Taxes

Moderate Joe Biden Wants Tax Hikes Twice as Big as Hillary Clinton Proposed in 2016

A sign of just how far left Democrats have moved under Trump

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One of the recurring questions of the 2020 Democratic presidential primaries is whether the party has lurched too far to the left. 

This topic has manifested itself most prominently in the divide between the more progressive candidates, Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass) and Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.), and the relative moderates, former Vice President Joe Biden and South Bend, Indiana, Mayor Pete Buttigieg. It has largely taken the form of a debate over the merits of Medicare for All, a single-payer health care system that Warren and Sanders support and that Biden and Buttigieg do not. 

Warren's rise over the summer, and the persistent strong support for Sanders, have given ammunition to Democrats favoring a sharper turn to the left. But Warren's campaign has faltered following the release of her Medicare for All financing and transition plans. That and the contemporaneous rise of Buttigieg to the primary's top tier have provided grist for the moderates. 

Yet the best way to answer the question may require another comparison—not simply between the candidates in today's race, but between the current field and the 2016 nominee, Hillary Clinton, particularly on the issue of taxes. 

Earlier this week, Biden released a proposal to raise a slew of new taxes, mostly on corporations and high earners. He would increase tax rates on capital gains, increase the tax rate for households earning more than $510,000 annually, double the minimum tax rate for multinational corporations, impose a minimum tax on large companies whose tax filings don't show them paying a certain percentage of their earnings, and undo many of the tax cuts included in the 2017 tax law. 

Biden's tax hikes would raise about $3.4 trillion over a decade, slightly less than half of the $7 trillion in total tax hikes proposed by Buttigieg. Warren, meanwhile, would raise taxes by at least $26 trillion. Some reports put the figure as high as $30 trillion. Sanders estimates his health care plan alone could cost as much as $40 trillion

That makes Biden look like a moderate, with a modest tax plan built on more conservative assumptions about the power of certain taxes to raise revenue. And in comparison to the rest of the Democratic field, that's a reasonable way to view his candidacy. Yet as The New York Times reports, Biden's proposed tax hikes are more than double what Hillary Clinton called for during the 2016 campaign.

And the race is far from over. As the Times notes, "It remains possible that Mr. Biden could propose additional spending plans and other new taxes to help pay for them." 

As a single metric to determine how far to the left a candidate is on economic policy, total proposed taxation is admittedly imperfect. It doesn't capture regulatory proposals, and it can muddy questions of fiscal responsibility and the desire to reduce deficits and pay for government spending. 

Yet it serves as a rough measure of a candidate's desire to expand the size of the federal government, to increase its reach into individual finances and its influence over the wider economy. That's especially true in a race that has been substantially if not wholly defined by a Warren-led policy arms race. It doesn't tell you precisely what a candidate wants to do, but it does offer a sense of how much he or she wants to do. 

And it certainly reveals a lot about the party's trajectory, at least when it comes to domestic economic policy. Hillary Clinton may not have been a radical, but in the wake of the Obama administration she arguably pushed the party gently to the left. Four years later, before the campaign is even over, the party's supposed moderates are proposing double or even quadruple the new taxes she proposed. Determining the ideological pendulum swings of a political party is always a difficult task, but if you're trying to answer how far Democrats have moved to the economic left, that may be as good an answer as any.

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  1. It’s too bad the only alternative is Bad Orange Man whose tax cuts ruined our democracy and destroyed the budget, right Mr. McArdle?

    1. I don’t know if it was the #GOPTaxScam specifically, but Drumpf definitely did something to cause a global recession with no end in sight.

    2. Impeach Trump and replace The Chosen One with Pence, will be a DAMNED sight better than ANY “D” candidate currently running, AND will be a VAST improvement over the current train wreck known as the Trumptatorship! Get Pence in there soon, then he can run in 2020! Maybe even win! There ARE alternatives to be had here!

      (Libertarian POTUS would be even better yet, but that’s like dreaming of riding on unicorns).

    3. Yes, it is too bad. Trump is better than any Dem is hardly a rousing endorsement. Spendy populist incumbent vs spendier populists wannabes. What a grand choice!

      1. At some point, we need to notice the massive difference in scale between the two though.

        1. I really thought Trump might force Democrats to be less insane. I guess I was wrong. The current crop are certainly making the magnitude of the difference quite clear. The level of spending and debt we are working on now is scary enough.

          1. Nothing can make Team D any less insane, save an electoral blowout.

            1. I’d bet a lobotomy would work but I suspect we won’t get to find out.

          2. Well, Trump is just an old school conservative Democrat… Which in todays world makes him better than 99% of politicians out there, sad as that may be.

            I mostly only remember when the Dems had gone pretty stupid on most things, at least as far as since I’ve been an adult… But to think about the fact that there were millions of NOT GREAT, but not HORRIBLE people like Trump in the Democratic party when I was a kid is kind of mind glowing given where they are now.

