Reparations seem to be all the rage in 2019 American politics. Reparations for African Americans to pay for the effects of slavery, once a fringe idea, is currently being debated as if it was a serious proposal in the House. However, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass, a candidate for president of the United States, has another, a rather creative idea to pay another aggrieved group for past discrimination.
The Washington Examiner explains:
“Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., reintroduced a bill on the campaign trail this week, which could mean $57 million in tax refunds for married LGBT couples.
“The Refund Equality Act, which was originally introduced in 2017, would allow LGBT couples who were married prior to the 2013 Supreme Court strike-down of the Defense of Marriage Act in U.S. v. Windsor to amend tax returns from the time that they were married. Prior to 2013, 10 states had legalized same-sex marriage but were required to file their federal taxes as individuals.
“Following the 2013 Supreme Court’s decision, married same-sex couples from those 10 states were permitted to change their previous tax returns from individual to joint, which entitled them to some federal tax relief. However, the tax return amendments were only permitted for the previous three years. The Refund Equality Act would remove those time limits.
“According to a report released this week from the Joint Committee on Taxation, same-sex couples married prior to 2013 could potentially be eligible for $57 million if permitted to file jointly from the time they were married.”
As presented, the proposal seems to be quite reasonable. The amount of money is very modest, compared to the slavery reparations. The extra money, in the form of a tax refund, would benefit the people who actually suffered from discrimination and not the descendants of people who suffered in the distant past.
The problem with Warren’s proposal would seem to be in its branding, the word “reparations,” which has taken on a toxic identity. Red State also explains that the proposal has a danger of a slippery slope.
“And it wasn’t until last year that the standard deduction was doubled, allowing me to keep more of my money. Does the government owe me reparations for their unfair tax practices before that?
“Tax laws change. Certain groups who didn’t get benefits end up getting benefits down the road. Others may have them taken away. In the case of gay marriage, the country decided that the traditional definition of such and it’s purpose under tax law no longer applied.
“Ok, I’m not here to relitigate that, but that’s hardly a case for paying gay people who weren’t married at the time tax refunds based on the idea that they otherwise would have been married. How do you prove that? Can any two gay people just claim they were a couple in a gay marriage to get some of the $50M we supposedly owe them?
“This is the problem with reparations of any kind. They sound good emotionally to certain political persuasions, but they are completely impractical. Warren’s claim in that tweet is unworkable on so many levels that it’s not even worth discussing.”
While Warren’s proposal is limited to gay couples who were legally married according to state law but not federal law. Red State has a point. For most of American history, gay couples could not be married as a matter of law. Gay people also endured discrimination that was often savage and unfair. Red State suggests that Warren’s proposal is not the end but the beginning in a new social justice battle.
Red State’s suggestion that everyone who pays taxes should be able to amend their returns is cute but one suspects an unworkable idea. One could argue that any progressive tax on income is inherently unfair as it falls heaviest on the most successful, at least those who do not use tax attorneys to avoid much of the tax. Only a flat tax could be considered fair for a levy on income since everyone would pay the same percentage of their income. Clearly, everyone who has paid income taxes needs reparations.
Warren had tried to introduce the same legislation in 2017, but it went nowhere. Her reintroduction of the bill in the middle of her run for president should be seen as a clever bit of pandering. She is doing so for the same reason that President Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton suddenly became in favor of same-sex marriage. It’s a great way to win votes and campaign contributions. Whether Warren believes in her own legislation or not is beside the point.