Tax the Rich: building on our successes, plotting a course for the future

Tax The Rich is a seasoned Portland DSA working group where we think about how to move money and power from the rich to the working class. We’re a rag-tag group of amateurs and academics – all levels of expertise (or lack thereof) are welcome! We have several main categories of the work we do: wealth taxes, work on the city budget, supporting coalition campaigns, and tax education.

So far, our wealth tax work has been remarkably successful! In 2021-2022, we saw the first $208 million dollars flow from the wealthy to fund universal preschool. Our universal preschool campaign, which we worked on beginning in 2018 and through the passage of the Preschool For All measure in November of 2020, is good for kids, families, and workers. Through our work on the preschool campaign, we learned that although the tax code is famously skewed in favor of the wealthy, given the democratic choice, Multnomah County voters are more than ready to change that.

We’re also not slowing down in our ballot measure and taxation policy work! We’re already working on our next wealth tax, which would tax extreme “intangible” wealth, which includes stocks and bonds. This type of wealth is currently only taxed when it’s sold, or sometimes through the estate/inheritance tax, which means that the wealthy hold onto their money tax-free. That’s not very fair when the rest of us pay taxes on our wealth via income taxes and property taxes.

Our proposed intangible wealth tax (or an “extreme wealth tax”, as we’ve taken to calling it),  would be a 1% tax on extreme wealth over 10 million dollars, bringing  in about 2.6 billion dollars in revenue annually. But, we still have work to do: most importantly, we’re still trying to figure out what the tax should fund. Our research crew has discussed what $10 million would mean for housing, preschool and education, mental health and addiction services, and more, but we’re still mulling any and all possibilities. If you have ideas of what this tax should fund, please reach out and tell us about them!

When we’re not coming up with new taxes, we’re working on other projects. One of our long-standing traditions is advocating around the city budget. Each spring, we do our best to let Portlanders know what’s in the proposed budget, and encourage people to take action. We make shareable and easily digestible social media content, create phone scripts that Portlanders can use to call the councilors, as well as template emails for the phone-shy. Some people even get empowered to testify in front of the council!

We can’t afford to step away from the budget work this year. Over the last few years, our conservative city council has decided to spend our hard-earned tax dollars in ways that make the Portland Police Bureau and the Portland Business Alliance very happy. With this year’s even more conservative city council, the budget is probably going to reflect their cozy relationships, rather than finding ways to serve the actual needs of Portlanders. Join us for our annual deep dive into the budget, and brainstorm ways to tell our council to fund a budget that serves all of us, not just the rich and powerful.

Of course, the fight towards economic justice is too big to do alone, and so we’re proud to support all fights that work towards a more just Oregon. We helped our friends at Eviction Representation For All by developing a capital gains tax that will fully fund legal representation for all renters in eviction court, as well as other tenant services. We’ll be doing our part to ensure that their measure is successful on the ballot this spring. Additionally, we’re finding ways to support OPAL’s very cool fareless Trimet campaign, which you can learn more about here.

Lastly, our educational work is central to much of what we do. Our goal across our social media pages is to make tax policy interesting and maybe even fun. We mostly do that through social media content: we’re on Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter! After all, it’s hard to convince people that we need to change tax policy unless they understand how and why it’s broken in the first place.

If any of this work sounds interesting to you, we’d love to have you! We’re really excited about our February social, which is at 8pm on Thursday, February 9th at Worker’s Tap: come hang out! Of course, we also have our regular meetings every second Thursday of the month at 6:30pm. These meetings are hybrid, so you can join us in person at the IWW, or virtually over Zoom, whichever works better for your schedule.  If you have any questions or comments for us, feel free to reach out to co-chairs Emerson or Lauren on Mattermost, or email us at!