Last year, the week after Thanksgiving, I volunteered at an emergency food pantry downtown. A young woman with small children came in and became emotional as she requested sliced bread and milk; we were unable to fill her special requests, and as I went back into the packed waiting room, I held back tears seeing more mothers with young children. My first years of motherhood were difficult. How much harder would raising toddlers have been without adequate financial resources?
The next time I volunteered was early December, and the director asked me if I brought something to read. She explained that the waiting room was empty because many of our clients had disability and SNAP (the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program — formerly known as food stamps) benefits that were paid at the beginning of the month.
Although charities are working hard to fill the need with shelters, emergency food pantries and thrift stores — so many working families still struggle to feed their children and Utah has over 10,000 schoolchildren that are homeless.
In a recent email I received from Sen. Orrin Hatch, he talks about his own childhood growing up in poverty and says, “My new tax plan is a boon for low- and middle-income Americans. It significantly lowers tax rates, allowing workers to keep more of their hard-earned paychecks. And it doubles the child tax credit to $2,000, saving Utah families hundreds — and in some cases, even thousands — of dollars a year.”
Sen. Hatch’s statement is a partial truth; the Senate proposal will allow more upper-middle income families to claim the child tax credit — but lower-income families will barely be helped at all. New income limits would allow families making up to a half a million dollars a year to claim the credit. So my family, (married with two children) will realize a new $4,000 windfall in child tax credits. But a similar family (married with two children) making $24,000/year only realizes a $200 gain. And a single parent working for minimum wage and raising two kids would only see an increase of $75.
This tax proposal that includes $1.5 trillion in tax cuts is designed to help the super wealthy. By 2027, it is estimated that here in Utah, the top 1 percent of earners — those with an average income of $940,000 — will get 64 percent of the tax cuts. Ten years from now, if the Senate bill becomes law — the top 1 percent of earners in Utah will get an average tax cut of $74,790.
But to make matters worse, the $74,790 tax cut for wealthy Utahns will likely be paid for by cuts to basic assistance programs. The SNAP benefits that currently don’t stretch to the end of the month will likely be reduced further. The Medicaid benefits that help children get preventative medical care when a parent loses their job, the housing that helps a wheelchair-bound adult live independently — these vital programs will be cut.
This tax reform does not compare favorably to the 1986 Tax Reform Act signed by President Reagan. President Reagan's tax reform was bipartisan and revenue-neutral; it did not raise the deficit or require damaging cuts to basic assistance programs. The burden of these tax cuts will fall on those that have the least to benefit those that have the most. Please join me in calling Sen. Hatch and telling him that this tax plan will hurt low-income families, children and people with disabilities.
Debbie Baskin is the board chair for Voices for Utah Children and serves as a RESULTS group leader.