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Pepperdine University School of Law

Monday, November 12, 2012

Kamin Presents Federal Taxes and Redistribution Today at Loyola-L.A.

KaminDavid Kamin (NYU) presents Poverty, Not Inequality: Federal Taxes and Redistribution at Loyola-L.A. today as part of its Tax Policy Colloquium Series:

The federal tax system, and the income tax in particular, is often held out as a key—perhaps the key tool—for combatting income inequality. Especially given the rapid rise in inequality seen over the last 30 years, it is natural to look to the tax code and ask what can be done in response. However, this article’s answer to that question is “not much,” because of the practical constraints on policymaking. Put simply, the effect of the federal tax system on income inequality is—and is likely to continue to be—decidedly limited. When it comes to the distribution of the tax burden, this suggests that other concerns, beyond overall inequality, should take precedence. This article offers an alternative—that of poverty. For even as the tax system can do relatively little to change the overall income distribution within the practical bounds of policymaking, it can do more, sometimes much more, when it comes to the welfare of those toward the bottom of the income spectrum. To sum up, this is a practical argument with the following practical conclusion: when it comes to the distribution of the tax burden, what matters most is poverty, not inequality.

Sarah Lawsky (UC-Irvine) is the commenter.

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There is a hell of a lot of federally supported inequality and discrimination that has nothing to do with the tax code, like the de facto ban on visitors of color in our national parks and forests.

These are public lands, patrimony of all Amerikans, but you will hardly ever see a Black or Hispanic face in any of them. Even if we had income-tax "equality," the feds would be burdening the poor minorities to support our White country clubs.

Posted by: Jimbino | Nov 12, 2012 1:05:42 PM

Jimbino - visit any of the national parks in Arizona or Utah, and you will see an abundance of Hispanic faces, enjoying the park along with all the other different kinds of Americans. I assume it is the same elsewhere, but, having lived in those two states, I can ensure you it is the case there.

Posted by: Ted Thalix | Nov 12, 2012 6:06:11 PM

Amerikans with a k? Seriously? Go crawl back under your rock for another 4 years, Obama won.

Nobody is stopping minorities from using National Parks, or even discouraging them. That argument is absurd on its face, just like the disparate impact theory which sadly holds sway in our legal system.

Posted by: Todd | Nov 12, 2012 6:31:45 PM

Thalix and Todd,

You are ignorant of the facts and of our civil-rights legal history.

Over a 45-day period last winter I visited over 30 national and state parks, forests and beaches in Utah, Colorado, New Mexico, Arizona, Nevada and California. I counted a mere 4 Black Amerikans and few Hispanics, 3 of whom were Mexican citizens. The Interior Dept knows of this de facto discrimination and is embarrassed about it. You must not have seen Ken Burns' documentary or

just two among many sources.

Todd needs to do a little reading of Brown v Board of Education and its successors in order to understand that our Black Amerikans in Northern States were also not "prohibited" by law from attending good White schools, but that didn't keep the Supremes from forcing desegregation in the form of busing on them, citing the de facto nature of the racial discrimination--exactly the current situation at Todd's White Country Club national parks and forests.

Posted by: Jimbino | Nov 13, 2012 8:39:47 AM