Last Tuesday I attended one of many of the town hall meetings hosted by the Blue Ribbon Commission on Tax Reform. It is hard to convey what a fair tax policy means in 3 minutes but my comments were as follows:
Honorable members of the Commission,
My name is Jordan Wildermuth and I am the executive director of the National Association of Social Workers-Kentucky Chapter. NASW supports an economic policy that invests in “human capital” and recognizes that our well-being derives not only from an economic balance sheet, but also from the well-being of its members. More than 20% of tax filers throughout Kentucky are struggling to make ends meet and using the Federal EITC to work their way out of poverty. These are families with one or both parents employed but not earning enough money to afford some of life’s most basic necessities.
Social workers have experienced this dramatic shift in client populations. There are still a great number of unemployed individuals but the more alarming statistic is the thousands of Kentuckians who are underemployed. One example is a single mother who was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis last year. She qualified for the Federal Medical Leave Act, but did not receive any compensation for those lost days. Her drop in income qualified her for the EITC which allowed her to be able to pay bills.
An EITC is good for Kentucky because it pumps money back into the local economy. Families are more likely to spend their EITC return on food, gas, and bills. An EITC also enables families to save money as well. Twenty-four other states have enacted an EITC and federal EITC has been one of the best examples of bi-partisanship to date.
It is also important to move Kentucky to a more graduated tax rate structure so that everyone pays their fair share. The current rate structure has not been changed since enacted in the 1930’s resulting in a flat tax. There should be a new bracket created for the highest wage earners above 6%. Thirteen states have top rates of 7% or higher.
What I gathered from a large portion of the meeting were numerous entities who were in favor of a more fair tax system until it fell on them and from which point they were looking to be exempt. I am proud as a social worker to know that we are looking out for the voiceless and are not thinking about ourselves within a vacuum. A fair tax system intersects with all institutions and those institutions must come to understand systems theory and how we can not affect change to a system without taking a look at how we are impacting the system. Businesses should work with non-profits to understand social responsibility and how we can all work together for social justice.