Our Opinion: Neal on front lines of D.C. tax battle

In a sense, the long career of First District Congressman Richard Neal, a Springfield Democrat, has been leading up to this battle. The congressman has long been focused on tax policy and tax fairness, and as the top Democrat on the House Ways and Means Committee, Mr. Neal is on the front lines in the effort to bring some sense of fairness to a patently unfair House bill.

Congressional Republicans are determined to pass a tax bill by the end of the year so they and President Trump can claim a "win," bit the middle class will be losers if the provisions of the House bill become law. (The Senate bill is better than the House bill but that is a low bar to get over). While a few bones are thrown in the form of modest tax cuts to middle class taxpayers, the bones are then grabbed back in the form of lost tax benefits for students burdened by huge college expenses, Americans with large medical costs, and homeowners who assumed tax relief would remain in place when they took out their mortgages.

"Is it all so we can repeal the estate tax?" asked Congressman Neal Wednesday at a meeting of the House Ways and Means Committee (Eagle, November 9). Mr. Neal was referring to a provision that would benefit the wealthiest of families while middle class tax deductions would be abandoned so Republicans can perhaps avoid blowing up the budget deficit.

"It's offensive to insinuate that we don't care about these people," declared Representative Tom Reed, a New York Republican, in response. Actually, Representative Neal didn't appear to be insinuating anything. He was declaring the obvious, which is born out in stark black and white by the provisions of the House legislation.

During the presidential campaign, Mr/ Trump promised his supporters that he would bring businesses home from foreign countries in part by ending the tax loopholes that enable them to avoid billions of dollars in taxes by setting up shell businesses overseas so they can parking their money there. Instead, he has been silently complicit as House Republicans advance legislation that would not only preserve those loopholes but would widen them at a further cost to American taxpayers. Representative Neal joined others in filing an amendment last week that would close the current offshore loopholes and prevent their expansion or the opening of new ones.

In remarks before the committee on Monday, the congressman described the legislation as a "bad deal for millions of Americans," adding that it was crafted behind closed doors in contrast to the open, bipartisan process of past tax legislation. Observing that the theory that "history has proven" that tax cuts do not pay for themselves, he urged his Republican colleagues to join Democrats "to come together to work on real reform for real people."

That may be too much to expect in the current political climate, but Republicans should note that a Democratic governor and Democratic assemblymen won decisively in Virginia Tuesday with campaigns based on meat-and-potato issues like jobs and health care. A House tax bill that robs the middle class will be a tough sell to middle class voters. The course of Democrats is clear regardless, and they need to work hard, even with their inferior numbers, to protect the interests of the poor, the sick, elderly, students, and the middle class.


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