  2. As Koch / Reason libertarians, our primary objective is to rapidly increase the wealth of people who already have tens of billions of dollars. So I understand why raising taxes is a troubling suggestion.

    Nevertheless, we must keep in mind that the most effective way to boost Charles Koch’s net worth is through unlimited, unrestricted immigration. And given the GOP is now the alt-right white nationalist party, the Koch / Reason open borders agenda can only be implemented by Democrats. I’m confident Biden’s immigration policies will benefit billionaires more than enough to offset any economic damage he does through taxation.

    #LibertariansForBiden
    #VoteDemocratToHelpBillionaires
    #ImmigrationAboveAll

  3. Raising taxes appeals to those who don’t think they will have to pay them.

    1. That not true. I own a number of stocks and still believe that the capital gains rate should be no different than the wage and interest rate. This would raise my taxes, but would also simplify the tax code so I am for it.

  4. Newsflash, modern democrats are wholly economically illiterate and want to turn the US into Scandinavia at best(the moderates) and USSR at worst (Warren and Sanders). The modern democrats are so far left they really just might as well change their logo from a donkey into a hammer and sickle.

    1. A donkey wielding a hammer and sickle would be a pretty badass logo

      1. As long as it’s being murdered by a bald eagle!

  5. Well Biden can call them tariffs and do them by EO. And Roberts will just invent a new definition of a tariff when a challenge is brought before SCOTUS.

    TAXES ARE THEFT! FUCK OFF SLAVERS!

  6. jfc is that Joe in the pic? dude’s lost 25lb. it does not look good

    1. He’s started a new workout program, it’s called “Wandering Away from Assisted Living”.

  7. Has Peter read the looter party platforms? Last I saw nobody in either kleptocracy party cared what the candidates think of the issues or DeCaprio thinks of the movie plot. The platform makes clear how the GOP wants Comstock laws, prohibition and Dixiecrat girl-bullying. The Dems, deprived of foreign jackboots to lick, seek to ban energy in hopes of homegrown communism. Both parties more resemble Nazis and Communists maneuvering over Poland than Americans interested in freedom. The candidates are creeps from Central Casting.

  8. And that’s great news for Suderman, who now has another four years to pout about Daddy Trump alongside his beltway lib friends.

    You need him, that’s why you take spankings and ask for more

  9. Well, if they don’t raise taxes, how are they going to pay for all that free stuff?

  10. A sign of just how far left Democrats have moved under Trump

    Are you fucking kidding me?

    1. Look: It’s beyond question that Trump’s responsible for the Democrats’ leftward shift. The Science Is Settled.

      1. In the Chron this morning, Newsom had Trump responsible for the homeless “crisis” in Oakland.

      2. I don’t think that the phenomenon of Trump getting elected is entirely unrelated to the Democrats’ leftward push. I don’t think anyone is saying he’s personally responsible.

    2. Yeah, I don’t know that they meant Trump CAUSED it, so much as that it has happened while he was in office. Which is totally true.

      Not that they didn’t all already think this shit, they just feel more comfortable saying it out loud now. They had to hide their true communist power level until now!

  11. I guess Biden has to raise taxes even more because someone, we won’t name who, cut some taxes in the last three years. Gotta reverse that tax cut, then pile on some more taxes on top.

    Oddly, though, no mention of spending cuts. I guess only Republicans can be taken to task for that.

    1. Get rid of insurance for basic, run-of-the-mill medical treatment. Have healthcare providers compete for customers and, I think, ultimately, prices will be reasonable and affordable. Reserve insurance for truly catastrophic and unforeseeable conditions or accidents.

      I just don’t understand why healthcare always has to be such a complicated clusterfuck and why every proposed solution is intended to make it even *more* complicated.

      1. There are no deep state six-figure, pensioned careers in simple solutions.

      2. be easiest just to tell the 5% of the population that eats up 50% of healthcare spending “tough luck”.

        helping anyone and everyone cheat the reaper at any cost is expensive…

        1. Except who decides what comprises that 5% you are talking about? And using what criteria?

          I mean, if you want to kill people through benign neglect, at least be up-front about it.

          1. Americans love life to the point of absurdity.

        2. Could just give everybody a lifetime healthcare allowance… If you go over it at 30, you’re gonna die. If you go over it at 80, you’re gonna die. If you never hit it, then it’s a windfall for society!

          It is obscene though how much many people use in the last few years of their life. My dad has said he doesn’t want anything long and drawn out, and if he’s ever out of it with no chance at getting back to being super active to just let him die so he doesn’t suffer or waste insane amounts of money for no reason.

  12. That makes Biden look like a moderate

    It’s a trap!

  13. Trump disgusts me, but I guess I’ll be voting for him. The Democrats need to learn that promising more government and more taxes every election won’t work.

    1. What if they promise that it’s only other people that have to pay the more taxes?

    2. I decided awhile ago that I will be voting for someone other than the Libertarian candidate for the first time in my life… It obviously ain’t gonna be whoever the Dems choose. Trump Train 2020: Purely out of spite!

