A couple of heavy federal issues

Two of the heaviest issues on the federal agenda right now are taxes and immigration. Without access to the details in thousands upon thousands of pages of government documents on each subject, it’s probably unwise to offer comments on either one.

But since my editor doesn’t require me to have expertise on anything I write about, I’ll chance it.

On immigration:

The Des Moines Register this week carried a thoughtful story about where American agriculture would be without the labor of immigrants, nearly half of whom in that sector are undocumented. If all of them were deported, many farm owners would go out of business and food prices would rise.

The reason so many laborers on American farms, and in dairies and food processing operations, are undocumented immigrants is because they are willing to work harder and for lower wages than are unemployed Americans.

That’s not a theory; it’s a proven fact.

In fact, few Americans will do the backbreaking work of picking fruit and vegetables for any amount of money.

The very fact that people are willing to enter the United States illegally in order to work hard for long hours for low pay says much about conditions in their home countries, their devotion to their families and their work ethic.

Their importance to the American economy, and their eagerness to provide it in the face of dangerous opposition from the American government and many Americans, should earn them a better deal than they are now getting.

In return for their hard work, they deserve to be legalized.

For starters, they should be granted a legitimate spot in American life, so they don’t have to seek invisibility.

As illegals, they’re subject to financial and sexual exploitation, since they’re reluctant to go to the authorities for fear of deportation. That’s not right.

And it’s not fair to those employers who try to do what’s right and thereby face destructive competition from their greedy colleagues.

A path to citizenship for the undocumented is uphill politically right now. That may change in the future, and I hope it will.

But for now, their service and value to our nation deserve, at minimum, legal status that recognizes their role in the economy and provides them the protection of American law. And that includes an end to deportation.

On taxes:

President Trump proposes huge federal income tax cuts for everyone. He also seeks to reduce corporation taxes to a maximum of 15 percent; the current rate is 35 percent.

Congressional Republicans, with House Majority Leader Paul Ryan taking the lead, also seek big tax cuts, particularly for corporations and the well-to-do.

 

The situation is very complicated. Very few large corporations and wealthy Americans pay the top rates, since they’re able to take advantage of a myriad of loopholes, deductions and credits not available to middle-class Americans whose taxes are withheld from their paychecks every payday.

Tax-cutting politicians make several arguments for their proposals.

One, of course, is that tax cuts for the wealthy are essential because those people, and the corporations they own, are the job creators. If the income they retain is greater, so goes the argument, they will be able to raise wages and create more jobs.

The other main line of reasoning from tax cutters is that letting people and businesses retain more of their income will stimulate the economy because they will have more to spend and invest. That will in turn mean more economic activity, which will result in more tax revenue, which will bring in at least as much money for the government as it was getting before the cuts.

That’s the theory behind supply-side economics.

But it’s practically impossible to consider the economic effect of tax cuts separately from all the other factors that affect the nation at any given time.

Tax cuts as a revenue enhancer are a crap shoot, and politicians who push them through need to be held accountable for the results. If the end result is simply to increase the federal deficit, they should face the political music.

As for the necessity of tax cuts for job creation: employers could instead be given tax credits for the jobs they create. That would give them a tax benefit without unnecessarily reducing federal revenues beyond the socially desirable result they were proposing.

And as for Donald Trump, the American people deserve to know if and how his tax proposals would benefit his farflung economic empire.

The best way to gain that information is from his tax returns, which he so far has refused to release even though he promised to do so many times during the campaign.

People need to know if their president wants tax structure changes that would benefit himself.

No previous president, at least since the Civil War, has operated under such a conflict of interest cloud.

A good start at clearing the air would be for Congress to require him to release his tax returns before any consideration is given to tax cuts.

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