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Commentary :: Politics : Social Welfare
Tax Me More
14 Apr 2005
This Tax Day, I'm telling Congress to stop giving me tax breaks. I'm wealthy. I don't need them, and they're bad for our country.

As a teacher, I can't look my students in the eye and tell them millionaires should get tax cuts while schools and libraries are hit with budget cuts.
Tax Me More
By Heleny Cook

This Tax Day, I'm telling Congress to stop giving me tax breaks. I'm wealthy. I don't need them, and they're bad for our country.

As a teacher, I can't look my students in the eye and tell them millionaires should get tax cuts while schools and libraries are hit with budget cuts.

As a citizen, I can't face a military family and tell them they should sacrifice while millionaires get tax breaks.

The budgets passed by the House and Senate deserve an F for economics and ethics.

It's irresponsible to dig our nation deeper into debt to give tax breaks to millionaires.

It's immoral to cut health care and child care to give tax cuts to millionaires.

Our government is not fulfilling the promise of equal opportunity for children, it is undoing it.

Households with incomes above $1 million got tax cuts averaging $123,600 last year. That tax break could cover the pay of three teachers.

Tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent will cost more than $1 trillion over the next ten years if they are made permanent.

That translates into $300 million a day less for education and public health and safety. It means $300 million a day less for clean water, clean air and renewable energy, $300 million a day less to invest in research, job training and small business development.

Federal tax revenues have fallen to their lowest level as a share of the economy since the 1950s. Medicare and Medicaid didn't even exist in the 1950s.

We can't build 21st century education and healthcare on a 1950s tax base.

We're becoming a society increasingly divided between haves and have-nots. The rich are getting richer, the poor are getting poorer, and the middle class is one layoff or illness away from bankruptcy.

The tax system is being reshaped so that a growing share of tax revenue comes from workers' paychecks and a shrinking share comes from wealthy investors. Already I pay a larger share of my teaching income in taxes than I pay from the income I earn on my inherited investments. That's wrong.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in the education and research that are essential to our nation's progress.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should fully fund Head Start and assure that no one is closed out of college because they can't afford to go.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in affordable housing and health care.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should strengthen Social Security.

Instead of giving tax breaks to millionaires like me, we should invest in renewable energy sources so we can reduce our dependence on oil and other fossil fuels that damage the environment and spark international conflicts.

Public opinion polls show that most Americans believe it is more important to have a strong safety net and fund education, environmental protection, health care, Social Security and other vital services than cut taxes. A
majority says it's more important to reduce the deficit than to reduce taxes. Most Americans believe that upper-income people pay too little in federal taxes, not too much.

It's time for Congress to act on these priorities. It's time for Congress to stop robbing the poor and middle class to give to the rich. It's time for Congress to support the goal of equal opportunity instead of undermining it.

When I paid my taxes this year, I also took action to change irresponsible tax policies. I'm supporting the Responsible Tax Pledge sponsored by Responsible Wealth, a national network of businesspeople, investors and other affluent Americans concerned about growing inequality and working for more widely shared prosperity.

I'm donating my 2004 tax cut to organizations fighting for fair, adequate and responsible taxes. My students deserve no less.

####

Heleny Cook is a member of the Boston-based Responsible Wealth (www.responsiblewealth.org) and a high school English teacher in Washington, DC. She can be reached at
helenyc (at) comcast.net.

This work is in the public domain