Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, addresses an audience on the campus of the University of Chapel Hill during a campaign rally on September 19, 2019 in Chapel Hill, North Carolina. (Photo: Sara D. Davis/Getty Images)

"I Don't Think Billionaires Should Exist": Sanders Proposes Wealth Tax to Slash Fortunes of Ultra-Rich

"Enough is enough. We are going to take on the billionaire class, substantially reduce wealth inequality in America, and stop our democracy from turning into a corrupt oligarchy."

Jake Johnson

To tackle "outrageous and grotesque and immoral" levels of inequality in the United States, Sen. Bernie Sanders on Tuesday proposed a new wealth tax on the richest Americans that economists say would slash the fortunes of billionaires in half over 15 years and raise an estimated $4.35 trillion in revenue during the first decade.

"I don't think that billionaires should exist," Sanders, a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, told the New York Times in an interview. "This proposal does not eliminate billionaires, but it eliminates a lot of the wealth that billionaires have, and I think that's exactly what we should be doing."

"A progressive wealth tax is the most direct policy tool to curb the growing concentration of wealth in the United States."
—Economists Gabriel Zucman and Emanuel Saez
Sanders's "Tax on Extreme Wealth" plan, detailed on the senator's campaign website, would create a one percent tax on wealth between $32 and $50 million, with the rate progressively increasing on richer Americans.

"A progressive wealth tax is the most direct policy tool to curb the growing concentration of wealth in the United States," economists Gabriel Zucman and Emanuel Saez wrote in a letter analyzing Sanders's proposal. "Senator Sanders's very progressive wealth tax on the top 0.1 percent wealthiest Americans is a crucial step in this direction."

Sanders's website outlines the framework of the tax plan:

  • 1 percent tax on wealth from $32 to $50 million;
  • 2 percent on wealth from $50 to $250 million;
  • 3 percent on wealth from $250 to $500 million;
  • 4 percent on wealth from $500 to $1 billion;
  • 5 percent on wealth from $1 billion to $2.5 billion;
  • 6 percent on wealth from $2.5 billion to $5 billion;
  • 7 percent on wealth from $5 billion to $10 billion;
  • 8 percent on wealth over $10 billion.

"At a time when millions of people are working two or three jobs to feed their families, the three wealthiest people in this country own more wealth than the bottom half of the American people," Sanders said in a statement. "Enough is enough. We are going to take on the billionaire class, substantially reduce wealth inequality in America, and stop our democracy from turning into a corrupt oligarchy."

To prevent the rich from evading the wealth tax, Sanders's plan would establish a number of oversight and enforcement mechanisms, including:

  • Creating a national registry and significant additional third-party reporting requirements;
  • Increasing IRS funding for enforcement and requiring the IRS to perform an audit of 30 percent of wealth tax returns for those in the one percent bracket and a 100 percent audit rate for all billionaires;
  • Creating a 40 percent exit tax on the net value of all assets under $1 billion and 60 percent over $1 billion for all wealthy individual seeking to expatriate to avoid the tax; and
  • Making enhancements to the international tax enforcement and anti-money laundering regime, including the strengthening of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act.

On his website, Sanders said the revenue raised from the wealth tax would be used to fund the senator's other progressive policy proposals, such as Medicare for All and universal childcare.

"Over the last 30 years, the top 1 percent has seen a $21 trillion increase in its wealth, while the bottom half of American society has actually lost $900 billion in wealth," the senator said. "In other words, there has been a massive transfer of wealth from those who have too little to those who have too much."

"For the sake of our democracy and working families all over America who are struggling economically," Sanders added, "that has got to change."

Morris Pearl, chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, applauded Sanders's wealth tax proposal in a statement Tuesday, calling the plan a "welcome addition to our national tax debate."

"The wealthiest people in this country haven't been paying their fair share for a long time, and part of that problem is because our tax code only taxes the wealthy based on how much income they choose to take each year," said Pearl. "The very rich get money not from earning it each year, but from spending wealth that they have already made."

"If our tax laws only target one without touching the other, then rich folks like me will continue to find ways to game the system and our inequality crisis will continue to get worse," Pearl added. "We are thrilled to see this proposal and look forward to more dialogue on this critical issue moving forward in the debates."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

'Stop Line 5': Valve Turner Forces Shutdown of Enbridge Oil Pipeline in Michigan

"We are here to protect the water, land, and air that support all life, including our own. Line 5 poses an immediate threat to our lives and these actions are taken out of necessity and in self-defense."

Jessica Corbett ·


'Delay Is the New Denial': Study Confirms 99.9% of Scientists Agree on Climate

"It's pretty much case closed for any meaningful public conversation about the reality of human-caused climate change."

Brett Wilkins ·


Exposed: How Pfizer Exploits Secretive Vaccine Contracts to Strong-Arm Governments

"Pfizer has used its monopoly on a lifesaving vaccine to extract concessions from desperate governments," said the report's author, urging action from the Biden administration.

Jessica Corbett ·


'A Toxic Presence in the Party': Ocasio-Cortez Joins Calls for Jay Jacobs to Resign

"India Walton is the Democratic nominee for mayor of Buffalo. No amount of racist misogyny from the old boys' club is going to change that."

Brett Wilkins ·


New Multimedia Report Details Unprecedented 'Permian Climate Bomb' in Texas

"If the Biden Administration wants to be serious about its promise to demonstrate U.S. climate leadership, it must first clean up its own backyard."

Kenny Stancil ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.


Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo