Judging by the number of folks charged with driving under influence I am guessing the penalty is rather light. Of...

Congress must restore teacher tax deduction


Michael Bonner, center, second grade teacher at South Greenville Elementary School, talks to his class while standing on a table on Sept. 28.


Friday, November 17, 2017

Pop quiz: When teachers dig into threadbare pockets and purses to buy essential supplies for cash-starved classrooms, should the federal government demand a cut of what they spend?

A.) No, teachers shouldn’t have to buy supplies at all. School districts ought to be equipping educators with the tools they need.

B.) No, the U.S. Department of Education should be supplementing local budgets to provide classroom supplies.

C.) No, it’s an unfortunate reality that teachers have to pitch in. Taxing these purchases just adds insult to injury.

D.) Sure, why not?

If you answered A, B or C, congratulations — you passed. Extra credit for those who picked A and B.

If you chose D, you’re probably a member of Congress. And you need to stay after class for some remedial math lessons.

The current House version of a bill to overhaul the federal tax code eliminates the educator expense deduction, a popular, uncontroversial line item that allows teachers to deduct the first $250 they spend on classroom supplies from their taxable income.

Many teachers spend considerably more than that — an Education Market Association study pegged the average at $500 in 2015 and estimated that a tenth of all teachers shell out $1,000 or more — but the tax cut was at least an attempt to offset that burden.

Republicans on Capitol Hill liked it so much they voted to make the temporary deduction permanent as part of the Protecting Americans from Tax Hikes Act of 2015.

Yet when given the opportunity to pare down the laundry list of tax deductions, some congressional bean counters zeroed in on the professionals we entrust with the responsibility of educating the next generation of Americans instead of, say, Native American whaling ship captains, who are eligible for a $10,000 tax break.

Lobbyists and campaign contributors have managed to secure dozens of wacky carve-outs for obscure special interests, and then there are the well-publicized creative interpretations of the business expense deduction that have allowed tax breaks for junkyard owners who feed stray cats, exotic dancers who buy breast implants and bodybuilders who slather on so much body oil it’s worth listing on a tax return.

The American tax code is a thicket of complication and corruption that drones on for 2,600 pages. Simplifying it is a long overdue step. Most Americans who aren’t accountants, lawyers or lobbyists agree.

President Donald Trump wanted a plan with just three tax brackets, down from the current seven. The House’s working draft has four. In order to place many Americans in lower brackets and reduce their tax rate without sending revenue collection into a death spiral, Congress has to claw back at least some of the deductions.

That creates winners and losers by necessity, as Washington has neither the gumption to take all tax breaks off the table nor the political will to consider a flat tax, which would please libertarians and tea party conservatives and pretty much no one else.

Perfect needn’t be the enemy of good — just because tax policy won’t be as simple as we might like doesn’t mean it’s not worth molding the monster into a smaller, gentler beast.

Cutting tax rates may require some deductions to fade out. But Congress’ small and largely symbolic concession to teachers is a rotten place to start, prima facie evidence that priorities are out of whack.

Teachers are often forced to rely the kindness of strangers through school supply drives and crowdfunding campaigns to fulfill their class wish lists. If benefactors don’t step up to the plate, many dig deep and buy the supplies themselves. A Congress that would punish them for that is not fit to govern.

If our congressional leaders can’t find better ways to offset lost revenue than picking teachers’ pockets, it’s time voters send them home to bone up on basic arithmetic.

The Wilson Times


Humans of Greenville


Local photographer Joe Pellegrino explores Greenville to create a photographic census of its people.


April 20, 2019

There are some, who after winning election to the General Assembly and crossing the threshold of the Legislative Building in Raleigh believe they’ve been transformed.

They acquire knowledge and insight beyond that of the hoi polloi.

That must be the only reason for the continued to raft of…


April 16, 2019

The announcement that Kirstjen Nielsen was stepping down as Secretary of Homeland Security was sudden, but it wasn’t really a surprise. Never a favorite of President Trump, her days became numbered when her patron in the administration, Chief of Staff John F. Kelly, resigned in December.…

Homeland Security Secretary-1

April 15, 2019

The day before his indictment was announced last week, Robin Hayes said he was stepping down as chairman of the North Carolina Republican Party because of health issues. The next day, the public learned that what was driving Hayes from office wasn’t only his ailments, but the ill health of…

Republican Chairman

April 13, 2019

You know the game by now: A call comes into your mobile phone. A number pops up on your screen. You don’t recognize it. Your first instinct is to decline it, but what if it’s your child’s school? The auto repair guy? Something else? It’s a guessing game, and we’re the…

Kicking Robocalls-2

April 09, 2019

Walter Ginter began using heroin in the early 1970s while serving in the Army. By 1977, desperate to kick the habit, he turned to daily doses of methadone, a synthetic opioid that eases withdrawal and decreases cravings. The treatment worked.

“I have a good life today,” says Ginter, 69,…

Opioid Lawsuit New York

April 08, 2019

One of the first things we teach our children is to never, ever get into a stranger’s car.

In the age of Uber and Lyft, we all need to relearn that lesson. Along with: The later you’re out at night, the greater your chances of running into the wrong person. And: It’s always safer…

Uber Traffic Analysis

April 07, 2019

If you care about safe water for all, you should be celebrating the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality’s decision to order Duke Energy to excavate coal ash from its power plant sites in the state. It was the right call for communities that for too long have been vulnerable to…

Duke Energy Coal Ash

April 07, 2019

As many of your readers are aware, State Treasurer Dale Folwell has chosen to forge ahead with his proposal to significantly alter the reimbursement strategy for health care providers who offer care under the State Health Plan. Citing concerns with the State Health Plan’s insolvency,…

April 06, 2019

Belatedly, it occurred to the Trump administration that closing the U.S.-Mexico border, as the president threatened, posed the risk of paralyzing manufacturing assembly lines, leaving grocery shelves bare and throwing the U.S. economy into a tailspin, if not outright recession. Bad idea.

So now the…

Trump Immigration

April 02, 2019

The U.S. Supreme Court heard a lot last week about what is wrong with the way North Carolina’s congressional districts are laid out. There were no questions about the bad or the good.

The job of the nine justices isn’t about that — only what is or isn’t constitutional. It…

Supreme Court Redistricting-1
75 stories in Editorials. Viewing 1 through 10.
«First Page   «Previous Page        
Page 1 of 8
        Next Page»   Last Page»