The Tax March Is Our Chance to Expand the Resistance

April 13, 2017

It seems like everyone is a resister these days (at least in my liberal coastal bubble), and there is so much to resist that I’ve had to rank my outrage. Is the danger immediate? Will people die? Does this fundamentally undermine the institutions of democracy?

This scale has weighted my protests—and those of many of my friends—toward the more tangible issues of civil rights abuses and public service cuts. Tax policy might not fit neatly in that basket, but the April 15 tax march, which will take place in cities across the U.S., demands participation from the resisters I’ve seen at other marches.

Ultimately, the tax march must demonstrate that even as this administration horrifies us with its bigotry, brutality, and incivility, Americans will not ignore the ever-deepening influence of large corporations and wealthy individuals on the more mundane aspects of government.

The coming months will provide Congress and regulatory agencies with opportunities to rewrite the rules that shape our economy, including taxes, financial regulation, anti-trust regulation, trade policy, public investment, and more. The outcome of these policy battles will not only drive economic outcomes but also redistribute political power.

If President Trump and his allies in Congress get their way, they will continue the 40-year neoliberal project of deregulation that led to the massive consolidation of economic and political power in the hands of large corporations and the 1 percent. This failed approach has resulted in reduced investment, limited job growth, declining small business formation, rising geographic inequality, unbalanced trade deals, and a host of other trends that fuel economic insecurity for the average American.

In addition to weakening the economy, the rise of neoliberalism has further entrenched racial and gender disparities by promoting false confidence in the justice of markets and by discrediting the role of government in guaranteeing equal access. It has also circumscribed the political influence of average Americans. It’s very nice that some corporations have boycotted North Carolina due to the state’s LGBTQ discrimination law (even as others have compromised), and that Silicon Valley has flexed its muscles on behalf of (high-skilled) immigration, but I’d rather not be dependent on corporate interests to defend my civil rights.

Even as the Democratic establishment publicly resists cuts in food stamps and health care and defends LGBTQ and voting rights, it is possible that they will be less steadfast in the fight against the economic interests of the moneyed and powerful.

First up, we have the tax fight. As my colleagues argue in their report “Fool Me Once,” we know that tax cuts for corporations won’t actually create jobs but will instead enrich shareholders. We also know that tax cuts for the top 1 percent simply increase incentives for CEOs and financiers to take home a higher share of profits. But many of the greatest “resisters” in Congress are getting visits from lobbyists and donors who tell them otherwise. A deal that reduces rates on dividends or capital gains should not be quietly accepted.

Next on the agenda: financial reform. While a wholesale repeal of Dodd-Frank remains unlikely, Democrats have already joined with Republicans over the last eight years to quietly dilute key provisions. We should watch for bi-partisan bills that make supposedly small technocratic tweaks but in fact increase risk in the financial sector.

While the resistance may not have the regulatory sway to keep agencies from green-lighting anti-competitive mergers or rolling back pro-competition regulations like net neutrality, we can use the bully pulpit and Democratic appointments to build a case against continued corporate consolidation. One name recently floated to fill a Democratic seat on the FTC has a history of lobbying on behalf of technology companies he would be asked to regulate. The disclosure did not garner headlines—or any obvious public #resistance.

The tax march is, of course, an opportunity to demonstrate to those in power that the average American does not condone corporate cronyism or accept Republicans’ tired trickle-down theory. This is important given Trump’s failure to disclose his tax returns as well as the proposed economic agenda more likely to benefit him and his friends than the average Americans for whom he claims to speak. But the tax march is also an opportunity to show the minority in Congress that resistance must extend beyond Supreme Court nominees and health care reform. We must contest the deepening of inequality in the structures of our political economy, and we will judge our leaders by this standard—not solely by their hashtags.