Systematic Change Takes More Than Individual Action

We hear it all the time: “If you want to pay more in taxes, nothing is stopping you from just cutting a check to the IRS.” 

Of course, we (or any individual) could send the IRS a check if we wanted, but that completely misses the point of why we’re in this fight to begin with. A single check from one member of our organization, or even hundreds of them, wouldn’t be enough to fix the problems our country is facing. We want to make systemic change to our country and fight inequities, not just increase the revenue of the IRS.    

The problems this country is facing are too big for any one person – no matter how rich they are – to fix on their own. While many Americans are enamored with the myth of the rugged individual and the idea that one person alone can make massive lasting change, this is simply ridiculous. Individual action alone cannot challenge the widespread power of systemic change. This is why we don’t plead for wealthy CEOs and tech giants to do the right thing and pay into the system on their own. What good would it do if Elon Musk wrote a one-time check for a couple million (or even billion) to the IRS, besides boosting his own popularity? 

Instead, we’re demanding that our elected officials hold EVERY wealthy person accountable to the same standards that apply to all other Americans.  

This is not to say that individual action isn’t a vital component of a larger system of welfare – quite the opposite is true. Many of our members engage in philanthropy, and we believe that charitable giving is a good thing. But individual philanthropic giving comes nowhere near replacing the well-funded public services we need. Who wants to put their name on a sewage treatment plant over a fancy new library? It’s not as exciting to fund a new sewage plant, yet we need them all the same. 

At the end of the day, we can’t rely on the generosity of a few people to improve our country. We must think about the bigger picture and advocate for the kind of widespread changes, like taxing the rich, that would make funding our public services a requirement regardless of how wealthy an individual is. The injustice and inequality we currently face don’t exist solely because of just a handful of greedy rich people, and they can’t be solved by a handful of philanthropic ones on their own. It’s going to require broader, more collective action.

One of our members, Abigail Disney, has summed this mindset up perfectly: “Systemic issues require systemic solutions, not piecemeal attempts at treating symptoms rather than the disease itself. The answer to these complicated problems is ironically simple: taxes. Mandatory, inescapable, ambitious tax reform on an international level— this is the only way to fix what is broken.” 

We are facing massive, systemic inequality and in order to effectively address that, we need to tackle it in equally large, systematic ways.

We can accomplish exponentially more if we work towards policy change that impacts everyone than what we would be able to do as individuals. Rather than relying on the ‘generosity’ of a select few millionaires and billionaires, we all need to make sure we’re paying our fair share of taxes.

This doesn’t just start with a couple of millionaires writing checks to the IRS, it starts when all wealthy people are required to do so. Only then can we begin to see the changes our country desperately needs. 

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