Editorial: Don't balance budget on the poor

Mark Trahant, an ex-columnist at the Seattle Post-Intelligencer and other papers wrote an editorial in this week’s Indian Country Today “A new article of faith: Don’t make the poor balance the budget.”

He states in part: “While there is consensus to protect the richest Americans – those who pay income taxes – there is little discourse, yet alone agreement, about protecting the poor and the working poor. We hear about saving the middle class, we hear about tax cuts for everyone (except this only applies to the income tax, not to the payroll taxes, a tax that is far more burdensome to those who earn less). But what about those who work hard but don’t earn a high wage?

. . . I agree that we need to cut federal spending. We need to balance the budget and pay down the massive debts we’ve accumulated.

. . . One idea that’s floating around is to eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit. This would have terrible consequences for the working poor – especially people who live in Native American communities. The Earned Income Tax Credit is one of the most successful anti-poverty programs ever. . . .

A report from the Brookings Institution looking at three decades of the tax credit and puts it this way: “The EITC has proved remarkably successful in reducing poverty. In 2003, the EITC lifted 4.4 million people in low-income, working families out of poverty, more than one-half of them children. Today, the EITC lifts more children out of poverty than any other social program or category of programs. Without it, the poverty rate among children would be 25 percent higher.”

. . . But in this national zeal to balance the budget we should not make the situation worse. If we can make it an article of faith to not raise taxes during a recession, we should also be certain not to make life worse for Americans who work hard and barely earn enough to support their families.”

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