GOP budget and tax plans would hurt Maine students, working class, and the elderly

Robert Glover, University of Maine.

As a political scientist and professor, I often find myself talking to my students and fellow citizens about the importance of being engaged politically. Right now there are tax and spending plans in Congress that plainly deserve our attention: student aid, along with many other supports for working families, would be cut to give tax cuts to wealthy individuals and corporations.

Senator Susan Collins has been an important voice for reason and common sense over the past few months, and many Mainers breathed a sigh of relief when they learned she’d be staying in the Senate last week. I hope she’s paying close attention and will oppose these plans.

Senator Collins will get her first and best chance this week, when she votes on a budget that would cut funding for Pell grants and other student aid—along with Medicare, Medicaid and dozens of other vital programs—to pave the way for wealthy tax cuts.

Altogether, the GOP budget would cut $5.8 trillion over 10 years from dozens of programs that help college students, school-age kids, working parents, seniors, and other Mainers get along and get ahead. Those budget cuts would partially pay for tax cuts heavily slanted towards the wealthy—although the GOP tax plan would still add almost $2.5 trillion to the national debt.

In Maine, the tiny fraction of households who bring in over a million dollars a year would receive nearly a third of the tax cuts. At the same time, nearly 14% of Maine families would face a tax increase.

In his budget released last spring, President Trump proposed cutting almost $4 billion from Pell Grants, which help the nation’s neediest students attend college. Over 25,000 Maine college students rely on Pell Grants.

The budget the Senate will vote on doesn’t specify cuts by program, but college financial aid is in a group of public investments—also including housing assistance, medical research and more—slated for $800 billion in cuts over 10 years.

That funding cut would basically pay for a $770 billion tax cut for hedge fund managers, Wall Street lawyers, big real estate tycoons (like President Trump) and other wealthy owners of partnerships, LLC’s and other so-called “pass-through” entities. This is the tax break the plan’s backers falsely claim is for “small business,” even though traditional Main Street shops and other real small businesses would not benefit at all.

Pell Grants and other financial aid can also be grouped in a smaller category—along with job training and services to prevent child and elder abuse—that collectively would be cut by $200 billion.

That number’s very close to the $240 billion we’d lose by eliminating the estate tax, a levy on the super wealthy that helps narrow our nation’s dangerously wide wealth gap. The asset threshold is so high–$5.5 million for an individual, $11 million for a couple—that next year, just 20 Maine families are expected to pay the tax.

There are other such terrible tradeoffs. Medicare would be cut by $470 billion, while the Alternative Minimum Tax—which prevents rich taxpayers like Trump from avoiding most or all their tax responsibilities with excessive deductions—would be eliminated, at a cost of $440 billion. One in four Maine residents is on Medicare.

Big corporations would be handed a $600 billion discount off the U.S. taxes they owe on their accumulated offshore profits. Meanwhile, $650 billion would be cut from programs like the Earned Income Tax credit, unemployment insurance and food stamps that aid our most vulnerable citizens.

The average Maine college student graduates with $30,000 in student debt. This heavy load not only makes life harder for the graduates carrying it, but also delays their ability to purchase homes and start families, weighing down the whole economy. Cutting Pell Grants and other financial assistance will only make student debt climb higher.

Senator Collins stood up for Maine families when she rejected the cruel health care plans put forward by her Republican colleagues. She should do it again by voting no on a budget that will trade the economic and educational well-being of working Mainers for huge tax giveaways to the wealthy and corporations.

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