Opinion: Tax reform is key to solving housing, health care crises

We are all part of a broken system that has contributed not only to the current tragedy of homelessness across the country, but also to the long-standing crisis of drug addiction. We need a new paradigm that recognizes that as these problems worsen, human potential is being lost. This new paradigm must also include an honest assessment of where we are investing our money as a state and nation. This requires us to reject the scarcity mentality we have been trained to believe.

Some issues of homelessness may be avoidable if there are adequate mental health and/or addiction treatment options. As a country, we spend twice as much on health care as other developed countries. What exactly do we get for spending so much money? Mental health is certainly one of the indicators on which we are woefully inadequate. The Maine Chapter of the American Medical Association recently issued a policy statement calling for universal health insurance coverage, acknowledging the system’s critical shortcomings that leave thousands of Mainers without access to primary or specialty care and the cost of serious illness. Hospital care without the risk of: Bankruptcy.

The homeless include the working poor who are priced out of the housing market, in part because of our tendency to build high-end apartments and create a housing shortage by denying sensible development. According to an analysis by the Furman Center, there is no evidence that multi-unit developments affect property values.

Maybe Massachusetts Governor Healey has the right idea when it comes to enforcing the MBTA Communities Act. The bill requires communities along transit lines to allow multifamily housing to be built in their communities. The governor warned communities that they must comply with the bill or the state will withhold funding for any projects you are accustomed to receiving funding for, such as schools and roads. The clear goal is to increase supply to reduce costs. Basic economics.

How can we find the money to pay for housing and related costs to close the gaping holes in our social safety net? We can start by closing the tax gap at the state level. This is the difference between the tax owed and the tax collected. According to an analysis by the U.S. Department of the Treasury, revenue losses are currently approximately $600 billion per year and are expected to reach $7 trillion over the next 10 years. The IRS lacks the technology and manpower to correct this abomination.

Matthew Desmond, a Princeton University sociologist, Pulitzer Prize winner, author of “Evictions” and author of the new book “Poverty in America,” says one thing we do have money for: the mortgage interest deduction , even for second homes, is capped at $750,000. A deduction often claimed for decades, the Treasury lost $193 billion in 2020, much of it going to people making six figures; 529 savings plans Available to those with cash reserves; employer-sponsored health insurance, the cost of which is not included in a company’s taxable income, again depriving the Treasury of funds to begin stitching together the safety net. And then there are government-subsidized retirement benefits. If you have money to invest, you can avoid some taxes. It’s good for you! Not good for the Treasury.

The most serious tax loophole of all: carried interest, a term coined perhaps because it was too embarrassing to admit that these investment earnings were taxed at a lower rate than money earned through actual work.

Of course, you’ve worked hard for your money. But many others are also falling behind due to circumstances beyond their control. Tax breaks and money for the safety net would both increase household incomes. We have two support systems: one is called benefits and the other is called tax relief.

There is enough money to ensure that every American has enough to eat, access to timely health care (with an emphasis on prevention), and a modest roof over our heads. Those who argue otherwise are either tragically misleading or lying.


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