Column: Roll back tax breaks to fix roads
Earlier this month, Vice President Mike Pence came to Michigan to promote President Trump’s new tax plan. In a column for the Detroit News, Pence said it represented “the largest tax cuts and tax reform in American history.” Unfortunately, the vice president left out a few important details from his sales pitch.
Over the next few years, when the tax plan is fully phased in, 83 percent of the tax breaks will go to the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans. Meanwhile, taxes will actually be raised on more than half of American households.
This new plan adds so much to the deficit — $1.7 trillion, in fact — that Republicans in Congress have already made Medicare and Medicaid prime targets for deficit reduction. That means they’ll end up cutting health care for our children and the elderly in order to pay for tax cuts for their wealthy political donors.
And while Michigan’s economy is still recovering thanks to the auto rescue — which Pence voted against — the new tax law will hurt manufacturing jobs by rewarding companies that move jobs and profits overseas.
It doesn’t have to be this way.
Last week, Sen. Debbie Stabenow and Senate Democrats introduced a bold new proposal to invest $1 trillion in fixing America’s crumbling infrastructure. This plan will create more than 15 million good-paying jobs by rolling back Trump’s tax breaks for the richest 1 percent and wealthy corporations.
Specifically, the Democratic infrastructure plan includes: $140 billion to repair America’s roads and bridges; $115 billion to modernize water and sewer systems; $115 billion to repair and improve public transportation; $50 billion to rebuild America’s schools; $10 billion to address the construction backlog at VA health care facilities; and much more.
These are much-needed and long-overdue investments that will put boots on the ground and shovels in the dirt all across the country, including Michigan. And unlike President Trump’s infrastructure proposal, the Democratic plan includes strong and enforceable buy American provisions to ensure our roads get fixed by well-trained American construction workers, using American iron and steel.
Additionally, the Senate Democratic plan would be paid for responsibly by: rolling back tax breaks for the super rich by returning the top individual tax rate to 39.6 percent; restoring the Alternative Minimum Tax, which ensures high-income earners can’t abuse deductions and other tax loopholes; restoring the estate and gift taxes for millionaires and billionaires; and raising corporate taxes to a fair rate.
The next time you’re behind the wheel on Michigan’s bone-rattling roads, think about this. Would you rather drive to work safely without blowing a tire, or give another huge tax break to Betsy DeVos? Would you rather see Michigan construction workers in hard hats fixing our bridges, or create more tax loopholes that reward CEOs for outsourcing Michigan jobs? Would you rather send your kids to safe and well-built schools, or be forced to cut Medicaid for low-income children? These choices should be easy.
It’s time to get our priorities straight. By rolling back Trump’s tax breaks for wealthy corporations and the richest 1 percent, we can finally start fixing our roads, create millions of good-paying jobs for working families, and start building a better Michigan for all of us.
Ron Bieber is president of the Michigan AFL-CIO.
Labor Voices columns are written on a rotating basis by United Auto Workers President Dennis Williams, Teamsters President James Hoffa, Michigan AFL-CIO President Ron Bieber and Michigan Education Association President Paula Herbart.