Texas Surcharge Program, A Modern Day Slavery

You have heard many stories about how the Republican party both nationally and at the state level has over the years embarked on policies that consistently hurt the poor while benefiting the rich, or as they call it on Twitter the #WarOnPoverty. The GOP’s attack on the poor has taken several forms for example reducing funding for food stamps, opposing hikes to minimum wage, etc.

All these affronts on the poor by the GOP have received a lot of national media attention and deservedly so. However there are other egregious GOP attacks on the poor that never get the national media attention they deserve, but have serious negative consequences on the daily lives of the working poor. One such attack is the notorious Texas Surcharge Program, an out and out modern day slavery.

The Republican-controlled Texas Legislature introduced the program in 2003 with an aim to raise money to fund the very expensive Texas trauma centers.

The idea was that imposing additional fines to traffic tickets would deter people from breaking traffic rules and as a result improve overall public safety while at the same time providing the much needed funding for the trauma centers. The result however has been the total opposite–a total nightmare for Texas drivers.

Millions of Texas Drivers are driving around with driver licences that they don’t even know have been long suspended thanks to the surcharges. You have Texas parents dropping their kids to school and then going to work only to have to call their family from county jail saying they were arrested for driving with a suspended license that they had no idea about. This of course means these families then have to redirect their already meager financial resources to paying a bail bonding company, towing charges etc or in many instances just letting their loved one sit in jail, losing their jobs and digging them deeper into poverty–the aforementioned modern day slavery.

You also have to consider the tremendous burden that lack of a valid driver’s license imposes on working families. This for some people means giving up a good job offer simply because it will require them to drive daily with their suspended license putting them at risk of arrest, or not being able to take out a rental car during the holidays, and so on, all because of the Texas Surcharge program.

As you can see from this Texas Tribune piece, it has been very difficult to put an end to this program even though there is irrefutable evidence of the disastrous effects it is having on Texas working families. As the article correctly points out, the Texas Surcharge Program is a cash cow that Texas politicians(including some Democrats) have found impossible to resist. Much of the Texas media is also resigned to this sad reality—that we are forever stuck with the Texas surcharge cash cow, its harmful consequences on working families be damned!!

Excerpt from an 08/18/2014 Texas Tribune piece by Gilad Edelman

Yours Truly totally rejects this notion that we are somehow stuck with the modern day slavery that is the Texas surcharge program, and intends to marshal support for a grassroots campaign to finally put an end to the misery this program continues to impose on working families. Simply put Yours Truly intends to finally free Texas working families from the shackles of the Texas surcharge program.

The original plan was to muster enough grassroots pressure to force the Texas legislature to finally scrap this program but it appears there’s already an alternative and equally effective route available. Turns out Equal Justice Under Law, a Washington DC based non-profit has already filed a federal lawsuit against Texas DPS arguing that the Texas Surcharge program is unconstitutional.

In a December 5 2018 KUT News piece, the Executive Director of the DC non-profit, Phil Telfeyan said regarding the Texas surcharge program, “What Texas is doing is punishing people for being poor.” The lawsuit by this DC non-profit makes our efforts at scrapping the Texas surcharge program much easier because a ruling by a federal court that the program is unconstitutional frees us all from its shackles.

Bottom line folks, we cannot just sit idly by and expect to be miraculously emancipated from this modern day slavery. We must fully support the great efforts of Phil Telfeyan and his non-profit group to finally put an end to the Texas surcharge program. It all begins by giving our full support, material and otherwise to the good folks at Equal Justice Under Law as they pursue their lawsuit against Texas DPS. Yours Truly highly recommends that you follow them on Twitter so as to keep up with their federal lawsuit.

It also cannot be left unsaid that if Democrats want to make inroads in Texas they must capitalize on highly unpopular GOP-inspired initiatives like the Texas surcharge program that elicit bipartisan loathing. The winning message for Texas Democrats can be very simple, “If you are sick driving scared because of GOP’s surcharge program, vote for Democrats.”

For those of you very happy with @Emolclause’s activism don’t shy away from the “tip jar” below on your way out. 

GOP Gutted IRS’ Ability To Go After Rich Tax Cheats

An investigation by ProPublica has revealed that since 2010 congressional Republicans have systematically gutted the IRS’ budget for the express purpose of dramatically reducing its ability to pursue rich tax cheats, while at the same time ramping up the agency’s ability to go after the working poor who claim earned income credit. If there was ever a classic case of GOP’s #WarOnPoverty, this shocking finding by ProPublica certainly is.

Excerpt from ProPublica piece by Paul kiel & Jesse Eisinger dated 12/11/2018

In essence, according to the ProPublica piece, congressional Republicans have gradually and cleverly reduced the number of IRS auditors by shrinking the agency’s budget over the last 8 years(since 2010). As the article correctly points out, congressional Republicans realized that were they to make huge cuts to the IRS’ budget at once, the public/media would catch on to their shameful act. So they cleverly devised the gradual IRS budget cuts that have gone on for the last 8 years, almost totally crippling the IRS’ ability to go after rich tax cheats(usually Republicans).

Excerpt from ProPublica’s 12/11/2018 piece

This troubling ProPublica revelation comes as many working families are getting ready to file their 2018 taxes and yes–claim their earned income credit. It is sickening to learn that as the working poor are looking forward to getting their income tax refunds so they can catch up on their bills, congressional Republicans have primed the IRS to target them with audits, while letting the rich tax cheats avoid IRS scrutiny. This is absolutely sickening and House Democrats and the mainstream media must get to the bottom of this shameful attack on the poor by the GOP.

This chart from the same ProPublica piece says it all. Notice how sharply audits of those who earn $500K or more(typically Republicans) have dropped compared to the other income groups. As the article correctly points out, it is the rich who cheat on their taxes more which means IRS auditors should concentrate more on them as opposed to the poor.

The incoming House Democratic majority owes it to its voters to investigate this troubling state of affairs at the IRS. For the record, the ProPublica piece points out that it is not the IRS that is at fault here but rather congressional Republicans who have made them go after poor filers claiming earned income credit. Nobody is advocating that the IRS turn a blind eye to poor people fraudulently claiming EIC. However it is only fair that the IRS also go after rich tax filers who by far do most of the tax cheating

Bottom line it is in everyone’s interest that the ability of the IRS to go after all tax cheats, rich and poor, is fully restored. Where, as here, Republicans have turned this powerful agency into a weapon to attack poor working families, while at the same time neutering its ability to go after rich tax cheats, House Democrats have a duty to step in and restore the agency to its full investigative capacity. Specifically, House Democrats must fully furnish the IRS with the tools it needs(experienced auditors) to aggressively go after rich tax cheats. It is simply immoral to have this powerful agency go after poor working families while the rich tax cheats get off scot-free.

For those of you very happy with @Emolclause’s activism don’t shy away from the “tip jar” below on your way out.