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Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.) speak at a "Tax the Rich!" conference panel moderated by journalist Ryan Grim. (Photo: Kelsea Marie Pym/Twitter)

'Tax the Rich!' Conference Brings Together Policy Experts and Progressive Millionaires Benefiting From #TrumpTaxScam

"Taxing the rich isn't complicated. It's our moral imperative!"

Jessica Corbett

"Tax the Rich. Save America. Yes, it really is that simple."

So said the organizers of the first-ever "Tax the Rich!" conference, hosted by Patriotic Millionaires and a coalition of other groups in Washington, D.C. on Wednesday.

The one-day conference aimed to explain why and how to raise taxes on the wealthiest Americans to curb economic inequality and address major national issues, including "underfunded schools, inadequate healthcare, and a crumbling infrastructure."

Hosted just ahead of Tax Day, the conference highlighted how the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) of 2017, which critics call the Trump or GOP "tax scam," was always designed to benefit corporations and the richest Americans rather than working people and families.

Dozens of progressive millionaires, lawmakers, policy experts, and journalists came together for panel discussions and presentations such as "Trump's Tax Bill: The Art of the Steal," "The Games People Play (And By People We Mean Corporations)," and "Let's Play Economic Jenga With Billionaires!"

Speakers included Democratic Reps. Barbara Lee (Calif.) and Mark Pocan (Wis.), who both hold leadership roles in the Congressional Progressive Caucus. In a panel discussion moderated by The Intercept's Ryan Grim, Lee noted how "the Trump Tax cut has been used as a base to attack the American safety net."

"This really is a 'which side are you on?' moment," said American Federation of Teachers president Randi Weingarten. "Either we fix the tax code so it doesn't rig the economy further, or we follow the ruinous path of slashing services and making the middle class and working class pay for it."

Weingarten, who leads the nation's second-largest teachers union, also emphasized the importance of fully funding programs like Title 1 and the Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA) in her "Fund Our Future" presentation.

In a presentation on "What Killed Hope in America?" public health expert and Syracuse University professor Shannon Monnat outlined how the national opioid crisis is significantly impacting areas of the country with high rates of unemployment and poverty.

As Monnat put it, according Inequality.org, "opioids are a symptom and a symbol of much larger social and economic problems," representing "our widening levels of income inequality and a neoliberal policy regime."

Economist Bill Lazonick, in his presentation on predatory value extraction, explained how billionaire hedge fund and private equity managers foster "extreme income inequality and employment instability."

In the panel discussion near the end of the conference entitled "What Americans Want and Who's Standing in the Way (Polling, Kochs, Money in Politics)," Duke University history professor Nancy MacLean concluded, "We must tax extreme wealth to save our democracy."

The "Tax the Rich!" conference was organized by Patriotic Millionaires, Solidaire, Women Donors Network, Resource Generation, and Responsible Wealth. The hosts livestreamed the event. Watch:

The conference comes a week after a coalition of progressive groups, including Patriotic Millionaires, launched the 'Tax the Rich' campaign—which, as Common Dreams reported last week, aims to build "a grassroots movement to unrig the tax code and make wealthy Americans pay their fair share."


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