New taxes show shift in public mood. From the outset, several top tier Democratic presidential candidates are pushing for new taxes on the wealthiest Americans and attempting to portray themselves as best positioned to fight the country’s yawning inequality gap. It is an indication of how much the Democratic Party is shifting and how far the candidates are willing to go to appeal to the party’s energetic liberal faction. The debate over wealth–particularly with billionaires int he field and Democrats challenging a president whose riches helped get him to the White House–is a dominant theme of the early primary season.
Among the first advisors the candidates are consulting are not foreign affairs veterans or domestic policy experts, but economists. Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts is proposing a new “wealth tax” that would impose added levies on the 75,000 U.S. households with a net worth above $50 million. Sen. Kamala Harris of California–who also plans to unveil a proposal to increase taxes on the rich–wants to provide a tax credit of up to $500 per month to families making less than $100,000.
The proposals reflect a broad shift in the mood of the Democratic Party and the country more generally, as the recent financial crisis and a distrust of big institutions has fueled a populist surge in both parties. A few years ago, Democrats were shifting to the center amid concerns they had drifted too far left, and emphasizing tax hikes was anathema, now some in the party are happy to call themselves socialists. Others say that shows a failure to grasp the political moment. New taxes show shift in public mood.
Michael Bloomberg, the billionaire former New York mayor who is considering a run as a Democrat, said Warren’s plan is probably unconstitutional, adding that there is already a disturbing model for redistributing wealth. “It’s called Venezuela,” he said during a recent trip to New Hampshire.