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Bridge Michigan
Michigan’s nonpartisan, nonprofit news source

Opinion | Michigan’s tax system is unfair to our essential workers

Tax day arrived last week in July instead of April, and millions of Michiganders were reminded of the deep inequality in our tax code and our society. While far too many people have died, lost jobs, small businesses and a sense of community, too many others have profited handsomely – even during this pandemic.

Imagine two different people in Michigan. First, a grocery store worker who didn’t get paid sick days even during a pandemic. Instead, they were deemed essential and had to report to work to keep food on the shelves for families who were cooking more at home and therefore shopping more. All of this led to longer hours while working with the unknown of the virus possibly getting them or their family sick. 

Now take one of Michigan’s many billionaires. They did not have to put their lives on the line to ensure others ate. These billionaires continued to get richer as the stock market, which has become disconnected from American life, soared to new heights even as jobless claims broke records.

It’s clear that the two people in this example live completely different lives. One works hard to just survive, one does not need to work to get richer. One is deemed essential and is forced to work while the other isn’t deemed essential yet still has the means to do whatever they choose. 

However, on Tax Day in Michigan, suddenly both are treated the same. The grocery store worker, the nurse, the truck driver and warehouse worker who kept both our economy and society going are forced to pay the same tax rate as billionaires who did not have to lift a finger during the crisis. 

This unequal system leads to more division, more poverty and ensures Michigan does not have the revenue to fund our schools or fix our roads. People across our state get this as a recent survey found 77 percent thought we should “increase taxes on the wealthiest individuals in Michigan.”

As the legislature comes back for session we should take action to adopt a fair income tax that ensures the people who go to work day in and day out are not forced to pay the same tax rates as billionaires. This system would add a level of fairness to our tax code and allow us to raise the revenue needed to fund things like education, roads and health care.

Let's make this past Tax Day the last one where those who earn their wages pay the same rate as those who just profit off others’ essential work.

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