Brief Reflections on What Makes a Policy Racist
William G. Gale
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The murder of George Floyd in spring 2020 sparked a national reckoning and renewed attention to issues of racial equity and justice. This long-overdue awakening led me to read extensively about racism and to think about interactions between race and public policy. To be clear, I do not claim to be an expert on racism. I studied tax policy for over 30 years without ever focusing on connections between race and tax issues. I am only now beginning to understand the full extent to which they exist.

Three results, however, are abundantly clear from reading the literature. First, widespread, long-standing, and continuing racial discrimination in the US has had enormous, lasting deleterious economic effects on Black households. Second, tax policies and other public policies have contributed materially to this problem. Third, tax policy can help ameliorate the effects of racism. We cannot change the historical record, but we can adopt policies that compensate for it and take it into account.

Research Areas Taxes and budgets
Tags Federal budget and economy Federal tax issues and reform proposals
Policy Centers Urban-Brookings Tax Policy Center