THE TWO things that are certain in life are death and taxes. There is some truth to that old adage. As a doctor, I’ve seen my fair share of death. Of course, due to the ongoing COVID pandemic, it’s fair to say we all have.

The past 18 months have shown us that when there is a health crisis, an economic crisis follows. But last year, billionaires got richer as families across New Hampshire and the country struggled to put food on the table and balance the responsibilities of childcare and work.

As certain as death and taxes, I’d add a third: where there are billionaires, there will be poverty.

That’s why this March I was glad to see New Hampshire Senators Maggie Hassan and Jeanne Shaheen vote in favor of the American Rescue Plan.

But the work to address the joint public health and economic crises doesn’t stop with that one piece of legislation. In fact, if they don’t act again, millions of low-income families and workers will lose some of the critical support needed to get through this time.

The American Rescue Plan expanded eligibility for two of the most vital anti-poverty programs we have. It made the Child Tax Credit fully refundable, fixing the gap that excluded families in poverty from receiving the same benefits as their higher-earning counterparts. It also expanded the Earned Income Tax Credit, so that workers without children, young workers ages 19-24, and older workers over age 65 could qualify. These adjustments lifted many children and families out of poverty, but only temporarily.

There is good news — these credits work. They provided desperately needed money to families nationwide who need it to pay for daycare, groceries, utilities, rent, and health care bills that pile up seemingly nonstop. This is not money being squirrelled away for a rainy day. This is money being pumped back into local economies coast-to-coast. It is a rare win-win situation for all involved.

I’m grateful for Senators Shaheen and Hassan’s support of these programs. But the expansions were temporary. Congress must make them permanent. Too often, low-income families are treated as a political bargaining chip. Their wellbeing is traded away for a lower sticker price. And while Congress can — and should — be negotiating to make this the best bill possible, there is nothing to be gained by selling low-income families short.

We can look to the tax code, both for getting more money into the pockets of people who are struggling and for figuring out how to pay for it. The more Congress can raise, the more we can do to address poverty, fight climate change, and invest in our nation. All it takes is asking corporations and the wealthiest among us to pay their fair share in taxes.

As a Quaker, I take it as a moral obligation to help those less fortunate than I. We see the Light of God in all others and therefore cannot turn our backs on them. It is that tenet of faith that fuels me. If we are not helping our children — all our children — we are abandoning not just their future, but our own.

With luck, before the end of the year, Congress may pass a recovery bill designed to reorient our economy and level the playing field for families not as well off as others. That is not pie in the sky daydreaming. That is the stated goal of many in Washington. This can all be paid for by making our tax code fair and equitable.

Dr. Michelle Caughey is a retired internist living in Antrim. She is a Quaker and on the governing board of the Friends Committee on National Legislation.

Wednesday, October 20, 2021
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