Ten years ago, President George W. Bush signed into law a $1.35 trillion tax cut primarily benefiting the wealthiest Americans and plunging our country into massive debt. Bush’s tax cuts have exacerbated the divide between the super-wealthy and the rest of us. Today, 1% of Americans now control 40% of the nation’s wealth. Millionaires and corporations are paying less in taxes than they ever have before.
The result is a revenue crisis; with the nation’s wealthiest no longer paying their fair share, the rest of us are struggling to raise the money we need to invest in schools, job creation and the vital public programs that form the bedrock of American society.
While it seems obvious to most of us that we should stop letting wealthy individuals and big corporations off the hook, some politicians in Washington are instead suggesting massive cuts to federal programs like Social Security, Medicaid and Medicare, which will only make America’s problem of income inequality even worse.
The economic impacts of federal programs like these are undeniable. For example, Social Security provides benefits to more than 286,100 people in Maine, lifting 119,000 Mainers out of poverty. Maine residents receive Social Security benefits totaling $3.4billion per year, an amount equivalent to 7% of Maine’s annual GDP. And a study recently released by Families, USA, a national nonprofit, non-partisan organization found that even a 5% cut to Medicaid (which is far less than lawmakers are considering) would result in the loss of $94,475,000 to the State of Maine and would put 1,920 Maine jobs at risk.
Cuts to Medicaid and Medicare have been part not only of the largely unpopular House budget, proposed by Representative Paul Ryan (R-WI), but have also been part of the recent debate about raising the national debt ceiling. Up to $100 billion in cuts to Medicaid look likely to be included in the debt ceiling “deal” that Congress may strike with the President—at the same time that national Republican leaders refuse to consider ending massive tax breaks for the nation’s wealthiest individuals and corporations (and they are even willing to force the US government to default on our debt obligations to get their way).
By contrast, many Democrats are supporting the Fairness in Taxation Act, which would restore tax fairness by creating a new federal income tax bracket for those making more than $1 million annually, though it doesn’t appear this legislation will move forward anytime soon.
It’s time for all of us to pay our fair share and work together to invest in the services and infrastructure that protect our families and build America’s future. That’s why MPA has joined the national campaign for a “New Bottom Line,” a coalition of community organizations, congregations, labor unions, and individuals working together to build a movement that challenges corporate special interests on behalf of struggling and middle-class communities. The coalition is working to hold accountable the big banks and financial institutions that brought our economy to the brink of collapse and to offer a vision for how we can close the income inequality gap and build an American economy that serves many instead of the few.