'Demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share’: Is Bernie Sanders right?


Fact Box

  • Bernie Sanders is a senator for the US Senate and currently serves on the Senate Budget Committee and Environment and Public Works Committee. He is the “longest serving independent member of Congress.”
  • Elon Musk is a South-African-born American entrepreneur who founded SpaceX in 2002 and became a prime funder of Tesla Motors in 2004. 
  • On November 14, 2021, Bernie Sanders tweeted, “We must demand that the extremely wealthy pay their fair share. Period.” In response, Musk tweeted, “I keep forgetting that you’re still alive” and “Want me to sell more stock, Bernie? Just say the word.” 
  • On November 5, 2021, President Biden signed the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law. The same day, the House Budget Committee released an update of President Biden’s Build Back Better infrastructure plan calling for “an outlay of $1.75+ trillion versus the $3.5 trillion price,” and there will be a final decision by Friday. Democrats proposed a billionaire tax to combat the expense of Biden’s agenda. 
  • Elon Musk is the richest man in the world with a total net worth of $335 billion as of November 1, 2021. Jeff Bezos runs in second place at $193 billion, and Bernard Arnault at $169 billion.

Curtice (No)

Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders is once again calling for the very wealthy to 'pay their fair share'--something that is somewhat meaningless because Sanders and the rest of his Progressive colleagues like Elizabeth Warren and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez cannot or will not define either ‘very wealthy’ or what a ‘fair share’ is.

By the standards of most Americans, Bernie Sanders (net worth $2.5 million) and Elizabeth Warren (net worth $12 million) are very wealthy. And, according to Fox Business, in 2018, Sanders adjusted his gross income to $561,293, paying a 26% tax rate. Is that his fair share? He, like any American, can decline to take advantage of any deductions and pay more in income taxes than the government requires. Yet, one suspects Sanders takes full advantage of all tax deductions available, as is his right.

In 2018, the top one percent paid 40.1% of all federal income taxes. The bottom 90% paid 28.6%. The top one percent also paid the highest average tax rate of 25.4%--seven times the rate of the bottom 50%.

No one should care how much Bernie Sanders, Elon Musk, or Mark Zuckerberg earns in a given year or what their tax liability is. As the numbers above clearly show, the wealthy pay quite a bit in income taxes.

Further, raising taxes on the wealthy does not necessarily lead to economic growth. In fact, it can do the opposite; yet, Progressives seem ignorant of this possibility. 

Sanders' tweet is political theater, drumming up hostility towards the wealthy, who do much of the hiring and investing in the country.

Andrew (Yes)

Over the past year, the combined wealth of American billionaires increased from $2.9 trillion to $4.7 trillion. That is a staggering amount of money, considering that during the same period, four out of five jobs lost due to the pandemic paid less than $13.67 per hour. Given these extreme disparities, Senator Sanders is right to call for the ultra-rich to pay their fair share. Many large corporations such as Amazon have reputations for exploiting low-wage workers; it is only fitting that those profiting from their labors contribute significantly to fund social programs. When CEOs prioritize profits over living wages and benefits, their enormous gains must be taxed to fill the gap.

The Democratic budget proposal contains an enormous amount of spending to increase and expand many services such as Medicare, paid family leave, childcare, and climate change mitigation. Increased tax revenue is key to funding these expansions. This funding source is critical to ensure that the legislation passes as several moderate Democrats have insisted that the package be fully paid for. Many working-class Americans need these services, and a stable and healthy workforce will benefit both employees and employers.

While Elon Musk's Twitter antics are often amusing, this latest outburst toward Senator Sanders has been a display of childishness that perhaps reflects an attitude of indifference toward the working class from certain ultra-wealthy persons. For example, instead of engaging seriously in the debate, Musk suggested that Sanders might have been abducted by aliens. Senator Sanders is right to recognize the seriousness of our nation's enormous wealth gap and demand action.

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