Society & Culture
Why cash policies are essential and what’s next in Washington state
In this episode, Working Families Tax Credit Campaign Manager Emily Vyhnanek spoke with coalition member Alizeh Bhojani, who was Policy Counsel at OneAmerica at the time of this recording, both of whom are dedicated advocates for the enactment of state level policies that give cash back to the people who most need it. They talk about their experiences advocating for the Working Families Tax Credit, Unemployment Insurance for undocumented workers, and the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund.
Theme music by Revanth Akella
Logo by Eileen Jimenez
Introduction and closing by Campaign Communication Specialist Leila Reynolds
Working Families Tax Credit website
Washington COVID-19 Immigrant Relief Fund
Unemployment for Undocumented Workers
[00:00:00] Alizeh Bhojani: I always think, I spent three years in New York City, and I will always remember that I got to take free adult swim lessons at the public park in Brooklyn. And the whole time I was like, you know, I got triple taxed in New York City, right? I got a city tax, I got a borough tax, and I got a state tax.
And I was like, it's going to these swim lessons and it's worth it. Because it was literally only me and like six other Black women learning how to swim from this instructor. And it was one of the best times of my life. Also the most terrifying. I was stressed out every day trying to learn how to swim, but they were great.
It was one of those moments where I was like, this is what taxation brings. These are the services. And I think narratively we need to figure out how to say your public library, a place you like to go read and exist for free, exists because we use taxes to pay for it.
[00:01:05] Leila Reynolds: Welcome to WA Possible, a podcast about what is possible for economic justice in Washington state. This podcast is presented by the Washington State Budget and Policy Center, a research and policy organization working to advance progressive state budget and tax policies that promote racial equity and economic dignity.
At the Budget and Policy Center, we dream of a brighter future where everyone has a home to rest in, families can afford child and elder care, and people have enough money to buy the food and resources they need. On WA Possible, we talk with partners, advocates, and staff who are helping make this vision a reality. We know that economic justice is possible here in Washington state because we are building toward it together.
I'm Leila Reynolds, Campaign Communications Specialist at the Budget and Policy Center. I’m one of the communications leads on the Working Families Tax Credit Coalition. The coalition is made up of more than 50 organizations spanning economic and racial justice groups, immigrant rights advocates, labor unions, direct service providers, domestic violence advocates and more. We advocate together with the belief that the tax code has the potential to be used as a tool for undoing racist legacies in Washington state.
Research proves that direct cash payments are a powerful way to help return economic stability to low income families, immigrant communities, and communities of color. In this episode, my colleague and Working Families Tax Credit campaign manager Emily Vyhnanek spoke with coalition member Alizeh Bhojani, who was policy counsel at OneAmerica at the time of this recording. That was the Alizeh speaking at the top of the episode.
Both have been dedicated advocates for the enactment of state level policies that give cash back to the people who most need it. And they talk about their experiences on the Working Families Tax Credit, unemployment insurance for undocumented workers, and the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund.
Let's get to the episode.
[00:03:14] Emily Vyhnanek: Tell me a little bit about yourself, Alizeh. And like, what brings you to this work? What brings you to the advocacy space generally?
[00:03:23] Alizeh: Yeah. So my name is Alizeh Bhojani. I use she/her pronouns. I am currently the immigration policy counsel with OneAmerica. Yeah. So what brings me to this work? I am an immigrant myself. I came to the United States in 1999, when I was ten years old, and I came to Washington. So I was actually in the suburbs and made my way from Bellevue up to Kirkland to Snohomish all because those areas got increasingly, increasingly more expensive.
So my family was pushed further and further north, and further and further to more sub-rural areas, more suburban areas, and whiter areas. It was definitely interesting, but it also opened up my eyes to thinking about where people who look like me live, what kind of support systems they have? And frankly, going through the immigration system itself really opened my eyes to some of the lies around, or the myths – that really opened up my eyes to the myths of the American dream.
