Let’s be clear: the tax bill passed by Congress in December was a scam. Sold as a “gift to the middle class,” it was actually a gift to the wealthy and corporations, who get huge tax cuts that will force deep cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security down the road. Republicans lowered taxes that only affect the wealthiest individuals and they let corporations pay even less than they already do. These changes are sure to exacerbate our country’s already growing racial wealth gap.
The lion’s share of the cuts from this bill go to the wealthy and corporations. Berkshire Hathaway got $29 billion back last year because of the Tax Scam; Amazon paid $0 in federal income tax despite earning $5.6 billion in U.S. profits. Overall, corporations have announced a record $201 billion in share buybacks in 2018, versus only a few billion dollars in one-time bonuses and even less than that in permanent wage increases. If the Tax Scam were truly a “middle-class tax cut,” it would have incentivized boosting wages—which very few companies plan to do— instead of lining the pockets of people like Warren Buffett and Jeff Bezos.
GOAL, STRATEGY, TACTICS
The American people aren’t falling for this scam. Polling continually shows that more Americans oppose the tax law than support -- and the gap is growing. And in the special election in PA-18, Republicans had to abandon their strategy of blanketing the district with ads about the tax law because even they realized voters were unmoved by their salesmanship.
With momentum at our backs, we can use Republicans’ support for the Tax Scam to fuel the blue wave coming in November. Use Tax Day as an opportunity to remind your Republican Member of Congress (and everyone else!) that their vote on the tax bill is a reason for their replacement in November.
WHAT’S A TRUMP TAX SCAM PAYOUT?
You’ll remember this from our first fight on the tax bill: an Indivisible twist on a district office visit—the Trump Tax Scam Payout. Groups across the country have become pros at stopping by (or protesting outside) your MoCs office. This time, you’ll be bringing them something. A giant check made out to the member of Congress themselves, in the amount that they will personally benefit from the Tax Scam they pushed through Congress.
Group members arrive to present the check to their MoC or their staff. This can be done with a surprise knock on the door and a Facebook Live (think Publisher’s Clearinghouse), or outside of the MoC’s office with folks set up to make speeches talking about the sacrifices they and their families are making to help give this giant tax cut to the rich. This tactic is most powerful if done at the closest district office of a Representative, or at a public or private event at which the Representative is in attendance. This is a tactic designed to attract attention from passersby and people in positions of power, and can be used to disrupt business as usual at a problematic institution. It holds most power if media attend the event and/or if photos and video are shared to social media.
HOW TO PLAN A TRUMP TAX SCAM PAYOUT
Call an emergency team meeting. As the bill comes up in the House, we want our MoC to know that we’re going to hold them accountable to their vote.
- Secure a venue for your meeting
- Send an email to your list
- Put an event on Facebook for the weekend of Tax Day (April 15), and register at https://taxmarch.org/events/?source=tm2018_indivisible
- Write an agenda
- NOTE: If you already have an event scheduled, and do not have time for a meeting or new action, feel free to skip this and look through this toolkit for ideas that you can easily incorporate into existing plans.
Before your meeting:
- Identify the best time (during the weekend around Tax Day on April 15) and location for your Payout.
- Is your MoC having a fundraiser?
- Will they be at a public event?
- If none of these are happening in the next week, go to their district office. Have you already visited the office? You’ll want to scope out the best place to position yourselves—space that will look good in photos or with media.
- Gather art supplies for use in making a giant check: from working families, to the 1%, for $1.5 trillion dollars, signed Donald J Trump. Get creative? What other props do you want (think monocles, giant cigars)?
- Paint/paint brushes
- Pens and paper
- Fabric (if making a banner or costumes)
- Tissue paper
- Helium balloons
At your meeting:
- Have everyone sign in!
- Thank everyone for attending on short notice and remind everyone why we’re here:
- Explain our overall goal and strategy for the campaign (replace your Republican MoC in November so we can repeal the Tax Scam), as well as what a Payout is and why we’re doing it.
- Tell everyone the time and location of the Payout (and if possible, where to park for it).
- Pass around a sign-up sheet, collecting the contact information of everyone who is available to participate in the event, and who is willing to speak at the “Payout.”
- Designate key roles:
- Main speaker (will speak into bullhorn or microphone and introduce storytellers)
- Someone to give a signal that it is time to hand the giant check over to the Congress person, their staff, or appropriate (cardboard?) stand-in.
