Category Archives: Taxes

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Finding a New Measure of Winning

Meg Olson
March 8, 2018

There is no doubt about it: 2017 has been a rough year for justice seekers. As I write this, I am sitting with the devastating reality that before leaving on their holiday vacations, Congress passed a bill that will increase taxes for taxpayers in the lowest brackets, cause 13 million people to lose their health insurance, and exacerbate our nation’s already staggering racial wealth gap. And this is just one example of how Congress and the Trump administration are hurting people living in poverty, people of color, immigrants, labor, women, the earth…

Some days I look at my postcard of Dorothy Day’s famous adage and think, “Dorothy, I DO have the right to sit down and feel hopeless! Nothing is working!”

And yet, I know that I need to pursue Gospel justice with joy and persistence and approach situations with hope and welcome. And, as the lead NETWORK organizer, I am called to model this joy, hope, and welcome for you, our members, who reach out on a daily basis, asking what else you can do to pass the Dream Act or save the Affordable Care Act.

If I take a step back from the immediate crisis at hand and look at this past year, I can actually muster up quite a bit of hope. I just have to accept that in these challenging times, I need to adjust my expectations about winning.

In my early days of organizing, I was taught to think of multiple answers to the question, “What does winning look like?” Yes, the ultimate “win” is stopping harmful legislation or passing a bill that supports the common good. However, “winning” also looks like people committing to taking action, strengthening relationships with those who share their values, and building power.

So here’s how I’ve seen NETWORK’s members and activists win in 2017:

  • You’ve committed to taking action by making over 50,000 phone calls to Congress this year; going on more than 40 in-district visits; and attending town halls, rallies, and even protests.
  • You’ve strengthened your relationships with your fellow NETWORK members, with organizations led by Dreamers, and members of other faith based organizations such as Bread for the World and Faith in Indiana.
  • You’re building power in your congressional districts. I know that because our Government Relations team will gleefully tell me when they get back from the Hill, “Congressman Pete King’s Legislative Assistant started our meeting by thanking NETWORK and crediting our members for urging Rep. King to get on Rep. Scott Taylor’s letter to get a solution for Dreamers before the end of the year!” or “Congresswoman Brooks’s staffer said that the Congresswoman told her about the great meeting she had with NETWORK members!”

We’ve got a long road ahead of us to mend the wealth, income, and access gaps in our nation, especially for people living in poverty, women, people of color, and those living in the intersections of those realities. But I have hope that in 2018, NETWORK’s members and activists will commit to taking more action, continuing to deepen their relationships with fellow justice-seekers, and building even more power.

And yes, I believe that we will win!

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

A Year of Protest, Prayer, and Persistence

Laura Peralta-Schulte
March 7, 2018

2017 was a tumultuous year for our nation. Following the election of President Trump and with Republicans in control of both the House and Senate, advocates were fearful of what lay ahead for women, people of color, immigrants, and other communities that had been the target of then-candidate Trump’s consistent attacks on the campaign trail.

President Trump began his Inaugural Address talking about “American carnage”, building walls, and making “America first.” The next day, millions of people marched in Washington and around the world to show their opposition to President Trump’s agenda. Sister Simone Campbell addressed the Women’s March in Washington, D.C. asking people of faith to actively engage in the political debate on behalf of the common good. With that historic mobilization, we began the political action of 2017.

Administrative Attacks on our Mend the Gap Agenda

Two areas of NETWORK’s Mend the Gap agenda were under constant attack in 2017:  healthcare and immigration. On both issues, the Trump Administration used all legal means at their disposal to undo the progress of the Obama Administration. For healthcare, the Administration moved immediately to dismantle the Affordable Care Act by changing regulations under the guise of “flexibility” to limit the program. Later in the year, the Administration refused to advertise and engage in ACA enrollment activities, which was an act of sabotage.

On immigration, including in the area of refugee resettlement, the Administration attempted to fundamentally restructure longstanding programs. This began with issuing multiple Muslim travel bans – which were, until recently, stopped by Court challenges – then concluded the year by announcing a historic cut to the number of refugees the U.S. will settle. The Trump Administration also callously rescinded the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrival (DACA) program created by President Obama that has protected Dreamers from deportation and allowed them legal work authorization since 2012. The Administration is currently working to remove Temporary Protected Status for large communities of immigrants including those from Haiti, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and elsewhere.

Legislative Attacks on Mend the Gap Issues

One of the first and most sustained threats to our agenda came as Republicans in Congress launched their efforts to repeal the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Republican members of Congress have campaigned on repealing the ACA since its passage, so it was no surprise when the House moved to repeal the program. Congress also moved to unravel our broader healthcare system by attempting to fundamentally restructure the Medicaid program into a block grant. This proposal would devastate Medicaid and risk the health of millions of Americans who depend on the program.

What was surprising – and inspiring – was that these efforts failed due to the hard work of a diverse coalition of advocates and the engagement of many people all around the country who responded to the attack with determination. The Republicans had planned to repeal the ACA quickly at the beginning of the Congressional session, but ended up fighting to make changes through the spring and summer until they finally failed in July. Network chaired the national faith healthcare table and played an important role in defeating the effort.

