Louis Perwien lives in D.C. with his family.
Like many of the young, White professionals in this town, I came to D.C. after college, attracted by the employment opportunities in politics and government. In that time I grew to love the city: jazz clubs on U Street NW, the new baseball team that moved to town, the vibrant neighborhoods and so much more. I moved away for business school after two years of service with AmeriCorps but returned here for a job in finance.
I married a beautiful woman who also has a well-paid professional job. Together, we have made a loving, comfortable home in Capitol Hill with our two children. I have continued in my job for more than 10 years, received promotions and raises and prospered. Our combined incomes plus investment income from stocks that relatives gave us put us at the 95th percentile of earners in D.C. I say this not to brag but to highlight that we have been extremely fortunate. We have more than we need.
During the coronavirus pandemic, our wealth protected our family from the most serious consequences of the health and economic crises. We have been able to work safely from home and minimize exposure to the virus. The value of our home and stock portfolio have both shot up. And our wealth allowed us to find private schools for our children to avoid the turmoil of school closures and remote learning.
Meanwhile, thousands of fellow residents are struggling desperately. D.C.’s predominantly Black and Brown working class has borne the brunt of the crisis. The pandemic has exacerbated long-standing income, health and education inequities, as well as D.C.’s preexisting affordable housing crisis, which had already pushed tens of thousands of mostly Black and Brown residents out of our city since the Great Recession.
There is no shortage of ways that money from wealthy families such as mine could be put to good use, from investments in truly affordable housing and health care to education and quality child care — all of which will contribute to recovering from the pandemic and growing the well-being of our city.
Yet I was embarrassed to learn that, currently in D.C., those in the top 20 percent of income distribution pay less in local taxes as a proportion of our income than the rest of the D.C. population. The top 1 percent pays even less. According to D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute’s report “Tax Injustice,” the highest tax burden is borne by middle-income earners.
The D.C. Council should support raising revenue from an increase on taxable income of more than $250,000 in its 2022 budget. This would increase taxes on only 3 percent of D.C. taxpayers, all of whom are high-income and many of whom have substantial amounts of wealth, including me. And I’m not alone in supporting higher taxes on wealthy residents. According to a D.C. Fiscal Policy Institute poll, 78 percent and 72 percent of District voters support raising taxes on residents earning taxable income of $350,000 or more and $250,000 or more, respectively.
I urge D.C. policymakers to understand that everyone who earns or has inherited a lot of money can and must pay their fair share to support a city we love, where everyone can thrive. We should all be proud to pay taxes that adequately address the needs of our city