Policy Primer: the Millionaires Surtax

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Judging from the endless stream of news stories and data coming out every day on the unequal state of American economy, it should come as no surprise that policy proposals on taxing the rich have taken center stage ahead of 2020. While American CEO’s have enjoyed a 1,000% pay increase, wages for the everyday worker have remained pretty much stagnant, leaving the country with staggering levels of inequality that continue to get worse. Economic inequality is a national crisis, and it’s time we do something about it. The answer seems simple: to start narrowing these wealth gaps, we need to make the ultra-wealthy start upholding their tax obligations.

Democratic and Republican voters alike agree that it’s time for millionaires to pay their fair share, but there’s a ton of different ideas on how to do it. The latest proposal is one of the simplest, laser-focused of them all: the Millionaires Surtax. This bill, introduced in Congress just a couple weeks ago, would impose a ten-percent surtax on both income over $2 million, including both salary and wage income and investment income, such as capital gains.

This surtax is designed to tackle the problem of extreme, concentrated wealth in this country by only focusing on that teeny-tiny group of individuals. For perspective, people who make over $2 million in a calendar year aren’t even the top 1 percent, but around the top 1/10th of the 1 percent! Essentially, over 99.8% of Americans wouldn’t pay a nickel more in taxes.

This millionaire-approved surtax would only be paid by the richest one-tenth percent of taxpayers, who can absolutely afford paying a tax on all their various types of income. For billionaires like Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, and Warren Buffett – who together own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the country – this tax would not even put a dent in their incomprehensible levels of wealth, while still effectively targeting the sources of extreme wealth to reinfuse much-needed revenue in our economy.

The key part is that enacting the surtax is one of the simplest ways to start rebuilding the nation’s tax code, which has enabled the country’s wealthiest to dodge taxes for years. Since this surtax applies equally on all forms of income, it would be much harder for the ultra-wealthy to find a way to game the system and avoid taxes, a key contributing factor to our inequality crisis. Extra revenue generated from this surtax, which economists estimate to be from $500 to $850 billion, can be used to invest in resources that matter, like early childhood education, low-cost higher education, green infrastructure, and other neglected needs.

Our tax code has given special treatment to wealthy investors for decades, consistently at the expense of all non-wealthy working Americans. The time to do something about economic inequality is now, and the Millionaires Surtax is certainly a step in the right direction.

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