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The Nation

Senate Democrats Should Have Embraced Surtax on Millionaires

North Dakota Senator Kent Conrad does not serve as a Democrat.

He serves as a Democrat-Non-Partisan League senator.

That’s a recognition of the fact that the North Dakota Democratic Party and the old Non-Partisan League, a radical grouping that challenged corporate interests and the wealthy elites (with a state-owned bank, publicly run grain elevators and progressive taxation), merged in 1956.

Conrad, the chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, showed a little of his NPL side when he floated the very good idea of using a surtax on millionaires as a way to bring down budget deficits.

Few scholars of North Dakota politics would confuse the senator with the NPL activists of old. Conrad’s actually a budget hawk. But he reached into the NPL cabinet and found a good idea for balancing budgets and addressing deficits: taxing the rich.

Conrad reportedly considered a 3 percent surtax on the wealthy as part of an effort to gain the support of Vermont independent Bernie Sanders, who serves on the committee and has argued that at least half of any deficit-reduction plan must be paid for with new revenue—as opposed to deep cuts to needed domestic programs.

Unfortunately, Conrad’s idea did not get very far with his fellow Democrats—let alone the crash-and-burn Republicans of the current Senate.

Nor was it particularly popular at the White House, where President Obama recently met, according to published reports, with “potential backers from Wall Street banks…”

So it was that the Washington-insider newspaper The Hill featured a headline late Friday that announced: “Senate Dems drop surtax on millionaires from draft budget.”

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