Our family, it took us 14 years to get our green cards. In that time my mother was in and out of- she had severe medical issues and we didn't have insurance and we could not get insurance. My parents were both working in the cash economy until my mother couldn’t. And it was really difficult. It was very difficult to get care for her.
We had to make really difficult decisions about whether she would get treatment and how much treatment she could get. And it was just really inadequate, what care we could get for her. And so that also radicalized me. Right. And really made me think about what support systems are out there and who are they accessible to. I, as a 16/15-year-old, had to spend a lot of time navigating different hospital charity care systems and the different bureaucratic systems that my parents just could not.
And so all of those things make me very dedicated to economic justice, immigration justice, and in particular accessibility and what it means for these- because our government does a lot, right? I don't want to say that our state government or federal government doesn't do a lot. They do a lot. It's just not accessible to the folks who need it the most.
And I think that is one of the reasons that I'm really drawn both to legal advocacy and just being an organizer, an advocate, and activist in general, is that we need to make sure that folks know their power, what they bring to the space, and that they can make change. It's not just us. But it's the fact that a lot of white, longtime residents who are citizens know that they can call their representatives and complain about things, and they are the only ones calling and we need to change that dynamic.
[00:06:44] Emily: Yeah.
[00:06:45] Alizeh: So that was very long winded.
[00:06:47] Emily: No, no, I loved it. Well, A, thank you for sharing all of that. And B, I think I was pausing and reflecting as you were talking when you were saying that whole life experience radicalized you to be where you're at today.
I feel like those moments of radicalization and leaning in to where power is and where you see power in your community. Like, it's so, I don't know. I'm really sitting about that because as I'm reflecting on what brings me to this work and why I'm here- that, for me, happened a lot around the tax code and doing free tax prep work.
You know, I grew up in Eastern Washington – and my parents still live out there – and came out here [Seattle] for college. And it really wasn't until I started doing free tax prep work that I had this window into our state's tax code, our federal tax code, and the two-tiered system that is created by the way that we have framed our entire tax code and what that means for communities. Because I have basically seen that tax code can be so, so powerful. Like huge influxes of cash coming all at once during tax time.
And it's not for everybody. It is for some and not all in the same exact position. And when I say that, I'm really speaking specifically to folks who are undocumented, folks who are immigrants, who are trying to access these same systems and having to go through some of the most arduous processes just to participate without getting hardly any benefits at all.
So, when I think about what brings me to this work, I think understanding that deep inequity in that two-tiered system really compelled me to get more deeply involved in the advocacy space with the Working Families Tax Credit, obviously. But when it comes to – and I can speak a little bit more to this later – the Working Families Tax Credit Coalition and my passion around that is also because folks like you and folks in the coalition have been so committed to addressing that piece, and not compromising on that piece, making sure that ITIN filers can access this credit has been a bottom line for our work.
And so, for me, that keeps me going. And, for me, that keeps me in this work. Knowing that there's people in my community and this space that share that grounding value. And, yeah, it just makes me really excited to be in this work with you, Alizeh.
[00:09:49] Alizeh: Yes. And also, for folks listening, ITIN stands for Individual Taxpayer Identification Number and it is the number instead of a Social Security Number that undocumented folks can get to pay their taxes. And the IRS promises not to share that information with the immigration enforcement because – here's a big myth-busting moment – immigrants pay taxes. Undocumented people pay taxes. And the federal government knows it.
And they really want them to pay taxes. And they're like, All right, if you're paying taxes, we won’t share this information with immigration enforcement. They can get that information to deport you from somewhere else. Yeah. So that was one follow up. My other follow up was around the tax system and what that triggered for me is that when you apply for citizenship, you do have to say that you paid all your taxes and that you did not avoid any years of taxation, as well.
So, yeah, it's an important part of being part of the U.S., of naturalization, as well. And it's punitive, right. It could impact your citizenship application if you say, no, I didn't pay taxes. And then you have to provide additional documentation about your income to say, oh, I didn't, I couldn't qualify, or I didn't need to.
