While millions of households across the United States are scrambling to file — or extend — their taxes by the April 19th deadline, members of our billionaire class are doing a great deal more smiling than scrambling.
Why? Because the U.S. tax code is built to reward wealth over work and serves big corporate interests over working families.
Trillions of dollars goes untaxed each year, deftly squirreled away by tax professionals hired by the nation’s wealthy and powerful or left untouched because the federal government doesn’t tax wealth as it does income.
Over one recent five-year period, a bombshell ProPublica investigation from 2022 revealed, the 25 richest Americans paid a true tax rate of roughly 3.4 percent. This means nurses, teachers, firefighters, and other middle class frontline workers paid a larger share of their income in taxes than America’s billionaires.
Corporations, too, are skilled at avoiding taxation. In 2020, at least 55 of the largest corporations in America paid no federal corporate income taxes despite enjoying substantial pretax profits in the United States.
So what could we fund by creating a tax system where the wealthy (mostly white men) and corporations (mostly led by white men) pay their fair share? We could start by investing in women and families.
In the spirit of tax season, the National Women’s Law Center created an interactive tax calculator that provides examples of how much revenue could be raised by taxing the patriarchy through different tax policies — and how that money could be used to fund public investments in paid leave, child care, and aging and disability care, which all of us need and deserve.
“People sometimes are put off by tax policy,” said Amy Matsui, Director of Income Security and Senior Counsel at the National Women’s Law Center. “We created the tool to show the connection between tax policy and our ability as a nation to invest in people in a concrete, simple, and hopefully fun way.”
“We hope people can use it to start conversations about why taxes matter, and engage their communities in advocacy for a fairer and more progressive tax system,” Matsui added.
According to the calculator, a tax on billionaire wealth could raise a staggering $3 trillion dollars over a ten year period. By contrast, creating a universal child care program where children between ages of 0 and 13 can access high-quality care, child care providers are paid a living wage, and no family pays more than 7 percent of their income for child care is estimated to cost $700 billion over the same ten year period.
Investments in the care economy are long overdue. With a rapidly aging population and fewer care workers due to low wages with few benefits, many economists are sounding the alarm of a care crisis.
Increasing wages for care workers would have a positive impact on racial and gender wealth inequality, as over 90 percent of U.S. home care workers are women, more than half are women of color, and 31 percent are immigrants. Putting more money in these workers’ pockets would bear substantial benefits for the entire economy.
Individuals and families can’t solve the care crisis on their own. The economy cannot thrive if mothers, women, and caretakers continue to be crushed by the lack of investments in the care economy.
President Biden’s budget contains a number of common sense ways to reverse course from the failed strategy of tax cuts for the wealthiest. Chief among them: raising the top income tax rate, raising the corporate tax rate, taxing stock buybacks, and closing some long standing loopholes. These provisions would go far to make the tax code more progressive — and raise revenues to support investments that benefit everyone.
“Our economy is less strong when workers who need care — that is, all of us — have to cobble it together and figure it out on their own,” said Matsui. “Women and families need and deserve robust public investment in the care infrastructure, and we can’t wait any longer.”