Rourke O'Brien and Katherine Newman presented on their new book,Taxing the Poor, yesterday at New America. The book examines state and local tax structures in the United States and their impact on poor Americans and comes to some surprisingly strong findings. The authors find a relationship between high State sales taxes (particularly those levied on food and other basic items, like medicine) and negative health and social outcomes for low-income residents--mortality, obesity, crime, and teen pregnancy.
This really should be cause for alarm and for reform, but I have some serious doubts that this argument is going to be given the weight that it needs, given the current political environment. We have talked about not just asset building, but preventing asset stripping, and O'Brien and Newman show that it's not just predatory lenders that are capable of stripping much needed assets away from poor Americans, but our state and local governments can do so as well.
The book is a very provocative and interesting read both as it relates to the author's statistical findings, but their read on history and the development and spread of constitutional and legislative supermajority requirements is fascinating.
The event led to some really interesting discussion, including the history of the EITC, the politics of the moment, as well as the words "heterogeneity" and "succubus" being uttered within mere moments of each other. We never claimed to be your father's think tank.
Watch the video below, and you should check out Ezra Klein's (a discussant yesterday) blog post on the graphs that struck him the most directly.
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