D.C. Learns

It's not always about money. But sometimes it's all about money.

Adult literacy programs funded in part by the City of Washington D.C. are facing a million dollar cut-back. The source of the problem is a shortfall in city revenues: less money in means less money out. Its impact is widespread, but appears to be disproportionately falling on the poor. Yesterday, according to the Washington Post, the city's Child Welfare agency laid off 100 staff members as part of larger plans to reduce spending within Child and Family Services. Earlier, there was an increase in the sales tax on cigarettes, and a parking fee hike. The city looks set to bring in other sales taxes and service fees.

There's an alternative proposal on the table, as D.C. Learns' Ben Merrion explains in this post. The city could raise more revenue by raising the taxes paid by wealthier residents:

Currently, the highest tax bracket in DC is $40,000. That means that those who make $40,000 and those who make a million dollars a year are being taxed the same. Making a higher tax bracket for those making over $200,000 would greatly help the city’s revenue and prevent these programs from being cut.

Unlike sales taxes and service fees, this change would only affect the well to do - which means it is unlikely to succeed. (No politician can afford to target the rich.)

Washington is an unusual city, governed by a mayor and council, but also under the direct rule of the U.S. Congress. Consequently, the state of the city (finances, crime, housing, education) is sometimes viewed as an indication of the ability of Congress to govern effectively.

Right now, Congress isn't looking too good.

The photo above shows the 2007 Literacy Volunteer and Adult Learner award winners. I don't know the dead white guy in the painting looking over their shoulders. Maybe he's not part of the problem.



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