By Elijah Cummings, Special to the AFRO

They used to tell us that “a rising tide lifts all boats,” but many Americans are beginning to doubt that rosy promise. Far too many of us are drowning.

Americans are working harder and becoming more productive than ever before, a self-discipline that has been enriching some at the expense of many for decades.  Yet, for millions of Americans, the rapidly increasing cost of what we need to survive and thrive is overwhelming our incomes and blocking our course, no matter how hard we swim.

Quite reasonably, in light of the promises they had received from my Republican colleagues, these struggling Americans expected their government to launch some economic life boats.

Elijah Cummings (Courtesy Photo/Facebook)

What the American People did not expect from the Republican promises of “middle class tax and budgetary reform” was a President and congressional majority that would punch holes in their life jackets and wrap even more heavy chains around their feet.

What the American people did not deserve is a Republican agenda that would provide massive tax benefits to large corporations and the wealthiest among us, significantly increase our federal debt and drastically cut federal programs that are essential to a growing middle class:  Medicare, Medicaid, Housing, Social Security, federal aid to education and other critically important economic supports.

Yet, these are the policies that the President and his Republican congressional allies are pursuing.

The Republicans’ tax bill signed into law last year over Democratic objections will require our government to borrow an additional $1.5 trillion in order to provide unfair and largely ineffective tax cuts, 80 percent of which will go to the wealthiest 1 percent among us.

Tax bills actually will be increased for many middle class American families – and the broader Republican budgetary plan would devastate Medicare and Medicaid, slashing Medicare by $473 billion and imposing $1 trillion in cuts on hard-working Americans on Medicaid:  veterans, seniors with long-term care needs, children and rural communities.

This same radical agenda would slash non-defense spending by $5 trillion over 10 years, including cutting mandatory programs by over $4 trillion and cutting nondefense discretionary programs by $660 billion.

The Republicans would actually cost our economy jobs by cutting infrastructure funding, as well as federal investments in education, innovation, clean energy, job training, R&D, and medical research – all investments that are needed to create jobs and grow our economy.

What is clear is that little is being done to provide life boats to working American families who are struggling to keep their heads above water.  Consider just two of the Republican failures that have important consequences to families in our Baltimore Region.

In Howard County, Maryland, as well as Baltimore City and County, the Earned Income and Child Tax Credits are essential ladders to the middle class.

A Howard County adult with two school age children needs to earn more than $68,000 annually to be “self-sufficient.”  Yet, the Association of Community Services 2017 Report reminds us that 22,000 of the households in Howard County have combined incomes less than $60,000, and more than 6,000 households have combined incomes of less than $20,000.

For all their “spin” about helping struggling Americans join and remain in the middle class, the Republican tax law did little to increase the Child Tax Credit and nothing to expand the Earned Income Tax Credit – failures that the next Congress must address.

Our homes typically are the largest source of saving and investment – and, traditionally, homeowners have been allowed to deduct the full amount of their property taxes and interest on their home loans when they pay their federal income tax.

Under the Republican tax legislation, however, deductions of state and local taxes, including property taxes, will now be limited to $10,000 – and deductions of interest on home equity loans used for unexpected medical emergencies, college education or any purpose other than home improvements (including building wealth by starting a new business) will now be prohibited.

The additional resulting tax revenues will fund, in part, lucrative new tax breaks and tax loopholes for commercial real estate developers.

Along with my Democratic colleagues in the Congress, I support tax reform legislation that would truly help everyday Americans and the small businesses that employ them while protecting critical federal commitments to the education, health care, Social Security and housing of the American people.

From the realities of their lives, the American people understand that true federal tax and budgetary reform would directly help them gain – and remain – within our middle class, while protecting our commitments to critical federal programs.  They believe that the costs of meeting these national goals should be borne by all of us in accordance with our patriotic ability to both pay our taxes and meet the real-life needs of our families.

On Election Day this year, the people of our country will have the opportunity to have their voices heard.

Congressman Elijah Cummings represents Maryland’s 7th Congressional District in the United States House of Representatives.