June 5, 2003
You don't have to be an economist to know the Bush administration's new tax cut is a blow to the working poor.
On May 28, the president signed into law a $350 billion tax cut package that favors wealthy investors, not working families. Among the hardest hit will be minority and immigrant families and their children.
Bush's 2003 tax plan excludes low-income families -- those earning between $10,500 and $26,625 annually -- from getting a boost in the child tax credit. This means working families that earn just above the minimum wage will not receive the additional tax relief for their children that most middle-class families will receive. And about half of all African-American and Latino children will get no, or only limited, benefit from the new law, according to the Children's Defense Fund.
In the case of Latino families, roughly 1.6 million (or 30 percent) of eligible families will be left out of tax relief, according to National Council of La Raza, a national Latino civil-rights organization.
Latinos will suffer as a result, says Hector Flores, the president of the League of United Latin American Citizens. "Hispanics are not the beneficiaries of this tax cut," Flores says.
"It is shameful that the Bush administration's irresponsible tax cuts for the rich leave behind almost all Latino children," said Marian Wright Edelman, president of the Children's Defense Fund.
In a Dickensian twist on reality, GOP policy-makers argued that it was necessary to exclude working families and their children from the tax cuts in order to pay for the tax-rate reduction on dividend income. But 94 percent of all Latino children in America have nothing to gain from the dividend tax cut because their families do not receive any stock dividends.
In stark contrast, millionaires would receive nearly $30,000 from the tax cut on stock dividends in 2004, according to the Urban Institute-Brookings Tax Policy Center.
Since the tax cut passed, Republicans have rightfully been criticized over the child-credit issue.
Fortunately, bipartisan legislation proposed by Sens. Blanche Lincoln, D-Ark., and Olympia Snowe, R-Maine, seeks a 10-year, $3.5 billion plan to provide the child credit using money from corporations that are caught evading taxes.
Lincoln and Snowe are not alone. Another Republican, Sen. John Warner of Virginia, signed on because, astonishingly, the measure left out as many as 200,000 military families out in the cold, as well.
But even with this bipartisan proposal on the table, GOP hard-liners are digging in deeper and refusing to cut working families and their children a break. Responding to the criticism, House Majority Leader Tom DeLay, R-Texas, said, "There are a lot of other things that are more important than that."
For all the talk of "compassionate conservatism," it's clear that the Bush administration is pursuing its right-wing agenda out in the open. The tax cut has sent a message loud and clear to Latino working families: Latino taxpayers and their families are a low priority.
Bernardo Ruiz is a free-lance writer and documentary producer living in New York City. He is the co-producer of "The Sixth Section," a documentary on undocumented Mexican workers, which will air nationally Sept. 2 on PBS.