This op-ed appeared in the Sunday, December 24, 2017 edition of the Star-Ledger.
Last week the U.S. House of Representatives and the Senate passed a GOP tax bill that rewards profitable corporations and wealthy families while putting middle-class and low-income families across the country at risk.
All but one of New Jersey’s 14 members of Congress – including four of the state’s five Republican House members – voted against the bill. Rep. Tom MacArthur, R-3rd Dist., was the lone “yes” vote.
The fact that nearly all of New Jersey’s members of Congress had the clarity to see this GOP tax bill for what it is – an attack on New Jersey working families – is the tiny silver lining in an incredibly dark cloud for America’s future.
This tax bill is an expensive gift to the wealthy and to corporate America, wrapped up in the guise of “tax reform.” And congressional Republican leaders are already calling for spending cuts next year that will threaten working families – and they’re using high deficits, which their tax bill will make worse, as the rationale.
The GOP tax bill, once fully phased in, will disproportionately harm middle-class and lower-income New Jerseyans while rewarding the state’s wealthiest households.
* New Jersey households with incomes over $1.4 million (the top 1 percent) would receive an average $8,470 tax cut while the bulk of Garden State families (the bottom 60 percent, or those with incomes under $111,000) would see a tax hike averaging $110.
* Those families in the top 1 percent would receive 63 percent of the state’s share of the tax cut — $384.1 million in total — while the bottom 60 percent would, together, receive less than 0 percent of the tax cut, since they’d pay a total of $331 million more in taxes.
* About 1 in 4 New Jersey taxpayers would see a tax hike.
* An estimated 340,000 New Jerseyans would no longer have health insurance.
But sadly, these direct impacts from the bill aren’t even the worst of what President Donald Trump and GOP leaders have planned for us.
In fact, the tax bill is step one of congressional Republicans’ two-step tax and budget agenda that would rip the American social contract to shreds, undo decades of progress for working Americans and send the country hurtling even faster toward a new gilded age.
Here’s how this two-step agenda works: First come the tax cuts – they are tilted to the top, they are expensive and they blow up the deficit. That last point is key. Because the second step is to cut public services, programs and investments – using the deficit pressure these tax cuts cause as the rationale. GOP leaders are already out there promising to slash the already-tattered safety net and rein in so-called “entitlements” – in other words, health care, retirement security and food assistance for millions and millions of Americans.
As House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said early this month, “We’re going to have to get back next year at entitlement reform, which is how you tackle the debt and the deficit. … Frankly, it’s the health care entitlements that are the big drivers of our debt, so we spend more time on the health care entitlements – because that’s really where the problem lies, fiscally speaking.”
In other words, this tax bill was about much more than taxes. It was – and remains – a statement of about how we shape our society and our future. How we raise money, and what we choose to spend it on, are the truest reflections of our values as a country.
This tax bill and its corresponding budget agenda are a one-two punch for New Jersey’s working families, children, seniors and people with disabilities. Calls for spending cuts to balance the budget are nothing more than thinly veiled efforts to gut programs such as Medicaid, SNAP and disability insurance that help millions of struggling New Jerseyans meet their basic needs.
We all share a responsibility to ensure that struggling families do not go hungry or become homeless. New Jersey’s entire congressional delegation – but particularly MacArthur, who failed struggling working families when he voted for the GOP tax bill – should commit now to standing against budget cuts that would further hurt everyday New Jerseyans by taking away health coverage, food assistance, housing and more from Garden State families.