President Joe Biden raises his hands emphatically as he delivers the State of the Union address as Vice President Kamala Harris, behind him on the left, and House Speaker Kevin McCarthy, behind him on the right, listen.
President Joe Biden delivers the State of the Union address to a joint session of Congress on Feb. 7, 2023 in the U.S. Capitol in Washington, D.C. (Jacquelyn Martin-Pool/Getty Images)
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President Joe Biden had choice words in yesterday’s State of the Union speech about the U.S. tax system: “It is not fair.”

The Center for Public Integrity’s investigations on taxes shine a light on exactly that. 

We’ve shown that changes to the federal system in the past four decades have supercharged inequality. Wealthy people and large companies have reaped big benefits from repeated tax cuts, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist James B. Steele reported. 

The first season of our podcast The Heist focused entirely on how President Donald Trump’s 2017 tax cuts were sold to Americans — and how the reality compared with the promises.

Individual states, meanwhile, often make the least wealthy pay a higher share of their income on taxes than residents with more money. A team of reporters at Public Integrity dug into the reasons — and the white supremacist history behind some of the policies — in this investigation.

And we teamed up with ICT, formerly Indian Country Today, on an investigation about the holes in tribes’ budgets because states extract millions of dollars a year in taxes on tribal lands.

Biden, whose Inflation Reduction Act added a 15% minimum tax on corporations with profits of more than $1 billion, pressed for more changes in his State of the Union address. He called for a minimum tax for billionaires, a return to the Child Tax Credit provided to families earlier in the pandemic and a big increase to taxes on corporate stock buybacks — when companies purchase their own stock to up the value for often-wealthy shareholders, rather than spending the money on investments that could increase jobs.

“I’m a capitalist,” Biden said, “but pay your fair share.”

As Steele reported in November, share buybacks for the 15 largest corporations holding offshore cash rose sharply after the 2017 tax-cut law passed. Because high-income white Americans hold the most stocks, they get an outsize boost from such moves.

There’s a lot more to report on taxes still, and we’re on it.

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