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Much like everything else Congress is doing these days, the new tax bill makes it more dangerous to be a woman in so many obvious ways that it’s going to be hard to take any single representative or senator that voted for it seriously the next time they pretend to care about women. Last week, both the House of Representatives and Senate passed their versions of a tax reform bill, which means that this week, the two chambers of Congress are putting their heads together and working out the details to merge the two bills. They’ll then pass it on over to Donald Trump, who is essentially salivating for any real legislation to sign.
Republicans, especially party leaders like Paul Ryan and Mitch McConnell, are clamoring to get something done before the holidays so they can point to something they actually completed — anything, really — and further legitimize Trump’s presidency. This is precisely why both bills are being rushed through Congress. On Friday night, for example, the Senate got a nearly 500-page draft of the bill with handwritten notes in it to vote on, passing it at a shady 2 a.m. Saturday morning, with very little likelihood that anyone had read through it all. This, friends, is not normal.
What is normal, sadly, is the very routine way the “Tax Cuts & Jobs Act” chips away at women’s rights and livelihoods. You’d think this would get less infuriating with time, but it doesn’t. Since they’re still working it all out, there’s time to call your representatives and shut this thing down. Here are just a few of the ways the tax bill hurts women, though really, when you factor in the gender wage gap and the fact that most families hovering at and around the poverty line are run by women, literally every single rule hurts women.
1. The tax credits mean nothing to regular people.
There are tax cuts across all income levels in both bills that are being reconciled this week, however, most of the cuts benefit millionaires and billionaires. The cuts that could potentially help the middle class are so small that they won’t really matter — and they all expire somewhere between 2019 and 2026 anyway.
Take the Child Tax Credit (CTC), for example. The money that people can get deducted just for having a kid and keeping it alive will theoretically increase, but even this benefits wealthier people. While hashing things out this weekend, GOP leaders, like Florida Sen. Marco Rubio, had the chance to fight for an even larger child tax credit — by just one teeny tiny percent — so that more people would benefit from it, but instead they voted for a smaller CTC increase so that corporations could keep the proposed 20 percent tax rate, even if it means helping out families with children.
According to the left-leaning Center for American Progress:
” Compared with current law, a single mother with two children earning just $14,500 per year [which is equivalent to a minimum wage job] would see a $75 increase if the bill were enacted, while a married couple with two children earning $500,000 per year would get a $4,000 increase.”
Also, any cuts for actual humans expires by 2026, although tax cuts for corporations will remain permanent, so it’s nothing to get excited about.
2. The bill repeals a vital part of the Affordable Care Act.
Both the House and Senate tax bill guts the individual mandate part of the ACA, which means that people won’t be forced, via a tax penalty, to get health insurance. This means that millions of people will likely leave the health insurance market, thus driving premiums up. The Congressional Budget Office estimates that premiums will rise 10 percent every year. Doing the math, any kind of CTC or personal exemption in the new law wouldn’t necessarily be enough for single women or low-income families to actually to cover the rise in a monthly insurance premium. It’s like saving $50 by not going out one Friday and then your landlord emails that they’re raising your rent by $300 a month.
The CBO also agrees that low-income families would hurt the most under this plan, since they likely have part-time jobs or unstable work that doesn’t guarantee them employer-backed health insurance, leaving them to pay out of pocket.
3. It lets religious groups who hate birth control play in politics.
This is actually one of the scariest things about the House version of the bill, and it could change once they have to reconcile it with the Senate bill. But the fact that representatives were totally fine with getting rid of the Johnson Amendment shows just how powerful conservative lobbies are in Congress. (Trump campaigned on repealing it, BTW, so he might have some say in whether this gets reconciled or not.)
As it stands, a religious organization is totally exempt from paying taxes. In return for this financial gift, they can’t endorse political parties or policies. In the House version of the tax bill, these groups could push their conservative, often anti-choice, anti-LGBTQ rights, anti-women’s health care agendas by endorsing candidates — and still not pay any taxes at all.
4. Programs women use will eventually suffer.
By giving huge corporations a huge tax cut, Congress will increase the national deficit by $1.7 trillion, which is already supposed to be totally out of bounds by procedural rules. Giving corporations this tax cut is so important to the GOP that they will do it at any cost — it’s why cuts for families and certain tax credits are so small. They have to make up that trillion dollars somehow. They could eventually do this by putting other social programs, like Medicaid, social security, even food benefit programs are on the proverbial chopping block.
In addition to the possible cuts to these programs, both tax bills float the idea of getting rid of local and state deductions, which means people can no longer write off the money they pay locally on their federal tax returns, thus lowering the incentive to keep up on those bills in the first place. That means that public schools, which run on state and local taxes, and other social services won’t be securely funded if the bill passes.
5. It’s a total fake out for parental leave.
There is a tax credit that employers can take if they give parental leave to employees. According to the National Partnership for Women and Families, “The proposal would offer small tax credits to employers who voluntarily offer paid family and medical leave to certain employees, but it would do nothing to put paid leave within reach for the millions of working people who have not won the ‘boss lottery.'”
Only 13 percent of workers actually have the ability to take parental leave — people working lower income gigs or part-time work won’t benefit from this at all. The credit also expires in 2019, which means it’s a fleeting little clause put in the bill to make people think the GOP has the best interests of women and families at heart.
This tax bill is messed up on so many levels, but the way it targets women, especially women with kids or in lower income brackets, is particularly offensive.