Smart Ideas: Progressives Should Target Wealth, Not Income

Plus: Administration is hitting immigrants in the wallet.

The Biltmore House in Asheville, N.C.
AP Photo/Chuck Burton
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Jan. 23, 2019, 8 p.m.

Tax wealth, not income

Adam Davidson, on Slate's The Gist podcast

Instead of a 70 percent marginal tax rate, a better idea would be taxing wealth to attack the roots of inequality. "Economic activity focused on preserving wealth is the opposite of growth. It is holding on. It’s preventing growth." And the very wealthy "start lobbying for their position. They start putting their cronies in power, etc. I think we clearly see that. The Trump administration is almost a comically extreme version of it, where you have someone who inherited his wealth, squandered much of it but kept enough, and hired a bunch of other people, many of whom inherited wealth, in order to make America even better for people who inherited wealth." Granted, most intergenerational wealth isn't held by tycoons; it’s middle- and upper-middle class people leaving modest sums to their children. “But if you’re in a world where you’re going to get, say, $35,000 when you’re 28, and that allows you to put a down payment on a home or to go to graduate school or to start a business … it sets you off on a totally different kind of income and wealth dynamic that will then transfer to your children and their children.”

No domestic bliss for Trump

The Editors, writing for The Economist

The government shutdown highlights how hamstrung President Trump is on domestic policy, continuing a presidential trend that began nearly 50 years ago. “Judged by spending ... the executive branch is actually less imperial than under Eisenhower or Kennedy. The part of the budget that the executive actually spends (non-defense discretionary spending), accounts for a lower share of GDP now than in the 1960s. Congressional deadlock, which has been a feature of government since the mid-1990s, empowers the president in one way, inviting him to attempt rule by decree. It has also weakened the whole system that the president sits on top of.”

Trump is building the “paywall”

Manuel Madrid, writing for The American Prospect

The Trump administration plans to limit the availability of fee waivers for immigration benefits, making it more difficult for low-income immigrants “to apply for citizenship, file a legal appeal, receive employment authorization, and even suspend a deportation order.” The new rules will require that immigrants ”show their income is at or below 150 percent of the federal poverty threshold or prove their financial hardships through a written submission,” which can be a major challenge. These changes will create hardships for those just above the cut-off, those who previously qualified for waivers through their use of federal benefits, and “already-vulnerable segments of the immigrant population who either earn too little to file taxes or don’t work at all, such as students, the elderly, and the ill.”


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