Budget and taxes might seem arcane stuff, but to Michael J. Cassidy, they cut to the heart of economic justice.
Cassidy analyzed budgets in the White House for Presidents Bill Clinton and George W. Bush and later for Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine. Now he's founder of the nonprofit Commonwealth Institute for Fiscal Analysis, where he and his team of six study how budgets affect the poor and act as their advocates. “Low income people pay a larger portion of their income as taxes,” he says.
The group's research includes advocacy at the General Assembly to make sure that folks with lower and middle incomes are considered when budgets are cut or modified. One problem area is the state's disallowing of the earned income credit for lower-income people this year, affecting 100,000 families. By cutting that benefit, Cassidy says, “it's like a tax hike on the poor.” His group lobbied Gov. Robert F. McDonnell to restore it to no avail, although McDonnell restored a similar credit for business.
Cassidy, a Bostonian, came to Virginia to study for his master's degree in public policy at the College of William and Mary after he graduated from Georgetown. He and his wife have two young children and are active at St. Mary's Catholic Church. Also, he says, “We're big politics and history buffs.”
Cassidy, who's also volunteered at free tax clinics, is working to get his message out. He's become a go-to voice on the issue of economic justice, and served as a keynote speaker at the Governor's Poverty Summit last year.