Quick Tips for Talking About Poverty and Taxes

April 25, 2018

We all want to live in a country where everyone enjoys full and equal opportunity. But recent tax cut proposals from leaders in Washington, D.C. would dramatically undermine the ability of all Americans to ensure their own economic security. Based on research by Topos Partnership, The Opportunity Agenda compiled the following quick tips for discussing these tax cuts and changes to our nation’s tax system:

  1. Lead with values. Emphasize the values of community and a strong and thriving society. Describe the foundations of a strong and prosperous society that taxes make possible. We all rely on roads, schools, first responders and so many other foundational aspects of our society that we jointly pay for through taxes.
  2. Promote effective solutions and successes. After establishing values, follow with a systemic story about how these various public structures, along with other critical programs, can create a path from poverty to economic participation for many in our country.
  3. Balance out a story of spending with a story about people paying their fair share. We need to close loopholes that give huge breaks to the wealthy so that everyone, including the workers who contribute to the profits of the very wealthy, gets the support they need to provide for their families. Our government’s role should be to make sure everyone has access to education, jobs, and healthcare, not to let the very wealthy out of paying their fair share at the expense of these things.
  4. Show how spending can lead to more equal access to economic opportunity. Most audiences don’t understand the root causes of poverty in any detail, particularly when it comes to the forces behind the disparate impact of poverty based on race, ethnicity, and gender. It’s therefore difficult for people to see how something like taxes can play a role in creating and sustaining a more equitable society. We have to tell a story that connects the dots from how particular government agencies, policies, and programs play a role in paving a path from poverty to economic participation, and also knocking down the barriers of racial, ethnic and gender discrimination that hold many back.
  5. Build a message with "VPSA." We recommend including four elements in your tax messages: Value, Problem, Solution, and Action.

Each of the tips above include sample language on Opportunity Agenda’s website here.