Perhaps no issue better illustrates the philosophical divide between left-wing Democrats and right-wing Republicans than the Earned Income Tax Credit.Â Here in Iowa a theatrical stunt a few weeks back by ultra-Liberal Iowa City Democrat Senator Joe Bolkcom put the issue front and center.Â In the hopes of pressuring Governor Branstad to support a huge increase in the Iowa Earned Income Tax Credit, Pleasantville resident Julie Heck was brought in to symbolize the need for this action by taking part in a press conference before then testifying in front of the Ways and Means Committee.Â Ms. Heck is a single mother of three who is currently receiving the Iowa Earned Income Tax credit, and on this day set about making the case that while she is glad to have itâ€”it sure would be nice to get more of our money.
While Democrats were no doubt tickled by both the media exposure and the perceived effectiveness of this spectacle, the realities surrounding her specific situation, including her own stunning words, expose the utter disregard that liberal Democrats have for all Iowa taxpayers.
The Press Conference
In the press conference Ms. Heck says that she is a single mother of three who works full time and attends college full time at Simpson.Â She made $33,000 in income last year.Â Beyond not paying a penny in Federal income tax, she instead receivedÂ a $5,279 check from the Federal government which combined $2,279 from the Federal E.I.T.C and another $3,000 from the Federal Child Tax Credit.Â Receiving the Federal E.I.T.CÂ in turn qualified her to receive an additional $160 from the Iowa E.I.T.C.Â Without getting into all the numbers, after using a portion of her Federal refund to pay the $410 she owed to the state of Iowa, she ended up not only with a zero dollar income tax burden, but instead was actually paid $4,869 by the government.
While so much is wrong with this picture, two things are particularly disturbing.Â Firstly, instead of being grateful to live in a system that allows her to receive a net profit of $4,869 from the income tax code, she actually had the audacity to sit in front of a microphone and decry the fact that she had to pay any Iowa income taxes at all.Â And, remarkably unsatisfied with what she has already received, she wants even more moneyâ€”it is just unbelievable.
Perhaps the biggest slap in the face here is what she admits to spending some of this refund money on.Â At the 3 minute mark of the video posted above, she plainly states that she is using her Federal â€œrefundâ€ money to help pay for her college tuition, and then proceeds to say that some of this money also goes to match the funds her children manage to save throughout the year.
As a taxpayer who over the last two years alone has sent tens of thousands of dollars to the Federal government and several thousand more to the state of Iowa, I find these details outrageous.Â Let me be clear, I have no problem paying taxes to help those who are destitute, starving, or un-sheltered.Â However, paying for a mother of three who decides that she now wants to attend college full time is a far different matter.
Once any American citizen makes the decision to bring three human lives into the world it is solely their own responsibility to provide for those children by any means necessary.Â Â In this case it clearly means working a second job to provide for her family instead of spendingÂ our tax dollarsÂ to attend college.Â I ask you this, how many hundreds of thousands of Iowans, especially small business owners, send their money into the government each year and afterwards do not have enough left over to afford schooling, or to match their childrenâ€™s savings?
The Politics and Implications
Finally we have Sen. Bolkcom, the Iowa personification of this entitlement mentality, and the political and financial implications of this situation.Â After Ms. Heckâ€™s statementÂ Sen. Bolkcom threatens (at the 7:20 mark) that until the â€œearnedâ€ income tax credit is brought up from its current 7% to either 13% or 20%, that in his mind all tax relief for Iowans is off the table.Â Realize here what this man is actually saying.Â That before he entertains any legislation to cut the taxes of Iowans who have been throttled by actually paying high taxes for yearsâ€”Ms. Heck must first receive an even larger refund.
This attitude and approach are stunning.Â Putting on display a woman who makes $33,000 a year, who attends college fulltime, and already receives nearly $5,000 in government money through the tax code to justify almost tripling the Iowa E.I.T.C is beyond insulting.Â This clearly shows all taxpayers in IowaÂ what little respect some have for the contributions we are making to government coffers every year.
Republicans agreed multiple times last year to increase the percentage of the Iowa E.I.T.C, largely as part of a legislative give and take they hoped would result in other tax proposals gaining passage, but the governor twice vetoed the section raising the credit.Â In explanation heÂ cited his desire to instead include it in a much larger tax reform bill, though the SenateÂ again last month passed it as a stand alone measure (SF 2161).Â The price tag of raising the credit to 20% would cost Iowa taxpayers $49.9 millionÂ every year after it fully phased-in in 2016.Â This is no doubt a number that seems tiny to Democrats, but is a big deal when you consider that Chief Justice Cady is likely to again be denied an additional $10 million in funding for our judicial system, which has been underfunded for decades.
Once again I stress that the root of my problem here is not so much the issue itself or the price tag of passing the increase.Â Above all else, this specific example exposes how we are losing the spirit of defiant self-sufficiency that we once hadâ€”and how quickly it is getting replaced with an attitude that instead asks â€˜what more can you do for me?â€™Â What is so galling about this is not that the government would offer assistance to people in serious need (they certainly should), but rather how that need is now defined.
While this entire production was likely staged with the sole purpose of raising the guilt level and putting public pressure on Governor Branstad to accept the increase, in reality what it raises is a much larger question:
Has the mentality throughout our state become so collectivist in nature that hard working Iowans are going to be viewed as â€œheartlessâ€ for not wanting to payÂ adults to go to college and be able to match their childrenâ€™s piggy bank contributions?
If the answer is yes than Conservatives and Libertarians have a lot more work to doâ€¦and Iowans will have a lot more taxes to pay in the future.