*Whether we look at the House or the Senate bill, the tax reform plan being passed by Congress is a disaster waiting to happen.
It is bad for all poor people, but particularly dangerous to African-Americans, who as a group are among the most vulnerable. The plan, when coupled with massive budget cuts, is set to restructure America into a place where a person’s financial destiny is almost entirely determined by their lineage. This flies in the face of all of the bootstrap myths that are told about American capitalism, and the opportunity it affords each new generation to change its destiny. And, looking even broader, the bigger problem of success by lineage is that American history reverberates with inequity in access to financial resources, built largely along lines of oppression based on race.
While there are many white poor that will be impacted negatively, we cannot turn a blind eye to the fact that nearly all high-wealth families in America are white. According to the new data from the Federal Reserve, 15 percent of white families are worth more than a million dollars, and this tax cut is summarily about keeping those white wealthy families very wealthy, no matter how unfair an advantage their riches are built upon.
Dating back to slavery, and through Jim Crow, African-Americans have been summarily locked out of wealth, and at the same time been used to prop up many white fortunes due to codified advantage.
From Lake Providence, Louisiana, the most unequal place by wealth in America sustained largely by advantageous farm subsidies given to rich white families, to ticketing schemes oppressing black families in Ferguson, Missouri, for decades lineage has tied so many to outcomes unfairly. Now, due to this tax reform, as wealth echoes from father to son without penalty, these same blacks will be forced to live out that financial theft repetitively through the generations with the proposed repeal of the estate tax.
Also a federal government starved of resources due to massive changes in policy like the corporate tax rate, as it drops from 35 percent to 20 percent, will be forced to rein in spending on programs — ranging from head start preschools for poor kindergartners as 200,000 slots are cut, to K–12 primary schooling as budgets are slashed by up to 30 percent, and massive cuts to funding for Pell grants for the most needy that go to college. And it is African Americans who stand to be left holding the heaviest social burden due to an immense racial wealth gap that has been baked into American life.
In my Emmy nominated documentary “Freeway: Crack In The System” we covered Reaganomics and the effects of trickledown economics, but what we face today is far worse. It is, figuratively, Reaganomics on crack, strengthened by income inequality we haven’t seen in America since before the depression during the era of the robber baron. What will America’s poor do without financial resources, and without government to ensure some semblance of equity in access?
This reform in taxes sets in during an era in which a robber baron sits as president of the United States, Donald Trump. Robber baron is a term used to describe the Carnegies and Rockefellers who were American big businessmen that by some accounts amassed huge fortunes immorally, unethically, and unfairly. But we have been apt not to use that to describe Donald Trump, the Koch brothers, or even Puff Daddy. Men who are said to have made it to the top of Forbes lists of the rich and famous by being industrial, rather than unscrupulous. Let’s be clear, the personality-based wealth behind the decadent veil of Puff daddy or Oprah Winfrey doesn’t sit in the same sphere as the production power of the Koch Brothers, or the retail and distribution reach of the Walton family. But what is unequivocally clear is they all sit on a side of the fence opposite many African-Americans, and working class White America.
We all stand at a unique cross roads where we must both recognize the impact of our racialized past, be diligent in our politics in the present, and forge new alliances among the poor as we move into the future. If we do not do these things the greed of the robber barons may consume us all.
Antonio Moore, an attorney based in Los Angeles, is one of the producers of the Emmy-nominated documentary “Freeway: Crack in the System.” He has contributed pieces to the Grio, The Huffington Post, and Inequality.org on the topics of race, mass incarceration, and economics. Follow him on YouTube Channel Tonetalks.