By GEOFFREY SAUNDERS
West Virginia has one of the oldest populations in the nation. For decades, our citizens have worked hard in coal mines, steel mills, classrooms and various other endeavors across our great state. They have raised their families here and now are retiring here.
As a minister in Boone County, I know many of these seniors. I understand they have earned the enjoyment, freedom, privacy and friendships their retirements will offer. However, the United States Congress is now facing an issue which could affect all of our state’s seniors.
Without Congressional action, many of our seniors will feel the impact of huge tax increases scheduled to take effect in January of 2013. This isn’t a Republican issue or a Democratic issue. Despite the political rhetoric from those who support the tax increases on dividends and capital gains, this isn’t a Wall Street tax, but a tax that effects a large portion of our society, especially seniors.
West Virginia seniors who have worked hard all their lives, invested some of their money for retirement, paid into Social Security and lived conservatively will feel the negative impact of these taxes. Many have probably never been to Wall Street. These retirees depend on the income they wisely invested during their working years and the occasional dividend checks as vital parts of their fixed incomes.
Many in Washington want to raise the taxes these seniors pay on these forms of income. I don’t believe that’s fair and I believe it would create too much economic hardship for too many seniors. Seniors who have contributed mightily to our communities and who have earned the right to retire and enjoy life should not be subjected to additional financial burdens.
Our state’s economy continues to face an uphill challenge. Unemployment is steadily increasing and countless West Virginians have stopped looking for work all together. I have seen firsthand how joblessness, poverty and limited economic opportunity can ravage communities. With excessively higher tax burdens, employers in our region will be less able to invest in creating new jobs and expanding their operations.
Many of these local businesses would not be able to sponsor area charities, events, youth sports team, and other noble community initiatives at current levels. All of this would lead to fewer opportunities for good, full-time jobs for our younger and middle aged workers, and likely reduce the number of part-time jobs available for our seniors (many of whom will need those jobs as a result of reduced retirement income).
I firmly believe a strong economy that creates job opportunities in our communities is vital to addressing the problems so many of us face, including poverty, crime, drug addiction and health issues. Accordingly, we have to build a strong economy, create meaningful job opportunities and collectively work hard to improve our communities. These problems should not be blamed on Democrats or Republicans and they won’t solved by partisan politics. The economy will improve only if we come together and address our challenges with common sense solutions. I do not believe enormous tax increases which will adversely impact our seniors and the very businesses that can create job opportunities will help us reach that goal.
Congress is preparing to act on this issue during the next several weeks. It is my hope our U.S. Senators and Representatives will oppose these higher taxes. I believe we can improve our economy, create job opportunities for our citizens and maintain the promise of a stable, enjoyable retirement for our seniors, but we must work together.
Saunders is a minister at Danville Baptist Church in Boone County