The Consequences of the 2017 Tax Law

Tralonne Shorter and Ashley Wilson
Published in the October issue of Connection Magazine

In February, touting the benefits of the Republican Tax Law, Paul Ryan tweeted “A secretary at a public high school in Lancaster, PA said she was pleasantly surprised when her pay went up $1.50 a week… she said [that] will more than cover her Costco membership for the year” with a link to an article “Workers are starting to notice larger paychecks following tax overhaul.”  Assuming this teacher gets paid over the course of 52 weeks – which isn’t a given in many teaching contracts – this unnamed teacher would receive $78/year from the tax bill. A basic Costco membership is $60.

In comparison, a Republican Member of Congress, Rep. Vern Buchanan (Fla.) bought a yacht valued between $1 and $5 million on the same day the House passed the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act.  The Center for American Progress estimates that just through one provision of the tax bill, Rep. Buchanan will receive a $2.1 million tax cut.

So, the so-called “benefit” from the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act isn’t exactly distributed with justice in mind. The authors of this law – and those who voted for it – made their decisions based on how they (and their wealthy donors) would personally benefit. And, they attempted to appease their constituents by making a false claim that everyone would receive great benefit.

Nuns on the Bus is on the road this fall – before the midterm elections – because the Republican Tax Law robs our nation of reasonable revenue for responsible programs. The law increases our federal deficit by giving handouts to the wealthiest individuals and corporations in our nation and claiming that everyone gets a tax break.

In fact, we know that not only do we not all benefit – the Republican Tax Law actively undermines the common good. Instead of shaping inclusive tax policies that promote equitable growth, the Republican Tax Law also exacerbates the racial wealth gap. Going forward, as we begin to feel the effects of the tax law and Congress debates additional cuts to federal programs, Congressional leadership will disinvest in the common good, especially programs that support individuals and communities of color.

Now, Republican leadership is again using their flawed argument to justify outrageous federal budget cuts to health, housing, labor and other human needs programs. These cuts are an attack on the common good of our nation! We know that when people at the economic margins of society do better, we all do better. To make the situation worse: while claiming we must cut human needs programs because of lack of revenue, President Trump continues to push for increased spending on border wall, Pentagon spending, and other programs that we don’t need.

When it comes to human needs programs, Republican leadership thinks our national purse is empty, but no fiscal constraints exist when immigration or war get considered. The vicious cycle of tax cuts for the wealthiest, spending cuts for human needs programs, and increased funds for border security and war have gotten us into a bit of a mess.

Explaining the Republican Budget Cuts

President Trump’s FY 2019 budget proposal called for at least $57 billion in cuts to non-defense programs. Those cuts to programs that contribute to the common good are counter to the bipartisan spending caps agreement that Congress reached just a short time before President Trump’s proposal. Further, President Trump is also pushing Congress to cut $3 trillion over 10 years to entitlement programs like the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), Supplemental Security Income (SSI), Medicare, Medicaid, and other critical programs.

Here’s how just some of the funds compare between President Trump’s most recent budget proposal and President Obama’s final budget proposal:

 

Program President Obama
(FY 2017)
President Trump
(FY 2019)
Net Change
Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants (FSEOG) $733 Million $0 -$733 Million
Federal Work Study $983 Million $200 Million -$783 Million
Department of Education $69.4 Billion $63.2 Billion -$6.2 Billion
Housing and Urban Development $48.9 Billion $39.2 Billion -$9.7 Billion
Centers for Medicare and Medicaid (Program Operations) $2.9 Billion $2.4 Billion -$500 Million
Low Income Home Energy Assistance Program (LIHEAP) $3 Billion $0 -$3 Billion
Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) $82 Billion $73 Billion -$9 Billion

 

Let’s make sure we’re clear on this: These cuts President Trump is proposing aren’t “savings.” Instead, they are cuts to essential programs that will put already vulnerable individuals at greater risk. This threatens the stability and wellbeing of our communities.

In President Trump’s first year, Republican leadership showed us their priorities. Instead of working to improve the health of our nation, they attempted to repeal the Affordable Care Act (numerous times) and finally dismantled the individual mandate. Instead of working to reduce poverty, they proposed budget cuts that would risk the livelihoods of some of our nation’s most vulnerable people. And, instead of using principles of tax justice to make sure everyone pays their fair share, they rammed through legislation that benefits the wealthiest in our nation.

This is the opposite of mend the gaps – they make them wider. The faithful way forward is to promote tax justice, promote reasonable revenue for responsible programs, and work for the common good.

As you cast your vote this November, ask yourself, “Which candidate will help mend the gaps in economic inequality? Which candidate demonstrates concerns for the common good? Which candidate will undo the damage of the 2017 tax law?” and vote for that person.

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