With some 32 million Americans living in poverty, government programs designed to help the poor continue to expand. But experts warn that new technological innovations are also helping the rich get more aid in the form of tax breaks and wealth transfers from taxpayers.
What are some of the things they are doing?
“We actually had a taxpayer ID that came out for me when I came to work,” said Amy Harris, a professional musician who travels the world and hopes to start a music academy in Minnesota. “I had not even known I had it. I thought it was just a funny photo of that little tip jar that I could have as a reminder when I was on the road of just how fortunate I am.”
“So if you have anything less than $500 to give to a cause, you can nominate that nonprofit or to donate that money to that cause. And we submit that money to the people who gave you the tip jar to get something back,” Harris said.
In Utah, under a program launched in 2016 by philanthropist Stewart Mott, some of the state’s wealthiest residents are able to donate to their favorite nonprofits and give back to the poorest communities. As a result, they have given some 80 nonprofits more than $5 million of their money, often in amounts totaling thousands of dollars.
In Alabama, the tax structure there allows some of the most wealthy residents to donate their wealth tax-free. Meanwhile, in Hawaii, lawmakers last year eliminated state taxes on corporate jets to promote “business efficiency.”
But Gov. Phil Scott (R-MA) took this much further when he eliminated all state taxes on family farms and ranches because he said it would help farmers and ranchers compete in a world where the “economies of scale in the global market have just proved far too substantial for a state like ours.”
Federal families can donate money to the government if they don’t have to report it. This happens especially in high-need neighborhoods. If a taxpayer claims the government will use the money to help the disadvantaged, the IRS will not look into the source of the money.
“The potential to help many more people and to get their tax dollars working for them and not just chasing away the richest amongst us was what led me to start my organization,” said Dave Pensabene, a retired deputy, now with nonprofit WEED, which distributes marijuana-free products that go to Washington state schools.
“In Washington state and any other state where marijuana use and its impacts are illegal, when we get donated dollars we’re not legally allowed to administer and deliver them,” Pensabene said. “But there is also an emerging real need right now to educate the public about using the medical marijuana program to treat pain and other health concerns rather than just having access.”
“It goes right into the schools and that’s what the Trump administration should focus on… how to educate the public about the medicinal marijuana,” Pensabene added.