Presidential hopeful Sen. Kamala Harris recently announced a new tentpole of her campaign: a huge pay bump for teachers. The plan, which Harris discussed during a CBS This Morning appearance on Tuesday, would pay teachers an average of $13,500 more per year.
The first question that CBS asked, of course, was the perennial “but how will we pay for it?”
Harris elaborated further the second time she was asked, but the answer is pretty clear. She wants to pay teachers more by taxing the rich.
The estate tax, in particular, should be something that Democrats hammer over and over again this election cycle. Most Americans don’t have anything to do with an estate tax—a 2015 HSBC study found that the average retiree leaves $177,000 to their heirs, far below the federal exemption rate—a point that Harris and other Democrats proposing increases to it should emphasize over and over again. In 2018, only estates of more than $11.18 million and up were taxed, a number Harris wants to lower. She doesn’t specifically mention increasing the percentage that estates are taxed at (40 percent, right now), but a marginal tax rate or drastic increase to the maximum rate would certainly go a long way there as well.
Per HuffPost’s reporting, here’s the details of the plan:
The Harris campaign expects the plan to cost roughly $315 billion over 10 years, which the campaign aide said would be paid for by closing tax loopholes favoring the wealthiest Americans and beefing up the federal estate tax. According to the aide, the federal government would immediately make an investment that would take care of the first 10 percent of the gap. After that, the federal government would provide $3 for every dollar a state dedicated to increasing teacher pay. States would have to maintain their share of that investment going forward to continue receiving the federal funds.
It’s worth noting that a teacher pay increase is one of the safest things Harris could push for, given widespread strikes, labor action, and general outrage at the state of education in both red and blue states. More ambitious Democrats have noted the promise in using aggressive taxing to pay for programs like single-payer health insurance, but Harris is likely thinking that teacher pay raises will play well against the inevitable pushback that the specter of higher taxes will get from the right.
Harris—as someone who’s far from the most radical member of the 2020 Democratic field—coming out for an aggressive tax program like this is a good sign so early in the race that 2020 Democrats may be able to prevent themselves from capitulating to bad faith fear-mongering over taxes. And if Harris’s plan pulls more of her rivals on board, teachers stand to inherit the gains.