Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0

Old Handsome Joe Biden used to be the guy who sounded downright apologetic about the fact that if he were elected, he'd have to raise taxes because Donald Trump had cut them too much. Just a year ago, to position himself as the cautious centrist while running against Elizabeth Sanders and Bernie Warren, Biden was cautioning that Democrats shouldn't "demonize anybody who has made money," because "rich people are just as patriotic as poor people." It seemed like a weird strategy then, but, in keeping with his more recent willingness to talk about doing big, New Deal-style programs (both of the Green and the New Deal New Deal variety), Biden is a lot more willing to talk about doing stuff the richest Americans may not be thrilled with. Once the health crisis is dealt with, there'll be an economy to rebuild, and Biden's ready to raise some Keynes.

Not that he's about to go demonizing the rich, exactly, but during an online fundraiser Monday, Biden cheerfully told his richest donors that he's going to raise their taxes, and they're going to like it, because America needs it.

During the fundraiser, Biden said that the massive recovery that will be needed following the Coronavirus pandemic and the resulting economic shutdown

could present an "opportunity" to strengthen the middle class and make sweeping investments in clean energy and infrastructure.

"Folks, this is going to be really hard work and Donald Trump has made it much harder to foot the bill. [...]

But even before the coronavirus crisis effectively froze the U.S. economy and sent unemployment skyrocketing, Trump's "irresponsible sugar-high tax cuts had already pushed us into a trillion-dollar deficit," Biden said.

"I'm going to get rid of the bulk of Trump's $2 trillion tax cut," Biden continued, "and a lot of you may not like that but I'm going to close loopholes like capital gains and stepped-up basis."

Slate's Jordan Weissman informs us that "stepped-up basis" is a thingummy that "allows rich heirs to avoid paying taxes on assets they inherit," so yes, let's please get rid of that. While he was at it, Biden repeated his plans to increase the corporate income tax rate to 28 percent, up from its current 21 percent (but still a bit lower than the 35 percent rate it had been before Trump's 2017 tax cuts).

That's all pretty different from primary-campaign Biden's reassurances that while he did plan to increase taxes some, "Nobody has to be punished. No one's standard of living would change. Nothing would fundamentally change." He's not exactly calling for the proletariat to seize the means of production, but as Weissman notes, Biden's actual tax proposal is pretty darn progressive:

While less far-reaching than some of his opponents' proposals, it was still extremely ambitious—raising some $4 trillion over a decade, and reducing the after-tax incomes of the top 0.1 percent by 23 percent in its first year, according to the Tax Policy Center. (Hillary Clinton's 2016 plan, by comparison, only raised $1.4 trillion.) [...]

It even slapped Social Security taxes on wages over $400,000. As Paul Waldman wrote for the Washington Post: "In fact, it's so liberal — in very good ways — that when he was vice president it would have been considered radical, certainly too much for Barack Obama to have signed into law, or in some cases even suggested." The ideological center of the Democratic party had moved, and Biden was shifting with it.

One of the biggest tax changes in Biden's plan would eliminate special treatment for the investor class. Biden would tax investment income at the same rate as wage income, meaning that corporate executives would no longer pay lower taxes on the stock options and other goodies that make up the bulk of their actual income. That, all by itself, would be a huge change from the preferential treatment the tax code has given the super rich since the Reagan years. In the meantime, the Trump plan to reinvigorate the economy seems to be, as floated again this past weekend by Larry Kudlow, give corporations back their deductions for restaurants and business entertaining — yes, the one perk they took away from corporations while trying to pencil out their 2017 tax cut math and failing spectacularly — and damned if they can think of anything else that might help.

As a guy we know once said, that's a big fuckin' deal.

[CNBC / Slate / Photo: Gage Skidmore, Creative Commons license 2.0]

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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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