Guest column:

Taxing the ultrawealthy can help every Nevada family

Editor’s note: The following column was written by a Las Vegas casino worker named Martha, who requested that her full name not be listed due to concerns about her job security. Martha is affiliated with the advocacy group Battle Born Progress, which submitted the column for her.

Paying taxes was extremely difficult for my family this year.

Nobody was prepared for a global pandemic, and nobody was expecting it to last as long as it has. When my husband and I owed taxes this year we were extremely worried. Where could we come up with this money after such a hard year?

Many families like mine struggled this year. But do you know who didn’t? The wealthiest families in this country. Our tax system is so unfair that a billionaire living off his Wall Street investments pays a lower tax rate than an emergency room nurse tending to COVID-19 patients. That’s because our tax code privileges wealth over work.

My husband and I work in a casino and make close to minimum wage, which makes our financial situation hard enough even during normal times. By not being able to work, though, we didn’t know how we would be able to stay afloat. We had to start using some of our savings to pay bills because we didn’t know when we would be able to work again.

Once we were able to go back to work we still struggled because we weren’t working our full hours. There were so many people around us who were struggling to get by. One day I came across an article that talked about how the wealthiest people have only gotten richer during the pandemic.In Nevada, 15 billionaires increased their wealth by 32% while Nevada’s unemployment rate was at 15%. 

While most of us make our living from a job, the superrich reap their income largely in the form of investment gains: the rising value of their stocks, bonds, real estate, private businesses and more. 

They also benefit by being able to keep their wealth largely tax-free, thanks to special tax benefits that dramatically lower their tax bills.

Another way our rigged tax system rewards wealth over work is how little it taxes corporations the rich own through their shareholdings. The wealthiest 10% of Americans own almost all the nation’s corporate stock.

President Joe Biden and Democrats in Congress want to start unrigging this rotten system by rewarding work, and not just wealth. Their reforms would make the superwealthy — those making over $1 million a year — pay the same tax rate on their investment income as they do on their wages. They would close the stepped-up basis loophole for capital gains over $1 million. 

No one making less than $400,000 a year would pay higher taxes under the Democrats’ plan. Those who benefit from these luxurious tax loopholes and investment portfolios will cynically claim this plan will raise taxes on low-income households as well. But it’s a smokescreen to justify their continued hoarding of wealth. It’s time to raise their taxes.

The revenue raised from fairer taxes on the rich would help working families by investing that revenue into health care, child care and education, and providing tax credits to working families. By taxing the wealthy, it can help those of us who need health care be more affordable. Some of us know what it’s like having to go to the doctor but not wanting to because we don’t want to deal with another bill.

The rich, and the politicians they fund, obviously want to keep a system that favors them. That’s why they’re attacking the Democrats’ plan by saying that taxes will be increased for everyone and not just the wealthy. No one with an income less than $400,000 will be getting their taxes raised. None of us should be fooled. 

We have a historic opportunity this year to get the wealthy to pay their fair share. It’s about time that these people start contributing their fair share of taxes. I urge everyone to support this effort. It’s the only way we can truly pay tribute to the contributions and achievements of American workers. How can we celebrate Labor Day when so many people in the workforce are struggling?