On June 14th the Fair Share Amendment passed in a 134-55 vote at the Massachusetts House of Representatives. Also known as the “millionaires tax,” the Fair Share Amendment is funded by a 4% tax on yearly incomes over $1,000,000. The tax is estimated to generate roughly 2 billion dollars in revenues, with money being allocated to social support systems and community investment. Such investments would lead to more affordable higher education, improved K-12 public schools, as well as better public transportation, roads, and bridges.
During the debate on the floor of the House, detractors of the amendment faulted it for presupposing that the money collected will actually serve to improve social support systems and communities. One representative warned that, once the bill was authorized, there would be no going back. Another representative argued that a raise in taxes on the wealthy in Massachusetts would cause wealthy taxpaying business owners to flee to states with lower tax rates. In leaving Massachusetts, these entrepreneurs would bring with them their wealth, need for labor, and job market opportunities.
These concerns should be considered, as funds would actually need to be properly allocated for any positive changes to be realized. However, the fact that the top .1% of earners comprise 22% of our nation’s wealth, while the bottom 90% comprises 22.8% signals an extreme level of wealth inequality in the US, as stated in Emmanuel Saez’s “Wealth Inequality in the United States Since 2013: Evidence From Capitalized Income Tax Data.” Since these earnings are being hoarded within the top 1%, the Fair Share Amendment is a way to ensure that the wealthiest people in the US pay a proportional amount of taxes based on their incomes. Instead of sticking with the same trickle-down economic scheme which caused this dramatic wealth disparity, we should be using these tax dollars for social services which actually improve circumstances for residents in marginalized communities whose lives depend on these services.
Improvements in public education, more affordable higher education, renovated roads and bridges, and increased access to public transportation benefit everyone. To not even try to improve these communal services would be neglecting the needs of those who depend on them. Less student loan debt, improvements in infrastructure, and greater funding to marginalized school systems could bring us closer towards a system with less inequality, both in terms of wealth and opportunity, which we so desperately need. If the House of Representatives’ vote is any indication, we might just get it.