Elizabeth Warren’s rise as a front-runner in the Democratic presidential primary is bringing a new focus, and scrutiny, to her proposed wealth tax.
The Massachusetts senator first called for the new tax in January, and it’s become the bedrock for how she plans on funding some of her other policy proposals.
The idea polls well and has been championed by progressives, with fellow presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) releasing his own wealth-tax plan last month.
Now that Warren has started to edge out former Vice President Joe Biden in a number of state and nationwide polls, her policy stances are being put under a magnifying glass.
That new scrutiny was evident on Tuesday night, when for the first time her wealth-tax proposal was the focus of much discussion at the primary debate in Ohio.
“She clearly went into the debate the other day as the front-runner or the co-front-runner, which is why she was subject to so many attacks,” said Democratic strategist Craig Varoga.
Warren has called for a 2 percent tax on household net worth between $50 million and $1 billion, and a 3 percent tax on net worth above $1 billion. She has said she wants to use that revenue to finance a host of education-related proposals.
Warren has described her plan as a two-cent tax on the wealth of the mega-rich. Supporters can often be heard chanting “two cents” at her rallies.
Michael Linden, executive director of the Groundwork Collaborative, said proposals to tax the rich have moved toward center stage in the 2020 race, and that taxing the rich has become a goal in and of itself.
“A lot of that has to do with the popularity and the capturing of the imagination of the wealth tax,” he said.
Still, Linden said, there remains a debate among Democrats about whether raising taxes on the rich is punitive.
“That idea was still apparent on that stage,” he said, referring to Tuesday night.
Warren defended her proposal by saying the question isn’t why she and Sanders are backing wealth taxes, “it’s why is it does everyone else on this stage think it is more important to protect billionaires than it is to invest in an entire generation of Americans.”
More moderate candidates who haven’t proposed wealth taxes but have offered other proposals to raise taxes on the rich took offense with the notion that they wanted to help billionaires.
“No one is supporting billionaires,” Biden said.