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Experts: Cain, Perry tax plans negatively, disproportionately impact women
As campaign-finance filings come out from 2012 Republican presidential candidates, the records show women are not big-money donors for this year’s crop of hopefuls. Recent campaign-finance records evaluated by the Center for Responsive Politics reveal the median percentage of campaign cash over $200 from female donors to the GOP candidates is 27.5 percent. (For contributions under $200, donors’ personal details are not publicly disclosed.)
Nearing the bottom of the pile is Herman Cain — only 25 percent of the former pizza chain magnate’s donations above $200 have come from women. Both Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul have collected less from women (about 24 percent and 16 percent, respectively). About 33.5 percent and 29.6 percent of Texas Gov. Rick Perry and former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney’s donations have come from women, respectively.
Fittingly, the tax proposals released by the leading GOP candidates — Cain, Perry and Romney — disproportionately affect women in the way they raise taxes on lower- and middle-income Americans, eliminate poverty aids and cut child-insurance programs, according to various analyses of the plans and expert input gathered by The Independent.
Thus far, only Cain and Perry have revealed the most detailed plans, and because women are disproportionately likely to be single parents and to have lower wages, smaller pensions and more medical problems, they are expected to fare worse under these plans than their male counterparts.
The gender-wage gap and its relevancy to tax-policy discussions
According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics (PDF), in 2010, women who were full-time wage and salary workers earned 81 percent of what men earned (median weekly earnings for women were $669, and $824 for men). The female-to-male earnings ratio has hovered around 80 to 81 percent since 2004, up from 62 percent in 1979.
Last week, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) released a report (PDF) showing women make up 49 percent of the total workforce but represent 59 percent of low-wage workers -– this despite the fact that more women than men finish high school and earn bachelor’s degrees. And according to a new report (PDF) by the Martin Prosperity Institute, women hold 52.3 percent of “creative class” jobs –- engineers, doctors, lawyers, journalists, teachers, etc. -– but in these jobs, earn an average of $48,007, while men earn an average of $82,009. Controlling for hours worked and education, creative class men out-earn creative class women by 49.2 percent.
According to the 2008-2010 American Community Survey, about 29.2 percent of families whose income in the past 12 months was below the federal poverty level were families headed by single women. It gets worse depending on the presence of young children: 38.1 percent of women-run households with children under 18 were below poverty; 46.1 percent of households with children under 5 were below poverty. In comparison, only 10.5 percent of all American families — and only 5.1 percent of married-couple families — in this survey were making below the poverty level. The aforementioned GAO report found single women with children had an average household income of about $27,000.
Income disparities do not stop at wages, however. Women tend to live longer, they are more likely to outlive their savings and less likely to have significant retirement plans or to have the type of jobs that incur significant pensions. Thus, they disproportionately benefit from Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid.
According to the Social Security Administration (SSA), women represent about 57 percent of all Social Security beneficiaries age 62 and older and about 69 percent of beneficiaries over 85. In 2008, women 65 and older received an average of $11,377, compared with $14,822 for men.
According to the Kaiser Family Foundation (PDF), about 56 percent of all Medicare beneficiaries are women, and women are more likely than men to report having three or more chronic conditions.
How do women fare under ‘9-9-9’?
THE PLAN: ‘9-9-9’
With the nation’s attention focused on Cain’s old sexual harassment charges, scrutiny of Cain’s infamous “9-9-9″ Plan is stalled for the moment. According to an analysis by the Tax Policy Center, Cain’s plan would make those earning under $50,000 pay a few thousand dollars more in taxes, while those making between half a million and $1 million would pay nearly $100,000 less in taxes. According to an analysis by the left-leaning Citizens for Tax Justice (PDF), if Cain’s plan were to go into effect today, the richest 1 percent of taxpayers would pay $210,000 less in annual taxes, while the poorest 60 percent of taxpayers would pay $2,000 more in annual taxes.
