A family that participates in CHIP, Children's Health Insurance Program
A family that participates in CHIP, Children’s Health Insurance Program

Credit: Margaret W. Nea/ Bread for the World, on Flickr, under Creative Commons 2.0

ST PETERSBURG, Fla. (WOMENSENEWS)–The Black Women’s Roundtable has a favorite admonition. We sum it up in an acronym: KISS, or “Keep It Simple Sisters!”

Our KISS agenda right now is doing all we can to avoid going over the “fiscal cliff,” a series of draconian tax and spending changes that automatically hit in January unless President Barack Obama and Congress agree on specific taxing and spending actions.

We know they are inching towards an agreement, but it’s not fast enough. Let’s end the wait. Hurry up! The suspense is horrible for anyone who knows what they might mean.

The Black Women’s Roundtable, headquartered in Washington, D.C., is a civic-participation vehicle with a vibrant presence in Central Florida. We regularly sponsor “issue tables” about policy concerns and the political sub-texts for black women and their families.

We see ourselves as stakeholders in the budget wrangling and we are invested in a better outcome than the one that’s been dangling so dangerously for weeks now. The day after Obama was elected the media focus turned immediately to this GOP-Democratic wrestling match.

The imagery of the “fiscal cliff” brings to mind a wagon loaded with money that goes crashing down a mountain-side into oblivion. That greatly minimizes the consequences of congressional inaction for African Americans and may other Americans.

From various sources, including the White House, the Black Women’s Roundtable has gathered examples of specific inevitable economic pain that federal inaction will cause middle class African-America families, most of whom will be seriously hurt by a tax increase. And, of course, these numbers to many middle-class Americans of all ethnicities.

For example, a median-income African-American-headed family of four, with total annual earnings of between $50,000 and $85,000, would have a tax increase of about $2,200.

Here’s the arithmetic:

  • A tax increase of $1,000 because the Child Tax Credit will fall from $1,000 to $500 per child.

  • A tax increase of about $900 because of merging the 10-percent tax bracket into the 15-percent tax bracket.

  • A tax increase of about $300 because of the expiration of marriage penalty relief that provides a larger standard deduction for married couples.

According to White House briefing materials, a single mother with three young children, ages 11 months to 6 years, working full time at minimum wage for $14,500 annually, would be hit harder by a total tax increase of nearly $2,400. Here’s how:

  • A tax increase of $1,725 when the Child Tax Credit drops from $1,000 to $500 per child and stricter rules are applied to tax refund eligibility, and.

  • A tax increase of $670 because of the expiration of the Earned Income Tax Credit for larger families.

Congressional inaction will require that this huge majority of the poor and middle-class try to make do with less, so that the wealthiest top 2 percent of Americans can continue to give nothing more, in order to keep everything.

Even in the more comfortable case of established, upper-middle income households where a 15-year-old is still in secondary school, a 19-year-old attends a public university, and the household income is $120,000 annually, the tax increase if Congress fails to act would be a $4,500 annually because tax deductions will disappear.

The president’s plan for avoiding the fiscal crash evolves daily because compromise is dynamic, not static. Conservative lawmakers still remain mostly entrenched in the “NO” word.

Obama has implored working- and middle-class Americans to focus on their own stake in fairness and economic advancement by supporting his proposals for a balanced agreement.

His congressional opponents, applying the “Voo-Doo arithmetic” that led them to be rudely awakened by the margin of 3.3 million-plus votes that re-elected Obama, continue to ignore the numbers of voices empowered by unity and hardened by the election victory.

Enough is enough, says the Black Women’s Roundtable on behalf of their families who would lose so much.

Let’s do whatever we can, as a unified society, to get this deal done.

Yvonne Scruggs-Leftwich is board member at large, National Coalition for Black Civic Participation, which founded BWR, and a co-founder of Agenda 2010 and Beyond, of Florida.

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