Congressional leaders hope to vote next week on a tax plan that gives massive giveaways to corporations and the most powerful people in the United States. Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, writes in Democracy that real reform must make the tax system more fair, while also raising the revenue needed to support key federal programs like Social Security and Medicare.
… with wages largely stagnant for low- and modest-income working households, we need a tax system that uses refundable tax credits more aggressively to reduce poverty and boost incomes. Proposals on the table include one from Representative Ro Khanna and Senator Sherrod Brown to expand the earned income tax credit substantially for workers not raising children and to roughly double the maximum EITC amount for families with children, and one from Representative Rosa DeLauro and Senators Michael Bennet and Brown to increase the refundability of the Child Tax Credit and increase its size for families with young children.
Greenstein notes that the current proposals before Congress fall well short of real reform.
While America faces a long-term fiscal challenge, the pending Republican tax legislation would make it more serious, thereby inviting subsequent proposals to slash core safety-net programs and basic governmental functions—all to provide $1.5 trillion in tax cuts that will mainly benefit large, profitable corporations and those at the top.
William G. Gale, Surachai Khitatrakun and Aaron Krupkin looked at how the House and Senate tax bills would impact low and middle-income Americans in a new Brookings Institution paper.
Our central finding: If you consider plausible ways of financing either the House or the Senate bill, most low-and middle-income households would eventually end up worse off than if the bill did not become law.
The Washington Post’s Erica Werner explains that the bills are being thrown together on the fly, with loopholes and drafting errors likely littered throughout the legislation.
Veterans of congressional tax overhauls, particularly the seminal revamp under President Ronald Reagan in 1986, have been stunned and in some cases outraged at how swiftly Republicans are moving on legislation that touches every corner of the economy and all Americans.
With the Legislature failing to raise adequate revenue for new roads and bridges, the state transportation department is now focusing on repairs instead of looking at initiating large projects like a new Mississippi River bridge. The Advocate’s editorial board writes that this is the right decision, but it shouldn’t have to be. The state’s gasoline tax has lost much of its value since it was last raised in 1990.
Louisiana has always done well by having matching funding on hand to snag federal dollars that were unused in the rest of the nation at the end of a fiscal year. Now, the state is facing a crunch in just matching the main federal grants that pay for roads and bridges.How are we to attract new jobs and investment if we have these kinds of congestion problems, with no relief in sight? (Secretary of Transportation Shawn) Wilson said a recent D-plus ranking by a national group for state transportation conditions is deserved.
Lunch without shame
Schools play an important role in providing nutrition to children from families that struggle to make ends meet. But without adequate training and policies in place, they can also be a source of stigma for children who are unable to pay for their meals. CBS News reports:
According to the Department of Agriculture, over 20,000 schools have expanded their free food offerings, including some of the biggest districts: New York City, Chicago and Detroit. The health benefits are obvious, but there is a psychological one, too; free food for each student means the poor and the hungry aren’t singled out, as some have been in the past. It’s a stigma that’s come to be known as lunch shaming, and the headlines have been full of incidents of late. Kids unable to pay their meal debt have sometimes been denied food, or had their hot meals thrown away in front them, replaced with a cold lunch in a paper sack.
Census 2020 worries
The Census that occurs every decade may seem straightforward and apolitical. But the count is used for drawing congressional districts and shaping policy decisions at every level of government. Concerns are mounting that many whose voices already are muted by the most powerful, won’t be fully counted. The New York Times’ Michael Wines has the story:
The Trump administration’s heated rhetoric on immigration, race and the trustworthiness of government is fueling fears that minorities, legal and undocumented immigrants and others — from asylum-seekers to victims of the opioid crisis — will be even harder to locate and count. The 2010 census actually overcounted non-Hispanic whites by 0.8 percent and undercounted African-Americans by 2.1 percent and Hispanics by 1.5 percent. Suggestions by Mr. Trump and others that the census include a question about citizenship or immigration status are especially worrying to many. … “The record of the census in counting people from all income groups, all racial and ethnic groups, is really extraordinary,” said Steve H. Murdock, a Rice University sociologist who led the Census Bureau under President George W. Bush. “Once you break that belief in the activity, it’s hard to replace.”
Thoughts with Gov. Blanco
Gov. Kathleen Babineaux Blanco led Louisiana through some of its darkest days after Hurricane Katrina. Now Blanco herself is facing a most difficult challenge, as she revealed this weekend that she has incurable cancer of the liver. Blanco is one of the kindest, most decent public officials Louisiana has ever known, and all of us at LBP hold her in our hearts during this time.
Number of the Day
19 cents – The loss in purchasing power – due to inflation and improved fuel efficiency – for the state’s gas tax from 1990 to 2016. (Source: Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy)