Today's Fair Shots - November 7, 2017

1-Union Plumber May Have Headed Off an Even Worse Tragedy

2-Job-Killing Tax Cut Bill Supporters Aim to Redefine 'Middle Class' Upward to $450,000 a Year Cutoff

3-Tomorrow Is Election Day. Really. Vote!

4-AFGE Rally to Call for Filling Veterans Affairs Department Vacancies

1. The officers and staff of the Texas AFL-CIO offer our condolences to the people of Sutherland Springs in the wake of the mass shooting that took place in the First Baptist Church on Sunday.

  It takes a higher power to comprehend why these horrific crimes ever take place, in this case leaving 26 dead and others wounded in a religious sanctuary. This was a deranged act for the ages, creating a wide array of victims and mourners extending to all of Texas and beyond.

  But even from afar, the solidarity and closeness of the tiny Sutherland Springs community, in its worst moment of tragedy, is obvious for all to see. 

  We join Texans who are keeping Sutherland Springs in our thoughts and prayers. We are seeking more information on how best to help in the wake of this horrific tragedy.

  Amid the devastation, we note that a hero in tracking down the shooter is a union plumber.

  Stephen Willeford reportedly engaged the shooter as he exited the church, then joined another member of the Sutherland Springs community, Johnnie Langendorff, in a high-speed car chase that led directly to the shooter's taking his own life, according to law officers.


  The web site Heavy posted information on Willeford, one of our Brothers in Plumbers & Pipefitters Local 142 and an avid motorcyclist. As law officers suggest, who knows how worse this tragedy could have become if the shooter had gotten away?:

  When Stephen Willeford, who lives across the street from the First Baptist Church in Sutherland Springs, "heard what was going on," he "armed himself with an AR assault rifle, and engaged the suspect. They engaged in gunfire here at the church," Freeman Martin, of the Texas Department of Public Safety said. He arrived while police were responding to the calls of an active shooter.

  Wilson County Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CBS News that Willeford was in a "firefight" with the shooter.

  The gunman, Devin Kelley, was wounded during the exchange of gunfire with Willeford, and dropped his rifle, Martin said. He then got into his Ford Expedition and sped off from the scene, according to Martin.

  "A citizen was across the street. They engaged in a firefight for just a little bit," Sheriff Joe Tackitt told CBS News. "The suspect gets in his vehicle and takes off. This - I'm calling him hero - here in town, then stops a truck, and says, 'I need help. This guy just shot up the church: Follow him.'"...

  His neighbor, Kevin Jordan, told KENS-TV, "He's a very good guy, very big Christian, he's the nicest man on the planet, he would do anything for anyone around here. We've known him for years, he's childhood friends with my dad."

  See much more:

    Via a later report from the Austin American-Statesman:

  In an interview with CNN, Ken Leonard of Dallas, a cousin of Willeford's, said he was asked to speak on behalf of his cousin.

  Leonard says Willeford shot Kelley three times. The first shot was to the Velcro strap connecting the front and back plate of the shooter's body armor.

  Willeford had heard gunfire but it was his daughter who first drove to the church to see what was happening and returned to tell him that "there was a man in black that was shooting people at the church," Leonard said.

  "So Stephen went into his safe, grabbed his AR - his AR-15, same style weapon as used by the shooter - grabbed a handful of ammo and a magazine and ran barefooted toward the shooting. He said he was loading the magazine as fast as he could," Leonard said.

  After Willeford shot him the first time, Kelley dropped his weapon and went to an SUV, and Willeford shot him a second time. Kelley returned fire from the back of the SUV, and Willeford then shot him a third time.

  Willeford then enlisted the help of Johnnie Langendorff and his pickup to chase Kelley into nearby Guadalupe County. 

2) One way for supporters of ill-conceived, job-killing tax cut legislation for the wealthy to claim that it helps the middle class is to redefine the "middle class."

    What you and I think of as middle-class families would see mixed results from the measure. Some would pay marginally less, some would pay more, and none of it would be life-changing. 

    But that changes if you are willing to suggest the middle-class ends at an income of $450,000 a year. As wacky as that sounds, Newsweek has the goods:

  On Thursday, House Republicans issued a fact sheet about their new tax cut plan that referred to Americans earning $450,000 a year as "low- and middle-income" - even though that income level would put those taxpayers in the percent of all individual Americans.

  The median household income in the United States is $59,039, after all...

  "Did somebody make a mistake?" laughed AFL-CIO Policy Director Damon Silvers when told of the income classifications by the GOP. "[Republicans] think that the income level of the top one percent is lower- and middle-class. This is a world where if you make less than $500,000, you don't exist." 

  There is no formal definition of the American middle class, but the Tax Policy Center puts its "middle quintile" between $48,300 and $85,600 a year. 

Read more:

3) Today is Election Day. Anyone reading this has, at a minimum, seven proposed amendments to the Texas Constitution on the ballot.

  The turnout in early voting in the top 15 most populous counties for this election was 2.5 percent, according to the Secretary of State's office. How pathetic. We can only hope that more Texans pay attention tomorrow, Tuesday, Nov. 7. Harris County, where Houston has a very important bond election (vote "Yes"), sits at 2.55 percent. Travis County, which also has key bond elections for schools and infrastructure, is leading the state, with a still-pathetic 5.48 percent early vote turnout.

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  It doesn't have to be this way. Get your voting shoes on. Here, once again, are the Texas AFL-CIO positions: CLICK BELOW

4) Save the date: The American Federation of Government Employees will hold a rally to tell Congress to staff the Veterans Administration fully.

    This is a timely event. Veterans Day is celebrated this Friday, yet the gap between how our nation talks about veterans and what we do for them in many respects remains wide.

    The rally takes place 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Wednesday, Nov. 15, walking from the Main Gate of 7600 Metropolis Drive to the main gate of 7901 Metropolis Drive, in Austin.

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  "There are 49,000 vacant positions at Veterans Affairs across the country - many for doctors, nurses, mental health professionals, and other essential caregivers. Our veterans didn't serve our country just to come back to wait in line or fight with big hospital corporations to receive the care they deserve."...

  "Don't forget to call 1.833.480.1637 and demand Congress to staff these vacancies today!"