On the eve of Tax Day, U.S. Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, Congressman Jim Langevin, and Congressman David Cicilline today called on Congress to make the federal tax code fairer. Members of Rhode Island's congressional delegation gathered at Woodlawn Community Center, where the Blackstone Valley Community Action Program (BVCAP) Volunteer Income Tax Assistance (VITA) program has helped about five hundred Rhode Islanders prepare their returns free of charge this tax season.
"With tomorrow's tax deadline looming, many Americans rightly feel that the tax system is rigged against the middle class and in favor billionaires and special interests," said Whitehouse. "The Trump tax law made matters worse by lowering the tax rate for the highest earners and corporations, and adding new loopholes that reward sending jobs and profits overseas. Our Paying a Fair Share Act, also known as the Buffett Rule, is a good place to start to prevent multi-millionaires from using loopholes to pay lower tax rates than middle-class families."
"Instead of reaching across the aisle to enact equitable tax reform, Republicans chose to go it alone and pass deficit-busting tax cuts that disproportionately benefit the wealthy and big corporations," said Langevin. "As Rhode Islanders file their tax returns this season, I remain committed to passing real tax reform that benefits all Americans, helps middle-class families and small businesses, and encourages economic growth."
"The GOP tax bill that gave a gigantic tax cut to the richest 1% and most profitable corporations has caused the annual deficit to spike to $1 trillion, while offering little to no tax relief for middle class families," said Cicilline. "Worse still -- the Republican leadership is now gearing up to use this mountain of debt as an excuse to make massive cuts to Medicare, Social Security and Medicaid. Speaker Ryan has promised to tackle "entitlements" this year, and the President's budget proposal for FY2019 cuts $500 billion for Medicare, $1.4 trillion from Medicaid, and $72 billion from Social Security Disability Insurance. These monstrous cuts would undermine the basic well-being of millions of Americans. We must not let the President and Republicans in Congress succeed."
Whitehouse and Cicilline introduced, and Langevin cosponsored, the Paying A Fair Share Act, which would implement the so-called "Buffett Rule" to ensure multi-million-dollar earners pay at least a 30 percent effective federal tax rate. The measure would reduce the federal deficit by an estimated nearly $50 billion over the next decade. The Buffett Rule is named after Warren Buffett, the legendary investor who has famously lamented that he pays a lower tax rate than his secretary, and who supports the bill. Former President Barack Obama proposed adding the Buffett Rule to the tax code to ensure that those at the top pay at least the tax rate paid by middle-class families.
The Republican tax bill that became law late last year gave outsized benefits to corporations and wealthy executives, but workers are not seeing the benefits of the huge tax cuts that went to the companies they work for. Since the tax law was signed, corporations have spent more than $235 billion buying back their own stock -- 37 times as much as they have spent on workers' bonuses or wage increases.
Buffett's Berkshire Hathaway alone made an extra $29 billion in 2017, nearly half of the conglomerate's annual net gain, thanks to the Republican tax bill. Prior to the passage of the tax plan, Buffett said, "We have a lot of businesses... I don't think any of them are non-competitive in the world because of the corporate tax rate."