Harmful immigration bills became part of the Republican legislative agenda during the first days of the new Congress. Republicans moved swiftly to increase funding for deportations, detention, and border security as well as pass new legislation to strip sanctuary cities of federal funding. Early on, Democrats united and refused to support a bill that included significant funding to build a border wall. This was an early win for our community, and it became apparent that Republicans would have trouble implementing their agenda because of Senate rules (requiring 60 votes to pass legislation) when operating under regular process. That is why the budget reconciliation process (which only requires 51 votes) has been used to try to pass partisan healthcare and tax legislation.

Crisis set in as the Administration rescinded the DACA program in September. Over 800,000 Dreamers who had signed up for protections and who are fully integrated in American communities, schools, and workplaces face the threat of deportation if Congress does not pass legislation that provides protection. Congress failed to pass this critical legislation in 2017 and it remains a key part of NETWORK’s agenda for 2018.

End of the Year: Tax Cuts or Bust

Because of advocates’ success in blocking major portions of the Republican agenda during the first half of the year, when Congress returned after the August recess, the pressure was on Republicans to deliver a win before the end of the year. They moved quickly to a popular issue for the party: tax cuts. Congressional Republicans worked feverishly for the rest of the year to pass a partisan tax bill that gives significant tax cuts to wealthy people and corporations at a loss of $1.5 trillion dollars for our nation. While there were obstacles to passing the bill, in the end Republicans rallied around the tax bill written by and for lobbyists and their rich donors, marketing it as a middle class tax bill that will spur economic growth and raise wages. Unlike earlier debates, there was little Republican opposition to the tax bill and it moved forward at lightning speed. The bill did not receive any Democratic support.

This was a significant loss for NETWORK for two reasons. First, as part of the tax bill, Republicans achieve a year-long goal of destabilizing the Affordable Care Act by including a repeal of the individual mandate. Experts show that this will increase premiums and potentially lead to 13 million people losing healthcare in the near future. Second, the significant loss of national revenue sets the table for Republican leadership to talk about the need to cut the social safety net programs like Medicaid, Medicare, and nutrition programs next year. Already, President Trump and House Speaker Paul Ryan have indicated that Congress will push for “Welfare Reform” next year.

An Uninspiring Federal Budget Process

Congress did not pass a full federal budget for 2018, deciding instead to put all of their political energy into passing tax cuts for the wealthy and large corporations. Congress adjourned on December 21 after passing a short-term bill to fund the government at current levels through January 19. This sets the stage for further budget action as well as discussions on funding for 2019.

Harmful Neglect of the Common Good

Congress’s single-minded focus on partisan priorities continually got in the way of bipartisan legislation that would have advanced the common good. For much of 2017, NETWORK and partners urged Congress to extend funding for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) well before the October 1 deadline. For 20 years, CHIP has been a popular, bipartisan program that brought the rate of uninsured children to the lowest level in our history. Congress failed to renew CHIP funding and only passed a temporary funding for the program until March of 2018 when they will try again to achieve bipartisan consensus.

Overall, there are three important lessons we have learned in the past year. First, Republicans are deeply divided on core Mend the Gap issues like healthcare and immigration; it is possible in certain instances to build bipartisan support to block bad bills and, over time, potentially to develop bipartisan legislation to solve problems. Second, in order to be successful, advocates must organize and engage in Washington and, perhaps more importantly, at home. Third, President Trump and Republicans in Washington are fearful of political losses in 2018 and will prioritize “winning” the political fight and the next election over the common good. As we work to resist against unjust policies and to promote the common good, we continue to find our power in diversity and community.

Read NETWORK’s 2017 Voting Record here.

A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

A Woman’s Place Is in the Resistance

Allison Berkowitz
January 20, 2018

To say 2017 has been transformative for the United States — especially for women — would be an understatement.

January 21st, 2017. Maybe it was because Carrie Fisher had recently died, Star Wars was back in the lime light, or because I needed a spark, but the movies’ themes rang true and deep to me. Before leaving for the Women’s March, an image of Ms. Fisher was seared into my mind: Princess Leia, guns drawn, with the text, “A Woman’s Place is in the Resistance.” It stuck with me. When I arrived in D.C., the first protest sign I saw was a quote from Rogue One: “Rebellions are Built on Hope.” I marched proudly all day, hand-in-hand with my feminist husband, reflecting on these themes (a call to duty, class war, fearing for the future, to name a few). We vowed 2017 would be a year of action. A promise kept.

I didn’t realize it, but the march was a major turning point for many (I can’t tell you how many incredible activists I met this year whose efforts were born out of the march). For me, the changes were profound. In 2016, I moved to Maryland so I could attend a prestigious PhD program. I had a background in community organizing and intended to get back to the good fight, but I felt learning research skills would allow me to better speak truth to power. I had good intentions, but more and more of my time was being spent in the resistance. In March, I helped lead a group of social work students from all over the country to the Capitol, where we lobbied our legislators to vote for people-centered laws being considered. In April, I did several teach-ins on how to be a legislative advocate. I got very involved in the fight to protect undocumented immigrants by analyzing and defending proposed laws which sought to protect them, both at the state and federal levels. I also wrote countless op-eds.