[00:11:09] Emily: Yeah. I mean, just the arduous process of getting an ITIN alone is, is a lot. And a lot of people don't fully realize – and myself included, when I first started doing free tax prep work – I did not know what an ITIN was and that there was this option for folks who weren't able to have a Social Security Number to be able to file and participate in filing your taxes. And then when I started to learn about those deeper implications of not being current on your taxes and what that might do to your situation if you wanted to apply for citizenship.
So, understanding just the deeper complexities of it revealed for me, huge way that the tax code- it affects everyone and the really, really deep way. It's like one of the most meaningful like meaningful interactions you have with the government every single year. And it's the worst thing in the world. It is so hard.
[00:12:10] Emily: It's hard for people who have social scary numbers. And then when you layer on top, like not having that and having to go through this process, the barriers just keep on coming and it makes it that much harder to be able to do the things that you want to do in life. And for me, like I really see that as both like a, like I don't want it to be this way and I also see it as a huge opportunity for us to be able, as advocates, to be like, how are we centering this in our advocacy and how are we not compromising?
Because when we do compromise, that's when these systems get created and then perpetuated. Like based on my knowledge, ITINs were created in the 90s as a way - like you said in the beginning – as a way for the federal government to tap into this population of potential tax payers. Like that is the real reason why ITINs exist.
[00:13:05] Alizeh: And they don't get benefits, right? They're paying into the system but are still excluded from every federal benefit like the earned income tax credit, which is some of the genesis behind the Working Families Tax credit.
[00:13:16] Emily: Yes, absolutely. And yeah even recently, I mean - we saw this with the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act in 2017 - we saw that ITIN filers did have access to the child tax credit, and that was the case for a really long time. And then immediately that went away so that the amount of refunds that are available to folks with ITINs is very, very small.
And what makes me super, super excited about the Working Families Tax Credit is that this is a really meaningful amount of money to be able to get up to up to 12 thousand - not thousand - up to 1200 dollars.
[00:14:00] Alizeh: You gave somebody a heart attack, Emily!
[00:14:01] Emily: I know! Well, hopefully - I mean, it would be great if we got up there so, plant that seed for advocates. But all jokes aside, I think like this is a huge bright spot in ways that we could approach this differently. Like we're one of, I think seven or eight states now that have expanded to ITIN filers, and this is the first tax credit that's rolling out with ITIN filers in the very beginning.
This tax credit will reach both Social Security Number filers and ITIN filers all in one fell swoop. And that's so huge because like we have an opportunity to try and like, you know, keep correcting the systems and there's more work to be done at the federal level, obviously. But I think there's a huge - this is a huge win, and I can't underscore that enough.
I think from here, like the thing that's on my mind is around implementation. And I think that's a core piece of this advocacy world that I think a lot of advocates haven't thought about in a big way. So that's kind of the thing that's on my mind. I'm curious what you think about that.
[00:15:08] Alizeh: Well, it sounds like you're always making me do more work is what that sounds like. But it goes back to what I was saying at the beginning about accessibility. Like, we can't just fight for cool policies and be like, “Okay, peace, we did it.” Right? Like we also have to follow through on implementation, especially working with agencies and organizations that have not historically served the communities that we want to ensure are included and served.
And so that means constantly harassing agencies to think about language interpretation, to think about what their customer service lines are - how they're staffed, if they're staffed enough, and if they're staffed after regular working hours. Right. Because a lot of folks that we work with are not going to be able to call between 9 to 5 and hang out on hold for an hour or half an hour or even 20 minutes.
And those are all realities that we have to continue constantly putting in front of these agencies. And just have them confront the reality. Because, you know, everyone's coming from the place of wanting to serve and help communities. Right. So a lot of that implementation work, I think, is just really, really emphasizing that now we've passed one hurdle, but that we have more to go.
[00:16:32] Emily: Yeah, yeah. I mean, I think even as you're talking, I'm kind of thinking about how like the work that we do as advocates is so like values-driven. And it's values-driven to get that policy like - solidify it in statute and then I really think like the work around implementation is, is like so there's so many parallels, but it's often like the kind of underbelly that no one really wants to look at.
