Cory Booker Doing Class Warfare, OH NOOOOOO
Photo: Wikimedia Commons

Senator Cory Booker, not one to be left behind while Kamala Harris is scaring Sean Hannity with talk of universal basic income, has his own plan for doing class war in America: How about we return the inheritance tax to its 2009 level and use the money to give every single child born in America a savings account, so all kids will come into some wealth when they become adults? The plan would be indexed to family income, so the poorer you are, the more money would be added annually up to the age of 18. And while he's at it, Booker would make sure the accounts could only be used for life-making-better things like education or buying a home, for instance. So, sorry, nobody could just cash out and buy a fur sink, an electric dog polisher, or a gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater, not to mention dumb stuff like investment-grade Beanie Babies or Jon McNaughton paintings.

Booker calls the idea the "American Opportunity Account Act," and it's a variation on think tank proposals for "baby bonds" -- a means of using the power of relatively small investments to reduce wealth inequality. It's also a way to address the fact that white families have, on average, more than 10 times the wealth of black families. The accounts would begin to offset the historical injustice of federal housing policy that, from the earliest days of the FHA loan program, made home ownership easy for whites and largely excluded blacks. Kind of a big deal, since a home is most middle-class families' single biggest asset.

Needless to say, the usual panickers will whine that Booker's proposal amounts to "reparations," but we say go read Ta-Nehisi Coates, understand just how deeply the playing field has been rigged FOREVER, and if you're the sort to panic over reparations, just shut the fuck up anyway.

Vox explainers how this would work. The bill would

give each child born in the United States a savings account with $1,000. Each year, until the child turns 18, the government would deposit as much as $2,000 into that account. The size of the annual payments would depend on the child's family income, with lower-income families receiving larger checks.

These accounts would be off limits until the child turns at 18, at which point the child could use them for specific "asset-building" purchases, like a down payment on a house, for example, or college tuition. (Booker hasn't come up with a full list of eligible purchases yet.)

Booker's office estimates that a child who remains in the lowest income bracket of the program (meaning she gets the largest, $2,000 payments each year) would accrue $46,215 by her 18th birthday. A child in the highest income bracket of the program (above 500 percent of the poverty line, or $147,100 for a family of four) would end up with $1,681 — just the original $1,000 payment plus earnings accrued from the government investing it in low-risk funds.

When talking to Fox News viewers about this, you would want to emphasize that the accounts would be keyed only to family income, not race, although the outcome would sure as hell be beneficial to minorities because of who's poor and who isn't:

They also project that the benefits of the program would go largely to minority children. Their figures suggest that the average black child will accrue $29,038 in her account and the average Latino child would get to $27,337. The average white child would end up with about half that ($15,790).

Heck, keep this thing around long enough and we could see it becoming something a lot of middle-classish folks would start loving, that little bit of extra savings for the spawn to make use of at the start of college. Not to mention its very real possibilities for doing something about wealth inequality and bringing a measure of fairness to our insane system.

Politico notes the bill's $60 billion cost would be paid for by returning estate and inheritance tax rates to the 2009 level, plus some additional taxes on the very, very rich:

Individual estates valued at $3.5 million or more were hit with a 45 percent estate tax in 2009, compared to a nearly $11.2 million individual exemption and 40 percent rate now. Other offsets in the Booker bill include an additional 10 percent surtax on estates between $10 million and $50 million, or $20 million to $100 million per married couple, and a 20 percent surtax on estates worth more than $50 million or $100 million per married couple. In addition, it would repeal stepped-up basis, with a $100,000 exemption, and ratchet up the top capital gains rate by 4.2 percentage points.

Oh, sorry poor kids of America, that would surely cause all the country's job creators to just go hide on their yachts and sulk, and we suppose then the economy would collapse or something. Also, we have it on the good authority of a Wall Street Journal columnist that this could never work, you see. Since the very wealthy don't like the estate tax, it's actually OK for them to weasel out of paying it like everyone in Donald Trump's family did, so that's another strike against this crazy unworkable idea.

Besides, Fox News people would be horrified by this idea, because it's VERY IMMORAL to redistribute wealth from the inheritor class to literally every child born in the USA. As everyone knows, the only wealth redistribution that's OK is giving the very rich a $2 trillion tax cut whenever Republicans are in office, and also handing out another $100 billion every year in corporate subsidies, because that's how you make life good for everyone, duh.

Or maybe we could elect a bunch more Kamalas Harris, Cories Booker, and Sherrods Brown, plus a Democratic president, and really make this country something to be proud of.

[Vox / Cory Booker / Atlantic / Politico]

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Doktor Zoom

Doktor Zoom's real name is Marty Kelley, and he lives in the wilds of Boise, Idaho. He is not a medical doctor, but does have a real PhD in Rhetoric. You should definitely donate some money to this little mommyblog where he has finally found acceptance and cat pictures. He is on maternity leave until 2033. Here is his Twitter, also. His quest to avoid prolixity is not going so great.


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