Much of May through July was spent working with the grassroots, anti-poverty group, “RESULTS.” The Baltimore chapter’s leader was on maternity leave so I co-led in her stead. I helped keep the group organized, met with legislators, and pleaded to protect the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC): an evidence-based method of combatting poverty. We also fought to protect other safety nets, such as Medicaid and SNAP (formerly known as “food stamps”). You see, by August, we knew the tax reform fight was coming and we were trying to sound the alarm.

By the time September rolled around, it became clear I needed to quit the program and enter an uncertain future. Making the decision to leave research was scary, but confirmation came quickly that I’d made the right choice. Within a week, I began working on a US Congressional campaign I’d volunteered for in the past for a single mother, Allison Galbraith, in MD-01. Advocating during the day, campaigning at night, it was hectic but electric. I felt energized by this new sense of purpose. In November I was accepted into a doctoral program which allowed me to continue this work, something a purely research focused program could not offer me. I also found a job as an Adjunct Professor, teaching Advocacy & Social Action to master’s level social workers. Dr. King said you don’t have to see the whole staircase, just take the first step in faith. I felt very lucky steps were continuing to appear beneath my feet.

While my colleagues and I had been beating the “tax reform” drum since August, in December, we went to war. We fought passionately and painstakingly. Much of my time was spent calling, emailing and visiting legislators, writing op-eds, attending town hall meetings, and protesting the unjust bill in D.C. I was in excellent company, routinely storming the Capitol alongside fierce fighters like Linda Sarsour, Bob Bland, Ady Barkan, and many other wonderful individuals from around the country. We shared our stories, and many of my friends — including clergy, people in wheelchairs, teenagers, and 80 year olds — participated in nonviolent civil disobedience. They chose to be arrested to bring attention to the “abomination of a bill” as one clergy member put it. Despite our best efforts, as you know, the tax bill passed and Trump signed it into law on December 22nd. We cried that day. But as I’d done on Wednesday — November 8th, 2016 – I encouraged my friends to take the time to weep, and then come back to the fight.

Now here we are. We madly mourn our losses and wildly celebrate our successes, like the special election of Doug Jones or our victories in Virginia. And we plot how to get out of this mess. I am comforted everyday by the myriad of Americans stepping up to run for office. I myself learned last month no Democrat was going to run for an open seat in my district for the Maryland House of Delegates, so I’m doing it, and you can too! For those of you contemplating running, someone gave me this gift, so let me pass it on to you: you ARE qualified, and if you’re waiting for someone to ask, I’m asking you: don’t just march – RUN! For those not interested or able to run for public office, please support those around you. We are better together, and we can turn our country around. To get back to those Star Wars’ metaphors, it’s been an incredible year in the resistance and we’re just getting started. To those struggling in these trying times, take heart, things can be different if we work for it. That said, it’s my great hope to see you in the rebellion!

Allison Berkowitz is a social work doctoral student, an instructor of social action to master’s-level social workers, and an active legislative advocate for several groups and causes. Originally from Florida, she spent three years in Alaska and has settled down in Maryland. Allison believes in people and tries to make the world a little better each day. Find her on Twitter@AllisonForAll

Immoral Tax Plan Makes Its Way Through Congress

Immoral Tax Plan Makes Its Way Through Congress

Mary Cunningham
December 13, 2017

Around 3 A.M. Saturday, December 2, the Senate voted to pass the Republican tax bill, a measure which will undeniably have detrimental effects on low and middle income households.  The bill also costs the U.S. treasury over $1.5 trillion dollars, which will soon be used as a reason to make cuts to Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security as well as other safety net programs.

With all of this happening, what’s really going on behind closed doors? Both the Senate and House have chosen members who will sit on the conference committee tasked to reconcile the House and Senate versions of the bill. There has already been a lot of back and forth as House and Senate leadership discuss which details to include in the final tax cut bill. These discussions largely surround debates on the repeal of the alternative minimum tax for corporations, concerns about the research and development tax credit, the repeal of the state and local tax deductions, and requests to lower taxes on small businesses.

Every Democrat in the House and Senate and numerous Republican members of the House have come out against the bill, recognizing the adverse effects it will have on their districts. Passing a bill that will increase taxes on their constituents is a large risk, especially with midterm elections approaching rapidly. The incentive to get this bill passed is largely political. Republicans, eager to have at least one major victory, are rushing to get it passed before this year’s end.

The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has condemned the tax bill, calling it “unconscionable.” They claim it will disproportionately affect working poor families and individuals while protecting the interests of the wealthy. In a letter to the House of Representatives, the Bishops noted that key programs which help people who are economically marginalized are at risk for elimination, including an income tax credit for persons with disabilities and the deduction for state and local taxes. While the Child Tax Credit would be expanded, it’s likely that low-income families will not be able to reap the benefits, especially immigrant families who file their taxes with an Individual Taxpayer Identification Number (ITIN). They wrote, “No tax reform proposal is acceptable that increases taxes for those living in poverty to help pay for benefits to wealthy citizens.”

