Weekly Democratic Address
October 27, 2017
Hi, I’m Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland.
I’d like to take a few minutes to talk to you about a topic that affects everyone in our country: taxes.
No one likes to pay taxes, but we pay them to cover the cost of important things – things like defending our nation, building roads and schools, and recovery after devastating tragedies like hurricanes, floods, and droughts.
Our taxes support law enforcement. They fund life-saving research at places like the National Institutes of Health and protect our national parks across the country.
Democrats and Republicans often disagree about what government should and should not pay for. But, we all agree that our tax system has gotten too complicated and is not working for our constituents. We need a change.
That’s why, this summer, I wrote to my Republican colleagues, along with the overwhelming majority of Democratic Senators, with three core principles for tax reform to guide a future debate.
We said that tax breaks should focus on the middle class and not the top 1 percent. We said that tax reform should not blow a hole in the deficit in a way that endangers programs like Medicare, Medicaid, and Social Security. And we said let’s do this together, in a real bipartisan way.
Unfortunately, in what has become an increasingly shameful, highly partisan process, Republicans have chosen to go it alone and cut Democrats out of any tax reform discussions.
They’ve formulated a tax scheme that they admit will add $1.5 trillion to our deficit while putting Medicare and Medicaid at risk. And their plan hurts middle- and low-income working families while providing huge tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
Republicans talk a good game about protecting the middle class and bipartisanship. Just this week, President Trump said that ‘we will cut taxes for hardworking, middle-class families.’ Speaker Ryan has said that ‘the entire purpose of this is to lower middle-class taxes.’ They say they want to help the middle class. But that’s not what their plan does.
Right out the gate, Republicans want to make those with less pay more by increasing the lowest tax bracket from 10 percent to 12 percent. In the same plan, they decrease the tax rate for America’s highest earners from 39.6 percent to 35 percent.
While Republicans are proposing to increase the standard deduction, they’re eliminating the personal and dependent exemptions. These two exemptions alone give thousands of dollars of tax relief to families and caregivers all across the country.
Under the Republicans’ plan, a family of four would gain an extra $12,000 in standard deductions, they simultaneously lose more than $16,000 in personal, dependent exemptions. That’s a net tax increase.
Republicans are looking for ways to restrict 401(k) savings, which would directly affect middle-income families, costing individuals more in taxes up front and making it more difficult to save for retirement.
And they are planning to repeal the state and local tax deduction, which is used by taxpayers in all 50 states. This deduction allows you to write off property taxes, local income taxes, and sales tax. It ensures the federal government can’t double tax families on money they’ve already paid in taxes to their states.
The Republican plan lowers the corporate tax rate from 35 percent to 20 percent. Despite mountains of evidence that cutting taxes for corporations really benefits shareholders, they pat themselves on the back for this, and say they are mostly giving a tax cut to workers. This isn’t honest.
Tax reform must not increase the taxes on the middle class. Our common goal should be putting more money directly in the pockets of working families for the economy to grow.
Trying to make sure tax reform fair to the middle class is not ‘drawing a line in the sand’ or refusing to engage in the process. It’s defending the very working families who put more of their income right back into our economy.
And, it’s making sure that we can fund the programs that help middle-class families – programs that Republicans have on the chopping block, too.
So the message that I want to send to my Republican colleagues is one that most Americans want to hear: let’s work together to create real bipartisan tax reform that protects middle-income, working families.
You are a critical part of this debate. Together, let’s make sure it’s an honest one that ends in a bill that truly benefits the American people and not just the privileged few.