Susannah Camic Tahk, Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development and Associate Professor of Law at the University of Wisconsin Law School, speaks to the Journal of Civil Rights and Social Justice 2018 symposium, Always with Us? Poverty, Taxes, and Social Policy. She addresses the following questions: To what extent do the particular advantages of the tax antipoverty programs persist as the tax antipoverty programs take center stage? Can tax programs, once distinguished from their direct-spending counterparts on the grounds of relative popularity and legal and administrative ease of access maintain those hallmarks as the tax-based welfare state grows in size and scope? The first of the tax antipoverty programs was the EITC, a small, nimble program easily administered on a tax return, often meant to encourage people who might otherwise be receiving welfare to go to work. Now, the EITC at the foundation of our federal antipoverty apparatus. What are the consequences? How much have the EITC and its now-lengthy list of companion tax antipoverty programs, retained the advantages of the supplemental welfare state it once was? Or, instead, are the tax antipoverty programs starting to resemble the behemoth direct-spending programs they’ve replaced in the center of the U.S.’s social policy landscape? To what extent can we expect tax programs become more like direct-spending programs, or “welfare” over time? Will the trajectories of the tax antipoverty programs and the direct-spending programs converge?



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