Happy new year! We hope that you had a wonderful holiday season and that your new year has begun with notes of hope and joy.
Like everyone else, the Patriotic Millionaires are using the start of a new year to take stock of our priorities and map out the challenges – and opportunities – we anticipate in the year ahead. For this week’s Closer Look, we’re going to give you a rundown of some of the key moments we’ve got our eyes on in 2024.
The Patriotic Millionaires have three “First Principles” which encompass our primary policy priorities. The first is taxes. We believe that millionaires like us should be paying far more in tax than we do now. As it stands, our tax code unfairly privileges the income of wealthy people over the income of working people with lower rates, loopholes, and exemptions. We don’t want to live in a country where rich people like us pay lower tax rates than teachers, nurses, and firefighters. And we certainly don’t want to live in a country where billionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos pay lower tax rates than all other income groups.
Our mission to tax the rich goes beyond a question of fairness, however. Inequalities of income and wealth have reached a fever pitch both here at home and around the world, and they pose major threats to our planet and our democracy. Taxes are an essential tool for reining in extreme wealth and ensuring the yawning gap between the rich and everyone else doesn’t permanently break our democracy and shared biosphere.
Here are some key moments to keep an eye out for that we expect to see on the tax front in the year ahead:
- Moore v. United States: We’ve told you a lot about this particular Supreme Court case before. The outcome of this case has the potential to upend entire swaths of our tax code and preemptively kill proposals to tax wealth and unrealized capital gains, including our very own OLIGARCH Act. Oral arguments for the case were held in December; while the Justices appeared skeptical of the plaintiffs’ arguments, we’ll still be holding our breath until the final verdict is released later this year.
- IRS: We expect some good news and bad news on the IRS in 2024. The good news is that, in the 2024 tax filing season, the IRS will be launching its pilot program for a free, online direct-file system in Alaska, Arizona, California, Florida, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New York, Nevada, South Dakota, Tennessee, Texas, Washington, and Wyoming. The bad news is that, as we detailed a few weeks ago, Republicans are still gunning to strip funding from the IRS. New reporting suggests that House Republicans actually want to accelerate IRS funding cuts that were agreed to as part of last April’s debt ceiling deal from 2025 to 2024. Congress is also facing deadlines to fund the government – January 19 and February 2 – and Republicans may well try to strip IRS funding in new deals.
- Corporate Tax Cuts: Several of the corporate tax cuts in the 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA) expired recently, including a provision that allowed companies to deduct their “research and development” costs upfront. This year, reports indicate that Republicans are interested in extending those tax cuts, while Democrats want to expand the Child Tax Credit, and there is a potential for some horse trading. While we’re always supportive of giving working families with children more financial breathing room, we think Republicans (whose initial refusal to expand the CTC was supposedly based on the cost) should explain why corporations, which have been doing just fine since these provisions expired, should get a massive tax break at all.
- Tax Cuts and Jobs Act (TCJA): Several of the personal tax cuts that came with the TCJA, primarily targeted at the ultra-wealthy, are set to expire in 2025, and the fight to ensure they’re not extended starts now. Ways and Means Chairman Jason Smith is apparently already working on legislation to extend many of these provisions early to try and avoid the 2025 deadline. For a full rundown of where we stand regarding which TCJA provisions should be extended or let to expire, check out our Crack the Code document.
The second of our principles revolves around wages. We live in the richest country in the history of the world, yet millions of Americans don’t bring home enough money to make ends meet. Experts estimate that the living wage – the wage needed to afford basic essentials – in the United States is $19.64 (adjusted for inflation), but the federal minimum wage has remained frozen at $7.25 an hour since 2009 and nearly a third of the country – 52 million Americans – makes less than $15 an hour.
This is fundamentally unacceptable, but not simply because it’s morally wrong to avoid paying workers enough to survive. Critically, it’s also a bad business practice and weighs on the economy as a whole. Because the economy runs mostly on consumer demand, it is in wealthy people’s interests to pay workers enough money to be able to afford their products and services. This is supported by studies which show that increasing minimum wages actually helps businesses do better in the long run.
In a related vein, the Patriotic Millionaires unabashedly support every worker’s right to join a union to collectively bargain with employers for better wages, benefits, and working conditions. Unfortunately, unions have been on the decline in America for several decades, and are in desperate need of protection and strengthening.
Here are some key moments that we expect to see on the wage front in the year ahead:
- On January 1, 22 states and 38 localities officially increased their minimum wages; in 47 of those jurisdictions, the minimum wage will reach or exceed $15. This exciting development will give nearly $7 billion in increased wages to nearly 10 million workers across the country. Later in the year, 3 other states and 22 localities will also increase their wage floor, which means that 85 jurisdictions will increase their minimum wages by the end of 2024. We don’t think workers could have asked for a better New Year’s present!
- The minimum wage will be on the ballot in four states: Ohio, Oklahoma, California, and Michigan. Ohio, Oklahoma, and Michigan voters will vote on whether to raise their minimum wage to $15, while Californians will vote on an $18 minimum wage.
- The avalanche of strikes that occurred in 2023 offered a blueprint for improving the livelihoods of workers in 2024. Between January 1 and November 30, there were no fewer than 393 strikes involving more than 500,000 workers, many of whom won significant wage gains. Experts expect the momentum for unions to continue, especially as big companies like Starbucks have publicly committed to sitting down and negotiating first contracts with their unionized workers.
Our final principle involves political equality. We believe that the principle of “one person, one vote” is the beating heart of our Constitution and our democracy. We believe that the right to vote is sacred and must be protected. We believe that voters should choose their elected officials – not the other way around. Finally, we believe that, contrary to what the Supreme Court purports, money in politics is not synonymous with speech and should not be treated as such.
You probably guessed the key moment that we have our sights on relating to political equality: the 2024 election. Political spending by the ultra-rich will likely continue to break records, as it has in the last few election cycles. This would be problematic in any election cycle, but it is particularly dangerous since former President Donald Trump is currently leading in the polls.
Tomorrow will mark three years since Trump incited his supporters to attack the Capitol in an effort to overturn the lawful election of President Biden. There’s a lot that we could say about that fateful day in American history, but we’ll leave it at this: January 6th proved that democracy is anathema to Trump. In an interview last month with Fox News host Sean Hannity, Donald Trump promised that, if he is elected for a second term, he would be a dictator on “day one.” He has signaled that he will replace career civil servants with loyalists and go after his political enemies. The list of disqualifying statements, policy proposals, and grifting behavior from Donald Trump is too long to be included in its entirety here.
In short, a second Trump term would be a staggering blow to American democracy, and we’ll be saying as much in the months ahead.
We would like to close with a quote by our Chair, Morris Pearl: “I’m not any more altruistic than the next guy. I’m just greedy for a different kind of country.”
History books are chock-full of examples of societies that did not take extreme economic and political inequality seriously. We’ll spare you the history lesson, but suffice it to say, none of them turned out well. We did not start this organization for any altruistic or charitable purposes; we started it because the stability of our nation and the survival of our democracy is threatened by extreme inequality. We know perfectly well that it is not healthy or sustainable for us and our children to live insulated and inordinately privileged lives while workers produce more but take less home. This year will be pivotal in shaping our country, and our world, in the decades to come. We’re glad to have you with us in the fights ahead.