Hey Taylor: Proudly Pay Your Taxes!

Young people weigh in with ideas about how Taylor Swift can be a new type of billionaire.

10 mins read

Despite her efforts to be a music-industry iconoclast, Taylor Swift has become a capitalist icon, and she’s now on the cusp of becoming one of the world’s youngest self-made billionaires. And the question all Swifties must ask is: What kind of billionaire will she be?

Nowadays, the term “billionaire” has become synonymous with Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and other (mostly white, male) paragons often seen as greedy, narcissistic and removed from society. We wonder why they aren’t doing more to save the planet, end world hunger, or give back to their communities when they appear to have endless resources to do so. The uber-wealthy seem narrowly focused on gaining more wealth, not giving it. 

Can Taylor – who has gone to great lengths to do business her own way – be different? She must, and it’s up to her fans to hold her accountable. If Swifties don’t show that they care, Ms. Swift may feel she has little reason to care herself.

Illustration credit: Dominique Greene

Almost a century and a half ago, America’s first billionaires (if we adjust for inflation) were born. During the Gilded Age–the period of rapid economic growth in the US in the late 1800s–historical businessmen such as Carnegie and Rockefeller were some of the wealthiest individuals in the country. While they had extremely lavish and prodigal lifestyles, there’s something that sets them apart from the uber-rich of today: giving back. Carnegie believed that because of his success, it was his duty to help those less fortunate. He invested heavily in public education systems and opportunities for immigrants. These industrial giants were far from perfect, but unlike much of the 1% today, they recognized their responsibility to lift up the rest of the country.

The investments in community that these men made were impactful, but the most notable aspect of Gilded Age billionaires was their tax payments. Rockefeller, Carnegie, Vanderbilt, and other billionaires were paying well over half of their income to taxes. This is a far cry from what happens today, where it seems like the more money you have, the less taxes you pay. Taxes may just seem like that thing your parents do begrudgingly, or that most people would like to avoid. However, taxes are essential because they fund the public services that the local, state, and federal governments provide. This could mean building a new sidewalk on your street, funding the public school you attend, or maintaining the subway system. Sometimes, taxes are used for initiatives you may not support, which is when using your voice is important. But the point is, taxes are essential to keep our communities up and running. So shouldn’t the people that have a lot of money be paying them, just as average folks do?

Taxing legislation has loopholes that benefit the uber-wealthy, and oftentimes billionaires don’t have to pay any taxes at all. Being extremely wealthy shouldn’t mean that you’re allowed to abandon your responsibilities as a citizen. Our country needs a billionaire who understands this context and realizes how easy they have it, and who pays their taxes with pride. Let’s call on Taylor Swift to be that voice. Pay your taxes, Taylor–all of them. And be vocal about it! Use your platform and nudge others to do the same. Taxes are what makes democracy work. And unlike many people, you don’t have to worry about that putting a dent in your bank account.

After Taylor Swift has paid all her taxes, she will of course still have exorbitant wealth. And here’s where we hope she will go above being a decent, tax paying citizen and use her resources in real ways. 

“I think anyone at that level of success should be putting a significant amount of their career back into the community. So many celebrities and successful people don’t utilize their power like I think we hope they would,” says Harper, a high schooler in Tennessee. Nashville made Taylor Swift who she is, and now she has an opportunity to really invest in the community she came from, most notably the public school system. 

Swift attended Hendersonville High School, a public school in Tennessee. Nashville has one of the most underfunded school systems in the country, and Tennessee lawmakers are actively working to reject federal education funding. “House Speaker Cameron Sexton recently floated the idea of Tennessee rejecting U.S. education dollars to free its schools from federal rules and restrictions,” explains Chalkbeat reporter Marta Aldrich. “Through a program known as Title I, the federal government distributes hundreds of millions of federal dollars to Tennessee schools that serve large concentrations of students from low-income homes to help improve achievement.” This would be detrimental to public schools especially in low-income areas, where they are already struggling to pay their teachers and obtain adequate school supplies. 

This is a crucial point in Tennessee education, and Taylor Swift could quite literally save the day and change the game completely. If she were to invest even a small fraction of her money in the school system, students across the city would have much more access and resources, and teachers could maybe even get one step closer to fair pay. Taylor could make a huge difference–it’s on us to help her realize it.

Oftentimes celebrities will speak out about issues they say that they care about, but they aren’t actually putting their resources towards helping the cause. “Charity can be a difficult line to straddle in this ultra-critical climate, especially when it might seem performative” explains Nashville high schooler Cléo. We know that Taylor has been vocal about issues such as LGBT rights and gender equality, but what has she really done? One idea from Jadyn of Billings of Montana is to create a program to support young female musicians: “She has a whole song about how women aren’t as valued in the music industry, so maybe starting something like that to help young women,” Jadyn explains.

One of the most substantial investments Swift could make is investing in solutions to climate change. Her private jet flights in 2022 landed her at the top of a list that tracked carbon emission levels from celebrity jets. “Swift’s plane took to the skies 170 times in the first 200 days of 2022, emitting 8,293.54 metric tons of carbon dioxide,” explains Matt Binder, writer for mashable.com. “The CO2 released into the atmosphere courtesy of Taylor Swift’s private plane […] is equivalent to what 1,184 average people would emit a year.” Forget helping the environment, maybe Swift could at least stop hurting it so much. Encouraging Swift to lower her carbon footprint and invest in a clean environment is essential now that she’s a billionaire.

 Swifties, it’s time to push dear Taylor to invest in decarbonization of the economy and put her wealth towards sustainable climate solutions. Whether or not she realizes it yet, she is going to be under a lot of scrutiny on this front. People are already tracking her climate impacts, like one 17-year old, Akash Shendure, who is tracking many celebrities’ carbon emissions. Shendure is not the only one keeping a close eye on her, and if other young people can step up and let her know that it matters, maybe enough pressure from her fans will push her to take action.

Do you have another idea for how Taylor could use her money? Let her know! We need to be vocal in calling her out and urging her to be a better kind of billionaire. Her fans across the nation have been vocal in supporting her throughout her career. It’s about time she supports them too.

Gidgie Bass

Gidgie is a member of Kidizenship's Editorial and Social Media teams. She attends University School of Nashville in Nashville, Tennessee, and is an avid writer and skateboarder.

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