Why Tax Justice Is Gender Justice

November 15, 2019

Addressing the hidden rules of gender means taxing the patriarchy.

The Roosevelt Rundown is an email series featuring the Roosevelt Institute’s top stories of the week.

The Tax Code’s Hidden Rules of Gender

To advance gender (and racial) equity, we must reform the tax code, as the National Women’s Law Center (NWLC) and co-partners explore in a three-part series of reports. The second report—co-authored by Roosevelt Director of Advocacy and Policy Katy Milani and Vice President for Advocacy and Policy Steph Sterling—argues that low taxes on the wealthy and corporations have harmed women’s economic security: “Power and wealth beget power and wealth, and accordingly, an agenda to advance racial and gender justice must reckon with these rules—including provisions in our tax code—that perpetuate and enable these inequities.” Read more.

  • Why this matters: “The tax code has profound power to close the gender wage-and-wealth gap, as well as to support equality in the workplace and help families thrive at home. As the country debates taxing billionaires out of existence, it might consider taxing the patriarchy out of existence, too,” The Atlantic’s Annie Lowrey writes in an exclusive about the series. Read on.
  • Another angle: “The tax code is a social document,” report co-author and NWLC Vice President for Income Security and Child Care/Early Learning Melissa Boteach tells MarketWatch. “What these tax preferences are saying is this pain is more important than that pain.”
  • Who writes the rules: “Depending on where it starts, a 15 percent rate would be a relatively small tax cut for middle-income people,” Roosevelt Fellow Michael Linden tells the Washington Post. “This is an acknowledgement that Republicans’ original tax plan was heavily skewed to the wealthy, the middle got almost nothing, and people at the bottom got literally nothing.” Read more.
  • Rewrite the rules: This week on CNBC’s Squawk Box, Roosevelt Vice President of Strategy and Policy Nell Abernathy debated Arthur Laffer—economic advisor to Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign—on the effects that regressive tax rates have on inequality and investment. As Abernathy explained, “. . . not only have we seen inequality increase and the middle class undermined, but we really have seen a decline in the kinds of productive investments that we need to grow our economy . . . We are not in a pro-innovation, pro-investment economy.” Watch here.

A Radically Inclusive Housing Proposal

“The need for a dramatic shift in housing policy is clear: There are 43 million renter households in the United States—nearly half of whom spend more than 30 percent of their income on rent. Approximately 3 million people experience homelessness every year. There is no county in the nation where a full-time worker earning the minimum wage can afford a two-bedroom apartment. And the wealth of the average black American is just 10 cents on the dollar compared to the wealth of the average white American—in part because public and private-sector policies have promoted white homeownership, while excluding people of color and extracting wealth from their communities,” Roosevelt Journalist-in-Residence Greg Kaufmann writes for The Nation. One solution: a homes guarantee. Read on.

  • On the trail: “Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders and New York Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez have fused two major presidential campaign issues—housing and climate change—in a $172 billion policy proposal released Thursday. Dubbed the Green New Deal for Public Housing Act, the proposal aims to transform the entire stock of public housing in the US, 1.2 million units, into energy-efficient homes powered by onsite renewable energy.” Read more from Vox.

What We Know About the Debt-GDP Ratio

On Thursday, Federal Reserve Chair Jerome Powell testified before the House Budget Committee. As Roosevelt Fellow JW Mason noted in a Twitter thread, things got interesting: “One puzzle in this testimony: Several times Powell responded to questions about whether federal debt is ‘sustainable’ by pointing [o]ut that the debt is growing faster than GDP. This is true. But that’s not the normal definition of sustainable!” Learn why federal spending is sustainable.

Why Narrative Matters in Economic Policy

“In the course of our policy setting work, we realized that there were three quintessential harmful narrative buckets that we must name and address while pushing for policy change: notions of personal responsibility, personhood being tied to traditional ideas of work/having a paid job, and pervasive anti-blackness/racial resentment,” Roosevelt Fellow and Insight Center President Anne Price and Insight Center Vice President of Programs and Strategy Jhumpa Bhattacharya write for the Economic Security Project. “All three of these buckets hold major ramifications on who we see as deserving (and who we don’t)—and serve as a foundation to build our social and economic policies off of.” Read more.

Democratizing Economic Power

“The crises of democracy and inequality are deeply interrelated. Concentration of political power helps ensure that public policies continue to serve the interests of the wealthy and well-resourced. Meanwhile, concentration of economic power helps megacorporations and wealthy interests dominate, while also ensuring a concentration of political influence that blunts policies that could undermine this vicious cycle,” Roosevelt President & CEO Felicia Wong, Demos President K. Sabeel Rahman, and Community Change President Dorian Warren write for the Stanford Social Innovation Review. “Realizing democracy requires democratizing economic power across the areas of corporate power, public power, and inclusive economic governance.” Read the piece here and learn more about its parent project Realizing Democracy.

What We’re Reading

The Equal Rights Amendment Is an Artifact No More – The Atlantic 

The Long History of Debt Cancellation – Boston Review

We Need a Green Bailout for the People – The Nation

Recessions Are Racist (But They Don’t Have to Be) – The Nation

What Will It Take To Rehabilitate Black Wealth? – Essence

As Income Inequality Soars, Languishing Labor Unions Make a Return – ABC News