Briliiance from Amanda Sen: our system of tax breaks are how we try to limit government spending — and the benefits of housing, education, health, etc. — to predominately white people.
“Yes, this is exactly right. The reason so many middle-class suburbanites resist the “welfare state” is because they actually know, though some deny it, that what “liberals” hope to do is share the wealth of government benefits they already get. Our private, employer-provided health insurance? Heavily subsidized by tax breaks. Our mortgage payments and property taxes in our “nice” public school district? Heavily subsidized by other tax breaks. Tax breaks are a form of government transfer of wealth to people who engage in behavior (like buying houses) that the government wants to reward. They have historically privileged categories of people that the government has actively wanted to privilege. To this day, there is a tax penalty, a rather substantial one, for married people who both work. Mortgage interest tax breaks and employer sponsored insurance were a privilege afforded overwhelmingly to white people for a long time because until a generation ago, white people were the only people able to widely access mortgages and jobs that offered insurance. This is all because of laws, not mythical hard work. Sometimes the idea of giving up our free, Cadillac insurance, one of the few perks of relatively low-paying public-interest-oriented work, makes me shudder. The idea of giving up our mortgage interest tax breaks makes me grit my teeth. But for a more fair system? One where the benefits you get from the government aren’t a matter of luck and birth? It’s worth it.”
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