At the same time, Cain’s proposed plan is expected to raise about the same -– or potentially less –- revenue as the current tax system. Still, a recent poll of likely Iowa Caucus-goers conducted last month shows the average American making under $50,000 annually doesn’t understand the plan and believes he or she would fare better under “9-9-9.”
Cain’s plan is actually a complicated three-step process. Replacing the current tax code with a 9-percent business flat tax (or value-added tax), a 9-percent individual flat tax and a 9-percent national sales tax is only the second step in the process. And as the Tax Policy Center summarizes, combined, the three taxes are equivalent to a 25.4-percent national sales tax, with adjustments for dividends paid to tax-exempt entities and charitable contributions.
The first step in Cain’s plan, explained by The Washington Post, would actually be to cut individual and corporate tax rates to a top-25-percent rate, down from the current high of 35 percent. The third step would be to replace all federal taxes with a national sales tax.
Cain claims under “9-9-9,” Americans who fall under the federal government’s poverty level would be exempt from paying the individual income tax; however, he would eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), designed to help the working poor, and the Child Tax Credit (CTC). Additionally, he would eliminate payroll tax deductions for employers (except in unspecified “Opportunity Zones”), which currently serve as a hiring incentive. Helping out the wealthy, Cain would get rid of the estate tax and capital gains taxes. His plan, according to Edward D. Kleinbard of the Gould University of Southern California School of Law, involves a “disguised one-time 9 percent tax on existing wealth.”
More from TaxVox, the Tax Policy Center blog:
A middle income household making between about $64,000 and $110,000 would get hit with an average tax increase of about $4,300, lowering its after-tax income by more than 6 percent and increasing its average federal tax rate (including income, payroll, estate and its share of the corporate income tax) from 18.8 percent to 23.7 percent. … In Cain’s world, a typical household making more than $2.7 million would pay a smaller share of its income in federal taxes than one making less than $18,000. This would give Warren Buffet severe heartburn.
EFFECT ON WOMEN
Cain’s plan would eliminate the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC), which is a refundable credit designed to offset federal payroll and income taxes for low- and moderate-income working people.
According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities (CBPP), this year, working families with children with annual incomes below $36,000 to $49,000 (depending on marital status and dependents) may be eligible for the EITC. Single individuals without children who make less than $13,600 annually and married couples making less than $18,700 annually would qualify for a small EITC. In 2009, the average EITC was $2,770 for a household with children and $259 for a childless household. According to CBPP, families mostly use this tax credit to pay for necessities, home and vehicle repairs and, sometimes, additional education.
Cain would also kill the Child Tax Credit (CTC), which helps working families pay for child care costs.
According to the Urban Institute, high-working, low-income families spend $3,135 annually, or 12 percent of their income. The Institute estimates that 69 percent of children under 5 with low-income working mothers are cared for regularly by someone other than a parent, and 39 percent of these children are in child care for at least 35 hours per week.
“It would be horrifying to lose [the Earned Income Tax Credit and the Child Tax Credit],” said Elizabeth Lower-Basch, a senior policy analyst for the Center for Law and Social Policy (CLASP). “That would particularly affect women.
“We have a basically progressive tax code,” she told TAI. “If we go to a flat code, it would significantly hurt low-income workers.”
Joan Entmacher, vice president for Family Economic Security at the National Women’s Law Center, where she works at promoting policies aimed at improving the economic security of low-income women and their families, told TAI that Cain’s tax proposal appears to affect women worse than the other candidates because his plan is “much harder on lower-income Americans” in the way it would raise taxes on low- and middle-income earners.
Under Cain’s plan, millionaires would get a 17.9-percent tax rate, or a 22-percent boost after taxes. But a single mother earning between $20,000 and $30,000? Her tax rate would be 24.9 percent. In other words, a single mom making $25,000 a year will have to give 25 percent of her income, or $6,250, to taxes.
Cain has proposed creating tax benefits to certain geographic areas in what he calls “Opportunity Zones” (PDF), but he has not been specific about where these zones would be or how they would work.