This bill will lead directly to automatic cuts in healthcare and other vital social programs, in part to offset the estimated $1.5 trillion cost of the bill over the next 10 years. House Speaker Paul Ryan has already signaled that the next step for Congress after passing the bill will be to reduce funding for entitlement programs to pay for the tax cuts. We can learn from other states that have implemented tax cuts experiments and see that they have not worked! In 2012, the Kansas state legislature passed a tax cut plan that they promised would boost the economy and pay for itself over the years. In reality, lowering income and business taxes only hurt the economy, and led to a severely damaging loss of state revenue. Now, the Trump administration’s tax plan poses the same threat on a national level. This is a bill that Republican members of Congress are pushing in order to satisfy their donors. It is not a bill for the 100% and is the wrong direction for our country.

Here are some ways to oppose to GOP tax plan:

  • Call your Representatives! The fight is not over. Call 1-888-422-4555 to speak to your Representative and tell her or him why you oppose the bill. Remember to share your faith perspective!
  • Speak out on social media! Use your Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram accounts to voice your concerns about the tax bill and the effects it will have on our most vulnerable neighbors.
  • Visit your Member of Congress’s office with friends in your community and talk directly to staff about why this bill is wrong for your district and wrong for the country.
  • Get creative: Hold a prayer vigil outside your Members’ office!

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children and Families in our Tax Policy

Our Advent Prayer: Let Us Support Children and Families in our Tax Policy

December 4, 2017

As we begin the season of Advent, we recall the time Mary and Joseph spent preparing for the birth of Jesus – time spent in joyful anticipation. Now, we wait in hopeful anticipation for Christ and strive to shape a world where all children are welcomed and cared for.

As we prepare for the coming of Jesus, we are reminded of children across the country whose lives are affected by federal policies. Throughout the weeks of Advent, NETWORK will explore the current policy situation of: the Dream Act, the Child Tax Credit, the Children’s Health Insurance Program, and child care for working families. We will share a combination of reflections, prayers, and current news that will help us gain insight into how these policies impact children and their families. We hope you will join us on this journey during Advent while we prepare for the coming of the child Jesus!

“The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us. We have seen his glory, the glory of the one and only son, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth.”   -John 1:14, NIV

Policy Basics: The Child Tax Credit

  1. The Child Tax Credit is one of the most effective anti-poverty programs in our nation. In 2016, it lifted approximately 2.7 million people out of poverty, including about 1.5 million children, and lessened poverty for another 12.3 million people, including 6.1 million children.
  2. The Child Tax Credit was created in 1997, and historically has had bipartisan support in Congress and from the White House.
  3. The Child Tax Credit includes a refundable component; if the value of the credit exceeds the amount of federal income tax a family owes, the family may receive part or all of the difference in the form of a refund check.  Therefore, many working families can benefit from the credit even if their incomes are so low that they owe little or no federal income tax in a given year.
  4. Research has found that boosting working families’ incomes, as the Child Tax Credit does, can expand opportunities for children, leading to better health, improved school performance, and eventually higher earnings in adulthood.

Source: The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities

A Prayer to Support Children and Families

Dear Jesus,

Advent calls us to be alert to signs of a pending encounter with You.  When that glorious encounter occurs, may we be prepared to respond rightly.

Working together, we encountered You in vulnerable parents and children, and we provided for them.  Would that you might always meet us doing right, being mindful of You in our ways. (Isaiah 64:4)

It is not right for our policies to reward the wealthy while failing to extend the same support to struggling families. We cry out to You from the wilderness of disparate opportunity and pray that political leaders encounter You as they allocate hope to mothers and children. And would that You meet them doing right, being mindful of You in their ways. 

Clearly, proposals to prioritize some families over others based on immigration status affronts Your ways and must be opposed.  Encounter us, dear Jesus, as we struggle to hold leaders accountable to justice for all persons in our country. And would that You meet us doing right, being mindful of You in our ways.

Encounter us, oh Lord, encounter us!  And would that You meet us doing right, being mindful of You in our ways!

In Jesus’ name we pray.

Amen.

Written by Sr. Mary Ellen Lacy, D.C.

Interreligious Coalition Opposes H.R. 1

Interreligious Coalition Opposes House Republican Tax Bill

Laura Peralta-Schulte
November 16, 2017

Yesterday, the Interreligious Working Group on Domestic Human Needs, a coalition of faith-based organizations, sent a letter to the House of Representatives urging members to vote no on H.R. 1, the House Republican tax bill.

This immoral tax bill prioritize the wealthy at the expense of struggling communities and vulnerable families. It violates our call to care for the most marginalized and to work for the common good. We call on Congress to pass a just tax bill that asks everyone to pay their fair share to invest in our nation.

Read the text of the letter below, or download as a PDF.


