By Ryan Taylor, former state senator and USDA Rural Development state director; and Karen Ehrens, food, health and public policy advocate
This week we had #GivingTuesday, and last week, Thanksgiving. They’re both starts to what many of us celebrate as a traditional holiday season of giving. Instead of giving, however, tax bills passed by the U.S. House and coming before the Senate will be mostly taking from people and families who earn less than $75,000/year. The tax bills would temporarily cut taxes for those who earn the most and permanently cut taxes for large corporations. Most of those wealthy corporations and families are so far beyond the borders of North Dakota that we may not even see the dollars piling higher in their far away vaults.
Don’t let this season of giving be a season of taking
The tax bills put forward will RAISE the deficit by $1.5 trillion ($1,500,000,000,000). We’ll be able to see, and feel, that. It far exceeds the post-Christmas hangover a person might get in the January credit card statement. To fill the holes left in our nation’s budget, it is very likely the next step will be drastic cuts in programs. The government’s plan for the budget puts bullseyes on the targets. The targets are big enough to hit all of us in this self-imposed deficit disaster. Many of the cuts are on citizens least able to take on extra burdens, and in areas where we are already struggling to support economic infrastructure and make life better for all North Dakotans. Here are some of the people that would be moved back the farthest:
- Families with children – likely cuts to programs such as child care assistance and Head Start will make it harder for some parents to afford even the most basic necessities like food and housing. And housing programs and food programs such as SNAP are also targeted to be cut.
- People who are working to better their lives – cuts to Pell grants that help people afford and attend college, and job training services for people who wish to move up from entry level, minimum wage jobs.
- Seniors – Medicare likely to be cut by up to one-fourth in 2018, putting healthcare at risk. Many seniors would see their taxes increase.
- People with disabilities – large cuts are proposed in the next 10 years to Medicaid, scaling back services that make it possible for people to live in their own homes and attend school; cuts to disability insurance; cuts to housing and food assistance programs, and more.
- Nonprofit organizations that help others – the House version would repeal a section of law that helps keep charity and church nonprofits nonpartisan, and would also limit the charitable tax deduction to benefit only the wealthiest, wresting it away from most of us who take a lot of pride in giving.
- Anyone who receives health care – plans in the Senate would strip the requirement that all people have health insurance (individual mandate). With fewer healthy people paying premiums the direct result is higher health insurance premiums for people who need it most. People with low incomes will drop out of health insurance, leaving hospitals with a pile of bills for uncompensated charity care. Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare will further reduce the number of people able to receive medical care, and decrease the care received.
- Anyone who might need clean drinking water, or eats from the bounty of a country with an agricultural safety net, or wants to drive on decent roads, and counts on fire and police protection – cuts proposed to the detriment of highway trust funds, fewer dollars for water projects and agricultural programs about to be debated in a new Farm Bill. Strains will be put on state and local government budgets from cuts in other areas, like Medicaid/Medicare. In result, it will make it harder to finance the services we all count on.
The process is being rushed without hearings, and the final details of this very large bill are not yet fully known or understood. Tinkering with pieces and parts, leaving out this deduction, putting in that cut will result in confusion for all and increased burdens for many. We encourage as many people as possible to call Senator Hoeven at (202) 224-2551and Senator Heitkamp at (202) 224-2043 to share your concerns, how it could impact your family and community, and ask them to vote “No” on these poorly crafted tax reform bills. Remember, the Grinch would have stolen Christmas if Cindy Lou hadn’t changed his mind. That sweet, determined voice could be yours. Use it.