It’s fun to dress up on Halloween and pretend to be someone else. This year, one Washington lawmaker seems set on donning the unlikely costume of President Trump: Kamala Harris. The junior senator from California is masking the fashion of her socialism-infatuated Democratic Party and calling for a lighter tax burden for America’s middle class. Politics has always been about serving the needs and wants of constituents, but a Trumpian proposal from a dyed-in-the-wool liberal will fool no one.
The senator with designs on a bid for the White House in 2020 introduced the Lift the Middle Class Act, federal legislation Thursday that would provide a tax credit of up to $6,000 a year to families earning less than $100,000 a year. Those making less than $50,000 would be eligible for up to $3,000 a year. An estimated 1 million college students would also be in line for the $3,000 annual benefit. Democratic colleagues have made similar proposals this year.
“Middle class families deserve to know that one unexpected cost won’t lead to a financial emergency,” Ms. Harris tweeted on Thursday. “The LIFT the Middle Class Act that I introduced would help address the rising costs of housing, tuition, childcare, and more.” She cited a 2017 Bankrate.com study finding that 57 percent of American families don’t have $500 in reserve for an unexpected expense. Missing from a press release accompanying the release of her bill was one crucial bit of information. The cost.
If half of the approximately 150 million U.S. workers were to receive the proposed tax break, and another million Pell Grant eligible students were tossed in, as Mrs. Harris has suggested, the loss to the Treasury could surpass a trillion dollars annually. For comparison, total tax revenue for individuals in fiscal 2018 was $1.7 trillion. Since tax credits reduce tax liability dollar for dollar, the $6,000 saved in the pockets of families, the Californian’s plan could result in a federal budget shortfall that makes the $779 billion deficit resulting from President Trump’s tax cuts this year look like sofa cushion change, adding to the $21 trillion hole already in Uncle Sam’s pocket.
The senator justifies her extravagant benefit scheme thus: “Americans are working harder than ever but stagnant wages mean they can’t keep up with cost of living increases.” With that, she trades her Trump mask for the look of Bernie Sanders, a potential presidential rival in 2020. Her tax credit proposal shares some similarity with a socialist concept of basic income, which uses public funds to pay residents a monthly stipend. Coincidentally, or not, Mrs. Harris’ constituents in Stockton are set to receive $500 a month city-funded benefit next year.
Kamala, Bernie and other Democrats in left field must have missed the unmissable headlines announcing that the U.S. economy is expanding at a 4 percent rate owing to the Trump tax cuts. While it’s true that wages have not matched the quickened pace — rising only 0.5 percent during the past year — the reduced tax rates are expected to boost the average household’s income by another 2.2 percent. Taken together, an increase in family earnings of 2.7 percent would beat this year’s rise in the consumer price index of 2.3 percent.
It’s part of the human condition that prosperity breeds profligacy, and there is no assurance that Americans would save for emergencies the $500 monthly benefit the Lift Act would provide. It’s more likely that the extra cash would help pay for incidentals, like the $30 billion Americans spend annually on beer and potato chips. The same weakness for goodies was on display when Congress spent an extra $14.7 billion in fiscal 2018 for such trivia as a $663,000 brown tree snake eradication program in the South Pacific.
It’s not the first time that Ms. Harris has attempted to game the tax system to boost certain Americans. In July she introduced the Rent Relief Act, which would provide a refundable tax credit for those making less than $100,000 and spending at least 30 percent of their income on rent, including utilities. The credit would vary based on family size, and the income ceiling would rise to $125,000 in more expensive cities.
Lower taxes are generally a boon to Americans, but it’s not difficult to see through the Harris’ masquerade. Coming from California with the nation’s highest state income tax of 13.3 percent, the senator won’t be mistaken for tax-cutter Donald Trump.
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