In an extraordinarily frank breakfast exchange with journalists, Bernie Sanders answered a number of questions about his views and the direction he thinks the country needs to move. As usual, the press tended to ask "horse-race" questions rather than substantive ones. But Sanders responded with substantive answers, not the "gotcha" answers (about other candidates) that journalists' questions encourage (and that many politicians seem quite satisfied to work into their press encounters).
Having indicated that he thought it was time the US made some progress towards meeting the needs of ordinary working Americans, such as universal single-payer health care along the lines of our current Medicare program for seniors, and maternity/paternity and medical leaves for ordinary wage-earners, Sanders was asked if he would pay for those benefits, at least in part, with higher taxes. He answered forthrightly that taxes would need to be increased, especially for the extraordinarily wealthy and corporations. He noted the immense inequality that ordinary Americans face today, an inequality that steals away opportunities and makes daily life a hard grind for so many people. Just twelve (12) of the richest Americans saw an increase in their wealth over the last two years of a whopping $154 billion--that's more than the entire wealth of a majority of Americans. Corporations offshore their assets and avoid taxes with "rent" profits accruing to them while, again, ordinary Americans don't even get decent living wages. Hedge and equity fund managers who benefit from the "carried interest" loophole generally pay a lower rate of taxes than truck drivers. See, e.g., Sanders' website post on how the richest .0001% pay their taxes. These privileged elites need to be asked to step up to the plate and pay their fair share to support necessary programs.
As to specifics of how those taxes should be increased, Sanders noted that he hoped to release a tax reform proposal soon. It would include, he said, a transaction tax on Wall Street business, an end to multinational corporations' ability to avoid taxes through moving business into tax havens, and a more progressive income tax (see, e.g., this post on his website).
I will add here that these are many of the reforms that this blog has argued for over the years. Clearly, the right-dominated tax cut regimen of the Reagan years, the Gingrich Contract on America, the absurd Grover Norquist "never a tax increase" pledge, and the numerous revenue reduction acts passed in the Bush I and Bush II years--and of the Republican-dominated Congress and state houses during Obama's presidency--has been one of cutting taxes for the rich and big business and increasing them (if finally deemed necessary to increase revenues after cutting spending past the bone) on working people through regressive payroll, sales and excise taxes. It is time for us to return to a truly progressive tax system that asks as much of the rich as it does of the working poor.
Watching the hour-long exchange is well worth your time. It is also surprisingly refreshing to see a politician respond carefully and thoughtfully with forthright answers that do not pander to billionaire interests or Wall Street.
You can click on the video below.