by Mary Pitt
As the spouse of a working man, often in remote areas and long before you woould find an H&R Block firm within easy driving distance, the job of filing the annual income tax forms fell to me. As the rules changed, it was necessary to study the instructions every year to remain current and legal. While that may seem difficult to many, a bit of initial concentration should get one through it. I did it with a bit less than a high school diploma at that time.
As the result of this responsibilty, I became aware of the evolution over the years and can see the pattern of the changes that occurred with the many “reforms” instituted during the Republican administrations. It has always been an article of faith within the party that taxes were a nuisance that should be visited only on the private wage earners and every effort at “reform” will demonstrate their efforts to shift the burdens to the working class. This was accomplished on the pretext of “simplifying” the reporting forms. In fact, it is now so “simplified” that you do not even know how much your tax really is or the means by which it has been increased.
While I make no claim to be any kind of an expert and am speaking only from personal experience, I will attempt to delineate some of these changes that have been made in order to deprive the working class of exemptions and deductions and how their loss impose the greater tax burden upon them while lessening that borne by businesses and the wealthy.
In 1949, when I was first assigned this task, a family was allowed a personal exemption of $600 per year for the support of each child. Compare that figure with the allowance this year and then compare that figure to the deflated dollar and it will be obvious that this deduction has been radically cut.
Taxes to Other Entities:
Until recent times, the amount of income taxes paid to the State in which you lived was an allowable deduction as was the sales and local tax, based upon a chart which was tied to your total earnings. You were allowed to deduct state gasoline taxes based upon the mileage readings of your automibiles. This alone, is a large factor in any family budget.
Another large tax deduction that has been lost to the interest of “reform” is the one that allowed people to deduct payments for interest paid. This included interest on your home, your car, credit cards, and store charges for major purchases such as furniture. You could either include statements from your creditors or use the chart on the sliding scale. This deduction, except in special circumstances, is now denied to the working class while businesses are still allowed to deduct it as a “cost of doing business.”
All medical expenses, including prescription medications and medical insurance premiums were allowed in excess of 3% of gross income. You could also deduct any medical equipmant, appliances and supplies that were prescribed by a physician and any payments for disability received from privately- or employer-paid insurance were exempt from taxation. If your medical insurance was paid entirely by your employer, no accounting at all was necessary.
I am sure that there are many other exemptions and deductions that may have existed that have quietly disappeared over the years but they do not come to mind at this time, (or perhaps I never had occasion to use them), but these alone would account for a major part of the expenditures of the average family and greatly their restoration would reduce the tax liabilities of the working class.
Where did these privileges of the working class go and why? It’s simple. In effect, these “reforms”, instituted on the pretext of making the tax report more simple, effectively increased the amounts of taxable income and thereby increased to taxes on the average wage earner while preserving the privilege of the ruling class. Even the deductions from our pay checks for Social Security reflect our second-class status. While most of us pay the same percentage of our entire income for this purpose, those who are paid amounts beyond our wildest dreams are allowed to stop contributing. This “cap” is possibly the only tax computation that is adjusted for inflation and that only after near-destruction of the system.
Do not listen to those calamity-criers who are bellowing for a “fair tax” which will further shift the “burden” from the backs of the wealthy, or even to those who tout a “value-added tax” which will radically increase the price of everything that we buy. They tell us, “This would be so easy that you won’t even realize that you are being taxed”, but what they mean is that THEY won’t realize it because THEY will not be paying their fair share! This is their Valhalla and what they have worked toward for all these years, the total exemption of their own class from the burden of paying for our government, their privileges, and any wars into which they wish to send our children.
We have recently accomplished the task of returning to the people the privilege of running our own democracy as The Founders intended but we must not relax. We must hold that responsibility in our calloused fists and wield it wisely. We must get on the backs of our representatives and insist that they keep our welfare and our will constantly in mind if they want to keep their jobs. Any resistance must be met by a wall of voices, using the words of our new President, “WE WON!”
The author is a very “with-it” old lady who aspires to bring a bit of truth, justice, and common sense to a nation that has lost touch with its humanity in the search for “societal perfection.”