On Tuesday, September 17, Appleseed hosted the fourth installment in our “Seeds of Learning” event series at Teddy & the Bully Bar in downtown DC. We were excited to welcome Meg Wiehe, Deputy Director of the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy (ITEP) to discuss the organization’s recent report, “The Illusion of Race-Neutral Tax Policy.” The report highlights how tax policy is both a symptom and an instrument of systemic racism.
ITEP is a non-profit organization that conducts research on tax and economic proposals across the country, and historically focused on how taxes affected people of different income levels. However, after the 2014 police shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Missouri, the Department of Justice’s report explicitly noted that “Ferguson’s law enforcement practices are shaped by the City’s focus on revenue rather than by public safety needs….Further, Ferguson’s police and municipal court practices both reflect and exacerbate existing racial bias, including racial stereotypes (United States Department of Justice Civil Rights Division, 2015).” These observations helped Wiehe and ITEP realize that to accurately analyze the nature of tax policy, they had to be cognizant of the long-term impact of systemic racism on shaping our tax structures. Solely examining tax systems in the context of class overlooks how public policies not only perpetuate widening income and wealth inequality, they have also preserved historic and current injustices that continue to allow white communities to build wealth while denying the same level of opportunity (and often suppressing it) to communities of color.
Since then ITEP has worked on developing new capacity in their tax analysis model that integrates race and ethnicity as well as income. ITEP partnered with Prosperity Now, an organization that is committed to closing the racial wealth gap, to research the impact of the tax bill passed in late 2017 using their new model capacity publicly for the first time. They released a report in October 2018 titled “Race, Wealth and Taxes: How the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act Supercharges the Racial Wealth Divide,” which found that the package expanded the economic gap between rich people and everyone else, and also “between White households and households of color, thus further perpetuating a long history of systemic racism that undergirds government policies and American society at large.”
Since the release of “Race, Wealth and Taxes,” ITEP has continued to refine their tax policy model and their organizational approach to addressing the role systemic and institutional racism have played in shaping tax systems, which led to the release of “The Illusion of Race-Neutral Tax Policy” in February 2019. In the coming months, Wiehe shared that ITEP will be releasing additional reports and analyses based on their updated model capacity. These reports and many others can be accessed on ITEP’s website at https://itep.org/.
Appleseed wishes to thank Meg Wiehe for sharing her thoughts and knowledge with our supporters from around the DC metro area who attended this event. Please stay tuned to Appleseed’s website to learn about future events, and subscribe to our email list to receive updates about our work: http://bit.ly/AppleseedSubscribe.