- A responsible person who will make sure the art makes it to your location
- Photographer/videographer (this is really important; without photos and video, the Payout might as well not have happened)
- example Publisher’s Clearinghouse video for inspiration
- Social Media coordinator
- Media Liaison
- Ask the room who has a story that they would be willing to share at the event, illustrating how people in your district are being impacted by the #TrumpTaxScam. Remember, this tax cut comes at the expense of people who use Medicaid, Medicare, educational programs, and so many more programs.
- One leader from your group should take these people aside and lead a storytelling exercise, where everyone writes out their tax stories. Try and keep these to 500 words or less. Shorter is always better for media coverage, although of course be sensitive to people in this moment of pain.
- Those who will not share stories, cannot make it to the event, and those who will attend but cannot speak should begin the art efforts.
- Be creative!
- Some suggestions:
- Giant Check (this one is great for media)
- Make a banner that can be seen from a distance. Use bold colors. If you want to make it look professional, use a projector to project letters or a picture onto your surface, then trace your image in pencil and paint inside the lines.
- If anyone has sewing skills, they can make a fake fancy outfit to accept the check. Think top hats, cravats, monocles, etc. These are also pretty easy to find at costume shops.
- Make enough picket signs so that there are no empty-handed participants in the Payout.
- Make sure that your art calls out your MoC by name wherever possible (this will make your target clear in photographs of the action!).
- Be creative and don’t underestimate the power of humor and theater.
- Those who will speak at the Payout should be asked to stay an extra 20 to 30 minutes at the meeting to practice.
- How will you signal who to pay attention to? Will you bring a podium? Will they walk over and hold the check, or stand next to it? Figure out an order, and a pre-arranged signal for when it’s time to start the speakers.
- Practice sharing stories, and then have someone designated to hand over the check. Have someone roleplay as a disgruntled staffer, a Trump supporter, a confused bystander, or anyone else who might throw you off. Is everyone able to stay focused, and speak?
To change the narrative in your MoC’s home district, it’s critical to get media attention at constituents events like a Payout. Get started with “How to Get Press to Cover Your Event.”
ON THE DAY OF THE ACTION
- All people in key roles should meet 45 minutes in advance. Bring snacks and water, assemble any art pieces that need assembly, test any technology, make reminder calls to everyone who signed up to attend, and begin to get in position.
- It's also fun if members of your group can dress up like caricatures of wealthy aristocrats, like the Safety Nets group of Get Organized Brooklyn did during their event. It adds a great visual element, and reinforces your message that the rich will benefit most.
- Meet outside the MoC event or district office. Once everyone has gathered, the Main Speaker should state clearly why you all are there, and that many people in your district will be affected by this vote.
- The Social Media Coordinator should record, live-tweet and/or Facebook-live the entire experience.
- Make sure that you are recording and taking photos horizontally, not vertically. It really helps the video get shared and makes it usable for press.
- Be sure to tag your Member of Congress.
- Be sure to tag @IndivisibleTeam on Twitter.
- Post photos of the action.
- Storytellers should stand in a line next to the speaker, so they can easily pass the microphone or bullhorn to share their stories.
- At the appropriate time, someone will give the signal and participants in the Payout should let the designated person hand the giant check over to the MoC/ their staffer, with the Main Speaker making the point clearly and slowly that this Tax Scam is a giant payout to the 1% on the backs of middle class families. Feel free to talk about why the law is a scam, but keep it brief. Make sure to get video of this part.
- During the handing over of the check, other people holding signs should stay silent, and hold their signs up prominently. Chanting would be appropriate after the staffer or MoC has the check in hand.
- When the Payout ends, everyone should clean up and leave quickly. You may also wish to end with some chanting. The mood is a little humorous, so be aware of media and social media coverage before you assume things are finished. But do regroup off-site and congratulate yourselves!
- Leaders should plan a debrief meeting.
- Send your stories, pictures, and best practices to firstname.lastname@example.org.
- Bring a bullhorn or portable microphone.
- Agree on a dress code. Wearing the same color creates a strong visual impact, makes it clear you are together, and looks great in photos. Alternately, you could all wear khaki pants and suit jackets to go with the theme!
- Collect all of the constituent stories that you can, and deliver them in a package to your MoC. This is a great way to incorporate the stories of folks who couldn’t attend.
Note: Familiarize yourself with our resource A Note on Police Encounters in case you are stopped by the police at your event.