November 14, 2017

Dear Speaker Ryan and Leader Pelosi:

As members of the faith community, we know that tax decisions are moral decisions. Taxation choices show who we preference as a nation and who pays the price.  These choices show who and what we care about as a nation. All of our faiths teach us that the center of our concern should be those at the economic margins of our society. Therefore, we, the interfaith community, are speaking with one voice.

We must oppose H.R. 1, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act, because the bill violates our faith values as well as the fundamental issues of tax fairness and fiscal discipline.

First, the Tax Cut and Jobs Act is fiscally irresponsible. It grows the deficit by $1.5 trillion dollars over ten years. Growing deficits and debt threatens not only the fiscal health of our country, but it also threatens future funding for the programs that help countless families put food on the table and provide for their children. This additional $1.5 trillion in lost revenues will lead directly to future cuts in critical anti-poverty programs and low-income services including Medicaid, SNAP, low-income housing assistance, and other critical services for families struggling to make ends meet. The tax system should be structured to support investments in programs that create economic opportunity and dignity for all, especially families struggling to make ends meet. This bill violates the moral responsibility to care for the vulnerable.

The Tax Cut and Jobs Act makes the tax code more regressive. The tax breaks included in the legislation are not targeted to low- and moderate-income individuals. Provisions such as repeal of the estate tax, lower rates for pass-through income, and lower tax rates for income between $480,000 and $1 million will give enormous benefit to those at the top. This proposal is the exact opposite of a moral mandate to focus on those who struggle the most.

At the same time low-income families are left out of the benefits of H.R. 1. The bill increases the Child Tax Credit, but without making the additional credit refundable or making any improvements for low-income households, 10 million children are completely left out of any benefit increase. We have grave concerns about the cuts to the Child Tax Credit and the American Opportunity Tax Credit for immigrant families. We also strongly oppose the way in which H.R. 1 inhibits low-income working families from accessing the EITC, arguably the most effective anti-poverty, pro-mobility program in the country. Yet again this bill fails a basic moral test.

Rather than cutting these key anti-poverty investments for working families, a morally faithful way forward would have Congress

  1. Expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit so that no worker is taxed into poverty,
  2. Expanding the Child Tax Credit for low income workers so that those who need the credit most benefit
  3. Expanding the American Opportunity Credit so that students can more easily afford higher education which is critical for success.

These are faithfully moral choices that Congress can make.

We call on Congress to put the needs of working families and struggling communities first in creating a just tax system.  All our faith traditions call us to prioritize struggling families and vulnerable communities in our laws and policies.  We respectfully ask you to ensure that any tax changes taken as part of our tax debate be based on principles of fairness and shared commitment to the common good.

Sincerely,

Alliance of Baptists

American Baptist Home Mission Societies

Bread for the World

Congregation of Our Lady of Charity of the Good Shepherd, US

Dominican Sisters ~ Grand Rapids

Franciscan Action Network

Friends Committee on National Legislation

Interfaith Worker Justice

Islamic Relief USA

Jesuit Conference, Office of Justice and Ecology

Leadership Conference of Women Religious

MAZON: A Jewish Response to Hunger

National Advocacy Center of the Sisters of the Good Shepherd

National Council of Churches

NETWORK Lobby for Catholic Social Justice

The Poligon Education Fund

Faith Action Network – Washington State

Union of Reform Judaism

United Church of Christ, Justice & Witness Ministries

‘The United Methodist Church- General Board of Church and Society

President Trump and Speaker Ryan Craft Immoral Tax Plan

President Trump and Speaker Ryan Craft Immoral Tax Plan

GOP Tax Framework Would Provide Huge Tax Cuts for the Wealthy, Hurt Working Americans
Laura Peralta-Schulte
October 4, 2017

The Trump Administration and Republican Congressional leadership recently unveiled new principles for the upcoming tax debate titled “Unified Framework for Fixing Our Broken Tax Code.” Supporters of this framework have made big promises about protecting the middle class and promoting growth, but the plan fails to deliver on those promises.

The proposed cuts are simply not designed to benefit middle-income and low-income families. In fact, the plan actually calls for raising the tax rate for low income Americans, the only group to receive a tax increase. Huge benefits flow, instead, to those who are doing the best in our economy and need assistance least – wealthy Americans and multinational corporations. The Republican tax framework would lower tax rates and carve out new loopholes to accompany the significant array of tax shelters that already exist, allowing the wealthy and big corporations to continue using legal means to avoid paying their fair share of taxes. This is wrong for our nation.

Income and wealth inequality is one of the greatest social and moral challenges facing our country, and tax policy is a significant driver of that inequality. Increasingly, Americans are living in two starkly different economic realities – one that is thriving with access to good services and vibrant communities and one where people struggle to get by with little to no investment in their communities. Catholic Social Justice calls us to live in solidarity with each other as one community. Therefore, we have an obligation to ensure that our tax code generates reasonable revenue for responsible programs that support our community.

Catholic Social Justice also requires us to make a preferential option for those experiencing poverty. Prioritizing those with the greatest need must be done so that all are able to meet their basic needs and live in community. We can begin to mend the income and wealth gap by requiring everyone to pay their fair share of taxes. President Trump’s framework, if enacted, will expand the gap between those of living with ample means and those struggling to provide for their families.

