Why Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax would be terrible for America

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Op-ed views and opinions expressed are solely those of the author.

The Democrat front runner Elizabeth Warren has a lot of bad ideas. Fortunately, most of them, like decriminalizing crossing the border illegally or making assault rifles illegal will have legions of people who refute them. But, her wealth tax is a little different. After all, when you start talking about putting a 2% wealth tax on all wealth over 50 million dollars and a 3% tax on wealth over a billion dollars, it’s hard to feel sorry for the people targeted. No one is crying tears over the idea of people like Warren Buffet, Barbra Streisand, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg, and Mark Zuckerberg having a massive new tax bill every year.

Elizabeth Warren is also promising that her wealth tax would raise 2.75 trillion dollars over the next decade. Of course, we all know there is absolutely no chance it will ever raise that much money. Why? Well, for one thing, remember Warren Buffet, Barbra Streisand, Oprah Winfrey, Michael Bloomberg, and Mark Zuckerberg? People like that have an awful lot of pull with Democrats and to fight a tax like this, it would make sense for the wealthy to cumulatively spend billions on political donations and lobbyists that would ensure that there are loopholes in the law. Just as an example of how that has worked in the past, you have probably heard some nostalgic liberal say that the income tax on the highest earners in the U.S. used to be 94%. But, in actuality, the wealthiest Americans were paying about 40% of their income under that 94% tax rate. If anything, a wealth tax would have even more potential loopholes given that the value of everything the wealthiest Americans own would have to be appraised every year. Imagine how that’s going to work out as they pay the best lawyers and accountants on earth to fight with the IRS about the value of their homes, trusts, art, cars, furniture, boats and every other thing under the sun. Incidentally, the difficulty of administering this tax and the much smaller than anticipated revenue that it has brought in is a big part of why in Europe, Austria, Denmark, Finland, France, Germany, Iceland, Ireland, Italy, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, and Sweden have all tried and abandoned wealth taxes.

The other thing we have seen over and over is that new taxes change behavior. Money that’s paid to the government can’t be used to invest in new businesses, research, and development or the stock market. That would hurt the economy. Currently, the U.S. is one of the world’s top destinations for millionaires to move to, but this sort of tax would encourage some of those people to move elsewhere. We would even see couples divorcing and money being spread across whole families to try to beat the government out of the wealth tax.

Then there’s the biggest problem of all, one that we see on the state level in places like California, Illinois, and New York. When taxes get too high, people LEAVE and when they do, the impact is enormous. IF we put a wealth tax in effect, imagine many of our wealthiest citizens moving elsewhere. Not only do we not collect the wealth tax from them after that happens, we lose income taxes, state taxes, sales taxes, death taxes, etc., etc. Plus, they’re not buying those big houses, big cars and employing huge staffs in the United States anymore. Additionally, for tax purposes, their companies may need to go with them overseas. Are we better off or worse off not IF, but WHEN that happens? Of course, Elizabeth Warren would tell you that she’s already thought of that and would put a 40% tax on Americans with a net worth over 50 million that renounce their citizenship. The obvious flaw in that proposal is that it needs to have a beginning point and the moment the wealthiest Americans sense something like this will be coming, many of them will flee to nations with lower taxes. Overnight, the GDP of a small, prosperous nation would likely move to other nations that would be THRILLED to have all that new money arriving on their shores.

In any case, as conservatives know, America’s problem is not that we don’t tax the rich enough, it’s that our government spends far too much money. Until BOTH PARTIES make a concerted effort to tackle spending, we aren’t ever going to be successful in tackling our spending problems. Moreover, the idea that we need to come up with an enormous tax on the rich to pay for new programs when we have a 22 trillion-dollar debt is madness. If you want to see how futile it is to try to address this problem on the revenue side, keep in mind that in 2019, the government appears to be on track to raise 1.3 trillion dollars more than it did in 2009 and yet, we’re still going to have a one trillion-dollar debt. We’re not going to tax our way out of this problem and encouraging many of the people that already pay a big chunk of our taxes to move elsewhere with a wealth tax isn’t going to do anything but hurt our economy and increase the size of our debt.


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John Hawkins


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