Research Report The Long Shadow of White Supremacist Fiscal Policy
Vanessa Williamson
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This paper examines the fiscal system put in place in the former Confederacy in the decades after Reconstruction. Overturning Reconstruction-era policies that taxed wealth and invested in public services, the white supremacist governments that came to power in the later 19th Century slashed public budgets and shifted taxes onto the poor. The fiscal system was interwoven with a burgeoning carceral state, making forced labor profitable to business and government alike. Finally, around the turn of the century, the Southern states passed new constitutions in which anti-democratic and anti-tax measures reinforced one another. These policies continue to echo in state fiscal policy today, particularly in the persistence of supermajoritarian requirements for the passage of tax increases and the heavy reliance on highly regressive and unequally enforced fees and fines. While these policies are facially color-blind, they are a legacy of American racial apartheid.

Research Areas Taxes and budgets
Tags State and local tax issues Individual taxes Taxes and business Federal budget and economy Campaigns, proposals, and reforms Federal tax issues and reform proposals
Policy Centers Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center