By Samantha Waxman
Many of the ways that I’ve been thinking and feeling about taxes, wealth, and the recent election crystallized during the recent healthcare debate—the fiasco in which Paul Ryan and Trump tried to “repeal and replace” the Affordable Care Act, commonly known as Obamacare.
Ryan’s efforts to destroy the nation’s healthcare system have been panned across the political spectrum, for a host of reasons. But as many, many media sources have pointed out, Ryan’s plan was a not-at-all-veiled tax giveaway to the rich. Specifically, a $600 billion one. The biggest tax cut is for investment income for families that make more than $250,000 per year—and the richest 1% would see the most benefit.
I continue to be horrified that Ryan and Trump would even consider letting rich people pay less in taxes in order to snatch health coverage away from 24 million Americans. It’s fundamentally unfair, undemocratic, and viciously cruel. I’m not sure what kind of values those are, but they aren’t mine. And they aren’t the values of many people like me—people from upper-class backgrounds who are in theory supposed to support these tax changes.
When elected leaders try to change laws in a way that prioritizes the wealth-hoarding of the rich over the most basic human needs of the many, I take it very personally. I refuse to let Ryan and Trump think that they speak for me.
Here’s the thing—people I know and love might become very sick or die without healthcare through the Affordable Care Act. And the ACA has been critical in narrowing health disparities in communities of color. These proposed tax changes make communities I’m connected to less safe and less healthy.
This is not the world I want to live in. I want a world where everyone has the opportunity for good health, a family-supporting job, safe housing, and a toxin-free environment. I want an economy that works for everyone, not just for the rich donors leaning on Ryan to give them a tax break. But I can’t bring that world into being on my own. Like it or not, we’re all in this together. As a country we need to take care of each other, and that means healthcare for all—not just for the rich.
I march because I want a country that has public goods and services for everyone’s well-being. To make that happen, rich people need to pay their fair share. I need to pay my fair share. And what do I get in return? I get to know that my neighbors can go to the doctor when they get sick. That they can live in safe, affordable housing. That that they can drop off their kids at a great school. That’s way more important to me than knocking half a point off of a marginal tax rate.
And sure, I think Trump should release his tax returns. It’s the baseline nod to decency, accountability, and integrity that we should expect from the President of the United States of America. But by itself, it’s not enough. We need a tax system that works for working people, for immigrants, for people of color, for women and for everyone that’s been hurt by an economy designed to benefit the big banks, Trump’s cronies, and no one else. We need a tax system where rich people pay their fair share and contribute to vibrant communities. That’s the only fair tax system that there can be. The real question is why as a country, we’ve decided it’s fine to fleece poor folks and people of color in order to make tax loopholes for people who don’t need them.
Trump and Ryan, you’re listening to the wrong rich people. You’re not getting away with it on my watch.
Samantha Waxman is a Resource Generation chapter leader based in Washington, D.C. All opinions expressed here are her own.