We join millions of Americans who are frustrated at the tax reform bill passed this week by Congress. The legislation will balloon the federal deficit, and delves out the highest portion of savings to the wealthiest Americans. Yet it’s not as bad as it could be.
The Trump era has energized Americans who had limited involvement in the democratic process. Dozens of new tools and organizations have emerged to help people quickly connect to their elected representatives.
It’s hard work, but there are signs it’s paying off.
Members of Congress gave in to public pressure and made several important changes to the tax bill before final passage this week. Here are a few:
• The historic preservation tax credit remains in place. Economic development leaders from Iowa worried taking away the credit would negatively affect restoration of historic downtowns and other important buildings.
• Students and families can continue deducting student loan interest, and graduate students will not be taxed for their tuition waivers. Graduate students said those provisions in earlier versions would have made advanced studies impossible for them.
• More people may qualify for medical expense deductions. Previous drafts of the legislation eliminated the deduction for Americans with high medical expenses totaling 10 percent of their income. The approved version expands the deduction by lowering the qualifying threshold to 7.5 percent. This is important to older Americans, and Iowa has plenty of them.
The final votes this week broke down along party lines, with all of Iowa’s federal Republicans supporting the plan, and our one Democrat opposing it.
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Americans have legitimate and deep-seated disagreements about taxes, spending and the role of government. Many provisions in the new legislation are no surprise, since they’ve been Republican policy priorities for years.
However, the process on display in Washington, D.C., in recent weeks goes beyond any kind of reasoned disagreement. Instead, it was a shameful attack on order and transparency.
Let’s not forget 2010, when a Democrat-controlled Congress passed the Affordable Care Act. Democrats had bigger majorities in the House and the Senate than Republicans do now, and leadership allowed for weeks of public debate over their health care policy proposals. Republicans still accused Democrats of hastily steamrolling the minority.
Many of the same Republicans were responsible for rush passage of their tax bill. Senate leaders used legislative maneuvering to squash dissent and block Democrats from filibustering. Republicans were desperate for a legislative accomplishment as the first year of the new Congress comes to an end. We doubt lawmakers heading home for the holidays will find warm receptions.
Nearly half of Americans oppose the tax bill, while only about a quarter support it, according to polling data released this week by Monmouth University. Only 55 percent of Republicans and 20 percent of independents surveyed said they support the GOP tax plan.
Republican politicians no doubt will be looking for another big achievement when they return in the new year. We hope they learn from their ugly tax reform mess. Lively public debate ought to be the first step for any major overhaul, rather than an afterthought.
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