Remember Paul Ryan? In 2017, he was the Speaker of the House—which meant that, along with Mitch McConnell as Senate Majority Leader and President Trump, Republicans had majority control of our government.
That arrangement creates a rare opportunity to determine a party’s priorities and make them into law, which the GOP took full advantage of. The one issue, the most pressing thing on their agenda, was making sure to push through the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA)—which you may also have heard of by its more popular name, the Trump Tax Scam.
Despite claims that the bill would help working families, Americans clearly saw the TCJA for what it was—a huge tax giveaway to the rich. It was the most unpopular bill in decades. And this past week, Navigator Research released a new study showing that the TCJA remains unpopular.
The vast majority of Americans recognize that these Trump tax cuts have not positively impacted their lives nor helped the economy, and women across the political spectrum are less likely to support the law than their male counterparts. Perhaps that’s because the inequality this tax law fuels disproportionately harms them.
When people refer to “women’s issues,” they often mean areas affecting families and reproductive rights—but in truth, all issues are women’s issues, and taxes are no exception. According to a report from the National Women’s Law Center, though our tax code may seem neutral in its wording, it actually prioritizes certain types of income and certain types of wealth while perpetuating and exacerbating the systems that harm marginalized communities, especially low-income women and women of color.
At a time when economic inequality in the United States is the worst it’s been since right before the Great Depression, the Trump tax scam gave 83 cents of every dollar in benefits to the wealthiest one percent. Within one week of the law’s passage, a United Nations fact-finding mission reported that one in eight Americans live in poverty and warned that the TCJA “stakes out America’s bid to become the most unequal society in the world.”
These last several decades of growing wealth inequality have shown us that when the wealthy are prioritized in our laws and tax bills, it’s women and people of color who suffer the most for it.
As the rich are getting richer, wages for low-pay workers have stagnated. These are the jobs that are disproportionately held by women and especially women of color—and though their paychecks are not increasing, the costs of housing and childcare continue to rise. One June 2019 report by the Economic Policy Institute even revealed that workers’ wages and bonuses actually declined after the passage of the 2017 tax law.
Instead of using their tax breaks to improve the conditions of low-wage workers, corporations used the windfalls to enrich shareholders. This is happening at a time when women are still earning as little as 49 cents for every dollar men make.
These tax giveaways to the wealthy will also add $1.9 trillion to our national deficit; the U.S. is expected to be out $125.3 billion due to just one provision in the law. Trump’s proposition for how we pay for these tax handouts to the rich? Cutting the very social safety net programs that so many women and communities of color depend on. An analysis by the National Women’s Law Center found that the Trump administration’s proposed 2020 budget included “$62 billion in cuts to major programs disproportionately serving women and families.”
While this rigged tax system has become our country’s status quo, there is no reason for it to continue to be.
The economy is not the same as the health of Bill Gates’ stock portfolios, or how many millions of super-yachts Jeff Bezos can buy. The economy is us. It is time that we demand that our elected leaders prioritize gender justice, tax justice and unrigging our deeply flawed system. It is not too late, and our economy is not beyond repair. We can still create an economy that works for everyone, not just the wealthy. But we have to act now, and we have to tax the rich.
We can’t afford not to.