Supporters of this tax plan claim that a “trickle down” approach will boost the economy and help American workers, but evidence suggests this is not the case. Today, corporate profits are near record highs and corporate taxes are at record lows. Many corporations pay little to nothing in taxes due to existing tax loopholes. While cutting U.S. corporate rates would make U.S. corporations more profitable, there is no evidence that these cuts would boost employment or wages for American workers. Further, while the effective federal tax rates for the bottom 80 percent of households have fallen dramatically since 1979, inequality persists. The key problem that Congress should focus on addressing for the middle class is near-stagnant pay.

The history of trickle down policies shows that huge tax cuts for the wealthy will increase the federal deficit and force cuts to vital programs that all Americans depend on.  Right now, Congress is considering two bills that provide a roadmap for the risks this tax plan presents.  The House is considering a budget resolution bill which would make huge tax cuts while slashing $4.4 trillion in spending over 10 years to entitlement programs including: Medicaid, Medicare, TANF, SNAP, SSI, college aid, and tax credits for low-income workers. It also cuts $1.3 trillion over 10 years in housing assistance, K-12 education, child care, and other programs. In this bill, 2027 funding for federal programs would drop to 44 percent below their FY 2010 levels, taking inflation into account – the lowest level since before the Great Depression.

The second bill, a budget resolution in the Senate, would allow for a loss of 1.5 trillion dollars in revenue loss over 10 years.  While this bill does not explicitly call for the same cuts outlined by the House, increasing the deficit now will enable Congress to call for entitlement cuts in the near future. We must act now to stop Congress from passing damaging budget resolutions and unjust tax legislation.

Talking Faith and Taxes

Talking Faith and Taxes

We all pay taxes. Let’s talk about it! Here’s a framework for approaching a conversation about taxes:

1. Begin with faith or values. Many faith traditions have teachings on taxes and economic justice.

    • Judaism has long preached about justice, and a just social order. The word tzedakah is connected to the obligation we have to make acts of financial charity towards people who are poor, carrying with it the idea that wealth is from God, and those with financial means have the responsibility to ensure those who lack resources are cared for and given the opportunity to eventually succeed on their own.
    • From the same religious foundation, Christianity embraced the ideals of social justice preached by Jesus. Early Christian communities stressed collective well-being and called upon one another to sacrifice for those who were poor and marginalized. Often, they created funds from community collections in order to provide goods and services to the widowed and poor. Most Christian religions continue to emphasize just economic practices and acts of charity.
    • Islam upholds the practice of Zakat, one of the five pillars of Islam. Initiated by the prophet Muhammad, Zakat is the obligation to give a portion of one’s wealth out of concern for those who are poor or dispossessed. In addition to its obvious use on earth, Zakat is seen as necessary for one’s salvation.

2. Discuss options for our tax system. There are three main types of taxes.

    • Progressive — A higher rate is paid by higher income brackets than lower income brackets (Note that this is achieved by applying higher marginal tax rates to higher levels of income)
    • Flat — A flat tax applies the same rate of taxation to all payers
    • Regressive — A lower rate is paid by higher income brackets than lower income brackets

3. Talk about what we don’t pay

    • Tax Expenditures encourage certain activities and benefit certain groups, and they come in three basic forms: deductions, exclusions, and credits.
    • Not all tax expenditures are bad — the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) lifts more families out of poverty than any other program, but others give wealthy corporations a sizeable cut on the taxes they pay that contribute to the common good.
    • The issue is that the government doesn’t count expenditures in the budget. Since these aren’t listed as expenses they’re often overlooked. Once a deduction is written, the money we could have collected is largely forgotten and the money we miss out on could lead to belt tightening and cutting in places that aren’t really at fault.

4. Think about the benefits we share in as a result of tax revenues

    • Whether it’s a public good that we all benefit from or a program that benefits certain groups, our tax revenues care for the common good in our nation and across the world.
    • Many of the programs funded by our taxes go to providing services or care for the marginalized that our different faith traditions call us to care for—those who are poor, sick, hungry, or otherwise vulnerable.

It really is up to us to decide what we want to do with our taxes, and the way we spend our tax dollars reflects our priorities as a nation. Start a conversation with a neighbor, family member, or friend about how our tax system can best provide for the common good.

For a more in-depth discussion of these topics, download NETWORK’s tax justice curriculum “We the Taxpayers” at: www.networkadvocates.org/WeTheTaxpayers

Originally published in Connection magazine. Read the full issue here.

