Federal Policies Punish Most West Virginians

Huntington Herald DispatchBudgets and legislation are reflective of values, and this Congress and President Trump keep showing us where their priorities lie. Under the Trump Administration, hard-working West Virginians are repeatedly punished - via the tax bill, proposed cuts to food assistance and disability insurance, and efforts to dismantle the Affordable Care Act. Story link

Take, for example, the tax bill passed in December: a debt-financed $1.5 trillion tax cut designed to overwhelmingly benefit corporations and the wealthiest Americans. In 2019, the wealthiest 5 percent of West Virginians will receive nearly half (43 percent) of the tax cuts while the top 20 percent receive nearly three-quarters (71 percent) of the tax cuts. As a share of income, the tax cuts for the wealthiest 1 percent are 3 times greater than those going to the bottom 60 percent of earners.

West Virginia's Republican Congressional delegation is selling the benefits of the bill for regular West Virginians by touting trickle-down economics - the promise that corporations will use their windfalls to hire more workers and raise wages - but where is the proof of that? A recent study by economist Owen Zidar at the University of Chicago found that tax cuts for the top 10 percent of households don't have statistically significant effects on state employment growth. In a recent survey, Morgan Stanley analysts predicted that companies plan to spend only 13 percent of their tax cuts to give their employees raises, bonuses, or increased benefits, compared with 43 percent going to investors and shareholders via stock buybacks and dividends.

Let's compare the Trump Administration's treatment of the rich with their proposed budget cuts and legislation that would target harms to low- and moderate-income families. Soon after the tax bill was signed, Congressional Republicans met at the Greenbrier in West Virginia, where House Speaker Paul Ryan proposed the need for cuts to health care, food assistance, and other basic needs programs in the name of "welfare reform" or "workforce development." It seems undeniable that it was the plan all along to use the deficit-financed tax cuts as an excuse to cut vital programs and services.

The Trump Administration's 2018 budget reflects the same approach, proposing $72 billion in cuts to disability programs, including Social Security Disability Insurance, a program that helps people who can no longer work because of a disability. These cuts would be particularly devastating for West Virginians who are struggling to make ends meet. Similarly, the repeal of the individual mandate combined with the Trump administration's proposed cuts to Medicaid and health insurance subsidies would fall squarely on moderate earners in WV.

And just last month the GOP-controlled House advanced a Farm Bill out of committee that would cut $17 billion from SNAP, formerly called food stamps, the nation's most effective anti-hunger program. The Congressional Budget Office has estimated that the proposed legislation would cause 1.2 million adults to lose SNAP benefits in an average month, of which 62 percent reside in households with children. These cuts would take food benefits from seniors, children, veterans, and those suffering from opioid addiction. Fortunately, the House rejected the measure on Friday, but it my be brought up again.

Cumulatively, these actions will further worsen our nation's vast economic inequality. In 2018, the richest 1 percent of West Virginians will receive an average tax cut of over $25,000. At the other end of the spectrum, if the proposed cuts to SNAP are enacted, already struggling West Virginians will face cuts to food assistance, making it even harder to put food on the table.

Kelly Allen is Policy Outreach coordinator for the West Virginia Center on Budget and Policy, a Charleston-based public policy organization.

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