Tax and Budget Priorities

Our country’s needs are pressing. We all know we need to reform our health care system, improve our schools, and strengthen our infrastructure, which means everything from maintaining our roads and bridges to expanding access to the Internet.

These things cost money. As Iowans and Americans, we are rightly concerned about how we will pay for the critical investments we need to make for ourselves and the generations to follow.

The great American middle class, the engine of our economy, was built by decisions we made together, through our government, to provide security and opportunity for our families and make investments that paved the way for business and industries to grow.

But today working and middle class families are getting crushed while the richest are getting richer and corporations cut our wages and benefits and ship our jobs overseas.

At the most basic level, taxes exist to fund the government. Decisions about how much revenue we should raise from federal taxes and from what sources we should raise it are incredibly important. The influence of federal tax policy ripples throughout the entire economy and affects funding at all levels of government. To build a strong middle class, we need our government to work for all Americans, not just the rich and powerful.

At ICAN, we are fighting together to take back our country and rebuild the dream – good jobs, secure health care and a strong economy.

To raise the  revenue to pay for the things we need, ICAN believes:

  • We must allow the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans expire, and tax millionaires and billionaires appropriately.
  • We must close corporate loopholes and cut off-shore tax havens.
  • We must end wasteful Pentagon spending on outdated, obsolete weapons systems, and bring a responsible end to the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq.

With this newly recovered revenue, ICAN believes:

  • We must invest in our infrastructure. Restoring roads and bridges and rebuilding crumbling public schools won’t just make America stronger, better. It will create jobs. Good jobs.
  • We must protect and strengthen Medicare, Medicaid and Social Security, and defend other vital programs such as Head Start, Pell Grants and food stamps.
Keep the Estate Tax, Iowa Citizen Actin Network,

The estate tax has been reduced significantly over the last decade and is set to expire next year, only to reappear in 2011. The President is proposing to extend the estate tax at its current (2009) levels. In 2009, estates up to $7 million per couple or $3.5 million per individual are completely exempt from any tax. Only the value of an estate above those levels is taxed. While the tax rate is 45 percent, the amount paid by most estates is much closer to 20 percent once other credits and deductions are taken into account.

Some in Congress want to cut the estate tax even more. They would exempt estates valued at $10 million per couple or $5 million per individual and lower the tax rate to 35 percent. This would cost at least $150 billion more than the President’s proposal, which already costs nearly $400 billion, over 10 years.

Some argue we need to do this to help small businesses and farms. But small business owners and farmers would not be the key beneficiaries. Only 110 small business and farm estates in the entire country are expected to owe any tax at all in 2011 if the President’s proposal is adopted. Only 0.2 percent of the tax cut under this proposal would go to small business and farm estates.

We believe that further raising the exemption level and lowering the rate at which estates are taxed undermines our nation’s ability to make needed investments and would make the federal deficit even worse.

Between 2001 and 2008, the federal deficit grew to $1.3 trillion. We often hear that Congressional spending was to blame. But in fact tax cuts were responsible for nearly half of the increase in the deficit caused by Congressional actions. Weakening the estate tax would mean an additional loss of revenue even as Congress and the President must find ways to bring the federal budget back into balance. Investing in health care, education, infrastructure and reducing the federal deficit are important for improving our long-term economic outlook. Cutting the estate tax should not take precedence over these other much higher priorities.

It’s reasonable to ask the top quarter of one percent of the population – who have benefited significantly from tax cuts — to pay their fair share. ICAN’s goal is to protect the estate tax and oppose efforts to cut it below the 2009 levels.

Iowa View: Gutting food aid will hurt Iowa’s kids in school

SNAP Vote Expected This Week

Sometimes what is happening in Washington, DC seems like a big game. But the stakes in these contests are very high for millions of Americans who are trying to meet the basics every day. The latest example of Washington politicians playing games with people’s lives is the move by Republicans in Congress to cut six million Americans off of basic food assistance, the SNAP program known more widely as food stamps, while leaving intact tax loopholes that give corporations big breaks. Contrary to the title of a popular book series and movie, Hunger is NOT a game.

Is there really a choice to be made between big corporations and our friends and neighbors in need? Apparently there is in Washington where there is a plan to deny food assistance to people who can’t find jobs, and to low-income families with children and seniors with high expenses, like medical care, housing and child-care.

Instead of ending food assistance for Americans still trying to find work or barely getting by with the jobs they have, Congress should give them a helping hand by focusing its energy on creating jobs that pay livable wages.  That would do more than anything to reduce the need for SNAP, in a more productive, less harmful way.

The proponents of cutting SNAP say the proposal is aimed at forcing people on SNAP to work, but ignore a bit of a problem: most people on SNAP who can work – not children, or elderly or the disabled – do work. And SNAP already requires recipients who can work to be looking for work or be in work training. But if there aren’t enough jobs or work-training slots, should that deny putting food on people’s tables?

This debate takes place as Congress must decide how to spend federal dollars next year, with a showdown about federal spending as we near the end of the budget year on September 30th. The proposal to cut food support for 6 million Americans, including 200,000 Iowans, would lower federal spending by $40 billion over ten years. The proposal to stop giving tax breaks for multi-millionaire CEOS would raise $50 billion.

The SNAP vs. tax breaks for CEOs debate also says a lot about what members of Congress believe will get our sluggish economy moving. SNAP benefits – skimpy at $1.40 per meal – get spent immediately in our communities – in our grocery stores and farmer’s markets. The money keeps local people working and the local economy moving

But CEOs certainly don’t spend all of their multi-millionaire bonuses in our communities. Instead, much will be put into Wall Street to make money wherever in the world the returns are highest. In the same way, the tax breaks that the companies get from the CEO pay loophole will mean more cash for companies to sit on or ship our jobs overseas, instead of creating jobs in the United States.

The next Hunger Games movie is about to open this month, around the same time House Republicans are expected to cut millions of parents, children, seniors, veterans  off from the food they need to survive. While corporations game the tax system, for these families the threat of hunger is not a game, it’s real.


Sue Dinsdale, ICAN Executive Director, Iowa Citizen Action Newtwork,

Sue Dinsdale is the Executive Director of Iowa Citizen Action Network, a state-wide public interest organization committed to creating social change in Iowa and across the nation.

Food Assistance

House Leadership SNAP Proposal Would Eliminate Food Assistance for 4 Million to 6 Million Low-Income People

How SNAP hits home in Iowa.

IFP Backgrounder — Farm Bill Debate Carries Implications for Many Thousands of Iowans Backgrounder (2-pg PDF) June 19, 2013

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SNAP Iowa Info

Estate Tax Myths

What is the estate tax?

Organizing for Tax Fairness

Register for this training workshop on why Tax Policy matters in Iowa and around the world and what you can do about it. Click here for more information and to register.

Tell Congress to Strengthen SNAP–Sign our Petition

By signing this petition, YOU can give a voice to veterans, children, and senior citizens in our community!

 Tell your Representative:

Stand up for our neighbors in need.  Don’t throw children, seniors and veterans off of life-saving food assistance.

Vote NO on cutting off food assistance (SNAP) benefits for poor and low-income Iowa families!