"While the tax plan currently being considered by Congress sides with those who are already wealthy and privileged, all of the world's major religious traditions stand with the poor, the immigrant, and others who are pushed to the margins of our society."
-Rev. Matt Kelley, TN UMC Board of Church and Society
November 22, 2017
SIGN ON LETTER
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The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Washington, DC 20510
The Honorable Charles Schumer
Washington, DC 20510
Dear Majority Leader McConnell and Minority Leader Schumer:
We, the undersigned faith leaders representing the Christian, Muslim, Jewish, Sikh, Buddhist and other faith traditions and denominations across the country, express our strong opposition to the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act adopted by the Senate Finance Committee. This bill violates our moral principles of equality, justice, and fairness.
We call on Congress to oppose the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act due to our strong belief that this bill is fiscally irresponsible, endangers our country’s economic health, and disproportionately benefits the wealthy at the expense of vulnerable people and low-income families. Moreover, we have grave concerns over the manner in which such a large and complex bill, affecting the entire economy and millions of Americans, is being recklessly rushed through Congress.
The Senate Tax Bill does not reflect the priorities of the faith community.
The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act fails to include proposals that lift struggling workers and families out of poverty. The bill fails to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit even though millions of low income workers are currently taxed into poverty because they do not qualify for the credit. Likewise, the Child Tax Credit is significantly expanded for high income workers but not for low-income working families. Worse, the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act eliminates the child tax credit for immigrant taxpayers whose children do not have social security numbers. This threatens to drive millions of children and mixed-status families into poverty. Targeting immigrant families in this way contradicts our call to care for the vulnerable, especially children.
The flow of benefits show misguided priorities.
While specifics may vary, the general framework for these tax reform efforts reveals a common theme: corporations and the wealthiest in our nation will receive the lion’s share of the benefits at the expense of people experiencing poverty and low-income working families. The Joint Committee on Taxation found that under the current Senate plan, taxes on households earning $20,000 to $30,000 experience a 13% tax increase beginning in 2021. By 2027, these taxpayers would see a 25% tax hike. At the same time, households with incomes above one million dollars will receive an average tax cut of $43,300.
Repeal of the individual mandate undermines the right to healthcare.
As people of faith, we believe that access to quality, affordable health insurance is a right. The individual mandate is critical to keeping individual market coverage affordable and keeping the individual market stable. By repealing the individual mandate, legislation will cause catastrophic losses in health coverage. The CBO estimates that the number of uninsured individuals would increase by 13 million by 2025, which violates our faith teaching.
We need reasonable revenue for responsible programs that benefit the common good.
The current Tax Cut and Jobs Act is fiscally irresponsible. It would grow the deficit by at least $1.5 trillion over the next decade. This not only endangers America’s economic health, but it will also create enormous pressure to cut the safety net and critical human needs services to reduce this growing deficit and debt. As things stand, Congress is struggling to fund disaster assistance and prevent cuts to vital anti-poverty programs. We cannot afford to balloon the deficit with this bill and contend with the very tangible and pressing needs of our people—it violates principles of fiscal and moral stewardship.
The Tax Bill would negatively affect charities by altering the rules about charitable deductions.
As faith leaders actively involved in charitable organizations across the country, we know firsthand how charities work to meet basic needs of the most vulnerable populations. The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act makes it less likely for people to itemize their taxes, reducing the number of people who could benefit from charitable donations. The changes to the estate tax further diminish the incentive for many people to give to charities—all at a time when the government is likely to cut federal funding for safety net programs. The combined impact of this bill on the resources available to us undercuts our ability to assist and empower individuals struggling to make ends meet.
As people of faith, we view decisions about tax policy and the federal budget as moral decisions. Simply put, this proposed legislation is fundamentally unjust. If it becomes law, it will result in harmful consequences for those most needing support so as to the benefit high-income earners and big corporations. We oppose this bill and urge the Senate to present true, revenue-neutral tax reform that takes into account the needs of the most vulnerable members of our society.