A brash political candidate forms a presidential exploratory committee. Almost immediately, the candidate announces a controversial policy: a wealth tax on the ultrarich.
Just 1 1/2 pages long, the proposal is met with some cheers but lots of jeers — about its constitutionality, feasibility, fairness. Right-wing pundits bemoan the appeal to class warfare.
That candidate? Donald Trump, in 1999, pursuing the Reform Party nomination.
Everything old is new again. Recently, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., exploring a presidential run, proposed her own wealth tax. Warren’s proposal is constructed differently than Trump’s was — his was a one-time levy, hers is annual — but the reception has been similar.
The case for such a tax has only grown stronger over time, even if the way Warren goes about it could stand to be improved. Over several decades, U.S. policies have facilitated a systematic upward redistribution of wealth.
Congress has slashed taxes overall, but especially on the rich; reduced or eliminated brackets that applied only to the tippy-top income percentiles, making the tax code less progressive at the top; neutered the estate tax; cut rates on long-term capital gains; added “Inception”-like loopholes within loopholes, which disproportionately benefit taxpayers with the sophistication and resources to game the system; and gutted the Internal Revenue Service, which catches tax dodgers.