Here is what we talk about in the “political” world: blah blah Trump, blah blah Pelosi, blah blah terrifying slide of our nation into outright fascism as media elites obsess about who has insulted them on Twitter. Here is what we should be talking about: Wealth tax.
Wealth tax: A good idea to change America forever and fix our deep problems.
In the post-Occupy years, as inequality has risen in the public consciousness, we have most often heard about “income inequality.” This is misleading. What we really need to take on is wealth inequality. Annual income, after all, doesn’t matter too much if you already have a billion dollars. Income is just a single frame of the wealth movie. It is the massive gaps in wealth that are fundamentally warping our political and social systems.
Elizabeth Warren has proposed an annual tax of two percent on wealth over $50 million, rising to three percent on wealth over $1 billion. This is not nothing. This is a truly significant step towards correcting the base inequality of a nation where huge fortunes sit side by side with tens of millions of people whose net worth is, essentially, nothing. America currently taxes income, and we tax capital gains (in a paltry way), and we annually tax certain elements of wealth like property, but the state of wealth distribution in this country proves that nothing in our tax code has addressed the ability of billionaires to accumulate, hold, and administer staggering fortunes that are orders of magnitude greater than it is possible for any human to “earn” or “deserve.”
Therefore: wealth tax. Tax the wealth itself. It is a radical and powerful policy proposal that gets very little airtime because A) Most people find the entire concept of taxes to be incredibly boring, B) Most people do not have a firm grasp on the insane levels of wealth inequality in America, and C) Most people cynically believe that tax avoidance is a force of nature that cannot be overcome, so rich people will just weasel their way out of this.
The answers to the first two points, obviously, are “read SplinterNews.com more often, clicking and refreshing multiple times each day.” On the question of whether wealth taxes will simply be dodged by the rich, here is an illuminating new research paper that says that “much of the public criticism of wealth tax reform proposals ignores recent legal scholarship on valuation methodologies and other implementation design options, to the extent that this criticism mostly only applies to outdated, ‘straw man’ versions of how a modern wealth tax might be implemented.” In other words, the ability of the government to properly calculate and assess wealth taxes on the very rich is probably much better than you think. (Gene Sperling, a top economic advisor to the Clinton and Obama administrations, agrees; see also this argument between Larry Summers and Gabriel Zucman, a leading economist on tax avoidance and inequality who helped Elizabeth Warren design her wealth tax proposal.)
A wealth tax is both necessary and possible. Anyone who argues that it is necessary but not possible is lying to you, and anyone who argues that it is not necessary does not truly care about fixing the economic inequality that is undermining everything that this country claims, falsely, to stand for. This should really be one of the top presidential campaign issues.
I look forward to hearing 27 detailed questions about the wealth tax at the upcoming Democratic debates.
Wealth tax, wealth tax, wealth tax. Let’s talk about it!