It's Tax Day! Let's talk about fairness

April 17, 2012
Allison Burket, Emerson National Hunger Fellow

Today is Tax Day and DC is abuzz with efforts to use the tax code to take on poverty and the wealth gap. From President Obama’s call for a balanced approach to deficit reduction, to yesterday’s action in Congress on the Buffett Rule, to RESULTS efforts to use the tax code to preserve the EITC and Child Tax Credit. On this Tax Day, I’d like to take this opportunity to reflect a bit on the state of tax policy, and what it means for the fight to end poverty in the US.

First, let’s look at the facts. The program lifts more people out of poverty is none other than a tax provision. The Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) is the largest poverty-reduction programs in the U.S. The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that in 2010 alone, the EITC lifted 5.4 million people out of poverty, including 3 million children. It is also estimated that the EITC lifted 3.4 million women and girls out of poverty in 2010. This has important implications for those women’s projected employment and earnings levels, as well as Social Security retirement benefits. In a new

Progressivity in the tax code, i.e. the higher your income, the more you pay, is important not just because of where the money comes from, but also where that money goes. Taxes are the only reason our government can pay for the important services it provides, including education, infrastructure, defense, health care, and the social safety net. Well over 90 percent of government revenue comes from taxes, with a nearly 50 percent coming from individuals. Former U.S. Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes had it right when he famously said, “I like paying taxes. With them I buy civilization.”

Unfortunately, many of our elected officials in Washington choose to ignore the connection between taxes and our “civilization.” Instead, they use the guise of fiscal discipline and deficit reduction to justify draconian cuts to important services that millions of Americans rely upon, all the while refusing to consider any options to raise revenue. In fact, they push for more tax cuts, putting further strain on the programs that protect and support working families.

RESULTS is committed to justice and fairness in the tax code, and supports the larger movement to close the astounding income and wealth gaps facing our nation today.

To learn more about taxes, check out this round-up of some of my favorite tax-related recent reads and resources:

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