May 21, 2019

Tax the Rich

“In May, Nancy Pelosi, the House minority leader, declared that, if Democrats win power in Congress this fall, they will work to repeal the $1.5 trillion tax cut package passed last year by Republicans. Sen. Cory Gardner, the chair of the National Republican Senatorial Committee, responded with apparent glee. “I wish Nancy Pelosi the biggest platform ever to talk about her desire to increase tax revenue,” he told NBC News. “I hope she shouts it from the mountain top.”

For nearly 40 years, the GOP has relied on cutting taxes as an easy way to win votes, even when their plans—like the most recent package—benefit only the rich. Now, as Democrats are looking to compete in 2018 and 2020, many are embracing ambitious, expensive ideas like Medicare for all, free college, and universal pre-kindergarten—while proclaiming the necessity of higher taxes on the wealthy. In a July interview, Sen. Elizabeth Warren pushed back against an idea, articulated by John Harwood of CNBC, that it’s “wrong for more than half of somebody’s marginal income to be taken.” Using equally moralistic language, Warren insisted that taxes are “an expression of our values” and said that the essential question about tax policy is: “What constitutes a fair share in this economy?”

Bill De Blasio, the mayor of New York City, has gone as far as to argue that “tax the wealthy” should be the centerpiece of a progressive Democratic agenda. “I think if you say, ‘We’ll tax the wealthy’ you are both being honest about how you’ll pay for it and about real power dynamics,” he told NBC. “It shows a willingness to stand up for people’s interests against those who hold all the power right now.””

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