The Fiscal Cliff Tax Deal & African Americans
With widening wealth disparity, blacks hit harder by unexpected tax increase
President Obama and Democrats...oh, and Republicans...have done it! The so-called fiscal cliff was averted, and the wealthiest Americans will pay more taxes this year on their hefty incomes.
But tax increases are still on the horizon for an estimated 77 percent of middle class and poor American workers, according to number crunching by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. The measure temporarily lowering the Social Security payroll taxes has expired, meaning lots of workers will see less of their money each month. And, with financial disparities between black and whites widening quickly over the last several years, African Americans will feel a tighter squeeze on their wallets than whites.
It’s no secret that wealth gap between whites, blacks and Hispanics is at record highs – the median net worth for white households in 2009 is 20 times that of black households, according to a 2011 Pew Research Center's Social and Demographic Trends report. Whites had an average $113,149 net worth, while the median for blacks is just $5,677 and $6,325 for Hispanics.
What’s more, blacks, who are more likely than whites to be living paycheck to paycheck, saw their annual household incomes decline by 11.1 percent – from $36,567 to $32,498 – from 2009 to 2012, according to Census Bureau data analyzed by Sentier Research.
Those two data point make the idea of an extra $1,000 per year in Social Security taxes from the pockets in households making $50,000 seem unconscionable. Over a year, that’s anxiety over tanks of gas, sufficient supply of baby diapers, or money for a modest vacation.
Both the White House and the CBC championed the permanent extension of the middle class tax cuts, the expanded Child Tax Credit and a permanent Alternative Minimum Tax fix, all of which meant $2,200 in tax increases on middle class and poor Americans if a deal was not reached. Extension of unemployment benefits for a year also sweetened the deal, particularly as blacks still have the highest unemployment rate in the country, at 13.2 percent.
“I think we all recognize this law is just one step in the broader effort to strengthen our economy and broaden opportunity for everybody,” President Obama said in a New Year’s Day statement after the deal was reached.
Although the president doesn’t mention the Social Security tax, he is hedging his bets that Congress will in its 113th session take up more measures that are equitable for more Americans. Last week, a White House aide signaled the president would make January “immigration reform” month. A comprehensive solution to what he’s called the “broken immigration system” could have impacts on the employment rate African American, by reducing the exploitation of Hispanic low wage labor by some U.S. employers.
The CBC, in a statement released on New Year’s Day, said its members reluctantly supported the deal despite its omission of a solution to the automatic cuts to programs that have large impacts on communities of color.
“The 2-month extension does nothing to assuage our concerns about these dangerous and detrimental cuts,” the statement read. “The Congressional Black Caucus remains committed to serving as the ‘Conscience of the Congress’ and protecting the most vulnerable Americans.”
The incoming CBC chairwoman, Rep. Marcia Fudge (D-OH), went into specifics, expressing her displeasure with a little-known reduction in the funding measures for funds paying providers of medical services “disproportional impacting minorities.”
In her statement marking her swearing in for the 113th Congress, Fudge sounded a tone of resolve to fight for middle class expansion for African Americans.
“After years of progress, we are now witnessing opportunities that allow everyone to realize their highest potential disappear,” Fudge said. “This, my friends, is a fight, our fight. If we are merely players at this juncture in our history, let us play to win. Our present and our future depend on it.”