I often tell people that in my 26 years as a teacher, I’ve seen just about everything you can imagine in the classroom. I’ve seen the miracles education can achieve, and I’ve also lost students to gun violence and the cycle of poverty. I decided to run for Congress because 26 years of experience has made it clear to me that only a handful of members of Congress represent in good faith working families like mine and those of many of my students.
Our class of professional politicians has veered a long way from the citizen legislators I teach my students about, who framed our government and paved the road to the promise of the American Dream. I felt it was important to do my part to help us find that road again.
Earlier this month, Rep. Kevin Yoder provided his reliable yes vote to the House Republican leadership and its tax plan. It is hard to remember another piece of legislation that was crafted in such clearly bad faith; in this proposal, our common belief in the American Dream is completely absent.
Republicans have been blanketing the airwaves with advertisements congratulating themselves for helping working families and billing this plan as tax relief for the middle class. Speaking as a member of the middle class, I would welcome such tax relief, but this sure isn’t it. In fact, the proposal, if signed into law, would almost certainly come at a great cost to my family and millions of middle-class families like ours.
This bill scraps the tax deduction for school supplies, which alone speaks volumes about the character of this tax proposal. Teachers spend billions of their own money each year making their classrooms the best they can for their students. My wife and I are both teachers, and we know firsthand how budget shortages make a teacher’s job so much more difficult. The deduction was just one small way our country recognized the financial sacrifices teachers make because they care deeply about their students.
Our classrooms might not have that problem but for Gov. Sam Brownback’s tax plan in Kansas, which created a shortfall of nearly half a billion dollars to the bare minimum school funding required by law. Yet, by all appearances, the GOP tax proposal is modeled off that disastrous tax experiment, which caused an insurmountable budget deficit, ruining the state’s credit rating and hurting job growth.
If the consequences of this fiscal irresponsibility were realized at the federal level, it would be a bigger national disaster than even the Great Depression. What could possibly be worth that?
A new tax deduction for private jets? Which apparently made the cut, but not school supplies or even medical expense deductions? If you’re (understandably) confused by these lawmakers’ logic, this quote from Rep. Chris Collins, a Republican from New York, should clear it up: “My donors are basically saying, ‘Get it done or don’t ever call me again.’”
We need lawmakers who will represent their communities in good faith. Yoder has elected rather to enter into a corrupt bargain with his donors and Congressional leadership, betting cynically that they will protect him against the voters here who needed him to stand with them.
On the latest Election Day, voter turnout more than doubled in Johnson County because of an explosion of activism from everyday people working to restore faith in government. The political donations Yoder earned with his tax vote pale against the strength of the will of our communities.
It is my belief that next November he will find he has made a bad bet. Until then, we must do all we can to stop this bill in the Senate.
Democrat Tom Niermann is a career educator from Prairie Village running for U.S. Congress in the Kansas 3rd District.