April 2017 U.S. Poverty Action

April 4, 2017

Set Up Lobby Meetings to Shape Tax Reform

With access to nutrition and health programs safe for now, Congress is now focused on tax reform. RESULTS is thus shifting its focus to wealth inequality, including the racial wealth gap. A lot is at stake: huge tax breaks for the wealthy that drain the financial resources needed to invest in meeting basic needs and moving families out of poverty that also exacerbates racial wealth inequality. Your sophisticated style of advocacy of engaging members of Congress on an issue before legislation is introduced can play a tremendous role in shaping the tax debate and protecting anti-poverty programs.

Looking ahead, we will continue to build on broad bipartisan support for expanding the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC) on the principle that no American should be taxed into poverty. For now, however, we will put less emphasis on EITC with most policymakers while we look to shape the broader tax package and reduce the impact on wealth inequality and the federal budget deficit. Congress is on recess for two weeks in April and this is the time to push for face-to-face meetings with members of Congress about poverty in America, tax reform, and the importance of anti-poverty programs. Let’s end the RESULTS First 100 Days campaign strong!

Schedule Face-to-Face Meetings with Congress

  1. Coordinate with others in your group to assign someone to call each Senate and House office to request a meeting in their local offices. You can find contact information and the names of the Washington DC scheduler (under “Staff”) on our Elected Officials page at: http://capwiz.com/results/dbq/officials/.
  2. Once connected to the office, ask for the scheduler (be ready to leave a succinct voicemail).
  3. Let the scheduler know you want to meet in person – use our online template for talking points or to create a request letter.
  4. If the member of Congress has no time to meet this month, ask to schedule a meeting the next time he/she is back home. Also ask about any upcoming town hall meetings, and the possibility of setting up a meeting with local staff with policy aides on via phone or webinar.
  5. Be sure to note the name of the scheduler and thank that person for their assistance. If you don’t get a firm answer when you call, mention when you’ll be following up.
  6. Once confirmed, please contact Director of US Poverty Campaigns Meredith Dodson ([email protected]) for coaching, materials, and tailored requests for the meeting.
  7. At the meeting, be sure to ask your members of Congress to speak directly to congressional leadership, particularly House (Speaker Paul Ryan, House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Kevin Brady and Ranking Member Richard Neal) or Senate (Finance Committee Chairman Orrin Hatch and Ranking Member Ron Wyden) leaders, urging them to make reducing wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap a top priority in tax reform, and oppose tax breaks for the wealthy that will make wealth inequality worse while ignoring needed investments in human needs.

Background: Tax Reform and Wealth Inequality

We Must Address Wealth Inequality

As the income inequality debate has gained traction over the last few years, the conversation has often ignored wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap. In 2013, the top one percent owned 40 percent of the nation’s wealth and the bottom 40 percent owned almost nothing. Racial wealth disparities are particularly striking:

  • In 2011, for every $1 dollar that White Americans held in wealth, Black Americans held only 6 cents and Latino Americans held only 7 cents.
  • In 2000, Native American median wealth was only 8.7 percent of all Americans’ median wealth.
  • A Black or Latino college graduate held less wealth on average than a White high school dropout in 2013.

Wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap in part was created by, and is now exacerbated by, discriminatory public policies and the federal tax system – and policies must focus on reducing the gaps.

Tax Reform Must Put Struggling Americans First – Not Make Things Worse

Momentum is building for comprehensive tax reform, and RESULTS believes that tax policies should focus on fairness. Millions of Americans are struggling, and are just one paycheck or emergency room visit away from financial crisis. Yet of the more than $400 billion in tax incentives focused on helping taxpayers build assets, less than three percent benefit the bottom 40 percent of earners.

Despite Treasury Secretary Mnuchin’s statement in November, “there would be no absolute tax cut for the upper class”, many proposals (see right) to reform the tax code will make wealth inequality worse – giving further tax breaks to the wealthy, rewarding unearned income, and failing to expand opportunity for those who are struggling. Furthermore, RESULTS is focused on the goal of ending poverty – and we believe we need policies and additional revenue to invest in creating economic mobility and to create jobs to make that happen. Many voters sent a clear message in November that they believe the system is “rigged” – and the tax system is a powerful example of this. Instead, we need a tax code that works for all of us, not just the rich and powerful.

As Congress looks to enact tax reform in 2017 or beyond, we must make reducing wealth inequality and the racial wealth gap a top priority, and we urge you to oppose costly unpaid-for tax breaks that overwhelmingly benefit the wealthy.

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