A hole opened in the space-time continuum on Monday, allowing some alternate universe’s Democratic primary to slip into our own: While socialist insurgent Bernie Sanders was reminding voters that “electability matters,” Establishment favorite Hillary Clinton unveiled a new plan for soaking the rich.
At a campaign rally in Waterloo, Iowa, the former secretary of State called for a 4 percent surcharge on all annual income above $5 million. As opposed to a raise in the top marginal tax rate, Clinton’s surcharge would apply to any and all forms of income, regardless of its source. At present, capital gains are taxed at a lower rate than income — a policy that famously allows billionaire investor Warren Buffet to pay a lower rate than his secretary. According to Clinton’s aides, the surcharge would affect only one in every 10,000 taxpayers, while generating $150 billion in new revenue in its first ten years.
Bloomberg notes that the proposal closely resembles a tax established by France in 2011. But D.C. ain’t Paris. And with Congress firmly controlled by a party whose raison d’être is opposing higher taxes on its donors, Vox’s Matthew Yglesias writes that Clinton’s plan appears “perfectly designed to be dead on arrival” in the GOP House.
The plan is also perfectly designed to steal some of her rival’s populist energy. The latest polls show Sanders creeping up on Clinton in Iowa and maintaining a slim lead over the former senator in New Hampshire. That #Berniementum is making the Clinton camp anxious, reports CNN. In recent days, Clinton has shifted from ignoring Sanders to pointedly engaging him, questioning the socialist senator’s electability and alleged softness on gun-control policy.
But Clinton’s claim to being the most “electable” Democrat has grown more tendentious in recent days. An NBC/Wall Street Journal/Marist poll released over the weekend found Sanders polling far stronger than Clinton against Donald Trump and Ted Cruz in both Iowa and New Hampshire. And that poll isn’t unique in suggesting Sanders would be a better bet for Democrats come November. Sanders relished his new-found status as Democrats’ “pragmatic choice” on Sunday’s edition of This Week, telling ABC’s George Stephanopoulos, “If people are concerned about electability — and Democrats should be very concerned because we certainly don’t want to see some right-wing extremist in the White House — Bernie Sanders is the candidate.”
Hypothetical general-election polls aren’t known for their accuracy, but these findings leave Clinton with little evidence that she is more electable than her left-wing challenger.
Perhaps the most substantive debate in the Democratic race thus far has been over tax policy. Sanders, along with nearly the entire Democratic Senate caucus, supports the FAMILY Act, which would provide all workers with 12 weeks of family leave at 66 percent pay, funded by a slight increase to the payroll tax. Clinton opposes the legislation, having pledged not to raise taxes on anyone earning less than $250,000 a year. Beyond paid leave, that commitment would make her rival’s other proposed expansions to social welfare, like free higher education and single-payer health care, fiscally untenable.
The proposed surcharge on millionaires allows Clinton to simultaneously throw her party’s economic populists a hefty bone and reassure the upper middle class that they’ll still be able to afford that lake house under the second Clinton administration.