Natalie Moore’s column stating that the federal tax system is racially discriminatory (“In tax season, green isn’t the only color that matters”) is long on generalization but short on fact. For example, there’s the claim that a married couple each making $50,000 in a year do not get the same tax break as a one-earner couple, where one spouse makes $100,000.
Just what tax break might that be? Each couple pays the exact same federal (and Illinois, for that matter) tax, each in the historically low 12% marginal bracket. Moreover, the couple making $50,000 each will be eligible — between them — for higher Social Security benefits later in life, while paying the same FICA taxes as that one-earner couple.
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Moore references the “marriage penalty,” where working spouses might have been better off tax-wise had they remained single. However, legislation in recent years has virtually eliminated that penalty for couples making under $416,000. Conversely, recent increases in the child credits enable a single parent with two children to pay no federal income tax at all on earnings up to $71,000.
The problems are real, but should be addressed where they are: income inequality, lack of educational and job opportunity, de facto segregation. The tax code, for all its arcana and complexity, is not the culprit here.
Robert Chicoine (CPA), Brookfield
Reforms should make it easier to vote, not harder
Opposition to the proposed Freedom to Vote Act reflects confused priorities. Some opponents complain this law would take away the power of states to administer their own elections.
However, numerous states passed laws making it harder to vote in 2021. These laws will have a critical and disproportionate impact on minorities in urban areas. In addition, these laws were passed despite studies showing an inconsequential number of voter fraud cases. This calls into question whether numerous states are good-faith actors in running their own elections.
Opponents also cite polls showing popular opinion to against the bill. Yet allowing public opinion to rule the day enabled slavery and Jim Crow to exist while disregarding human rights and the rights of citizens of color.
Opponents of safeguarding voting rights grumble about making it illegal to harass election officials, while these officials get death threats. They protest the criminalizing of disinformation about elections, while numerous candidates for secretary of state — offices responsible for election administration — promote the Big Lie about the 2020 election.
The most critically important principle to advance with respect to voting should be the fundamental protection of the right to vote.
Voting reforms should make voting easier, not harder. The Freedom to Vote Act has the ultimate intention of safeguarding that right by requiring states to offer early voting, mail-in voting, and automatic, same-day and online voter registration; expanding the range of legitimate IDs that can be accepted; and restricting error-prone voter roll purges.
Congress must pass this law in time for the 2022 elections.
Rob Davies, Forest Park
No longer Russian
My family and I arrived in the U.S. on Dec. 11, 1991. During the course of our multi-day migration, the country that we were fleeing, the Soviet Union, collapsed. An agreement was signed between the leaders of Russia, Ukraine, and Belarus, recognizing each other as independent nations.
On Dec. 25, 1991, the Soviet flag flying over the Kremlin was replaced with the Russian flag, and the Soviet Union was officially dissolved.
My family had come from the Soviet Union, but by the time we arrived here it no longer existed. So who were we? The land where we had lived was now Ukraine, but during the Soviet era, we all spoke Russian. My family also was not ethnically Ukrainian because we were Jewish. I’m not sure how or when it started, but when asked to identify myself, I started saying Russian. It didn’t feel like a big decision at the time. How many people would even know the difference?
The differences started to emerge gradually. Family members that immigrated to the U.S. several years after us were unequivocal that they were Ukrainians, not Russians. Their young children arrived here speaking Ukrainian. Things were clearly changing in my homeland’s sense of identity. Still, I continued to call myself Russian, even while my U.S. passport listed Ukraine as my place of birth.
But now, Vladimir Putin is brutally waging war on my birthplace, ironically invoking our common history as a justification for invasion under the guise of retaking a nation he thought should be his. My hometown of Zhytomyr has been attacked by air and land by troops advancing from the northern Belarusian border, and the worst is likely yet to come.
Regardless of the outcome of this senseless siege, one thing I know for sure is that Putin’s effort to reunite the Soviet empire is having the opposite effect on me: I can no longer call myself Russian.
Nina Ruvinsky, Chicago