The latest in a long list of misrepresentations from the Maine People’s Alliance regarding the upcoming Universal Home Care initiative came on Saturday in an article penned by failed two-time Lewiston mayoral candidate and MPA political engagement director Ben Chin.
In the piece, Chin attempts to use recent comments by radio host Ray Richardson that only a small minority of Mainers would be directly impacted by the proposed tax hikes to argue that the home care initiative is a way to make Maine’s tax system “a bit more fair.”
One of Chin’s central points is that some of Maine’s wealthiest residents don’t pay Social Security taxes on much of their income, since these taxes are only levied on earnings below $128,400. Chin complains that “income above that amount isn’t taxed at all.”
The clear implication, if Chin’s article is taken at face value without basic contextual facts, is that the wealthy are greedily exploiting a large tax loophole that the rest of us don’t have access to. Chin even characterizes the home care initiative as an attempt to “[close] tax loopholes that benefit the top one percent.”
But Chin’s slanted and dishonest piece omits key facts. Social Security taxes aren’t collected on income over $128,400 for the simple reason that retirement benefits aren’t calculated on income above that amount. In other words, as the Congressional Research Service has noted, “the taxable earnings [cap] serves as both a cap on contributions and on benefits.”
Thus, the $128,400 threshold is based on the crucial principle that workers shouldn’t be compelled to pay retirement taxes that they will never (not even in theory) recover in benefits.
This isn’t new. A cap on taxable earnings has existed since the inception of the Social Security program more than 80 years ago. Social Security was intended to function as a contributory pension system rather than as a redistributive welfare program that gave money to workers in need, regardless of whether or not they had paid into the system. Simply put, the benefits that retirees received were linked to the taxes they had paid when they were in the workforce. This core feature of Social Security helps maintain a measure of fairness — those who contribute more during their working years enjoy larger benefits, while those who pay fewer taxes receive smaller pensions.
Hence, exempting income above $128,400 from these taxes isn’t creating a “loophole,” despite Chin’s misrepresentations.
The home care referendum on the ballot this fall aims to fundamentally change this dynamic, imposing punitive taxes on high earners while offering them nothing in return. Chin shouldn’t pretend it has anything to do with correcting unfairness in the Social Security program. It’s an income tax increase, plain and simple, and one that would solidify Maine’s reputation as a high-tax state.
Let’s get something else straight: Maine’s high income families already pay a gigantic share of state taxes, including more than 75 percent of individual income taxes. In fact, the top twenty percent of households in Maine already fund most of the government programs progressives like Chin are so eager to expand.
Chin’s refusal to acknowledge these facts highlights his desperation to mislead the public on this issue.