Our Taxes Are Unfair: PM Member Amanda Smith in the Boston Globe

This essay originally appeared in the Boston Globe North section - February 8, 2015

Should Massachusetts consider adopting a graduated income tax?


amandas.jpgBy Amanda Smith, Malden Democratic activist and member of Progressive Massachusetts

If you ask most people, fairness is something we value strongly. But our income tax system here in Massachusetts is incredibly unfair, and it fails to generate adequate revenue to fund important public services that make Massachusetts a place where businesses thrive and people want to live.

We have a flat tax system, which our state Constitution mandates. By taxing everyone at the same rate, a flat tax overly burdens low and middle income families while taxing the very wealthy the least. A family making $30,000 or $100,000 is taxed at the same rate as a family making $1 million or $10 million [see fig. 1 below for more on how taxes disproportionately burden lower income families]. So the responsibility of funding public services falls disproportionately on those who are the most strapped financially — especially in a high cost of living state like ours — while those who’ve been doing very well for decades avoid paying their fair share.

According to a recent survey by WalletHub, Americans overwhelmingly reject the idea of a flat tax and instead favor progressive taxation, where people pay income taxes in accordance with their ability to pay. In such a system, the wealthiest families pay a higher percentage than low and middle income families. It makes complete sense to me: low and middle income families have less income to contribute, while the wealthiest are more able to pay and arguably have benefited the most from our stable system of government and community infrastructure.

I support proposals by several Massachusetts legislators to adopt a progressive taxation system. The flat tax is an outmoded model for a modern economy, and it’s holding us back.

We’ve neglected our schools and infrastructure for decades and the evidence of that neglect is everywhere: decaying bridges that have to be closed, roads that are falling apart, subway tracks and trains that are becoming dangerous, schools that are crying out for updates and expansion. If we want young people and families to stay here — if we want businesses to invest here — then we must invest in our communities. But that investment should not be made disproportionately on the backs of low and middle income families who are barely hanging on financially in this very difficult economy.

Adopting a progressive taxation system would enable us to make the needed investments in our state, and to do so in the fairest way possible.

Excerpted from the Boston Globe; see original article for opposing viewpoint. 

Fig. 1




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