As Martin Luther King once said, “What good is having the right to sit at a lunch counter if you can’t afford to buy a hamburger?”
This is a wise question that asks more of people who want social inequality without sacrificing much in terms of economic equality.
Next time someone says that they’re “fiscally conservative, socially liberal,” let them know that it is not a viable ideology. People who prescribe to that ideal are ignoring the stronghold that economic policies have on social justice.
Most people who hold these beliefs tend to forget there’s more to social policies than the typical topic of same-sex marriage, abortion and identity politics.
Every social issue — including feminism, same-sex marriage and race politics — contains fiscal elements and are therefore also economic issues. Thus, it is critical for people who want equality in this country to vote liberally, both fiscally and socially.
The impact economics have had on so-called “social” issues is undeniable. According to Scholars Strategy Network, certain policies have historically helped minorities make gains, such as President Bill Clinton’s expansion of the earned income tax credit, which gives low income working people a tax refund check.
Other liberal policies, such as the Civil Rights Act and the War on Poverty, have boosted the incomes of unprivileged Americans.
Deregulation of the private sector allows for violations of worker rights, and also traps Americans in a cycle of chronic poverty by perpetuating a cycle of mistreatment and abuse by employers. The preeminence of workplace fiscal inequality demonstrates the importance of fiscally liberal policies.
Conservative tax policies, like joint-filing, is also a stealthy way to discriminate against women, especially married women. Alieza Durana of Slate Magazine wrote that women who file their taxes jointly are often taxed at a disproportionately higher rate than they would if they were a single filer, and that makes it harder for women to accumulate wealth.
Unfortunately, this policy is still in place. Conservative tax policies, one of which heavily taxes groceries and clothing, reinforce social norms and gender roles which, when forced, are harmful to women’s independence and freedom.
Fortunately, economic and social liberal movements, such as fair pay acts, zero tolerance for sexual harassment in the workplace (Times Up), extended maternity leave benefits and the call to attention of the mistreatment women face (Women’s March), often incorporate elements of political activism to close the wage gap.
They also have allowed women more equality and choice in the workplace than before. Though there is much work to be done, progress has been made. Only by voting for liberal policies that eliminate sexist structures of financial oppression can women control their own livelihoods.
Conservative fiscal policy typically has the least forgiving tax policy for poor people, as exemplified by Tax Cuts and Jobs Act of 2017, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump late last year and, according to economist Greg Leiserson, will noticeably increase disparities in after-tax income by 2025.
With economic policies, conservatives want to keep the minimum wage low, tax the rich lightly (thereby moving the burden to the lower and middle class) in the name of “promoting business,” cut spending on social programs like Medicaid and food stamps that attempt to ameliorate issues people face, and more.
Being fiscally conservative rather than liberal fails to fix a broken system and leaves millions of Americans vulnerable to poverty.
Here’s the bottom line: if people are poor, it is nearly impossible to be empowered. Economic equality is social equality, and the stance of being socially liberal and fiscally conservative is not only oxymoronic but actively harmful to minority groups.
Remember that at the polls on Nov. 6.