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Tax Day for the Rest of Us

Amy Traub

Today is the day the tax bill comes due.

It’s the first tax day since Congress passed, and Donald Trump signed, the $1.5 trillion tax law bestowing a gigantic permanent tax break on corporations and temporary reductions for some individuals, while stripping health coverage from millions of Americans.

My colleagues at Demos have shown how the law, passed along strict party lines, amounts to donor-driven tax policy of, by, and for the 1 percent, and a straight-forward policy of class warfare with a vast rollback of the estate tax as the cherry on top.

We have seen how massive cuts to the safety net combine with tax cuts for the wealthy to form a core part of current conservative governing philosophy.

We have seen how, as Connie Razza writes, “The decision to tax work more heavily than wealth skews our core values as a nation, rewarding the luck of having been born to wealthy parents rather than the ethic of hard work.”

What we still have not seen are Donald Trump’s personal tax returns (although these have been disclosed by every other president and major party presidential candidates for decades), which would reveal how much he and his family will personally benefit from the changes he implemented to the tax code, among other potential conflicts of interest.

We know that the changes to our tax structure passed in December, 2017 further skew a system that was already rigged in favor of wealthy individuals and corporations. Even before the tax restructuring that is redistributing our nation’s wealth up and into private and already-powerful hands, the wealthiest Americans received the most assistance from the government in building wealth, and the poorest the least. An analysis from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities found more than half of the combined value of our 10 largest federal tax expenditures (or exclusions, deductions, credits, delays, or lowered rates, which reduce taxes for certain groups of taxpayers) went to the richest 20 percent of households. The top 1 percent of households received 17 percent of the benefits.

We need a tax overhaul driven by the demos—the American people—to rewrite the rules so the rich pay their fair share in taxes and ordinary Americans get a fair shot. We need to turn our policies right side up, so we can invest in the projects that will create a society with more equity in wealth by race and ethnicity, and create more prosperity for all.

We should be expanding the estate tax, so that vast inherited wealth is not passed down intact through generations. We should roll back the corporate tax cuts and close corporate tax loopholes, particularly those loopholes that incentivize the risky practices of private equity firms and other speculators. We should repeal tax incentives for the energy sector that overwhelmingly favor the dirty fossil fuel industry, reinforcing continued pollution that contributes to health hazards and environmental disasters that impact many, especially communities of color and low-income communities.

We should restore the full deductibility of state and local taxes from federal tax returns, so that state and local governments can continue to fund their own needs and priorities without a federal penalty. And we should expand the Earned Income Tax Credit and child tax credits, lifting up struggling families.

For a deeper look at the tax reform we need, download Demos’ full briefing book and click “Make Taxes Fair” in the table of contents.