  14. Is this good news because it’s making Democrats unelectable in most places? Or is it bad news because lightning could strike and they’d be elected?

    1. That is the big question, isn’t it?

  15. A sign of just how far left Democrats have moved under Trump

    Even the fact that the Democrats have become leftist totalitarians is apparently Trump’s fault. The only cure, apparently, is to vote for one of those leftist totalitarians so that they have the liberty to become moderates again, right?

    1. The key takeaway, as with most Reason articles lately, is that Orange Man Bad. If it takes complete self-immolation to get rid of him that’s just the price we pay to have civilization.

  16. Really? You think Biden is too far to the left????? Seems you must be a rich conservative Republican if you think that.

    1. Oh, those “rich conservative Republicans”, they are just the worst! Do you want to shoot them or merely steal their stuff?

      1. Come on, it doesn’t have to be a choice.

  17. It appears that all the democrats are buying into the idea the only way is to promise more and tax more. And the voters don’t seem to realize that it will be them that get taxed. But this is not new I noticed this in the midterm election of 1962. That is just right after JFK and the famous speech that he gave stating “Ask not what your nation can do for you but what you can do for your nation.” The election that year peaked my interest because it was the campaigns was so much in contrast to what JFK had just stated. I have been interested every since. I have watch, read, listened to and every other method I could to keep up with what promises the politicians were using in their campaign. Most of the campaign first of all more handouts, more free stuff. But I also noticed that very rarely did they mention more jobs. Occasionally they would mention a higher minimum wage but never did it every mention more jobs of higher quality jobs, jobs that would may more than minimum wages. This has continued right up until now. But along come Trump and he broke the mold. He increased the number of jobs and in turned the wages (not the minimum wage) but the wages pad for work started to increase. This increase was not a government mandate but happened because the number of people willing to work was getting tighter and higher wages was to get more employees. Naturally this caused wages all up the line to increase some.
    But because the democrats cannot compete with this new economy they have resorted to legal means used illegally to try to eliminate their main competition for the office of President of the United States.

  18. Well, at some point, someone is going to have to pay for all the spending.

    I don’t like taxes, and I don’t like spending either.

    HOWEVER, if there’s going to be excessive spending, then which is the more correct choice – that people who are currently taking advantage of the spending are paying for it? Or that people in the future, who had no say-so at all in the decision to spend so much money, should be the ones to pay for it?

    I don’t like the state taking people’s money. But if the state is going to be taking people’s money to pay for spending today, it should take the money of the people who are living today, not the money of people who haven’t even been born yet.

    What is the other option? Just pray that the Magic Growth Fairy will solve all of our spending problems? We see currently that the stronger the growth only encourages the Congresscritters to spend even more recklessly than in the past. Inflate the debt away? That is just a tax by another name. Some idiotic MMT-type idea?

    1. America is to far into the rabbit hole that is Taxation and Health Care to believe for a second that there could ever be a way back out, sorry to say.

    2. I don’t like the state taking people’s money. But if the state is going to be taking people’s money to pay for spending today, it should take the money of the people who are living today, not the money of people who haven’t even been born yet.

      I agree. And I think you’re in good company, because Thomas Jefferson said exactly the same thing.

      We need to cut spending, bigly.

    3. I just want to make clear that I do not hate Jews, but if there’s going to be a genocide anyway, in some form, I think it is fair to start with the Jews. What is the other option? Just pray that genocidal impulses dissipate? Kill other, more favored groups? Something else stupid and ineffectual?

      If your conclusion is that something is inevitable and you will go along with it, noting your objections beforehand is meaningless.

    4. As far as things go Jeff, I ALMOST kinda agree with you.

      IMO if we were forced to actually tax enough to pay for direct spending today, I think that would VERY QUICKLY make people demand spending cuts. So perhaps having like 2-3 years of actually paying for all the retarded spending might be just what the doctor ordered. When it’s all obfuscated through issuing debt, inflating the currency, etc people don’t notice… If it’s a straight up big chunk of change straight out of their pocket, they’ll get pissed.

  19. Just for the record: Joe Biden is not a moderate anything.

  20. I do not consider repealing an ill advised tax cut in 2017 as raising taxes. I consider it a spending cut.

  21. Every time some moron starts talking about how far to the right the Republicans have gone, I school the shit out of them with a dose of reality.

    Trump, a life long moderate Democrat, is now LITERALLY HITLER. Even though his stated policy positions haven’t changed on basically anything since at least the 80s. I then remind them Bill Clinton cut welfare, passed harsh crime bills, attacked illegal immigration, etc etc etc.

    The Dems are the ones off the reservation.

  22. In the future when the USA can no longer pay on its national debt causing economic Armageddon folks should remember how nobody wanted to pay any tax especially when many had the capacity to do so.

  23. “If you don’t need all that health care now, you will by the time we get through with you.”

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