Working poor under attack from governor

Rob Burkett / Washburn Review

Every day the news continues the steady drumbeat of economic pronouncements designed to create anxiety in audiences.

The latest announcement of possible $5 gas prices is yet another reminder of an earnings gap that is continuing to grow in this country.

While at the same time people who make less than $25,000 a year are continuing the to face the brunt of rising prices, speculators on the stock market are profiting at a pace reminiscent of the pre-2008 economy.

When the bell rung on Tuesday, the Dow Jones Industrial Index closed at more than 13,000 for the first time since the economic collapse of 2008.

This signal of the return of the U.S. economy might be more reassuring were it not for the continuation of the rise in prices of common consumer items like gas, milk and bread.

Gas has been the one that everyone is focusing on. In some markets like Sacremento, Calif. the price has gone up 35 cents over a two day span last week.

Milk is also another everyday commodity that has seen price increases in the last 12 months. According to the Department of Agriculture, the price of milk has gone up a nationwide average of 38 percent in the last year.

The emerging market for organic products are taking an even more severe beating financially. According to the Wall Street Journal, in the last couple of weeks the organic milk market has seen a 10 percent increase. This is in concert with a 65 percent increase in the organic corn market as well.

With the pinch being put on basic need items, it is then a somewhat puzzling time for the state to consider increasing taxes on the poorest people in Kansas.

The average taxpayer making less than $25,000, already burdened by the rise in prices at the grocery store, would have to pay an average annual increase of $156 in taxes to the state.

This perhaps doesn’t sound bad but at the same time, anyone making more than $250,000 will see a decrease in their tax burden by an average of $5,200 annually.

This tax plan is a targeted attack on a large working class population in the state. While just 21,000 Kansans make more than $250,000 a year, more than  500,000 Kansans fall in the lowest tax bracket and would face an increase in taxes.

Brownback tries to sell the plan as a “fairer, flatter and simpler” plan for Kansans.

What the governor fails to talk about is at the same time he seeks to raise taxes on the working poor, he also is yanking the proverbial rug out from under these citizens.

Under the proposal by Brownback, those making less than $25,000 would also lose access to the Earned Income Tax Credit. Brownback also proposes keeping the state sales tax at its current rate which is contrary to its scheduled reduction in 2013 from 6.3 percent currently to 5.7 percent next year.

All of these moves are combining to create an atmosphere of economic uncertainty for many citizens. This surely can’t be good for long term recovery for the state.

If we are to be a state of compassionate people, we must work to give those without hope an outstretched hand and not the back of it instead.