[00:16:59] Alizeh: It’s not as sexy!
[00:17:00] Emily: It's not the sexy advocacy work that people get behind. Like when I say rulemaking, I see people's eyes glaze over. And for folks listening, you know, rulemaking is the process by which the state, like, legitimately, like looks at the statute that we set in law and then interprets it says, this is how we're going to administer it.
And I think a lot like for me that was I didn't know about rulemaking before I started this work. I like I was like, “Yay, we passed this policy! What's next?” And this whole kind of underbelly kind of revealed itself and kind of you know, I think had we not been at the table and when I say we, I mean the Working Families Tax Credit Coalition and thinking about the work that we've done to try and reduce barriers in the application process, like had that, had we not been there and been so kind of like adamant about us being there?
I really think there could have been a lot of really, really harmful barriers that could have been embedded, you know, like ways that would prevent people from getting what we consider like lifesaving cash. And so I think like the same values that are underpinning these policies that we try to push for around like dignity and trust for communities like I see that in the implementation process too, and it's almost like I kind of see it as higher stakes in a lot of ways because policy is only as good as its ability to reach the people that are going to be benefiting from it.
[00:18:33] Alizeh: Absolutely. And also, I'm thinking about COVID era, right? Like because of COVID, these rulemaking meetings are now on Microsoft Teams…
[00:18:42] Emily: Oh yeah.
[00:18:43] Alizeh: …and I'm assuming they were in person before. And I, you know, I'm sure a lot of people have feelings about Teams products, but I think that's more accessible than driving to wherever they would be having those meetings to engage with the agencies around fairly obscure topics. And I do want to give a lot of credit to Emily and the other folks leading the Working Families Tax Credit Coalition, because you all did an incredible job preparing those talking points and organizing advocates to show up and be ready to engage.
And I think often in our work we have a lot of - or maybe I'll just speak for myself - I often get very angry. And it's really helpful to have channels for that in a productive and useful way. That we can still show up in these spaces and be like, you know, instead of yelling at people, be like, “Hey, you're doing this wrong, here are alternatives. Please, please. We're all here for the same reason, and you can make this better and you have the power to make this better. And we're just here to let you know what those options are.”
[00:19:53] Emily: Yeah, when I hear you say that, it makes me think about, I think a big strength of all of the power building work that we do in coalition spaces is equipping people and advocates who care so deeply about all of this work with the ways to confidently talk about it and know about it.
And I feel like half the battle with, I don't know, especially like addressing white supremacy inside these systems that are deeply white supremacist is kind of revealing what's going on, like what's actually happening. Because it doesn't - these systems don't want us to look at them and don't want, like the light of day. And I think that's really a huge part of our power as advocates is to be able to know exactly what's going on, be able to respond and feel really confident and grounded in our values and why we're doing what we're doing.
[00:20:50] Alizeh: That's one of my favorite things about OneAmerica's lobby day, which is going to be February 1, 2023, it's that we spend a lot of time being like, these are the policies, this is how you can go talk to your legislator - and I've only done virtual lobby days with OneAmerica thus far, 2? 3? I don't know how many lobby days I’ve done - but each one that we've done, it's always been interesting to see how our directly impacted folks are at the beginning of the day versus the end of the day.
Like beginning of the day, they're a little tentative, especially the first-time folks who’ve never spoken to their legislator ever, right? And they're just like, oh, this person won’t want to hear my story. I'm going to sound really like I'm not going to be confident. You know, every time you have to be like, no, this is your story. You know what's up. They're not going to ask you details about the bill. And if they are, you can just tell them to talk to me or just say, we'll send you a briefing about it after, right? We don't have a lot of time. But then after getting a few meetings under their belt, after seeing that the legislators are listening, or if they're not listening, getting fired up about it is transformative.
