Citizen-led initiatives scored big wins in the midterms. But now this form of direct democracy is under attack.
Activists have organized Tax Day marches across the country to demand the release of Trump’s tax returns — and send a message about a tax system that enriches the wealthy.
Candidate Trump repeatedly promised to release his past tax returns, once they were no longer being audited. But those promises have failed to materialize, and Trump appears to have no plans to release his 2016 returns either. This makes him the first president in 40 years to conceal this information from the public.
A broad coalition of groups has come together to offer an opportunity for people to vent their anger over Trump’s tax secrecy. On April 15 (Tax Day), marches will take place in 48 states and even a few non-U.S. cities like London and Tokyo to demand that he release his tax returns. (See full list of actions at www.taxmarch.org).
The largest event will be in Trump’s back yard in Washington, D.C., where several Democratic leaders, including Senate Finance Committee Ranking Member Ron Wyden and House Financial Services Committee Ranking Member Maxine Waters — will speak, along with a slate of faith, consumer, labor, and other leaders.
Lisa Gilbert will be one of the activist leaders on the podium. A longtime economic justice and democracy campaigner, she now heads up the legislative affairs work at Public Citizen. For her, the goal of the tax marches goes beyond Trump’s tax returns.
“Taxes can seem kinda wonky. But I’m hoping this leads to a broader discussion of how our tax code works and the fact that it’s not working for all of us,” Gilbert said in an interview with Inequality.org. “That message is really baked into the march.”
Delvone Michael, a Senior Political Strategist for the National Working Families Party who sits on the Tax March Executive Committee, echoed Gilbert’s desire for a broader impact. “Transparency is only one of the many reasons we are calling on Trump to release his tax returns,” Michael told Inequality.org. “It’s true that Americans want to know about his conflicts of interest and foreign entanglements, but it’s equally true that we want to ensure he is pursuing tax policies that will benefit everyday Americans and not simply enriching his wealthy friends, family, and campaign donors.”
The ongoing congressional and criminal investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russia to influence the 2016 presidential election add urgency to the demands for the tax return release. The public has an interest in better understanding Trump’s financial ties to Russia and other countries where he has business entanglements.
The hot battle over tax reform also makes these marches especially timely. If Trump manages to push through his proposals, wealthy Americans like himself would get a tax cut of $1 million every year, while someone making $50,000 would get a tax cut of just $1 a day.
Both Michael and Gilbert are heartened by the growing strength of the resistance. Public Citizen has seen a dramatic uptick in engagement of their 400,000 members and supporters. “People are going beyond online activism. They’re showing up in person now — and asking for more opportunities to take real action.”
Gilbert also hopes that participants in the march will be politically diverse. “The demand for ethical, transparent government is not confined to any party,” Gilbert noted, pointing to a recent ABC News/Washington Post poll which found that nearly three-fourths of Americans say Trump should release his tax returns – including a majority of Republicans.
“America stronger if everybody has a chance to succeed,” Gilbert continued. “But our unfair tax code marginalizes people who are already struggling.”
Sarah Anderson directs the Global Economy Project at the Institute for Policy Studies and is a co-editor of Inequality.org.