The saying “The rich get richer and the poor get poorer” may be truer than ever depending on how Congress acts on tax cuts expiring at the end of the year and unemployment benefits set to expire this month.
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Republican leaders have stated that they want to permanently extend the Bush-era tax cuts. McConnell said he believes that to get out of the economic recession increasing the private sector via tax cuts for the upperclass is the only option.
Extending the tax cuts would continue to benefit the top 2 percent of income earners in America, which could cost the government as much as $700 billion over 10 years, according to Treasury Department estimates.
Another proposed idea, which calls for a full repeal of the estate tax, could cost the U.S. $3.9 trillion over the next 10 years and increase national debt interest payments by $950 billion, according to estimates from the Congressional Budget Office.
According to the Washington Post, that is four times the projected combined impact of the stimulus and President Barack Obama’s health care bill, which have been universally rejected by Republican legislators but will help the 59 million Americans who are uninsured, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
The Obama administration, however, is trying to limit tax cuts to individuals who earn less than $250,000 annually. This strategy would save billions of dollars that could be used to pay off the U.S. national debt.
On the other hand, long-term unemployment benefits for millions of Americans are scheduled to expire this month.
Current benefits include up to 26 weeks of pay in most states. After that, federal emergency and jobless insurance programs kick in and extend benefits for up to 99 weeks, but these long-term benefits will expire if Congress doesn’t take action.
The benefits could easily be paid for if tax cuts to the top 2 percent of Americans were not extended.
Supporting the 98 percent of Americans who still need financial relief during these harsh economic times must be a priority for Congress.
Cutting spending to limit debt is important, but it is unconscionable to do so by helping the rich and burying the underprivileged in their poverty.
Zahira Babwani is a senior majoring in biomedical sciences.