The fight for equal rights got tougher with a regressive tax bill that gives incentives to the richest people in the United States and changes the tax code in a way that will substantially reduce services on which those with low incomes rely.
“Congress voted to give the top—less than 1 percent of the wealthy—the biggest tax break in U.S. history while it is paying for the tax breaks on the backs of poor working class people,” Valerie Ervin, senior adviser to the Working Families Party, told Rewire.
The move by congressional Republicans is part of a larger effort to create a deeply divided dual-class system in the US, and will have “dire consequences” for immigrants, people of color, and the working class that voted for Trump, Ervin added.
“Moreover, the thing that hurts the most is how they are going to use the tax bill to completely destroy what’s left of Obamacare,” she said.
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The tax bill includes a provision to repeal the Affordable Care Act’s individual mandate, which requires people carry insurance coverage with the purpose of distributing risk evenly among the healthy and the unhealthy. As Vox reported, this provision would hit red states particularly hard and lead to the collapse of the Affordable Care Act (ACA).
Repealing the ACA would lead to 13 million fewer Americans being insured by 2027 and premiums increasing 10 percent, the Congressional Budget Office estimates. Economist Larry Summers adds that the proposed plan would kill 10,000 people a year. That is a gross underestimation, according to ThinkProgress, which estimates the GOP tax plan could cause more than 15,600 deaths year.
“All so that millionaires and corporations can get a huge tax cut,” said TJ Helmstetter, spokesperson for Americans for Tax Fairness. “It’s an atrocity.”
Families making less than $75,000 a year will be paying more out of their pockets in taxes, and homeowners in some of the large cities on the East and West coasts will lose the tax deductions that have helped to defray the high cost of living in progressive metropolitan areas. “So they are being very diabolical in surgically determining where the taxes will be raised and where they will be lowered,” Ervin said. “It’s clearly got some hurdles to pass before it’s all said and done, but they knew what they were doing. They knew who they were going after, and they are going to deliver to the wealthiest people in the nation. So it’s really difficult for those of us who work in progressive organizations to get this kind of a message from this country.”
The Washington Post reported on Friday that after the tax overhaul, the GOP will eye more direct cuts to public programs, including welfare and entitlement programs like Social Security and Medicare. Such cuts will be devastating for millions in the United States, and African Americans will likely bear a disproportionate burden again, Marc Morial, president and CEO of the National Urban League, told Rewire.
The GOP tax plan alone will make the fight harder for civil rights and social justice advocates. “This grossly unfair plan will further widen the income inequality gap and disinvest in urban and rural communities,” Morial said in an email. “However, this fight is not yet over. We will continue to do all we can to make sure these bills do not become law.”
The income gap between the rich and poor is vast and shows no signs of abating. In a Mother Jones report from last year, economists pointed out that “families in the top 0.01 percent—the 1 percent of the 1 percent—make, on average, a whopping 198 times more than those in the bottom 90 percent.” Advocates are concerned the tax plan will only worsen the inequality.
“Prudently designed tax policy should raise revenue to bring desperately needed relief to poor, working, and middle-class Americans, and it should reduce our stubbornly wide income inequality gap. It should under no circumstances exacerbate it. Yet by all reasonable measures, both House and Senate bills will do exactly that,” Morial said.
“We agree that low-income people, and therefore disproportionately people of color, will be hit in multiple ways if Congress does enact the tax bill they’re heading toward,” said Debbie Weinstein, executive director of the Coalition on Human Needs.
For example, Weinstein said, Congress could choose to rebuild infrastructure in low-income communities and cities and hire local people to do the work; provide stipends and scholarships for higher education and effective job training programs so those with low incomes can afford the training they need; improve the health-care system so people aren’t too sick to work and provide more health sector jobs; or increase the supply of affordable housing and child care.
“All of these would result in the kind of economic growth that increases wages for working people,” Weinstein said. “The tax cuts Congress is poised to enact will enrich the rich, with very little shared.”
The GOP tax plan is “a disgraceful transfer of wealth from low-income people and the middle class to millionaires and corporations,” said Helmstetter. “Disability insurance, food assistance, unemployment benefits, housing, and SSI benefits for over 1 million children and 2 million seniors are all on the chopping block. Food will be taken from children’s mouths.”
More than 20 million children depend on the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP), which the tax plan aims to slash. Eligible low-income households receive a modest $1.40 per person per meal on average, and would lose more than they would gain under this tax plan, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
The tax bill only serves to compound the warfare on human rights that the Trump administration continues to perpetuate with its regressive policies, Todd Cox, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund’s director of policy, told Rewire.
Education is one area that suffers, he said. Thanks to this bill, the wealthiest receive incentives to put away more money for private school while public schools lose critical state and local property taxes that fund them. This really amounts to an attack on the public education.
The NAACP Legal Defense Fund has joined eight civil rights organizations in opposing the “misguided” tax bill that violates the moral principles of “equal opportunity, compassion for those in need, and accountability from those in power.”
To counteract the Trump administration’s disregard of human rights, the Rev. Dr. William Barber II is leading a nonviolent civil disobedience to unite the poor and disenfranchised that Ervin said she is looking forward to.
Launched on Monday in Washington, D.C., the Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival aims to fight the inequality and injustice wreaked by this administration, and to continue the work of the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign.
It will unite clergy, civil rights organizations, and progressive campaigns in six weeks of direct action, each week focusing on a different injustice starting with child poverty, in 25 states and D.C., leading up to a mass mobilization at the U.S. Capitol on June 21, 2018.
“We must transform the moral narrative in this country,” Rev. Barber said in a statement about the campaign. “We went through the most expensive presidential campaign in U.S. history in 2016 without a single serious discussion of poverty and systemic racism. Now we are witnessing an emboldened attack on the poor and an exacerbation of systemic racism, ecological devastation , and the war economy that demands a response. Black, white, brown red, yellow, young, old, male, female, gay, straight, Christian, Muslim, Jewish, and those not of religion but with deep moral convictions must build a long-term, agenda-based movement rooted in non-violent direct action and voter mobilization. This is not about saving any party, but about saving the soul of America.”