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Steny Hoyer Deploys 'Republican-Lite Talking Points' to Oppose 70% Tax Rate on Ultra-Rich That Most Americans Want

The bold agenda being pushed by lawmakers like Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez "is not a litany of progressive issues; it's an agenda to renew and expand the social contract by directly addressing the crises that will define American life for years to come."

House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) was dismissive of the idea that the incomes of the richest Americans should be taxed at 70 percent, despite the broad popularity of the proposal. (Photo: AFGE/Flickr/cc)

Despite the popularity of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D-N.Y.) proposal to raise the marginal tax rate for the wealthiest Americans to 70 percent—House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer (D-Md.) revealed that he has no plans to serve the public interest by pushing for higher taxes for the rich.

"The tactics of insurgents like Ocasio-Cortez may irritate party leaders to no end, but the friction still serves to provide the Democratic Party an actual vision and ideology to govern through the systemic crises in our country: inequality, climate, racism, and oligarchy. They need her." —Waleed Shahid, Justice DemocratsSpeaking to the news outlet Cheddar, Hoyer scoffed and smirked when asked on Tuesday whether he would support the proposal—even as he undermined his own point, admitting that a 70 percent tax rate for the rich has in fact existed in the U.S. in the past.

Despite his stated view that "we need to get the deficit down" and "pay for our priorities and our needs," Hoyer claimed that asking Americans making more than $10 million per year—as Ocasio-Cortez proposed—"is not reasonable to attain either politically or frankly, I think, from a policy standpoint."

Justice Democrats communications director Waleed Shahid compared Hoyer's statement to "mealy-mouthed Republican-lite talking points in place of a vision of Democratic governance."

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Hoyer did not elaborate on why he believes the proposal to be unfeasible—an incongruous statement for an idea that 59 percent of Americans supported in a recent poll by The Hill and HarrisX. Though critics have attempted to portray a 70 percent top marginal tax rate as "radical," even a large number of Republican respondents—45 percent—approved of the proposal, along with 71 percent of Democrats. 

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Political scientist Corey Robin noted that Hoyer's comments should serve as a reminder that the Democratic Party has a ways to go in terms of pushing for bold proposals that a majority of Americans support.

Shahid added that the exchange underscores how urgently the Democratic establishment must end its attempts to dismiss and marginalize the ideas of Ocasio-Cortez—a representative who is intent on truly representing the priorities of her constituents and working families across the country.

"The tactics of insurgents like Ocasio-Cortez may irritate party leaders to no end, but the friction still serves to provide the Democratic Party an actual vision and ideology to govern through the systemic crises in our country: inequality, climate, racism, and oligarchy," wrote Shahid. "They need her."

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