Last week, as Americans made final preparations for Tax Day, a roundtable Tax Equity Summit was held in Washington, D.C. to discuss the fairness, or unfairness, of the current tax system. Organized by Americans for Democratic Action and Boston's United for a Fair Economy, the summit also drew representatives from Citizens for Tax Justice, The Economic Policy Institute, the Center for Economic Policy and Policy Research, and the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
"We are not arriving at this point without a lot of background, a lot of history, and frankly, a lot of frustration," moderator John Nichols of The Nation said by way of introduction. "Getting fair taxation, getting an idea of equitable tax policy, to the forefront even of the popular debate is one of the great challenges of our time."
A challenge that is being met both by members of the 99 percent, as seen in the Occupy movement, and members of the 1 percent, with many wealthy individuals advocating for the "Buffett Rule," which is being supported by President Obama and is scheduled to be debated by the Senate this week.
"The question is, do we want a policy that works for the 1 percent, or do we want a tax policy that works for the 99 percent?" That's the challenge posed by Mike Lapham, director of the Responsible Wealth Project. Lapham co-wrote The Self-Made Myth and the Truth About How Government Helps Individuals and Businesses Succeed, published last month. It includes a forward by Bill Gates, Sr., one of Responsible Wealth's most notable supporters.
A division of United for a Fair Economy, the Responsible Wealth Project includes "wealthy individuals, businesspeople, inheritors, investors, who are in the top 5 percent, who have been viewed as the poster children for tax cuts," Lapham explained at the summit. "We get them into the halls of Congress, where the voice of greed is well represented, to say, 'We need higher taxes on folks like us.'"
Also on hand at the Summit was Elspeth Gilmore of Resource Generation, an economic justice organization made up of wealthy individuals 35 years old and younger. A member of the organization as well as the co-director, Gilmore has marched and been arrested with Occupy protesters at New York's Zuccotti Park. At the Summit, Gilmore echoed Nichols' notion that this is a key moment for the economic justice movement.
"The way that Occupy has been able to shift the national debate and conversation has been huge," Gilmore said, noting that Occupy created "a chance to take that moment... and move what they brought into the forefront into policy." That will be a policy debate that is likely to have a big influence on this year's election, as well as the economic security of our country for years to come.