“Overall, you’re going to be better off if you’re making over $1 million in income, better than single mom trying to raise kids on $25,000 per year,” Entmacher said.
Terry O’Neill, an attorney and professor who is the president of the National Organization for Women (NOW), told TAI that Cain is turning his back on women, many whom depend on the tax programs he wants to eliminate.
“When Mr. Cain wants to take away the Earned Income Tax Credit, he is punishing women who sometimes work two jobs full-time, minimum-wage jobs, just to pay for food and rent,” O’Neill said.
Perry’s postcard proposal cuts more than it balances
During his speech at the Corner Stone Action Dinner in Manchester, N.H., on Oct. 28, Perry repeatedly waved a blank postcard in explaining his tax and economic-policy plan. Like Cain’s plan, Perry’s plan (PDF) is more complicated than he lets on in speeches. Where they differ is in Perry’s explicit details in how Americans would pay for the substantial tax breaks on the highest earners — by eliminating deductions and cutting specific entitlement programs that especially benefit lower-income earners, and women.
THE PLAN: ‘Cut, Balance & Grow’
Taxpayers would be able to choose whether to file their taxes under the current tax code or under a new 20-percent “flat tax.” What Perry has not emphasized is that taxpayers will have to spend time — and potentially money — calculating which plan benefits them more.
Like Cain, Perry has countered claims his plan will result in disproportionately higher taxes for lower- and middle-income families. As an example, Perry points to the provision in his 20-percent flat-tax plan, where families will be eligible for “generous” exemptions of $12,500.
In his proposal, Perry takes a dig at Cain’s proposal to introduce a federal sales tax and a business value-added tax, which he calls “highly regressive,” and uses the working poor to make his case:
When added to existing federal income taxes and state and local income sales taxes, a national sales tax would be highly regressive. Low-income families spend a much higher percentage of their incomes on food and gas than do those with considerable wealth. For example, a household earning $25,000 each year would spend roughly 40% of its income on food, utilities, and health care, while a household earning $130,000 each year would pay less than 15% of its income on those three items.
But because Perry would eliminate the EITC, lower- and middle-income earners would still pay more under his plan than they do now. Using calculations made by the Tax Policy Center, The New York Times estimates single parents with two children making $9,700 annually would pay no income taxes under Perry’s plan but would not receive the $4,885 tax credit they receive under current tax law.
Perry, like Cain, would eliminate the capital gains tax.
EFFECT ON WOMEN
To pay for the plan, Perry has suggested cuts in education and nutritional programs for poor children. He has offered various suggestions for reforming Medicare, which include gradually raising the age of Medicare eligibility, alongside a gradual retirement-age increase under Social Security; paying Medicare benefits on a sliding scale based on income; or by creating bundled premium support payments that would go directly to the individual. He has also proposed block-granting Medicaid payments.
Entmacher told TAI that under Perry’s plan, taxes would go up for the working poor and what she calls the “true middle class” — households making no more than $75,000 per year.
“The Perry plan is particularly hard on single heads of households,” Entmacher said. “They do worse than the working poor.”
As for the remaining GOP candidates in the pack, the one expected to win the nomination, former Massachusetts Gov. Mitt Romney, has a vague plan. Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich and Rep. Michele Bachmann (Minn.) have stated support for a flat tax, and all the candidates support eliminating the estate tax.
Romney’s main tax proposal is to end taxes on interest and dividend income for people who earn less than $200,000 a year, but otherwise keep the existing tax system in place. Romney does not support a flat tax or a national sales tax, stating they would largely hurt the middle class. He supports extending most, if not all, of the Bush-era tax cuts.
All of the experts TAI spoke with agreed the tax code needs reforming. With GOP candidates vying for shorter rules in the name of simplicity, Lower-Basch thinks what the tax code actually needs is more tiers and brackets to be more fair, reasoning that households making $250,000 a year should not be taxed the same as those making $1 or $2 million a year.