Ideas@AFSCME: Let's Talk About Taxes!

AFSCME Secretary-Treasurer Elissa McBride kicked off the first event in the Ideas@AFSCME Facebook Live Speakers Series, “Let’s Talk About Taxes,” by welcoming Brookings Institution Senior Fellow, Vanessa Williamson, who revealed Americans’ surprising views on taxes.

Williamson, the author of “Read My Lips: Why Americans Are Proud to Pay Taxes” shared that contrary to popular belief, Americans take pride in paying taxes, and view it as one of their most important civic responsibilities.

Through a national survey and in-depth interviews, Williamson discovered that people saw paying taxes as a “responsibility to our neighbors. It comes from being in solidarity with other people.”

She dispelled the myth that people resent paying taxes, while emphasizing that paying taxes is a broader concept than the checks people write in April.

Americans pay a variety of levies such as sales and payroll taxes. For this reason, Williamson said, it’s essential to resist the damaging rhetoric that only some Americans pay taxes.

“The negative flipside about the idea that paying taxes is a civic responsibility … is when you imagine that there are people out there who don’t pay taxes and therefore don’t deserve the rights of representation,” she said.

Another important finding Williamson’s research revealed is how positively Americans view paying for the kinds of public services that AFSCME members provide, like maintaining our roads, schools, parks and other community services.

However, most Americans are troubled that the very wealthy and corporations get away without paying their fair share.

“There’s overwhelming support in the United States for ensuring wealthy people are paying their fair share,” said Williamson.

Secretary-Treasurer McBride reinforced how true that sentiment is among AFSCME members, adding, “At our convention…we passed a resolution about wanting to see the tax structure become more progressive and fairer. We feel that everyone should pay their fair share and right now, the very wealthy and corporations are the ones not pulling their weight.”

Williamson also discussed her research showing that linking tax-paying and voter registration can greatly increase registration rates, particularly among underrepresented groups

Ideas@AFSCME is a new series launched by the Office of the Secretary-Treasurer to provide an interactive forum to examine the issues, news and resources that are important to the AFSCME community.