Philadelphia Inquirer

We Are All Paying For Tax Cuts For The Rich

The Philadelphia Inquirer — Tuesday, January 31, 2006

By Phyllis Salowe-Kaye

It is easy for a politician to say, "I am going to cut taxes," but it seems rare for a politician to tell us who is going to pay for tax cuts. As many people are aware, $1.8 trillion in tax cuts was passed in 2001 and 2003, primarily to benefit the very rich. A lesser-known fact is these tax cuts have been slowly phased in, making it easy for politicians to avoid answering the tough questions about who is going to pay for them.

We got a glimpse of who is paying when Congress voted Dec. 19 to cut $40 billion, which would affect vital health-care and education programs. Instead of citing the tax cuts as the reason for these devastating cuts, congressmen told us sacrifices needed to be made for the victims of Hurricane Katrina. This is a puzzling rationale when you consider that a day later the Senate approved $27 billion in tax cuts mainly for the richest people in the country.

This Robin Hood in Reverse approach is nothing but mean-spiritedness. Instead of giving relief to the 1.2 million people in New Jersey or the 45 million people nationally without health insurance, Congress approved cuts that will push people off Medicaid and cause the number of uninsured to rise even higher. In New Jersey, 485,000 of the people at risk of losing their coverage are children.

Education costs are soaring, and every year nearly 200,000 high school graduates do not go to college because they cannot afford it, and graduates have more debt than ever. Instead of finding ways to help make college more affordable, Congress cut student aid by $12.7 billion.

Many of the costs associated with the federal budget cuts will likely be paid by New Jersey taxpayers. As a compassionate state, we often make up for federal shortfalls in needed social programs, leading to increased state costs, which in turn lead to higher state and local taxes. The state faces a projected $6 billion budget shortfall, which limits our ability to absorb these costs. The federal government is unfairly foisting these costs upon us.

Not only are these tax cuts unwarranted and unfair, but they are also fiscally irresponsible. The transition from record surpluses to record deficits is a result of tax cuts to the rich. In 2005, we paid more than $350 billion in interest on the federal debt instead of funding programs to decrease costs for education and health care. By increasing debt with tax cuts, we are not only cutting programs but also passing these deficits onto our children and grandchildren.

During the early hours of Dec. 19, U.S. Reps. Frank LoBiondo, Jim Saxton, Scott Garrett, Mike Ferguson and Rodney Frelinghuysen (all New Jersey Republicans) made a bad choice and voted for this budget. But because the Senate made some minor adjustments after the budget passed the House, another vote on the legislation has been scheduled for tomorrow. This will give our representatives another chance to review and understand the negative impacts of the budget and do the right thing by voting no. That would send a strong message to the people of New Jersey that our congressional delegation is united when it comes to protecting the health and welfare of our children, our students, our seniors, disabled citizens, and low-income working families.

Phyllis Salowe-Kaye is executive director of New Jersey Citizen Action.

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