Taxes Matter. For Real.

Source, The New York Times

I love those moments in class when you can almost see the lightbulbs going off for my students, when something clicks in a way that you know means that they not only know more, but really understand more, and that that understanding will influence the way that they practice social work.

It’s a beautiful thing.

It’s tax time.

Or, here at Classroom to Capitol, the time each year when we celebrate all that a robust public infrastructure and strong social contract can do for us.

They’re basically the same thing.

And so this year’s reminder that taxes matter come from my students, and from one of those lightbulb moments, when a woman in the back of the room raised her hand and asked, “Why do all of these charts about income inequality start in 1979? What changed in the 1980s that made such a difference?”

And we talked about Reagan.

And about taxes.

And the class grew animated as, together, they realized that we make intentional choices about how we want to redistribute income, or not, and that those choices have lasting repercussions.

And that, if we’re not careful, we can forget how we got here, and start thinking that, for example, a rising income gap is “inevitable”, when we know that it’s anything but.

Here in Kansas, there has been a lot of talk this year about taxes–what kinds we have, how many of them, how much they should raise, and, of course, what we should do with them. It’s a discussion that is unfamiliar for many social work advocates, but it’s one that sorely demands our input, because the past 30 years don’t lie: not all taxes are created equal.

On this tax day, when you’re done celebrating how wonderful it is to live in a place where most people pay their taxes because we mostly still believe that having government services is important, take a minute to think about how the charts might look different if we’d made a different set of choices. And about how we could bend those curves still today.

And about the fact that, for real, taxes matter.

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