WASHINGTON (CNS) — Thoughtful deliberation rather than hurried action is required on the tax bill introduced by Republicans in the House of Representatives, said the chairman of the U.S. bishops’ Committee on Domestic Justice and Human Development.
Bishop Frank J. Dewane of Venice, Florida, also called for prudence on the part of Congress and the American public so that all the provisions in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act are fully understood.
“The changes proposed in this bill are significant and complex, affecting the entire nation,” Bishop Dewane said in a statement Nov. 3, a day after the bill was unveiled. “Current information indicates the House is planning to move this bill through the legislative process.
“However, prudence requires that members of Congress and the people of the country have adequate time to fully understand and debate the consequences of any tax bill so that decisions serve the dignity of the human person and the common good,” he said.
He said the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops continued to analyze the plan and would issue a more detailed statement in the future.
The Republican plan would lower the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent and streamline individual rates from seven brackets into four, resulting in a tax cut for most Americans. Other provisions would end deductions for state and local taxes; limit mortgage interest deductions to new loans of no more than $500,000; and cap property tax deductions at $10,000.
House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wisconsin, touted the plan as providing $1,182 in tax relief annually to households earning $59,000 a year, the median family income in 2016. He said during the roll-out at the Capitol the bill would simplify the tax code and allow Americans to “file your taxes on a form the size of a postcard.”
The Senate Finance Committee expects a $1.5 trillion decline in tax revenues by 2027, which would add to the country’s growing $22 trillion deficit.
Proponents argued that by reducing corporate tax rates, businesses would reinvest in the economy, return jobs from overseas and boost wages for workers, who in turn would pay more in taxes and offset the lost revenues.
Private analyses acknowledged that a large part of the middle class would realize some financial gains, but that the bill primarily benefits the country’s top wage earners and largest corporations.
Congressional leaders want to pass the bill by the end of the year.
“A clear understanding and careful consideration of the impacts of these tax proposals is essential for the sake of all people, but particularly the poor,” Bishop Dewane said.
The executive director of one Catholic organization said the plan “fails our test for fairness and is inconsistent with Catholic social justice.”
Sister Simone Campbell, executive director Network, the Catholic social justice lobbying group, said the proposal falls back on “a failed economic theory of trickle-down economics where the rich get richer and our nation gets poorer.”
“Income and wealth inequality is one of the greatest social and moral challenges facing our country and this bill explodes the divide,” Sister Campbell, a member of the Sisters of Social Service, said in a statement Nov. 3. “This is not a faithful way forward and must be opposed.”
She urged Congress to use the tax system to provide “reasonable revenue for responsible programs and ensure everyone pays their fair share.”
Sister Campbell also expressed concern that the bill would hurt low-income families who use the child tax credit.
The plan, the organization said, provides more money for wealthier families to access the credit while not improving the credit for low-income families. Immigrant families, whose average annual income is $21,000, would be hurt the most because the bill takes the credit away from some 5.1 million children, reducing family incomes by 8.5 percent.
The Nov. 3 statement released by the USCCB reiterated Bishop Dewane’s Oct. 25 appeal to Congress that the needs of poor Americans must remain foremost in any tax code revisions. Bishop Dewane also had urged that programs benefiting low-income, sick and elderly people not be cut to pay for any potential tax cuts.
Other moral principles cited in the letter include the need for any legislation to strengthen families; maintain progressivity in the tax rates, in which higher income individuals are taxed at higher rates than low-income people; the importance of raising adequate revenue for the common good; and incentivizing charitable giving and development.