Paul L. Caron

Saturday, May 2, 2020

Racialized Tax Inequity: Wealth, Racism, And The U.S. Tax System

Palma Joy Strand (Creighton) & Nicholas A. Mirkay (Hawaii), Racialized Tax Inequity: Wealth, Racism, and The U.S. System of Taxation, 15 Nw. J. L. & Soc. Pol'y. 265 (2020):

This Article describes the connection between wealth inequality and the increasing structural racism in the U.S. tax system since the 1980s. A long-term sociological view (the why) reveals the historical racialization of wealth and a shift in the tax system overall beginning around 1980 to protect and exacerbate wealth inequality, which has been fueled by racial animus and anxiety. A critical tax view (the how) highlights a shift over the same time period at both federal and state levels from taxes on wealth, to taxes on income, and then to taxes on consumption—from greater to less progressivity. Both of these shifts disproportionately benefit Whites while disproportionately burdening Blacks and other people of color.

Racism in the United States has shifted over time from the direct to the indirect, from the overt to the implicit, from the intentional to the reflexive, from the personal to the institutional. Tax policy and law—which are often so complicated as to be opaque to nonexperts—operate in the aggregate and often masquerade as apolitical. Tax thus provides “cover” for racism as it has gone increasingly to an offstage rather than onstage role. Our goal in this Article has been to illuminate the racialized inequities perpetuated by the tax system as a whole and to document the continuing discriminatory effects of government action—here the federal, state, and local tax law and policy. We must name and describe inequity in order to move toward equity.

Thomas Jefferson wrote to James Madison in 1786, “whenever there is in any country, uncultivated lands and unemployed poor, it is clear that the laws of property have been so far extended as to violate natural right.” In our view, the tax laws of the nation— a component of the laws of property—have been inequitably extended for far too long.

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"existing structures offer advantages and disadvantages to different populations"

Translation: Because there are income and wealth disparities between groups defined by their skin color and ethnicity, America (however defined) is racist.

Unfortunately, I've seen no evidence to support that conclusion. But even if such evidence was offered, that would suggest that the groups most advantaged, most privileged in America, are Asians. Because that group reports the highest per capita income.

How stupid are progressives, honestly?

Posted by: MM | May 10, 2020 8:20:10 PM

seems like you are hung up on a particular word. what matters is that existing structures offer advantages and disadvantages to different populations as measured by criteria that should be irrelevant. you can argue with the terminology, but this avoids discussing the problem on its merits.

Posted by: Russ Willis | May 9, 2020 12:09:47 PM

"Racism has been with us from the start and has never gone away; it’s simply taken different forms."

Sorry, your kind of PC (pathological cynicism) doesn't sell very well anymore. The reason you people have to define racism down is because there is no more legal discrimination in America, which is a good thing. Despite leftists claims, tremendous progress has been made just in the last 50 years. What you call racism can no longer be measured or even described as actual harm anymore.

And the entire premise of the article is easily refuted. America has no wealth tax, it has an estate tax. And that tax affects very few Americans. The vast majority of whites and Asians will never be subject to it, therefore it cannot be a source of "racist" inequality.

Additionally, the recent tax law change doubled the standard deduction and lowered the bottom bracket, which directly benefitted everyone, including black Americans, at the bottom of the income distribution.

Posted by: MM | May 6, 2020 7:39:06 PM

MM: Re the meaning of the word "racism":

The redefinition of racism has been a central theme of American life for roughly 150 years. The Southern states first redefined it with over a century of specifically racist Jim Crow legislation. The civil rights acts passed by Congress in the mid-1960s ended state-sponsored racism, but it’s persisted in various forms ever since.
Was (and is) red-lining racist? Was (and is) white flight racist? Are banks racist when they give loans to whites but deny them to equally credit-worthy blacks? Did Fred Trump and his son Donald refuse to rent apartments to blacks? To all these questions the answer is “yes.

Racism has been with us from the start and has never gone away; it’s simply taken different forms.

Posted by: Gerald Scorse | May 4, 2020 8:54:26 AM

"Tax thus provides 'cover' for racism as it has gone increasingly to an offstage rather than onstage role."

Only if you completely redefine the meaning of the word racism. Which you've done, rendering this discussion meaningless, and a great example of why critical theory is pseudoscientific by its very nature.

Posted by: MM | May 2, 2020 6:33:37 PM