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Pushing Back Against the Wealth Tax at the Dem Debate

Michael Rainey

Sen. Elizabeth Warren defended her proposed wealth tax at the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday night: “I’m tired of freeloading billionaires,” Warren said. “I think it's time that we ask the very top to pay more.”

Other candidates pushed back, arguing that they too were tired of freeloading billionaires but raising questions about Warren’s tax proposal, which would apply a 2% levy on household wealth over $50 million, rising to 6% on household wealth over $1 billion.

Describing the wealth tax as “cumbersome,” Sen. Cory Booker said he opposed it, in part on practical grounds. “It’s been tried by other nations. It’s hard to evaluate. We can get the same amount of revenue through just taxation,” Booker said.

The New Jersey senator said he agreed with Warren that the U.S. needs more revenue in order to fund new social programs such as universal preschool, but his focus is more on making adjustments within the existing tax system. “We actually have a real problem with the tax rates, tax loopholes, tax cheats,” Booker said.

Later in the debate, billionaire Tom Steyer was asked about his use of his wealth to influence U.S. politics — one of the problems Warren’s wealth tax is meant to address. Fellow candidate Andrew Yang spoke up to defend Steyer and, by implication, the involvement of the extremely wealthy in U.S. politics. “I want to stick up for Tom,” Yang said. “Tom has been spending his own money fighting climate change. You can’t knock someone for having money and spending it in the right way.”

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