[00:22:03] Emily: Yeah, that kind of like fired up - and earlier you said, you know, like feeling, you know, at times anger, which I'm right there with you. Like sometimes it's hard to stay present in those meetings with either lawmakers or agency staff and it's like things are really, really difficult. And I think to that point like, getting fired up and getting angry is also this act of love because like, there's reasons why people are angry.
Like there's reasons why where we're trying to fight so hard for these things. And it's because, like, we really do care. And I, I'm really loving our conversation so far. And I think one question that I have for you is like, what do you see as the landscape of policy? Like how is that working, not working? And what are some policies that are top of mind for you?
[00:22:58] Alizeh: Yeah, I mean, that's a big question. What is always on top of mind for me is we've been working with the Unemployment Insurance Coalition since I started in OneAmerica in 2020 to create a permanent unemployment insurance system for undocumented workers. And this coalition, that's how we got the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund - and the $340 million for that - was because a lot of undocumented workers were laid off from their jobs during the pandemic and then had nowhere to turn right because they were excluded entirely from any federal relief and excluded from the unemployment insurance system because of lack of work authorization.
And we talked with community members, we did surveys, listening sessions in 2020, late 2020, and overwhelmingly people said that they needed a permanent social safety net. And I think one of the responses that really sticks in my mind was that almost all people in some of their survey responses and free-hand said we don't want more than what residents and what citizens get.
[00:24:12] Alizeh: We don't want more than that. Because in our platform we're like, okay, if we gave - if we went for like a flat benefit amount for an unemployment insurance system, what amount would you want? And people were just like, Yeah, give us like $300 a week, like whatever the citizens get, we don't want more than that. We just want what we are owed.
And that really stuck with me as we began developing the policy and polishing it up. This is our third year bringing an unemployment insurance bill to Olympia. The last two years it died in committee on the last day of policy cut off. And we got a hearing but, you know, that's still really frustrating to have folks get prepared to share their stories, bare their souls, and then be like, okay, well, we did it, bye. That's it. Yeah. And it's even harder if you actually bring them physically to Olympia, right? Because it's such an investment and that's a full day of work that they're not doing.
[00:25:18] Emily: Yeah. I mean I think what you're describing too of like, you know, making sure that there's like parity within these systems between folks in exactly the same circumstances. But whether or not they are undocumented or citizens. I mean, like this is just like for me, I think about the ways that sometimes there can be misconceptions about like what these cash policies do and why, and how they fit together.
Because I think, you know, like you can look at the Working Families Tax Credit and say, okay, ITIN filers are included. And at the same time that is not - ITIN filers and undocumented workers are not mutually exclusive. ITIN filers represent are a small subset of the entire documented population. And so even when I'm thinking about the Working Families Tax Credit, it is like this one-time cash payment, it happens annually. But when you think about unemployment, that is like truly a lifesaving mechanism for people who have been laid off. And I, I feel like, you know, for a lot of these people who are working and earning money, like they're participating in the same system again, like a way of paying into the system without seeing those same benefits.
And I mean, on that note too, just bringing it back to like the work that we do every day, I feel like in some ways that’s the power of coalition. There's a lot of power in coalition and movement work to be able to like really make sure that not only are we like showing up to advocate on behalf of community and making sure we're advocating on the implementation side of things and how things actually get rolled out. And then also like showing up like within our communities to be able to make sure folks know what's coming and know how to navigate and know what's available to them.
Because I say all that to say, like right now with the Working Families Tax Credit, we're starting, like our coalition is starting really fantastic train-the-trainer sessions and we're getting a lot of really good feedback from folks. And part of it is really like folks want to know what's going to happen and like folks are craving that information because they want to tell their neighbors, they want to tell their communities, they want to tell their families themselves. Having that information of like what's available, how to get it, how to safely get it, how to get it at no cost. Like all of that is so important and not easily accessible. And so it makes me really happy and proud and really thankful to be in these spaces with advocates who share those values, to be able to show up and, and be like we support ourselves, we support our community.
