Readers’ voice

Dear Editor,
   I would like to thank all of the fine folk, all 150-plus, for attending “A Christmas Carol” this past weekend.  So many smiling faces, and compliments. Thank you to the Freshwater Family for taking us in and working with us on this production.
   If you haven’t had an opportunity to see the show, come on out this coming weekend - Friday, 7:30 p.m., Saturday 3 p.m. and 7:30 p.m.. 
   Hope to see you there.
   Marie Lallinger-Smith
   Paw Paw Village Players

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Dear Editor,
   PLEASE NOTE:
   Tax Reform Bill Comes at the Price of Charities and Communities
   Tax Reform Bill to Tank Charitable Giving by Millions in Michigan
   Ramifications of Tax Bill to Hit Charities - Communities Will Pay the Price
   Comprehensive tax reform discussions are nearing an end, with a final vote by the House and Senate expected next week. Unfortunately, versions of this legislation already passed by both chambers would cause significant reductions in charitable giving.
   Despite technically preserving the “charitable deduction,” 31 million taxpayers who currently claim the deduction will lose it, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation. Indiana University’s School on Philanthropy found fundamental changes to the standard deduction would cause $13 billion in lost private donations to charities. That is a 5 percent decrease in overall giving, but the losses will be concentrated in faith-based, basic needs, and disaster relief charities that rely on gifts from middle class donors.
   In Van Buren County, taxpayers who claimed the charitable deduction will lose that opportunity if this bill passes. Non-profits in Van Buren County count on these contributions to keep pace with the needs in each community. A loss of donations will result in many individuals going without  the necessities to survive including, food, heat, utilities, protection from domestic violence, mental health assistance and so much more. Our tight budgets mean lost dollars translate directly to reduced services for our communities.
   The charitable deduction has existed for 100 years and been studied by economists and tax experts for decades. While individuals give for a variety of reasons, to include our country’s long standing philanthropic tradition, there is empirical and anecdotal consensus that, on aggregate, tax incentives significantly increase giving from people at all income levels. Arguments that tax reform will result increased giving, absent a charitable deduction, are not supported by any economic data or our experience in the charitable sector.
   If tax reform in its current form is enacted, 95 percent of donors to charity will be taxed on their donations. Only the wealthiest donors - important donors to be sure - will be able to make tax exempt donations. But that result is inconsistent with our nation’s principles and deeply unfair to the 95 percent whose gifts should be valued just as much.
   Unfortunately, we’ve run out of options to fix the tax bill in a way that would mitigate the damage done to charities and relieve almost all taxpayers from paying taxes on money they donate to charity.
   Therefore, in a rare move for our organization, Van Buren County United Way, along with United Way Worldwide must oppose the current tax reform bill - The Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. We hope that Senator Gary Peters, Senator Debbie Stabenow and Representative Fred Upton will follow suit.
   Sincerely,
   Vera E Tanier-Sebree
   Executive Director
   Van Buren County United Way