Supporting Tax Policies that Benefit Women and Families

Supporting Tax Policies that Benefit Women and Families

Anna Chu and Jillian Edmonds
August 16, 2017

The Trump administration and Republican leaders in Congress have promised to release a tax reform plan this summer, which is likely to include some of the largest tax cuts in decades. As elected officials debate tax reform, we must ensure policies that slash taxes for the wealthy few and big corporations under the guise of growing the economy do not become the new law of the land. The fallacy that tax cuts for the rich and corporations grow the economy has been the conservative talking point since Ronald Reagan first touted trickle-down economics, and has been widely discredited.[i] But not only is President Trump sticking to the same failed playbook of the past, the tax principles he released in April lack some of most important tax strategies that would help working families. For example, his principles do not mention expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), an effective anti-poverty program which would greatly benefit working women and families. In 2013, the EITC lifted 6.2 million people – including 3.2 million children – out of poverty (when taking into account the indirect employment and earnings effects of the EITC, this number nearly doubles).[ii]

Although there are reports that President Trump is considering improvements to the Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit, those potential improvements alone do not mitigate the other troubling aspects of his tax plan. For instance, President Trump proposes reducing the corporate tax rate by 60 percent and getting rid of the estate tax, which impacts only the richest 0.2 percent of estates (including his own estate).[iii] Coupled with his budget, which guts crucial programs that provide basic living standards to low-income Americans, what emerges is a clear picture of the Trump administration’s economic policy—giving big payoffs for the wealthy few and big corporations, while pulling the rug out from everyday women and their families.

Tax Cuts for the Rich Just Make the Rich Richer

President Trump’s tax plan would be a massive giveaway to wealthy Americans and big corporations, and would harm women and families if enacted into law. He proposes slashing the top marginal individual tax rate to 35 percent and consolidating the current seven tax brackets into three. He also proposes slashing the corporate tax rate to an astoundingly low 15 percent. While he claims that such tax cuts would grow the economy and “create 25 million new jobs over the next decade,” this couldn’t be further from the truth. A Congressional Research Service analysis of the top tax rates since 1945 found little or no association between reducing taxes on the wealthy and increased savings, investment, or productive growth.[iv] A review of research by the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities of the impacts of a 1993 tax hike and the 2001 tax cut also revealed that job creation and economic growth were actually stronger in the years after the 1993 tax increases than in the years following the 2001 tax cuts.[v]

Instead of creating jobs or economic growth, tax cuts for the rich just make the rich richer. An analysis of OECD countries found that there was no correlation between the top tax rates and economic growth, but there was a correlation between lower top tax rates and greater income inequality.[vi] The earlier CRS study also found that cutting the top tax rate concentrates wealth at the top of the income spectrum because it incentivizes higher pay at the top end of the scale and allows those people to keep more of that money. By cutting taxes for the wealthy and corporations, President Trump’s tax plan will contribute to growing economic inequality in our nation, which harms both our current economy and future growth.

Tax Cuts Threaten Funding for Critical Programs

While women and families likely won’t get a fair shake in this upcoming tax plan, it’s not their only worry. President Trump’s tax principles work alongside his federal budget, which would cut programs that provide a basic living standard to low-income families. His budget proposes eliminating heating assistance for people in poverty, funding for meals for seniors, and several housing assistance. These cuts will affect women the most, potentially creating an even greater poverty gap between men and women. The Tax Policy Center found that cutting the corporate income tax to 15 percent would cost $2.4 trillion 10 years — and that number skyrockets to $4 trillion if the 15 percent rate applies to pass-through income.[vii]

Unless the White House plans to simply increase the deficit, these tax cuts must be paid for somehow. The Trump administration has claimed it would pay for these cuts by raising tax revenue from other sources and from economic growth, but the budget shows they are more than happy to slash critical programs that provide a basic living standard for women and families. President Trump’s budget proposes dismantling Medicaid as we know it and cutting its funding above and beyond the cuts in the ACA Repeal Bill. SNAP funding would be cut by nearly $200 billion over the next decade – which would result in many states making it more difficult for families to get food assistance..

The President’s desire to give huge tax cuts to wealthy people such as himself and take away critical programs that are lifelines for many women and families flies in the face of what his voters wanted and is a recipe for economic disaster. We can learn from what happened in Kansas, where massive tax cuts enacted in 2012 led to decreased revenue, underfunded schools, and cuts to services. Massive budget cuts won’t make America great again – but they are likely to hurt many people.

A Tax Plan that Actually Helps Women and Families

Our tax policies should help the most vulnerable Americans by improving family tax credits and raising enough revenue for programs and services that support struggling families, rather than giving more tax cuts and loopholes to the wealthy and corporations. To have a tax plan that actually helps working women and families, President Trump and Congressional leadership should consider abiding by the following principles:

  • Don’t give more tax cuts for the wealthy and big corporations.They should pay their fair share in order to have a tax system that works for all of us.
  • Tax policies shouldhelp the most vulnerable now. Tax reform should preserve — and improve — tax credits like the Earned Income Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, and Child and Dependent Care Tax Credit that help families make ends meet.
  • Support progressive tax reforms that would raise needed revenue— and expand opportunity for a stronger future for everyone. Every year, special interest tax loopholes cost the federal government billions of dollars. That’s money that could be used to support struggling families and give them a chance for a better life.