[00:28:26] Alizeh: Yeah. Outreach is such a necessary component of implementation. And actually, anything on the policy side, when we're getting bills passed, I think we just automatically need to build in outreach money.
[00:28:38] Emily: Yes. Yeah, that's exactly like - when I think about the Working Families Tax Credit, that's something that we did not do in the first bill. When the Working Families Tax Credit expansion passed in 2021, finally funded, yay. We were first starting the rulemaking process and realizing, oh my goodness, like there's not funds right now for community members.
So we went back the next year and said, Hey, we need $10 million to get out to community members across the state and CBOs - community based organizations - to be like actually support this rollout in a really, really meaningful way. And like not shy away from that piece because I think, like, to your point earlier, like the administration/implementation side of things tends to be minimized to the point where it's like almost a good thing to have a small percentage of the overall fiscal note - or the cost of the program - go towards implementation like somehow that's a mark of efficiency.
And I think that's totally the wrong frame to exist in. Like, I think especially going through this whole rulemaking process with Working Families Tax Credit, I have so many learnings about saying you know, like those percentages should be high. And that's not to say like, you know, in any way, like state agencies do everything correctly and if they don't have the funding to be able to set up the call centers, have the right staff, like people do the work and we can't shy away from that being a cost.
[00:30:20] Alizeh: Exactly. And I mean, we want to pay people to do this work. Often, it's very grueling, particularly when you're working with communities that have never had access to these sorts of services, have a lot of trauma related both with working with government agencies and in their lived experiences. We really need to compensate people for their work and labor.
And I know we learned the same lesson with the Immigrant Relief Fund, right, - the Washington Immigrant Relief Fund - where we were like, this is, this is hefty. This is a lot of work. This is work that federal and state agencies are doing for citizens in every capacity. And now it's community based organizations that have to do this entirely, and we need to be compensated better for it.
[00:31:05] Emily: Absolutely. And I feel like, you know, I just want to say thank you to the coalition that worked so hard on the Undocumented Worker Relief Fund, the UI expansion to undocumented workers. Like I feel like we - because there's so much overlap in a lot of the advocacy spaces - I feel like we've learned so much from the lessons that you all have learned in terms of like call center response and like taking that in and then advocating within state agencies to say like, hey, a seven person call center team is not going to be enough. Like what do we need to do to bolster this, how do we learn from what's happened and not make those same missed, they're missed investments, really. It's really about where those resources are going and making sure we're prioritizing accessibility and reduction in barriers over like fraud and worries about people gaming the system.
[00:32:08] Alizeh: And I really hope that the legislature takes the lesson from these recent midterm elections that they have a mandate to be bold, right? Like we don't want them to go into this session, the long session, right, the long session where things actually get done policy-wise. Right. Because like we know next year they're going to be like - by next year I mean 2024 – they’re going to be like, oh, this is a short session, we can only pass budget bills and small policies. We're not going to do anything major. So like this is the upcoming session, this is the time to be bold and to actually follow through on promises that got them elected. And, you know, actually respond to the folks, the voters, who got them into their seats and positions.
[00:32:54] Emily: And I think this is a really good segue way to kind of dreaming, which is something I love to do. I love to dream and brainstorm. And for this podcast, you know, we want to think big and want to think, what we want in the future. And so I guess my question for you is like, what is giving you hope right now? And like, what do you think is possible?
[00:33:18] Alizeh: Oh, I think, one, when we get together and gripe about like, oh, we can't do this, we can't do that, one of the things underlying it all is that we need to fix our regressive tax system. I know you're with me on that. And I think that would solve, maybe not solve, but it would alleviate a lot of concerns.
And so I'm excited for a wealth tax. I always think, I spent three years in New York City, and I will always remember that I got to take free adult swim lessons – I don’t know how to swim - at the public park in Brooklyn. And the whole time I was like, you know, I got triple taxed in New York City, right? I got a city tax, I got a borough tax, and I got a state tax.
