Biden’s Desperate Wealth Tax Flip-Flop

On the campaign trail, Biden rejected wealth taxes as punitive, divisive, and unworkable. Now, as president, he’s embraced the idea.

by Peter Suderman

In December 2019, when Joe Biden, still campaigning for the Democratic presidential nomination, released his tax plan, much of the coverage focused on the contrast between his comparatively plan and the plans issued by his more progressive rivals. A CNBC report on his plan was labeled “wealth tax wars.” A Washington Post headline noted that Biden’s $3.2 trillion tax plan highlighted “divisions” with Sens. Bernie Sanders (I–Vt.) and Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.). Among the starkest of those divisions was that the former vice president had rejected calls by Warren and Sanders to back a wealth tax on the richest Americans.

On the campaign trail, Biden himself played up that contrast. Among the criticisms lobbed at the Sanders and Warren wealth tax proposals was that they were fundamentally punitive, because they taxed wealth of a small, specific group of individuals. He told a wealthy crowd of supporters in Los Angeles that while they shouldn’t expect a tax cut from him, there would be “no punishment either.”

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