A tax policy that supports women and children requires that everyone pays their fair share regardless of their income or political power. It allows the government to fully support families that need assistance when they are struggling, as well as fund public parks, clean air enforcement, and other government activities that benefit everyone. Rather than giving the wealthy and corporations the largest slice of the pie, a tax policy that supports women and children expands the pie for everyone, resulting in more opportunities that keep America great.


[i] CNN Money. “The ‘trickle down theory’ is dead wrong.” http://money.cnn.com/2015/06/15/news/economy/trickle-down-theory-wrong-imf/

[ii] Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP). “EITC Boosts Employment; Lifts Many More Out of Poverty Than Previously Thought.” http://www.cbpp.org/blog/new-research-eitc-boosts-employment-lifts-many-more-out-of-poverty-than-previously-thought

[iii] CBPP. “Repealing Estate Tax Would Provide Windfall to Heirs of Wealthiest Estates.” http://www.cbpp.org/research/federal-tax/repealing-estate-tax-would-provide-windfall-to-heirs-of-wealthiest-estates

[iv] Congressional Research Service. “Taxes and the Economy: An Economic

Analysis of the Top Tax Rates Since 1945.” https://fas.org/sgp/crs/misc/R42729.pdf

[v] CBPP. “Recent Studies Find Raising Taxes on High-Income Households Would Not Harm the Economy.” http://www.cbpp.org/research/recent-studies-find-raising-taxes-on-high-income-households-would-not-harm-the-economy?fa=view&id=3756

[vi] Piketty, Thomas and Emmanuel Saez. “Top Incomes and the Great Recession: Recent

Evolutions and Policy Implications.” http://www.imf.org/external/np/res/seminars/2012/arc/pdf/PS.pdf

[vii] CNN Money. “A 15% corporate tax rate could be very expensive.” http://money.cnn.com/2017/04/24/news/economy/trump-corporate-tax-rate/

[viii] National Women’s Law Center. “Cutting Programs for Low-Income People Especially Hurts Women and Their Families.” https://nwlc.org/resources/cutting-programs-low-income-people-especially-hurts-women-and-their-families/

Originally published in Connection Magazine. Read the full issue here.

Getting Tax Reform Right for Our Nation

Getting Tax Reform Right for Our Nation

US Representative Mike Thompson (CA-05)
August 7, 2017

Economic inequality is a real problem that too many families face. Incomes have not kept up with the cost of living, and hardworking Americans are struggling to get by. So as Congress considers reforming our tax code, it must focus on leveling the playing field for the middle class and working families.

It’s been over thirty years since Congress made comprehensive changes to our tax code. A lot has happened in the interim—and our policies haven’t kept pace. We’ve seen the rich get significantly richer while the middle class keeps shrinking. Congress has the power and responsibility to change this trend. We can and should focus on reforms to create good, stable, high-paying jobs and help the men and women in our communities take advantage of the opportunities available to them now.

For instance, I’ve spoken with a number of my constituents who are trying to care for their kids, work a fulltime job, and go back to school so they can land a promotion or change careers. They are superheroes trying to do it all for their families, and they could benefit greatly if Congress expanded access to the American Opportunity Tax Credit, which helps millions of students and working families pay for college.

We should also look at policies that combat inequality. Expanding the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit, for instance, would provide more families with a place to call home. Improving the Child Tax Credit to keep pace with inflation would ensure families with young kids are able to pay their bills. I’ve co-sponsored legislation to expand all of these tax credits and provide additional help to everyday Americans.

These are not the only solutions, but they should be part of the discussion. Unfortunately, a number of my colleagues seem to think tax reform simply means tax cuts. That’s just not true.

It’s especially irresponsible to just cut taxes for the wealthiest among us—forcing everyday Americans to carry the bulk of our nation’s tax burden. Unpaid-for tax cuts create serious shortfalls, forcing our government to borrow more and more money. As lenders cut checks to federal borrowers, there could be less financing—and opportunities—available to entrepreneurs, mom-and-pop shops, and new startups. That’s bad for economy, American ingenuity, and anyone who wants to achieve their dreams.

We can make our tax code fairer, more competitive, and more efficient, but it shouldn’t come at the expense of a ballooning national debt. And Congress shouldn’t make promises it can’t keep.

While the corporate tax rate is in need of reform, simply slashing it to 15 percent is not going to help middle class families. It benefits big businesses that in some cases already pay less than their fair share in taxes while shipping jobs overseas. Tax cuts alone will not solve our problems. We need comprehensive reforms and programs that put people first.

We need to have the difficult conversations about what’s fair and what’s best for our communities. Tax reform isn’t easy, but it’s necessary if we want to close the wealth gap and help our families thrive.

Partisan rhetoric and ideology can’t be allowed to divide us. One party alone shouldn’t make changes to a tax code that affects all of us. We need to make sure we address the concerns of all our constituents, regardless of party.

As a senior member of the House Committee on Ways and Means, I’m ready to work with Chairman Kevin Brady and my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to make our tax code fairer. But make no mistake: Democrats will oppose any tax plan that only helps the rich get richer while forcing working families to shoulder even more of our country’s tax burden.

Originally published in Connection magazine. Read the full issue here