‘Soaking the Rich’ is Not Radical, It’s Now a Mainstream Idea

Nobel Prize-winning economist Paul Krugman made the case this morning that Americans are very open to raising taxes on the rich despite protestations from billionaires — and many Republicans — to the contrary.

And his conclusions seem to be supported by numerous public opinion surveys conducted over the past two weeks.

The New York Times columnist wrote in a morning tweetstorm that a Washington Post article he cites shows  that there has been a “profound shift” in the way that American voters view proposals to shift more of the tax burden on the rich. He points out that an increasing number of people are much more comfortable talking about it now than they have been for many years.

According to Krugman,

“Suddenly, taxing the rich is on the political agenda. Candidates are talking frankly about taxes as a way to limit inequality in a way we haven’t seen for decades. But why is this happening now? The WaPo says there’s a ‘profound shift in public mood’.”

Using charts showing tax rates, the prominent economist went on explain,

“The public has *always* favored higher taxes on the rich — which also makes nonsense of claims that Dems are moving too far left on this issue. But obviously something has changed. It looks as if the veto power of the 1% over taxes has eroded.”

He then posed a question to political scientists as to why attitudes have changed, before adding, “In a way the question is why soaking the rich wasn’t on the agenda before — at least explicitly.“

We don’t know the answers to Krugman’s questions, but we do know that many Democrats are now proposing targeting the wealthiest Americans. And new opinion polls show that taxing the rich has become a popular idea.

Elizabeth Warren, for example, recently unveiled a wealth tax for what she’s calling “ultramillionaires.” It would impose an annual tax of 2 percent on accumulated wealth greater than $50 million, with the tax rate rising to 3 percent for billionaires. The tax would raise an estimated $2.75 trillion over a decade to help those Warren calls “yacht-less Americans.”

Warren came out with her proposal after Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) suggested we should increase the the top tax rate to 70 percent, applied to income in excess of $10 million a year.

In defending her proposal, Ocasio-Cortez said:

“That doesn’t mean all $10 million are taxed at an extremely high rate, but it means that as you climb up this ladder you should be contributing more.”

And most Americans agree with her.

The proposal to tax income earned above $10 million-a-year at 70 percent is favored by nearly six in ten Americans — and even 45 percent of Republicans according to a recent HarrisX poll.

And a new poll by YouGov finds a wealth tax is even more popular: 61 percent of Americans support Warren’s proposal to tax the rich, including 44 percent of Republicans.

And according to a new INSIDER poll, 54% of Americans support Warren’s idea, while only 19% disapprove.

Critics of Ocasio-Cortez say her proposed 70 percent tax rate on income above $10 million is not only extreme and unrealistic but also not what voters want.

A recent Fox News poll, however, found that raising income taxes on earnings above $10 million is a popular policy among 85 percent of Democrats, 54 percent of Republicans, and 70 percent of registered voters overall.

And increasing taxes on incomes over $1 million was also popular, with 65 percent support for the idea.

Numbers like these show that there is a huge disconnect between what voters really want and what many elected officials say and do.

The time has come for the super-rich to pay their fair share, and the vast majority of Americans agree with this. We can expect to hear “soak the rich” become a familiar refrain as the 2020 campaign season progresses.