It has been 30 years since Congress seriously considered tax reform, so the discussion is long overdue. President Trump and Republicans in Washington deserve credit for starting the discussion and offering ideas. Unfortunately, the tax plan making its way through Congress too closely resembles the failed Brownback tax experiment that Kansas just repealed.
Real tax reform for real people should accomplish three things: close loopholes that allow the politically connected to game the system, reduce the tax burden on middle class and lower income families, and not increase the nation’s budget deficit.
Nonpartisan scorekeepers project that the president’s plan will raise taxes on every American family earning less than $75,000 in order to pay for permanent corporate tax cuts.
It will wreck the health care market, stripping health insurance from millions, raising insurance premiums and triggering a $25 billion cut to Medicare.
It pushes higher education out of reach for thousands of Kansans who are working to build a brighter future for themselves.
It explodes America’s $20 trillion national debt, something Republicans and Democrats agree is the gravest long-term threat to our national security.
It eliminates state and local tax deductions, which will send Kansas’ fragile budget — still recovering from the wreckage of Brownback mismanagement — right back into crisis.
In other words, this tax plan is a bad deal for Kansas.
I say that instead of raising taxes on hardworking Kansas families, let’s cut them. Our tax code is riddled with loopholes. Most of these loopholes benefit big multinational corporations and the wealthiest Americans. They don’t help middle class Americans, they only help widen the gap between the very rich and the rest of us. The time for us to close these loopholes is now!
Big oil companies benefit from billions of dollars of tax loopholes. Other big multinational corporations aren’t paying their fair share of taxes too because they hide their profits outside the United States. If these loopholes and others are closed, we can recoup $900 billion in the next 10 years.
My proposal is to take that $900 billion and put it all into tax cuts for middle and lower income Americans.
And let me be clear, I don’t want just part of this revenue to go fund tax cuts for middle and lower income earners — I want all $900 billion to go to the middle class and lower income Americans. No cuts for big companies that don’t need them. No cuts for the wealthiest Americans who don’t need them.
Why cut taxes for the middle class? Because these are the Americans who have been crushed by the shifting tax burden in this country and they deserve a break. Too many working Kansas families have seen their wages outpaced by inflation, they’ve been crippled by rising health insurance and prescription drug costs, and they are now paying the second highest tax on food of any state in the country. They are real people and they should be beneficiaries of real tax reform.
Americans are keenly sensitive to the fact that they’re paying more so the rich can pay less. Why aren’t Washington politicians focused on fixing that problem?
Kansans saw and felt tangible harm after the Brownback tax plan was rushed through the legislative process in a manner similar to what we’re now seeing in Congress. Two sales tax hikes hit the pocketbooks of Kansas families. Cuts to local governments led to dramatic property tax increases. Kansas intentionally stopped paying its bills on time. Our prized, job-creating state transportation plan was all but defunded. Public education was slashed so much that schools actually had close early in 2015.
We learned the hard way that we couldn’t move our state forward with a tax code that was upside down and backwards. The same holds true for our nation.
Paul Davis is the former Kansas House Minority Leader and a Democratic candidate for the state’s Second Congressional District.