The legislative proposals to raise the sales tax, tax food and cut services that will hurt low-income and working families to abolish the West Virginia income tax are unfortunate.
It is well documented that the wealthy have reaped extraordinary benefits from the coronavirus pandemic. USA Today noted that, during the pandemic, 614 billionaires grew their net worth by $931 billion while 11 million people became unemployed. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon founder, increased his net worth to $190 billion and became, by far, the wealthiest person on the planet at the same time Amazon spearheaded a vicious anti-union campaign at its Alabama warehouse.
The elimination or phased reduction of a progressive income tax on the wealthy does nothing more than increase pain and suffering on those who have the least and are already burdened with regressive and flat taxes or fees. The more humane policy would be to increase the progressive income tax on those who have benefited from the system and reduce the sales tax.
State leaders have crowed about how West Virginia tax revenue has done well during the crisis. To a considerable extent, this is a consequence of federal stimulus payments to those who spent the money on desperately needed essentials. To extract an additional consumer tax payment from them for the purpose of providing a cash cow for the wealthy is immoral and a contradiction to the purpose of the stimulus program.
Without question, the stimulus initiative has pluses and minuses. For example, it has helped boost activity at local stores that employ local people. These are businesses that have been hard hit by closures. However, it also has propelled a major rebound in China’s economy because of the nature of available goods in those locations.
Federal and state programs with tax incentives to increase domestic production of essential goods would be an excellent policy to vigorously pursue as an alternative.
Another policy that would be beneficial to those in the coalfields would be to directly link newly created jobs nationally to hard-hit unemployed coal miners affected by the shift away from coal. This could be accomplished by the United Mine Workers union and Workforce Development Boards jointly adopting the basic “hiring hall” process currently used in the unionized construction trades.
In essence, this would be a well-deserved “jobs transfer” program.
The coal miners in West Virginia gave their utmost to make America a great nation. Mined coal fueled war victories and propelled the U.S. economy to unbelievable heights. But there was a cost. Thousands of miners died and more contracted black lung disease, as well as incurred major disabilities. Yet, coal has been the life-blood of West Virginia’s economy and family livelihoods. Without question, coal miners have paid a price and deserve a deal such as a jobs transfer initiative.
Programs like this are worthy of consideration because the stimulus payments are a temporary blip. Eventually, the benefits will have to be paid for by reducing the national debt, which The Washington Post states now exceeds the size of the entire U.S. economy.
Those who became rich from the pandemic should not have an income tax reprieve in that process.
Whenever there is a major crisis, there is always clamor to pass the buck. In this case, there is an opportunistic effort to pass the buck to those who have the least. This is the time for people affected to stand up to buck-passing and work on solutions that make a difference for the majority.
It is time for actions that are spiritually and compassionately relevant to be made a humane priority.