Retired teachers chapter news

Tax plan would hurt middle class

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The Republican Congress’ tax bill, one of its highest priorities, seemed to be on its way to becoming a reality at press time.

Under congressional budget and taxation legislative procedures, it only requires a simple majority for passage of the bill. Thus the Senate’s filibuster 60-vote rule does not apply. We should note that political parties out of power favor filibuster protections while those with narrow control of that body favor a simple majority vote. So, if you think the arguments between Democrats and Republicans of a few years ago have flip-flopped, you may be asking “Who’s on first?”

As an old political friend of mine used to say, “It depends on whose ox is being gored.” Politicians use whatever tools and arguments they have at hand.

Our concern as a union is less about tactical consistency than about the strategic goals and the end results that can affect the members we represent and the ultimate fate of working and middle-class people. It is labor’s charge to advocate for those who are organized and those yet to be organized from educators to public employees to factory and tourist workers to farm workers to so-called independent operators.

Why are we so opposed to this tax legislation that has been patched together without hearings or time for professional analysis of how it will affect the American economy and the middle class?

The basic division over who gains and who loses in any tax proposal that has existed for decades between the two political parties applies now as never before. Should such policies favor the well-to-do and hope some crumbs trickle down to the rest of us? Or should they reflect what President Andrew Jackson wrote when he vetoed a bank bill: The blessings of government should fall like the spring rains equally on the rich and poor.

Aside from the general insidious premise of this legislation that favors corporations and the wealthy, there are some particularly onerous parts that will harm New Yorkers and like-minded states whose local governments actually provide to their citizens a more positive network of social services. Right-wing ideologues abhor these policies and look for every way possible to impose their libertarian, laissez-faire proscriptions on us. Ayn Rand’s antigovernment spirit lives on in Speaker of the House of Representatives Paul Ryan and all who would craft and support such one-sided legislation.

Their scheme is to try to force states like New York, California, Pennsylvania, Illinois and others to eliminate or reduce progressive programs like allowing deductions of state and local taxes. Under current IRS rules, you and I have been able to deduct our local and state taxes as well as certain parts of our home mortgages when we file our federal tax returns every April. As you know, such deductions encourage working people to buy their own homes and move into the broader middle class.

Since the New Deal and the GI Bill of Rights and federal aid to public education, post World War II governmental policies have been designed to lift Americans and encourage social mobility. This seems to rankle the “pull yourself up by your bootstrap” advocates for heartless ideological reasons.

This nation rejected the rugged individualism of the preprogressive era. But, as my predecessor Tom Pappas always says, “The bad guys never go away.”

We must fight this legislation that would cripple the working class and middle class citizens struggling to find and keep economic dignity.

And, if we have been straight-jacketed with one more anti-labor burden, think of the upcoming 2018 congressional by-elections. We must make this a major campaign issue as we work to undo the national nightmare and restore economic dignity to ourselves and to others.

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