by Mitch Kokai
Senior Political Analyst, John Locke Foundation
Forget whether the math works. (It doesn’t.) Expecting billionaires to pay for all the nice things is bad for democracy.
One of the more exhausting rituals of presidential campaign season is the effort to make every new proposal “add up.” Sure, it’s better that politicians try to come up with a plan to pay for their wish lists. The problem is that the explanations are often a disguise that make the impossible seem possible, even practical. Fake budgets are the tribute that pandering pays to pragmatism.
You could confiscate the wealth of every billionaire and centimillionaire in the country and it wouldn’t come close to paying for Medicare for All or the Green New Deal.
But let’s pretend that the fantastical (albeit unconstitutional) wealth tax Elizabeth Warren has proposed would work like she claims. Let’s also stipulate that the wealthy wouldn’t respond by hiding their wealth, moving out of the country, or cutting back in the sort of investments the government is utterly incapable of replicating. Let’s even concede for argument’s sake that Warren could get her plan through Congress and the courts.
Would that be good for the country? …
… When the bulk of tax revenues come from the people, or at least from the middle class, the government heeds the middle class. When all of the money comes from the aristocracy, as it did prior to the rise of democratic capitalism, the aristocracy made the rules. When it comes from the rich — aka “the donor class,” the “One Percent,” etc. — the rich care a lot more about the rule-making.