Practical wisdom, the Dignity of Work and the Rights of Workers
Tonight I will be off to San Antonio for a week for MUM. Travel from Hawaii takes a little extra time and often involves all night trans Pacific flights followed by waiting in a west coast and or a Midwest airport for another flight or two. so it will be Tuesday before I get used to the time change and shake off the jet lag. Hope the rest of the folks at MUM don’t mind if I doze off from time to time.
I have been trying to write these posts in the fashion of reflections on the subjects that were presented in the reading assignment, “Civic Engagement in Catholic and Marianist Universities: A Continuing Conversation Revised: 16 May 2010.” I will be returning to this blog after our time in San Antonio in order to offer the observations and reflections of my students, past present and those who still have not learned better from their peers to avoid my classes and of course those that actually show up in my classes looking to become more civically engaged through service learning.
The section on “the dignity of work and the rights of workers” in the “Characteristics of Marianist Universities” document starts as follows:
“The economy must serve people, not the other way around. Work is more than a way to make a living; it is a form of continuing participation in God’s creation. Employers contribute to the common good through the services or products they provide and by creating jobs that uphold the dignity and rights of workers—to productive work, to decent and just wages, to adequate benefits and security in their old age, to the choice of whether to organize and join unions, to the opportunity for legal status for immigrant workers, to private property, and to economic initiative. Workers also have responsibilities—to provide a fair day’s work for a fair day’s pay, to treat employers and co-workers with respect, and to carry out their work in ways that contribute to the common good. Workers, employers, and unions should not only advance their own interests, but also work together to advance economic justice and the well-being of all.”
I have been involved in asset building and tax assistance (VITA or the volunteer Income Tax Assistance program) for almost three decades and I have involved my students at Chaminade in these endeavors for the past 20 years now. The tax outreach by the students at Chaminade have resulted in over $4 million being returned to the working poor and homeless in Hawaii over the life of our outreach activities. So as to assessment or proof of learning and success I firmly believe that this speaks for itself. I will amplify on this statement as we continue to explore the area of civic engagement through the various learning outcomes that form the last section of the background reading.
The conclusion of the homework assignment is as follows: “This paper reflects the current understanding of the meaning of civic engagement in the Catholic and Marianist traditions of education on the three campuses of our Marianist universities. As such it provides a foundation for the next phase of this project: the development of the means to assess civic engagement on those campuses.”
This blog so far has addressed my civic engagement more than that of my students. And thus to end this segment of my blog I offer the following op-ed and a YouTube video link on the Earned Income Tax Credit and helping people with their back taxes. The op-ed is hopefully the first of a bunch that I will offer to my newly formed hometown paper, the Honolulu Star Advertiser. This piece was originally published in the Star Advertiser on January 27, 2011. The YouTube video is a segment from a local morning news broadcast that I get to be interviewed on a fairly regular basis on tax issues.
Earned income credit is bright star of tax policy
By Wayne M. Tanna
POSTED: 01:30 a.m. HST, Jan 27, 2011
The television show “Lost” spent nearly $400 million during its six seasons of filming in Hawaii, according to the state in a June 17, 2010, Star-Advertiser report.
Clearly $400 million is a lot of money. Still, one must wonder, who really gets this amount? Does it stay in Hawaii? And how much does it cost to bring in this “investment”?
Then there’s a July 18, 2010, article reporting that from 2001 to 2008, the state’s Act 221, which provides qualified investments in technology businesses such as the film industry with a 100 percent tax credit, “cost the state up to $1.2 billion in forgone income tax revenues.”
While I am in favor of the film industry’s presence in Hawaii, I believe that a comparison with that industry will illustrate the importance and impact of the federal Earned Income Tax Credit, or EITC. From 2005 to 2009, the IRS reports, the EITC brought more than $815 million into the state. For tax year 2009 alone, the EITC returned more than $205 million, almost all of which stays right here in Hawaii, to 102,736 Hawaii residents. That’s an average of $1,996 per eligible household. This money represents new federal funds that went directly into the pockets of workers who needed it most: low- to moderate-income workers, who spent these funds on local goods and services, thereby stimulating the economy and increasing the state’s general excise tax revenues.
FREE TAX HELP
Free tax help for families making less than $50,000 will be offered 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday at the state Capitol, room 329. For appointments call 548-8887.
For other dates and locations go to www.hawaiitaxhelp.org, or call 211.
Friday marks the fifth annual Earned Income Tax Credit Awareness Day. Due to changes brought on by the continuing economic crisis and changes in the tax laws, more workers could be eligible for the EITC this year and not know it. As a result, they may overlook claiming the EITC, which can put anywhere from $2 to $5,666 into their pockets.
The Family and Individual Self-Sufficiency Program (FISSP) at the Hawaii Alliance for Community Based Economic Development (HACBED) and its many community partners help local families claim the EITC. The FISSP began as a pilot program at Aloha United Way in 2005 to help working yet still struggling families throughout the state build assets. One of the FISSP’s major programs provides free tax preparation to thousands of families every tax-filing season. Last year, based on 1,770 surveys, we found that EITC recipients planned to use their tax credit refunds to pay bills — including food and clothing, rent, education and child care — and save for the future.
President Ronald Reagan once called the EITC “the best anti-poverty, the best pro-family, the best job-creation measure to come out of Congress.”
Today President Barack Obama, with bipartisan support, looks to the EITC to be a principal part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act that will help low- to moderate-income Americans get through this current economic crisis.
The EITC is the federal government’s largest benefit program for working-poor Americans. According to the IRS, the EITC in 2010 paid out more than $58 billion to low-income working taxpayers, far more than other government anti-poverty programs like Temporary Assistance to Needy Families and the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program or food stamps.
The results of the EITC are impressive. According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities in tax year 2009, “the EITC is credited with lifting over 6.6 million individuals in America above the poverty line.”
The more touching fact is that more than half of that number are children.
Despite the benefits that are provided by the EITC, the IRS estimates that nationally 20-25 percent of EITC eligible taxpayers fail to file for the credit. This means that as many as 34,000 taxpayers in Hawaii may not be filing for the credit. This equates to as much as $68 million in federal funds being lost to our state this year alone.
For hard-working, low-income families looking to receive their full refund without spending more money for services, community tax programs like the FISSP at HACBED offer a quality choice.