The joy (not) of paying the GOP tax

By Mike McGann, Editor, The Times

Say what you will about Donald Trump, but a lot of what either thrills or angers folks is decades in the making. Essentially, Republicans being Republicans.

For me, personally, that means grabbing money from me and my family and cheerfully reassigning it to wealthy people and corporations. Until I recently did the math, though, I had no idea how bad those numbers were and how badly I’d been lied to by elected officials not named Trump over the last two to three decades.

I’ve always found it laughable when Republicans claim to be the party of fiscal responsibility and that Democrats are “tax and spend liberals.” Projection, much?

I was kind of dimly aware that GOP policies hurt my pocket and basically helped rich folks and big corporations, but I never did the math.

Until now.

And it’s worse that you think. For my family, it amounts to about $15,000 a year, if I’m charitable in my calculations. If not, well the number sails north of $20K. Per year.

No, really. Per year.

Let’s start with healthcare.

My wife and I own our two small businesses (the alleged entrepreneurial class the GOP says it loves, but cuts off at the knees by its actions), which means we pay for our health insurance, for us and two college-age kids.

When the Affordable Care Act passed and took effect, our monthly cost dropped from about $2,400 to less than $2,000 a month. As the Republicans in Congress (I’m looking at you former Rep. Ryan Costello and U.S. Senator Pat Toomey), slashed subsidies and gutted many of the provisions of the ACA, now we’re paying $2,800 a month with higher copays. I’m going to be generous and suggest those policies are only costing us $6,000 a year, but it’s probably higher.

Then there’s the fabulous 2018 Tax bill — it sure as heck wasn’t a cut for me — which whacked tax deductions for health care (doubly worse with our costs exploding), charitable donations and local and state taxes, among other things. All told, despite claims by one ex-Congressman that I was deluded by the “liberal echo chamber,” it cost us $3,500 this past tax year. Either my accountant is part of a vast liberal conspiracy or someone was lying. Guess which one I believe?

While the federal weasels have been bad — okay, horrible — the state weasels have been pretty awful.

Ever wonder why we pay ridiculous property tax? Because of a continuing failure since the 1980s to properly fund public education, shifting the tax burden on to homeowners and away from corporations and the wealthy. With a flat tax — which is fundamentally unfair — and too many cutouts, exemptions and rebates on corporate tax that many large, highly profitable companies effectively pay no — none, nada — taxes to the commonwealth.

Now, with kids in college, this hits me twice.

First, by my estimate, we pay about $1,500 annually in public school taxes than we would had state funding levels from 1981 — about half — been maintained. Now, statewide, it’s less than 30% and far, far less in my district, Unionville-Chadds Ford.

Second, my son is a freshman at Temple. Thanks to repeated slashes of state funding for state public universities, I pay about $4,000 a year more for tuition than we would if funding levels (in constant dollars) were the same as the 1980s.

And here’s a fun knock-on: with state public schools more expensive, private schools are able to raise tuition, too. That, in turn, has boosted the school loan business, deeply profiting a few financial sector companies, who, shockingly, are big campaign contributors to Republicans in the legislature.

College debt crisis? While many are to blame, the leader culprits are state legislatures/governors and Pennsylvania ranks among the absolute worst.

Consider this: corporate taxes made up 30% of the state’s budget in 1972, according to the Pennsylvania Budget and Policy Center, but by 2017 that percentage fell to just 15%. That’s about $4 billion in funds we don’t have for roads, police and yes, schools. That money now comes out of your pocket — either through state use taxes, or things like higher property taxes and high tuition — and literally goes into the pockets of large corporations.

The truth is this: the GOP represents a handful of rich folks and about a thousand megacorporations, and not the rest of us — laughing in private at the gullibility of low-income and middle-income folks willingly giving their money to corporate America.

While $15,000 is a lot of money, I’d be a lot less bothered if the tax hit was focused on people in my family’s income range and above — we do okay, and while this makes things tighter, we’re able to make it all work and richer folks can more easily afford it.

But it’s not. These tax hits are focused on folks making less than us, and for some it’s forcing them further into debt and despair. They work harder but fall behind and see the American Dream reduced to little more than a sad joke.

So you can rail about Trump — and do so with some reason — but don’t forget the last generation-plus of wealth redistribution (some $32 billion in extra profits this year to the six largest banks in the U.S. alone, according to Bloomberg Business this week, as an example from the 2017 tax law), from the lower and middle classes to the ultra-wealthy and corporations. Oh yeah, and an exploding federal deficit that we will have to pay in the coming years.

Do the math, as we come into tax season — don’t listen to cable news pundits — your bottom line tells a truth no one can deny.

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