Tas Tellinghuisen works for the Internal Revenue Service. She spoke on the grounds of the U.S. Capitol on October 10, 2013.
I work for SPEC, the IRS volunteer income-tax preparers program. I’m from South Dakota, and I help manage the program there. We organize volunteers to provide tax preparation assistance, mostly for people with low incomes, the disabled, and the elderly. We also provide assistance on South Dakota’s Indian reservations.
In South Dakota we reach a little over 10,000 people every year. Most of them qualify for the earned income tax credit, and can’t afford to go to a paid tax preparer, so they come to our sites. I’ve been in this area of the IRS for 9 years.
My husband Paul and I have lived in South Dakota our whole lives. We moved back to Souix Falls from Illinois because of family getting older. Someone needed to be around, so we raised our hands and said, “OK, we’ll come.”
Helping people prepare their tax returns is a wonderful experience. The people we reach are always so grateful for the volunteers who help them. A lot of them, you know, just have one or more W-2s, and are really afraid to prepare their own returns. They have no idea how to do it. So they are always appreciative. It’s always so good to see that smile on their face.
And their refunds, too, are generally their biggest payday for the whole year. It helps them pay back bills; pay their mortgage if they own a home; get their cars fixed; buy televisions when they don’t have one, that kind of thing.
It’s a year-round job, organizing and managing the program, and the shutdown is going to put everything behind schedule. Right now we’re in the midst of trying to get ready for filing season. Ordering the training materials for volunteers, ordering the equipment for the volunteers, arranging pre-filing-season meetings and training for them. The shutdown is going to put me way behind in my work. Plus [when I do return to my job] I’m going to have to work like crazy, probably overtime, and not get paid for it.
In terms of how the shutdown will affect us personally, it’s going to make a huge dent in our bank account. It’s affecting us today. We’re visiting Washington and we can’t see anything. We were in Baltimore for the treasury employees bargaining meeting, so we thought we would stop in D.C. on the way back. We made these plans a long time ago. We didn’t realize everything was going to be shut down.
To President Obama I would say, keep up the good work, and to the President and John Boehner I would say, sit down at the table and get this thing settled and let us go back to work and do our jobs. It’s all we want to do.
Bernie Sanders is an Independent United States Senator from Vermont. He spoke at a rally outside the United States Capitol on October 10, 2013.
I want to thank all of you who are out here, and the millions who are not here, who are serving the American people, who are protecting our veterans, and I certainly, as Chairman of the Federal Veterans Committee, thank you for your work protecting our veterans, and thank you for your work protecting our elderly, our children, the sick, and the poor.
Just a few brief points. They talk about negotiation and compromise. The truth is we have already compromised. The budget that we passed is not a good budget. But we passed it in order to get a clean CR so that we can re-open the government.
Second point, which has been made: We have the votes in the House right now, today, to open up the government. Let’s have a vote.
Third point. Think about the morality of those people who would shut down the government, deny paychecks to millions of federal workers, deny services to tens of millions of Americans—why? Because they want to deny health insurance to our children and to working families. What an outrage.
Last point that I want to make, and this is not made often enough. Today these right-wing extremists are talking about ending the Affordable Care Act and providing health insurance to millions of Americans. That is only the tip of iceberg for their agenda. These same people want to end Social Security. They want to end Medicare as we know it. They want savage cuts in Medicaid. They want to end the concept of the minimum wage, so that Americans can work for three or four bucks an hour. They want to abolish the Environmental Protection Agency.
What these people believe—let’s be clear and understand what this is about. They want to move this country to an oligarchic form of society, where a handful of billionaires control the economic and political life of this country. That is what this struggle is about.
What we believe is that all Americans are entitled to a decent standard of living. That one person, one vote counts, not Citizens United. So this is a huge ideological struggle for the future of America. We have got to stand tall. We have got to win this for our kids and our grandchildren.
Thank you all.