During these unprecedented times, Colorado needs leaders who can faithfully represent the interests of working and middle-class residents who have been ravaged by the economic fallout from the pandemic. Unfortunately, throughout his five-year tenure, Sen. Cory Gardner has repeatedly shown that he only works on behalf of his wealthy donors, not the Coloradans who elected him into office.
Our state is hurting. For thousands of Coloradans, paying rent and keeping food on the table at the end of the week is a constant struggle. Over 200,000 residents are receiving unemployment benefits and the number is expected to rise in the coming months. However, employment doesn’t guarantee stability. Service workers have seen their hours cut and numerous small business owners are on the brink of closing their doors.
Instead of championing meaningful economic aid, like the HEROES package proposed by House Democrats, Sen. Gardner acquiesced to Mitch McConnell, who purposefully let the package die on the Senate floor. Sen. Gardner had the chance to be a powerful dissenting voice and stand up for the residents and businesses of this state who needed a helping hand to get through this crisis, but he decided to stay quiet and avoid upsetting party leadership. He chose party interest over his voters, and it’s not the first time.
Regardless of where you fall on the socio-economic ladder, this pandemic has laid bare the vast divide between the haves and the have-nots within our state and our nation. However, COVID did not create this problem, it has only exacerbated the inevitable flaws of an economic system rigged in favor of the wealthy few.
During his short time in Washington, Sen. Gardner cast a crucial vote for the GOP tax cuts, which further accelerated the growing wealth gap in this country. The 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) provided corporations, billionaires and the top 1% of Americans with the largest government handout in decades, all but nullifying the small tax break working families received by increasing their total share of tax burden.
Republicans guaranteed that this piece of legislation would raise wages and increase investment, but like every promise of trickle-down economics, it never happened. Instead, corporations and businesses took their massive tax windfall and either stored it overseas or decided to buy back a collective $1 trillion worth of their own stock. The only thing working Americans received was bearing a larger share of the tax burden, while receiving a smaller share of the pie.
Today, Sen. Gardner continues to double down on enacting tax cuts for the wealthy. Sen. Gardner strongly supports Colorado Proposition 116, which, if passed, would lower the flat income tax during a massive state deficit, leading to cuts for crucial state services and measly pocket-change-level savings for most working families. Flat taxes disproportionately shift the burden to middle- and lower-income earners, and when estimates suggest the state would lose nearly $160 million of revenue, the last thing we should be doing is doubling down on an unequal tax that gives wealthy folks a handout at the expense of our schools and roads.
Ask yourself, are you better off today than before Sen. Gardner and President Trump took office? As people with wealth, we are, thanks to the tax cuts and financial loopholes for high-income earners provided to us by Republican tax cuts. Even throughout the COVID crisis we’ve been nearly unscathed. We’ve taken some minor financial hits, but all in all, the Federal Reserve and the Trump administration have bent over backward to ensure that the stock market remains afloat and our investments stay safe.
President Trump and Sen. Gardner’s only priorities are keeping wealthy people like us happy and our wallets fat. But we’re not that easily swayed. This kind of thinking isn’t sustainable and it leaves millions of Americans in the lurch. Working Americans are the engine of our consumer economy and their spending drives growth and pushes us out of economic downturns. Without a robust middle and working class that can afford to spend, our economic recovery will take much longer.
Sen. Gardner’s lack of foresight and empathy in 2017 was a clear indicator to why we do not have another stimulus package. His preference for those at the top will not stop, until he and others like him are voted out of office this November. It’s time to remind Sen. Gardner that his real boss isn’t Trump or McConnell — it’s the great people of Colorado.
Guillot and Iacino are members of the Patriotic Millionaires, concerned about the destabilizing concentration of wealth and power in America.
This opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.