The Undeserving Poor?: Welfare, Tax Policy, and Political Discourse
100 Pages Posted: 14 Apr 2004
Date Written: April 2004
Low-income taxpayers are politically unpopular these days. Last summer's child tax rebates were not sent to 12 million low-income families and beginning this year, low-income taxpayers will have to prove their eligibility for tax benefits before receiving them. This Article argues that low-income taxpayers are politically unpopular because of the perceptions held about them.
Low-income taxpayers are perceived to be disproportionately Black by both politicians and academics. Politicians recently played the "race card" by analogizing low-income taxpayer rebates to welfare. Academics simply stated that low-income taxpayers who are eligible for the earned income tax credit were Black and disproportionately benefited from the credit. This Article provides the first comprehensive analysis of low-income taxpayers and shows that twice as many Whites as Blacks are eligible for the earned income tax credit. This Article also shows that the tax benefits available to low-income taxpayers disadvantage low-income Black families when compared with the tax benefits available to middle-income families. This Article concludes by suggesting areas for tax reform that would treat low-income families like their middle-income counterparts.
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