Sanders, Warren Compete For Who Can Tax Billionaires The Most

WASHINGTON (Bloomberg) -

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal is big. Sen. Bernie Sanders’ is about 60% bigger.

Sanders’ plan for a wealth tax attaches his name to one of the most salient tax ideas in Democratic circles that Warren, one of his main presidential primary opponents, has popularized.

Struggling to maintain his top-three position in voter preference polls, Sanders follows Warren in proposing a tax that has becoming a popular rallying cry of “2 cents” during her campaign speeches. The cries refer to the 2% levy that would kick in on the assets of fortunes worth more than $50 million. Sanders’ tax goes a few steps further – taxing wealth above $32 million at 1%, with an increasing rate that tops out at 8% over $10 billion.

“This is the Sanders response to the Warren surge: My plan is bigger than yours,” said Brad Bannon, a Democratic political consultant. “They’re trying to out-progressive each other.”

Warren has topped the Democratic field in polls of voters in Iowa and New Hampshire, the first two states to hold nominating contests next February. Part of that rise comes from support for her wealth tax that she says would raise $2.75 trillion over a decade and pay for universal child care, free college and student-debt elimination.

Sanders’ tax would raise an estimated $4.35 trillion over a decade.

The two are competing to be the top progressive candidate to challenge former Vice President Joe Biden, a moderate. Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist, has for years spoken about income inequality and the problem of so many “millionaires and billionaires,” and he has proposed taxes and regulations that until this election have been outside the mainstream of Democratic politics.

“It’s a campaign. People outbid each other,” said Gordon Gray, the director of fiscal policy at American Action Forum, a conservative think tank. “This is the left’s version of Republicans vying to have the biggest tax cut in 2016. Instead, it’s bigger tax increases.”