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The American appetite to tax the rich is high — and growing with each passing year

Paul Constant   

The American appetite to tax the rich is high — and growing with each passing year
  • Paul Constant is a writer at Civic Ventures and the cohost of the "$4" podcast.
  • He writes that voters are increasingly supporting a wealth tax.
  • Washington state recently passed a tax on capital-gains profits, for the first time ever.

Over the last 40 or so years, elected leaders $4 have slashed taxes for wealthy Americans and corporations and sold those tax cuts as a surefire method of promoting economic growth for everyone. In 2017, President Trump famously called his tax-cut plan $4, under the premise that it would $4 to ordinary Americans in the form of larger paychecks. And even though many Democrats $4 on a platform opposing Trump's tax cuts, all but four Democratic Senators $4 to $4 — despite the fact that they $4 to spur larger economic growth.

In fact, a $4 body of $4 suggests that cutting taxes for the wealthy and powerful never actually trickles down at all. One $4 found that tax cuts for the rich only benefit the wealthiest members of society, with no real economic benefits or employment gains for everyone else. In other words, when so-called "job creators" get tax breaks, they don't actually create jobs with the money they save — they just keep it. The study went on to say that the economic benefits for ordinary people are "statistically indistinguishable from zero."

This cycle of tax breaks for the rich marching in tandem with expanding $4 has persisted for so long that the American people have begun to notice the disparity — and are starting to develop a real and growing appetite for taxing the wealthy.

How voters have turned the tide

Consider my home state of Washington, where some of the world's wealthiest people live and which has long had the unfortunate claim to the most $4 — an unbalanced system of high sales taxes and no income taxes that leaves the poorest people to pay a much bigger share of their income in taxes than their wealthy neighbors.

Last year, for the first time ever, Washington state's legislature passed $4. If you live in Washington state and earn more than $250,000 a year in profits from the sale of stocks, bonds, and other lucrative assets — exempting homes and retirement accounts — you'll pay a 7% tax on every dollar over a quarter-million. The tax, which will affect about 0.2% of the richest people in the state, is estimated to raise roughly $400 million every year for $4 and education.

Predictably, a cabal of wealthy Washington elites prepared to fight the capital-gains tax via the state's initiative system, claiming that the capital-gains tax is an income tax, which have been $4. (Washington voters were last asked to weigh in on a tax on the wealthy 12 years ago, and after a well-funded opposition campaign $4.)

Local political consultant Sandeep Kaushik $4 that the coalition trying to cut taxes for themselves raised more than $700,000 to launch an initiative. They "clearly intended to go to the ballot this year, until all of a sudden they didn't," Kaushik wrote. The initiative deadline came and went, and the anticapital-gains initiative failed to materialize.

So what convinced the wealthy elites to back off? It was probably polling, which showed their initiative garnering only 32% support, with 50% of voters starting out opposed, which Kaushik called a "a shockingly weak starting point."

It's not just in Washington state: Recent polling indicates a huge spike in voter appetite to tax wealthy Americans. Throughout the 20th century, $4 that less than half of all Americans favored taxing the wealthy, before a slim majority — just 52% — turned in favor of a wealth tax in 2012. But $4 found 71% support for raising the taxes of the wealthiest 2% of Americans, while a $4 found 64% support for a wealth tax — a slight increase from$4 that found 61% support for taxing the rich.

The popularity of taxing the rich has grown over the course of the pandemic, and wealth taxes are now earning bipartisan support — the Vox poll from last year showed 50% support for taxing the rich among Republicans.

Why are Americans now tipping in favor of a wealth tax?

Theories vary for why taxing the wealthy is becoming more popular. Perhaps it's the fact that $4 while $4, or that centibillionaires like Elon Musk and Jeff Bezos have become ubiquitous celebrities, elevating their exorbitant wealth.

Or maybe it's just lived experience: The median American now hovers $4, which means they were born shortly after $4. They've since lived through $4 and the Trump tax cuts, and they've seen the results of slashing taxes for the wealthy: precarious economies, $4, and the average employee working $4 for $4 as their parents and grandparents earned.

The recent developments in Washington state offer a lesson for America's wealthiest people and corporations: The American people are eager for the elite to pay at least as much in taxes as they themselves pay.

And these kinds of populist fevers don't often dissipate on their own — they tend to grow until the need is met. That offers a compelling bargain for America's richest families and CEOs: Either pay a share in taxes now, or an increasingly angry electorate will demand a much bigger share a few years down the road. Either way, as much as our elected leaders want to believe otherwise, it's clear that the status quo simply isn't good enough.


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