And I was like, it's going to these swim lessons and it's worth it. Because it was literally only me and like six other Black women learning how to swim from this instructor. And it was one of the best times of my life. Also the most terrifying. So like, I was stressed out every day trying to learn how to swim, but they were great.
We all harassed the swim instructor. They were like, Hey, when do we get our wine? While we're swimming. But it was just it was just like one of those moments where I was like, this is what taxation brings. Like, these are the services. And I, I think narratively we just need to figure out how to say, like your public library, a place you like to go read and exist for free, it exists because we use taxes to pay for it. And that burden should not disproportionately fall on certain percentages of the population.
[00:35:06] Emily: Gosh yeah, I, I'm really sitting with what you shared because for me that really speaks to the fact that like A, our tax code can be a hugely powerful tool and it can also, like there is a world where people's dignity is honored and people's like - dignity beyond just baseline living. Because when I say dignity, I mean not just the ability to subsist and like go on day to day.
It's like the doing things that actually like as human beings bring us joy. And like for me that story is so illustrative of that because like, these are all things that we can, can and should have access to. Like whether it's like, you know, having some leisure time, whether it's like doing something with like cash that, you know you need to do and you can just make that decision.
And like that for me is such a beautiful future. And like, it makes me think about like the work that's happening right now with, like thinking about GBI, guaranteed basic income. And like, how beautifully simple that idea actually is to say, like, we value you as a person so much that we want you to not just live. We want you to, like, actually have the life you want.
Like that for me gives me so much hope because like, that's what is bringing up all of the folks that I work with to the table. Like I know that to be true because like everyone rallies around like unrestricted cash for a reason. Because it works. Because it's like - I'm not sure if this can make it into the podcast - but if we're living under capitalism and like folks are having to pay to live like, why not give folks the resources to do that? That’s my question.
[00:37:08] Alizeh: Absolutely. And it is wild to me that the way that our system is set up, we just systemically accept that people are going to die. Right. And we're just like, that's just a cost of the system that we have. Or that people will be living on subsistence, subsistence or below subsistence living. Like, you know, I think that's a whole conversation around inflation right now and rising rates and things like that.
It's mind boggling to me and I think one of the things I'm excited for - working with our coalitions, working with each other - is also narrative change. So, yes, so regressive taxes. But I think we also need to change how we talk about cash benefits, how we talk about taxation and society, and how - the COVID pandemic really laid bare that we are not an individual society and we cannot continue relying on only the bootstraps mythology, right? Like one person alone cannot do it. We are in a community and our actions affect each other.
[00:38:19] Emily: Yeah. Yeah, that's so real. Oh my gosh, I have had such a blast talking with you, Alizeh. But I just wanted to say, like, genuinely, you have been such a great person to be able to share space with and work with in this work. Like you motivate me and my, like, I just like, I'm so happy to have crossed paths with you and you're the best.
[00:38:50] Alizeh: Oh Emily. You are the best. We are all the best. I feel like every meeting I'm in, literally, it really brings me hope. Right. And that's that's kind of why we do this work, is that we have to hold on to each other too. Like I know it, it can often feel isolating and rage inducing. And I think that's also a function of how the system works to keep folks apart. Naming white supremacy as one of the main aspects of like why, you know, why these systems fail us again and again and again. And it’s doing community based work that I think helps us disrupt that.
[00:39:32] Leila: Thank you, Emily and Alizeh, for all your work and for sharing your personal stories in this episode. You can find more information about them, links to additional resources about the policies they discussed, and a transcript of this episode in the show notes and on our website budgetandpolicy.org/podcast.
Thank you for listening to WA Possible. This podcast is sponsored by the Economic Security Project, the Washington State Council of Firefighters, Byrd Barr Place, and United Way of King County. Our theme music was created by Spokane beatmaker Ravanth Akella, and the WA Possible logo was designed by Seattle based artist Eileen Jimenez.
If you enjoyed this episode, please consider subscribing, giving us a review, and sharing our podcast with your friends and family.
It is Free