One of the things I love about our independent Senator Sanders, is that he marches unafraid into territory that most politicians avoid like the plague.
This week, that march has led him right up to the cooling heels of America’s wealthiest inheritors.
Sanders is boldly proposing a new estate tax, to be levied only on the top .25% wealthiest Americans. Not 25% (as you will no doubt hear misquoted in right-wing media) but point-two-five-percent.
The new tax would effect only a tiny number of uber-wealthy individuals, but has the potential to provide enormous resources with which to address the economic and social blight produced by growing income inequity in the U.S.
Sanders said the fairest way to reduce wealth inequality, lower the $17 trillion national debt and pay for investments in infrastructure, education and other neglected national priorities would be to enact a progressive estate tax on the wealthiest Americans, the top 0.25 percent.
Under his proposal, 99.75 percent of Americans would not pay a penny more in estate taxes.
The idea has won praise from some top economists, including former U.S. Dept. of Labor Secretary, Robert Reich, who observes that:
America “is creating an aristocracy of wealth populated by heirs who don’t have to work for a living yet have great influence over how the nation’s productive assets are deployed,”.
and calls the proposed estate tax bill:
“a welcome step toward reversing this trend.”
In calling for the new “wealth tax”, Sen. Sanders pointed to the fact that U.S. income inequity is now greater than it was in 1928, on the brink of the market crash and Great Depression.
The richest 400 Americans have amassed more than $2 trillion in wealth, a sum greater than all of the assets of the bottom 150 million Americans combined. One family, the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame, owns more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of Americans.
It remains to be seen whether or not today’s baronial class of Americans will recognize that their own best interests will be served if they accept greater responsibility to support the nation that has allowed their wealth to grow exponentially.
Their forebears cooperated pragmatically a century ago when building a social safety net was undertaken. If not necessarily cognizant of the economic “big picture,” they nevertheless recognized the peril to civil society that extreme income inequality represented.
Post Citizens United, will the well-oiled machine of outrage and denial be allowed to completely drown out the voice of reason? If so, it will be at the peril of American democracy itself.