The Tax Code Perpetuates Inequality: 1 Percent of Taxpayers Receive More Than the Bottom 80 Percent

Janine Jackson: The group ProPublica has exposed how efforts to make paying your taxes easy and free with a pre-filled filing from the government, as is done in parts of Europe, have been repeatedly derailed by vigorous lobbying from H&R Block and the makers of TurboTax. It’s a kind of icing on the cake of a tax system that many suspect is unfair and slanted against the little guy. But while we complain about tax policy as bureaucratic or baroque, the impact of that policy goes well beyond irritation.

Given its crucial place in US society, the tax system should be transparent. But when those who are able to, really look at the system and its societal impact, what do they find? Jeremie Greer is vice president of policy and research at the Corporation for Enterprise Development, and part of CFED’s Turn It Right-Side Up campaign. He joins us by phone from Washington, DC. Welcome to CounterSpin, Jeremie Greer.

Jeremie Greer: Thanks for having me, Janine.

Before we talk about taxes per se, could you speak a little about the difference between income and wealth, and how that picture breaks down racially in this country?

So we think about income, and when we think about the interplay between income and wealth, there’s a saying that we use here at CFED quite often: Income helps you get by, but wealth helps you get ahead. Wealth is the thing that really provides security for your family; it allows your family to think forward to the future, like thinking about your child’s education, their higher education, thinking about retirement, what are you going to do when you stop working. So while income is important, it provides the resources for you to do that, wealth is something that really provides you that security to think long-term.

How that breaks down across the country as it relates to racial groups, you know, we did a study recently with the Institute for Policy Studies called “The Ever-Growing Gap.” And what we found is there is an incredible and really pervasive…

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