Finding purpose in policy

Spike Dearing

Spike Dearing

Have you ever read a bill in its entirety? If you have, congratulations, that can be quite a task. If not, let me explain a bit what it’s like. Bills can be complex. They can be long. They can have all sorts of details and clauses included, but have all the meat confined to one small section that makes all the difference. In a nutshell, there are times when a bill can appear to be written in a foreign language, traversed only by lawyers, bureaucrats, and politicians.

But understanding bills, and thereby understanding the policies they aim to enact, is essential. While you may never see a hard copy of a bill, or hear much about what’s going on in the State House or Senate, what they pass or don’t pass ultimately impacts each one of us. It could be changes to Medicaid, the state income tax, or teacher pensions; regardless of what the topic is, in some way, somehow, the effects of various policy decisions will sift down to every individual. It is because of this inevitability, and the stake that each individual has in their society, that comprehension of policy is so important.

domeNow, most people are busy. Jobs, friends, kids, school … there are a million and one things going on in our lives that keep us moving, keep us working, keep us focused or even distracted. For the majority of us, policy is not one of those things. Luckily for society, there are a select few who have managed to make the interpretation of policy, and then the relaying of information to others in a direct and familiar fashion, their livelihoods. Such people can be found working at the Michigan League for Public Policy.

My own understanding of policy at the beginning of this year was limited. While I had kept up to date on the major legislative debates in Congress, I hadn’t ever done real research into the depths of any piece of policy. From day one with the League though, I was surrounded by professionals. Working here are the types of people who one would consider “policy wonks”. Here are the number crunchers, the data collectors, and the graph creators. The work that happens in this office day in and day out is painstaking, long, at times extremely frustrating, but done entirely with real passion and purpose. Through all that they do, the people at the League are dedicated advocates, policy experts motivated to promote equity and fairness, especially for those who have received the short end of the stick more often than not.

You can imagine that working with individuals of this caliber, I picked up on a few things. And while it is true that I now am more confident in discussing, researching, debating and writing about healthcare and taxes, perhaps more valuable was that through this process I have started to define why good policy is important to me. Policy is a reflection of society. The values of a people are exposed via the policies which they favor. Effective and equitable policy must then be a constantly sought, which requires that policies be backed up by facts and logic, and shaped with a vision towards a more just society. While I still have much to learn about both policy and my own value-based judgements, my experience with the League has put me on the right path.

I leave here having gained a great deal. The people I have met, and lessons I have learned will propel me towards future goals and help me with future endeavors. I have thoroughly enjoyed my time here, from the endless rounds of edits Rachel had me working on, to witnessing Tillie magically transform my excel graphs into something worth looking at, and smack talking this dreary Michigan winter with anyone and everyone who strolled by my desk. To all the staff here, and my fellow intern Alexa, it has been a pleasure. I wish the best to you all, and again, thanks to you all for making this an experience by which I have learned a truly substantial amount.

— Spike Dearing

U.S. House tax plan: Benefit for richest 1 percent in Michigan grows over time

For Immediate Release
November 6, 2017

Contact:
Alex Rossman
arossman@milhs.org
517.487.5436

LANSING—A new 50-state analysis of the House tax plan released by Congress last week reveals that in Michigan the wealthiest 1 percent of Michiganians will receive the greatest share of the total tax cut in year one and their share would grow through 2027. Further, the value of the tax cut would decline over time for every income group in Michigan except the very richest.

House leadership continues to tout this tax proposal, which will increase the federal deficit by $1.5 trillion over the next decade, as a plan to boost the middle class. But a closer examination of the bill’s provisions reveals that it is laser-focused on tax cuts for the nation’s highest earning households. The wealthiest Michiganians’ share of Michigan’s tax cuts would grow over time due to phase-ins of tax cuts that mostly benefit the rich and the eventual elimination or erosion in value of provisions that benefit low- and middle-income taxpayers. For example, after five years, the bill eliminates a $300 non-child dependent credit that benefits low- and middle-income families while fully repealing the estate tax in year six for the very large estates subject to the tax.

More specifically, the 10-year outlook for the plan reveals that by 2027, the top 1 percent of households in Michigan’s share of the tax cut would increase from 33 percent in 2018 to 47 percent by 2027, for an average cut of $77,380. Middle-income taxpayers’ average tax cut would erode to $590 in 2027 from $730 in 2018, and the poorest 20 percent’s average tax cut would decline from $110 in 2018 to $100 in 2027.

“This bill may cut taxes for some low- and middle-income households, but it also raises taxes on some of these families and many others will see no benefit at all. But let’s be clear: it is still the case that this plan will primarily benefit the rich, across the nation and in Michigan,” said Karen Holcomb-Merrill, Vice President of the Michigan League for Public Policy. “We have sent our elected officials to the nation’s capital to represent us, but what they are saying is just as important as what they are not saying. These tax cuts that mostly benefit top earners will add to the nation’s annual deficits and come at the expense of low- and middle-income families who will likely lose more from cuts to education, healthcare, infrastructure or other public services than they gain from the small cuts they would receive.”

Following are some highlights of how the plan specifically affects Michigan:

  • Richest 1 percent of Michigan taxpayers would receive largest tax cut as a share of income under the House tax proposal in 2018 and 2027.
  • The share of low- and middle-income Michigan taxpayers seeing a tax hike under the House proposal increases between 2018 and 2027.
  • Average tax cuts to top 1 percent of Michigan taxpayers dwarf those going to all other income groups under the House tax proposal in 2018 and 2027.

To read the entire report or get more details about Michigan, go to http://itep.org/housetaxplan.

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The Michigan League for Public Policy, www.milhs.org, is a nonprofit policy institute focused on economic opportunity for all. It is the only state-level organization that addresses poverty in a comprehensive way.

A thank you note to Michigan taxpayers

It’s Tax Day! Today is the day that we acknowledge and celebrate all that you do for your state, your community, your neighbors and your families!

I realize that no one likes to pay taxes. The time it takes to find all of your documents and fill out the forms. The frustration over paying at the end of the year if you did not withhold enough. The constant stress over whether you did them right. It is frustrating. But it is also incredibly important. (more…)

Federal balanced budget: Round two

The bill passed by the Michigan Senate that would enter Michigan into a compact for a federal balanced budget amendment is misguided and would create serious challenges for our federal and state economy.

If you’re feeling a little déjà vu, you’re right. Last session, the Legislature passed a joint resolution calling for a federal balanced budget amendment to the United States Constitution. So far nothing has happened with that resolution, and it left a lot of unanswered questions. So with that uncertainty, this alternative approach turns the previous proposal into something more “turnkey;” everything required to giftwrap ratification of this amendment is laid out in the bill, from amendment language, to application and convention rules, to appointment of delegates, to ratification. (more…)