Trump spoke often on the campaign trail of lowering taxes for the middle class and closing loopholes for the wealthy. But his actual tax proposal is quite the opposite, involving many tax breaks—which would increase the federal debt by at least $7 trillion over a decade—specifically designed to benefit the rich. Nearly half of the proposed cuts go to the top 1%. For the higher-income taxpayers who will benefit most, a new website has a suggestion: pledge to give your extra tax breaks to support the programs that the new administration may harm.
"We saw a potential for funding to be moved away from institutions that range from the NIH to the EPA to the DoE, and we thought that one of the most concrete actions we could take was to pledge our tax breaks (and encourage others to do the same) back towards organizations and causes that are at risk of becoming underfunded," say Erin Leonard and Lyell Roeder, creators of the Trump Relief Pledge. "This sort of direct transfer felt like both a compelling way to voice protest and take concrete action."
In the wake of the election, charitable giving has surged. But tying donations to tax breaks could be a way to help sustain giving over Trump's presidency. Leonard and Roeder envision that people who make the pledge will continue to donate separately, but with the pledge, they'll give more.
"It's easier to follow through with a donation of this sort if you've decided, before the money is in your pocket, that you're going to donate it away," say Leonard and Roeder. "In a sense, we're saying: you weren't going to have this money if the election had gone differently, so commit to invest it in causes that will sustain progress over the next four years."
The team behind the site is monitoring policy proposals and changes over time, and will make suggestions for donations based on where the need is greatest. A cut to the EPA will mean that environmental organizations need substantially more support; a cut to NIH will mean that many research organizations may no longer be able to operate.
The Trump Relief Pledge volunteers are building a database of effective organizations that are likely to need support. The website won't take any donations directly, but will help donors make informed decisions.
"Uncertainty is the operative word right now," say Roeder and Leonard. "We don't know when his tax cuts are going to happen. We don't know who exactly is going to get them. We have only a rough idea of how much they will be. The pledge is our way of saying that we care about our government continuing to support civil liberties, encourage progressive causes, defend the environment, provide health care and education for all Americans—the list goes on."
"Our hope is that by encouraging as many pledges as possible, we can have a tangible effect on sustaining progress and send a strong message about our collective priorities to the next president," they say.