At least you can say Bernie Sanders is ideologically consistent. The self-proclaimed socialist unabashedly declared on Saturday that “we need a tax system which asks the billionaire class to pay its fair share of taxes and which reduces the obscene degree of wealth inequality in America.” It was particularly fitting that the speech was at an AFL-CIO convention.
Over on his Senate page, Sander’s posted his proposal — “a progressive estate tax on the wealthiest Americans”:
“For those who would pay more, the tax rate on estates valued from $3.5 million to $10 million would be 40 percent. There would be a 50 percent tax on estates worth $10 million to $50 million and a 55 percent levy on estates worth more than $50 million. A 10 percent surtax would be applied on estates worth more than $1 billion, a category that today includes fewer than 500 American families. The bill also would close estate tax loopholes that have allowed the wealthy to avoid an estimated $100 billion since 2000.
His rationale? Sanders said that this is “the fairest way to reduce wealth inequality, lower the $17 trillion national debt and pay for investments in infrastructure, education and other neglected national priorities.”
Notice he said fairest — not most efficacious — way to reduce wealth inequality. Because the actual amount raised on such a tax will be negligible for any real deficit reduction, hopefully such a foolish proposal will never be implemented.
Unfortunately, with any sort of supertax, the truest and most invisible effects will be felt in the economy. The confiscatory nature of a high estate tax is among the worst offenders. “The economic incidence of the death tax is far broader, because it causes many wealthy individuals to save less, choosing instead to retire early or, as Milton Friedman put it, “dissipate their wealth on high living.” This reduction in savings means a concomitant reduction in investment, lessening the flow of capital to businesses and organizations where countless ordinary Americans are employed.”
And yet, Sanders sees nothing “obscene” about the another kind of wealth inequality: the salary and benefits of Congress, which, at $286K, is about 95% greater than what average Americans earn. Or still yet, another kind of wealth inequality: the $17 trillion government debt and spending problem that he is purporting to fix by his punitive tax proposal.