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To the Editor,
   This is in response to Wayne Wilhelmi’s letter in the December 8, 2017 issue in The Courier-Leader. In it, he points out the fact that the proposed tax plan will double the standard deduction of $6,300 for singles and $12,600 for married couples, but that no one is mentioning the fact that it also eliminates the $4,050 standard deduction per person. This makes the effective reduction $2,250 for singles and $4,500 for married couples, not the $6,300 and $12,600 the Republicans keep talking about.
   He states that “NOT a single person has said anything about it” and that “no one in the media”… “has reported anything about this.” He then indicates that there is still hope because Rep. Fred Upton is on the committee to reconcile the differences between the House and Senate.
   With all due respect, news organizations are reporting it. I read about it and e-mailed Upton’s office and questioned him about it. His response? An e-mail thanking me for contacting him, and then an explanation of how doubling the standard deduction would help the middle class keep more of its hard earned money. There was no mention of the personal exemption deletion, even though I specifically asked about it.
   One of Mr. Wilhelmi’s points was that there is little news coverage about what is in the tax bills. In defense of the news organizations, it is hard to report on what is in a bill when the Republicans don’t publish what is in the bill until it is up for a vote, and then re-write it into the wee hours of the morning. By the time the news organization knows what’s in it to inform the public, the bill has passed.
   I can remember a time when ideas were put forth, there were public hearings so that people could express support or concerns, and Congress could make an informed decision. This is not how the Republicans are governing. They have their ideas and do not want to hear dissenting opinions. They try to ram things through before anyone knows what they are doing. Remember the House health care bill that was published on Monday night and passed out of committee at 3 a.m. on Wednesday?
   From what I have seen, the tax bill is a giveaway to the wealthy at the expense of the poor and some of the middle class. It allows a tax exemption for private jet maintenance. There are provisions to either eliminate or reduce the estate tax, even though this only affects an extremely small portion of the population. It eliminates deductions for medical expenses and state and local taxes, which will affect a much larger portion of the population.
   The Republicans want us to believe that if we cut corporate taxes, they will pass this along to the working class in the form of more jobs and higher wages. Let me give you another possibility. CVS wants to merge with Aetna Insurance at a price of $69 billion. If they have $69 billion to spend, why are they not giving their employees huge wage increases? I don’t know what their pay scale is, but I assume it is “competitive”. Instead of being “competitive”, why don’t they become a standard that everyone else is trying to match, raising wages for all in that industry?
   The reality is that the tax bills have no guarantees that the money saved on taxes will not be used to reward investors, buy stocks to reduce debt, pay for mergers or give CEOs bigger bonuses. It is a total sell-out to the donors. 
   In my opinion, Rep. Fred Upton has given up on his constituents. I used to vote for him, but no longer. He is going along with the Republican Party and being a part of this sham of a way of governing. They are passing bills with little public support (12% on health care and 35% on the tax bill). He will not face his constituents in a town hall meeting, opting instead for tele-town hall meetings. This sounds great until you listen in on one, which I have done. He controls the conversation by taking safe questions, talking to about a dozen people, then closing the meeting. When I write to him, I get “talking point” answers, but nothing of substance. How can he and the Republican Party even pretend that they are listening to their constituents?
    If having Upton on a committee to resolve differences between House and Senate versions of the tax bill is reason for hope, we are in serious trouble.
   David Denton
   Paw Paw

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Letter to the Editor:
   Mr. Wayne Wilhelmi’s letter in the December 8, 2017 Courier-Leader makes important points about the Republican tax "reform". It also furthers some misconceptions about the process that should be addressed.
   Mr. Wilhelmi correctly points out the standard deduction doubling touted by Republicans, and especially Fred Upton, is moot since the plan removes the personal exemptions and many other deductions. This will result in a tax increase for middle class families with children.
   The contention in his letter that no one is talking about this is not accurate. Our senators, Gary Peters and Debbie Stabenow, CBS News, NPR News, Congressional Budget Office, Independent Bernie Sanders, Congressional Joint Tax Policy Committee and Democrats speaking in Congress have all pointed this out in their analysis. They’ve also all pointed out that households making less than $75,000 per year (62% of U.S.) will all be paying higher taxes under the Republican tax scam.
   Meanwhile the top 1% making more than $431,000 per year have permanent massive tax cuts while the middle class loses theirs.
   Mr. Wilhemli should be congratulated for pointing out how bad the Republican tax "reform" is. It truly hasn't been read before passage since the 500+ pages with hand scribbled notes in the margins was made available only two hours before the vote.
   It is not true to say that is “just like healthcare.” The ACA had nine months of open transparent debate and included 161 amendments offered by Republicans. In contrast, every amendment offered by Democrats to the tax bill in both house committees was voted down while the bill was ultimately written behind closed doors by lobbyists. Democrats were excluded from the final writings.     
   Every member of Congress did have a chance to fix issues, as long as they were a Republican. I do not share Mr. Wilhemli’s hope for help from Fred Upton. Upton has championed the tax scam from the beginning and been less than honest about it’s impact on Michigan families. Even though Upton's roll on the reconciliation committee is limited we should still take Mr. Wilhelmi’s advice and hound Rep. Upton relentlessly. In fact, we should hound him right into retirement with his taxpayer paid pension, health care and tax cuts he voted for himself.
   Brian M. Smith
   Paw Paw

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   The Courier-Leader reserves the right to edit or reject any submission to be considered for publication in the Readers’ voice column.
   To submit a letter, your opinion or comments,  mail to The Courier-Leader, P.O. Box 129, Paw Paw, MI 49079; or e-mail to couriereditorial@vineyardpress.biz.

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