By Ted Cox
The head of an Illinois business group opposed to the graduated income tax on the ballot this fall is facing criticism for calling the mass of lower wage earners “takers” as compared with the “makers” in the top tax brackets.
Appearing on “Capitol Connection” on central Illinois television with host Mark Maxwell, Cindy Neal, chairwoman of the National Federation of Independent Business’s Illinois Leadership Council, said she favors a flat tax rate as “what a fair tax is all about” and opposes Gov. Pritzker’s proposal for a fair tax, a progressive income tax in which 97 percent of Illinoisans would pay the same or less in taxes, while the top 3 percent of earners making more than $250,000 would pay a slightly higher rate, up to just under 8 percent for millionaires.
Maxwell then made the point that, under a flat tax, someone earning $20,- or $30,000 a year is most likely living paycheck to paycheck after paying taxes, while someone making $250,000 or $1 million a year has much more disposable income. Neal wasn’t buying that as an argument for a graduated income tax.
“You know, I think that the people that are in those higher income brackets tend to be who I call the makers, and the folks that are in the lower income brackets tend to be what I call the takers,” Neal said. “And I do believe that as somebody starting out in life and trying to raise your family, sometimes you need help from different programs and agencies and that’s why we all pay into our tax system to help those folks. But I don’t want to take away from the makers or make them pay more because those are the folks, technically, that are reinvesting in businesses, providing employment opportunities for those people that are working their way up the career ladder and are trying to support their families locally.”
Confronted on that harsh division, Neal said she called workers “takers” “because they are still needing assistance.” She granted that “maybe that’s not the greatest terminology, but it rhymes with ‘makers,’” and she reemphasized the old saw about the wealthy being so-called job creators.
That wasn’t good enough for leading proponents of the Fair Tax Amendment, on top of the ballot in this November’s general election, needing a 60 percent supermajority to change the state constitution to end its requirement for a flat tax rate.
“Working people are risking their health and safety in this devastating pandemic,” said John Bouman, chairman of the grassroots group Vote Yes for Fair Tax. “Nurses, first responders, grocery employees, delivery workers, and many more have gotten sick with COVID-19 and, tragically, some have passed away after contracting the virus on the job. And people of color are disproportionately represented in all these groups. Cindy Neal and the anti-fair-tax forces insult these workers by calling them ‘takers’ while falsely lauding the rich as ‘makers.’
“Neal and the anti-fair-tax campaign must apologize immediately for these shameful remarks,” Bouman added. “They’ll say anything to defend the old, broken tax system in Illinois that gives them a sweet deal while working people pay more. Clearly, these wealthy special interests do not respect the people who put their lives on the line every day.”
Calling essential workers “heroes” in the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, Bouman said, “They deserve our thanks and support, and they also deserve a tax cut, which they and anyone else making less than $250,000 a year will get under the fair tax. Meanwhile, those who make more than a quarter-million dollars a year can pay a few pennies more on the dollar, which would raise more than $3 billion that can be used for education, health care, job creation, and more.
“Cindy Neal and her wealthy special-interest friends should apologize and drop their attacks on the Fair Tax Amendment,” he added. “Their out-of-touch and derogatory remarks show clearly why fair-tax reform is needed now more than ever.”
“The so-called low income ‘takers’ are the 97 percent of Illinoisans — many of whom are our nurses, teachers, grocery-store clerks, and other essential workers — who have been unfairly carrying the tax burden in our state for far too long,” said Quentin Fulks, chairman of the Pritzker-backed group Vote Yes for Fairness, in a comment to Capitol Fax. “The fair tax is our chance to finally set things right.
“Cindy Neal and opponents of the fair tax are only out to protect the millionaires and billionaires who benefit from our current broken system — one that enables the wealthy, so-called ‘makers’ to get away without paying their fair share,” Fulks added. “This attack on low-income Illinoisans coming from someone who two weeks ago claimed to be part of a ‘grassroots’ organization opposing the fair tax is not only despicable, it’s pure hypocrisy.”
Neal, who owns a business in Peoria, also said she’d advocate a flat tax rate at the federal level, where graduated tax brackets have been in effect for decades. “I would love to see the federal government change to a flat income tax,” she said, insisting, “This is what a fair tax is all about.” Neal added, “Mathematically, it’s beautiful and perfect.”
July 20, 2020 at 02:00PM