Prominent Democrats are making waves with tax proposals targeting the wealthiest Americans. And new polls are showing that “tax the rich!” is a popular battle cry.
Elizabeth Warren, the presidential candidate and Democratic senator from Massachusetts, has unveiled a wealth tax for what she’s calling “ultramillionaires.” It would impose an annual tax of 2 percent on accumulated wealth greater than $50 million, with the tax rate rising to 3 percent for billionaires. The tax would raise an estimated $2.75 trillion over a decade to help those Warren calls “yacht-less Americans.”
Warren’s proposal follows a similar plan backed by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY), who seeks to increase the the top tax rate to 70 percent, applied to income in excess of $10 million a year. “That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more,” Ocasio-Cortez has explained.
The proposals have plutocrats shook. Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York City mayor who is flirting with a run in the Democratic presidential primaries, invoked the spectre of Venezuela and suggested Warren’s wealth tax could lead to Americans “starving to death.” Billionaire Starbucks emeritus chairman Howard Schultz this week blasted Warren’s plan as “punitive” and “ridiculous,” and insists he cannot run for president as a Democrat because he doesn’t believe in steeply progressive taxation. “I no longer feel affiliated” to the party, he said, “because I don’t know their views represent the majority of Americans. I don’t think we want a 70 percent income tax in America.”
But Schultz — who stubbornly and wrongly insists he’s standing up for a “silent majority” — does not have the people with him. According to recent polls, wide majorities of Americans support both Warren’s wealth tax and Ocasio-Cortez’s top-bracket tax hike.
The proposal to tax income earned above $10 million-a-year at 70 percent is favored by nearly six in ten Americans — and even 45 percent of Republicans according to a recent HarrisX poll. And a new poll by YouGov, commissioned by the liberal group Data For Progress and reviewed by Rolling Stone, finds a wealth tax is even more popular: 61 percent of Americans support Warren’s proposal to tax the rich, including 44 percent of Republicans. (A near majority, 46 percent, “strongly support” the measure, while only 15 percent “strongly oppose” it.)
“The idea of taxing billionaires is extreme to the Beltway elite that takes their money, but not to voters,” says Sean McElwee, a co-founder of Data for Progress. “Meanwhile, ideas like Social Security cuts that billionaire elites love are despised by ordinary voters.” Politicians looking for “bipartisan solutions” McElwee believes, should start with “expropriating the wealth of billionaires.”
Coverage of the two rich-taxing proposals has tended to paint them as competing. But Ocasio-Cortez recently tweeted, in Spanish, with a winking emoji,that they might work best together:
¿Por qué no los dos? 😉 https://t.co/HOqmnbwmQm
— Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (@AOC) January 27, 2019