What Do We Want? Elizabeth Warren's Wealth Tax! When Do We Want It? Now Would Be Terrific!
Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren is introducing legislation today reviving her very popular campaign trail proposal of paying for things to improve every American's life through a small wealth tax on the very, very, very rich. The tax would fund things like child care and education, which benefit all of us regardless of whether or not we have children ourselves.
The proposed legislation, as you may remember, would tax wealth over $50 million at a rate of two percent a year — or two cents on every dollar — and add another one percent surcharge after $1 billion. This is not a lot of money for them, about $20,000 for every million after their first fifty million. (Or a whole twenty million dollar tax on a BILLION DOLLARS, which fairly raises the question, could a billionaire even live on $980 million?) But it would raise about three trillion dollars in the next decade, and that could do a hell of a lot for the rest of us.
Reps. Pramila Jayapal and Brendan Boyle will also be introducing the legislation in the House of Representatives.
The proposal, which mirrors the plan Ms. Warren unveiled while seeking the 2020 presidential nomination, is not among the top revenue-raisers that Democratic leaders are considering to help offset Mr. Biden's campaign proposals to spend trillions of dollars on infrastructure, education, child care, clean energy deployment, health care and other domestic initiatives. Unlike Ms. Warren, Mr. Biden pointedly did not endorse a wealth tax in the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries.
But Ms. Warren is pushing colleagues to pursue such a plan, which has gained popularity with the public as the richest Americans reap huge gains while 10 million Americans remain out of work as a result of the pandemic.
Polls have consistently shown Ms. Warren's proposal winning the support of more than three in five Americans, including a majority of Republican voters.
It's definitely good timing for such a measure, because the pandemic has thrown out a lot of the "reasoning" behind not doing things like this. People who have been relatively comfortable are beginning to understand that, perhaps, we are all just one disaster away from economic insecurity. Arguments like "But that would be like punishing people for being successful! And then no one will be successful!" don't hold so much water when people are less sure of their own ability to make it (and hold onto it).
There's a reason FDR was able to pass the New Deal in 1933 — well, other than the fact that much of what was being proposed by others at the time was even more radical and Roosevelt and others were afraid the US would go fully socialist if people had to keep being miserable. He was able to pass it because Americans saw that they could not Protestant Work Ethic themselves out of an emergency, and that they needed some protection and a safety net for when shit hit the fan. That's how we got Social Security and other protections, this can be how we get other things we need.
As Warren points out, billionaires are now 40 percent richer than they were when COVID started.
Right now, we live in an America tilted toward the ultra-rich and the powerful. The tax system is so full of loopho… https://t.co/hG8ikkp327— Elizabeth Warren (@Elizabeth Warren)1614613616.0
The 614 billionaires in America increased their collective wealth by $931 billion since the beginning of the pandemic. Meanwhile, we have seen actual bread lines and incredible job loss, and the eviction moratorium is (soon to be was) the only thing keeping millions of people from being kicked out of their homes. The income gap has increased, particularly for people of color and all women. It's not easy to be a temporarily embarrassed millionaire right now.
President Joe Biden does not currently have a set plan for how to pay for a lot of the things he wants to do, and this would likely be the most simple way of doing that. That's important, because once things become complicated, many people will just mentally check out and stop caring.
A #WealthTax is critical for raising revenue, and that revenue is critical for raising opportunity. We build a futu… https://t.co/vSdEFpWR7s— Elizabeth Warren (@Elizabeth Warren)1614613617.0
Of course, not everyone is for it. This legislation, the New York Times reports, does not make rich people too happy:
Business groups and Republicans have already begun to raise concerns about Mr. Biden's tax plans. Those same groups are not fans of Ms. Warren's plan, which was a centerpiece of her 2020 Democratic presidential campaign.
Critics say the tax would be difficult for the federal government to calculate and enforce, that it would discourage investment and that it could be ruled unconstitutional by courts. Ms. Warren has amassed letters of support from constitutional scholars who say the plan would pass muster.
Of course she has. She's nothing if not well-prepared.
Americans are, traditionally, very happy for the rich. They love being able to hold on to the idea that they too might someday be among them, and they don't want to regulate wealth too much because what if that just destroys everyone's ambition and no one even tries to become a rich person? What if it makes people not want to invest? What if it hurts their feelings really badly and then they don't fund anyone's political campaigns?
But doing things this way is a luxury. Not just for the obscenely wealthy but for those who are personally inspired by obscene wealth. And it's a luxury we can't afford, because we have to pay for other things — important things that have to come before private islands, space shuttles to Mars, and golden toilets, and we can't have children going uncared for because people want to feel inspired. There are lots of ways to feel inspired and I feel confident that all of those who might feel discouraged by this legislation can find an Instagram hashtag that will do that for them.
Americans deserve more than just inspiration. They deserve to have nice lives, they deserve to be able to survive, and they deserve to be able to take care of their children. They deserve to have fewer things to be scared about. This is one way to do that.
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Robyn Pennacchia is a brilliant, fabulously talented and visually stunning angel of a human being, who shrugged off what she is pretty sure would have been a Tony Award-winning career in musical theater in order to write about stuff on the internet. Follow her on Twitter at @RobynElyse