individuals to pay for her party's social infrastructure and climate package, all while taking tens of thousands of dollars from Wall Street—President Joe Biden on Wednesday shelved his long-standing and popular tax reform plan and is reportedly considering potential alternatives.

"Many Democrats would rather not dance around their goals by enacting more complicated proposals than those Sinema has rejected," Politico reported Wednesday. "But they may have no other choice: Democrats said she's the primary, and in some cases sole, impediment to raising the rates they've been campaigning against for years."

Even Sen. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.)—another conservative swimming in corporate cash who has competed with Sinema for the title of the biggest obstacle to the Build Back Better Act and played a key role in cutting it by almost half—has advocated for slightly higher tax rates on corporations, individuals with annual incomes over $400,000, and capital gains.

But Sinema has opposed her party's attempts to undo Trump-era tax cuts for the rich, even though she voted against the 2017 law and campaigned against it in 2018.

The GOP's 2017 tax law slashed the corporate tax rate from 35% to 21%, costing the federal government vast sums in lost revenue at a time of worsening inequality. House Democrats, deviating slightly from Biden's call earlier this year for a 28% corporate tax rate, have proposed raising the rate to 26.5% for companies generating more than $5 million per year—still far lower than it was just five years ago. Manchin, for his part, has pushed for a corporate tax rate of 25%.

Following Biden, House Democrats have also proposed increasing the individual income tax rate from 37% to 39.6% for those earning more than $400,000 per year, or $450,000 for married couples; increasing the top capital gains rate from 23.8% to 28.8%; and levying a 3% surtax on income above $5 million.

However, the Wall Street Journal reported Wednesday that Sinema "has told lobbyists that she is opposed to any increase" in tax rates on "businesses, high-income individuals, or capital gains."

Due to Sinema's opposition to those modest reforms—which would raise nearly $850 billion in revenue over a decade to fund child care and universal pre-kindergarten, an expansion of Medicare, climate action, and other vital public investments—Democratic Party leaders are now "working behind the scenes to target the wealthy and corporate America without crossing what increasingly appears like a red line" to the lawmaker from Arizona, Politico reported.

With the White House, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) seeking swift passage of the legislation through the budget reconciliation process—which is immune to the filibuster but requires the support of all 50 of the caucus' senators—"Democrats need to choose, quickly, to keep trying to convince Sinema or to craft workarounds that she can accept," Politico noted.

According to the news outlet:

Among the options under discussion to satisfy Sinema include targeting hundreds of billionaires who don't pay taxes on their unrealized gains—a move that's known as "mark to market." Party leaders are also discussing taxing stock buybacks, installing a minimum corporate tax, and focusing more on international corporate tax reform. They also believe they can raise significant revenue through increased IRS enforcement and closing tax loopholes.

White House spokesperson Andrew Bates said Wednesday in a statement that "there is an expansive menu of options for how to finance the president's plan to ensure our economy delivers for hardworking families, and none of them are off the table."

However, the Associated Press reported Thursday that "under the changes being floated, [the] 21% corporate rate would stay the same," citing an unnamed source familiar with private discussions between Biden administration officials and congressional leaders.

In addition, Pelosi told reporters Thursday that paying for the Build Back Better Act without increasing taxes on high earners is a possibility.

That could be a deal-breaker for congressional progressives, as Politico explained:

Senior House Democrats said it's unclear if a bill that doesn't raise tax rates could even win the votes to clear the chamber, where Speaker Nancy Pelosi can only lose three members on any given bill. The issue makes a handful of the most vulnerable House Democrats queasy but is otherwise widely embraced by the caucus, especially influential progressives who say "taxing the rich" should be a no-brainer for the party.

Progressive advocates are amplifying calls to raise taxes on the wealthy, especially in light of the fact that the combined net worth of the nation's 745 billionaires has skyrocketed by $2.1 trillion during the past 19 months of the Covid-19 pandemic.

Americans for Tax Fairness on Wednesday issued a reminder that "all of President Biden's Build Back Better agenda can be paid for by fairer taxes on the wealthy and corporations."

New York magazine, meanwhile, argued that Sinema's attempt to prevent tax hikes on the rich could deal "a death blow to Biden's social agenda."

The media outlet added:

Senate rules require that creating or expanding any social program—healthcare, child care, education, or anything else—can only be made permanent if it has some funding source. If Sinema refuses to support any tax increases on the wealthy, there's no financing available to come anywhere close.

Biden's plan does have some other funding. One stream of income is beefed-up enforcement of taxes owed by the Internal Revenue Service. That plan is under pressure from centrist Democrats and likely to exist in shrunken form, if at all. The other is a proposal to allow Medicare to negotiate the cost of prescription drugs, which would save half a trillion dollars over a decade that could be used to cover new spending. But Sinema reportedly opposes that, too.

Sarah Anderson, director of the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies, and Brian Wakamo, a researcher at the progressive think tank, on Wednesday explained five proposals for taxing wealth to pay for the social investments in the Democratic Party's reconciliation package.

"In the Build Back Better negotiations, lawmakers must stand up to pressure from lobbyists for the ultra-rich and embrace taxes that make a serious dent in the massive fortunes of those at the top of our economic ladder," the pair wrote. "Without tackling obscene wealth inequality, we cannot create an equitable economy that serves all Americans."
https://www.commondreams.org/news/2021/ ... e-tax-rate

Just shows that some animals are more special than others especially when they are able to buy a willing politician's favors.
Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.-Huxley
"We can have democracy in this country, or we can have great wealth concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both." ~ Louis Brandeis,

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