On wealth tax, White House says Biden and Warren have different plans

  • White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked about a wealth tax during a Monday press briefing.
  • She said President Biden has different plans than longtime wealth-tax champion Sen. Elizabeth Warren.
  • Psaki also cited democracy in action, saying she’s sure they’ll discuss it at an “appropriate time.”
  • See more stories on Insider’s business page.

In a press briefing on Monday, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki addressed the possibility of a wealth tax, something the Biden administration is either open or opposed to, based on recent remarks. She was clear that its position, whatever it is, is far removed from the most prominent one: that of Sen. Elizabeth Warren.

“I know Sen. Warren has put forward a wealth tax, and the president shares her view that middle-class families are paying more than their fair share and those at the top are not doing their part, so certainly he has that shared objective,” Psaki said. “He laid out during the campaign his own plans for fixing this, which are different from Sen. Warren’s. But certainly, as we get to the point about discussing taxes and tax reform — or reforms of the tax system, that they share an objective.”

When pressed by a reporter, who asked, “just to be clear, the Treasury Secretary said it was something you haven’t decided on yet. Is that accurate?” Psaki replied, “Well, I think it’s how to pursue.”

“What I’m conveying is that there is a shared view that those at the top are not doing their part. Obviously that corporations could be paying higher taxes, that continues to be consistent with what the president talked about. He had a different proposal he put forward than the one Sen. Warren has put forward,” Psaki said.

Psaki seemed to be referring to Biden’s proposal to raise the corporate tax from 28% to 21%. That’s one taxation effort that Biden outlined during his campaign, and one that is reportedly on the table as he looks to raise revenues following the enactment of his $1.9 trillion stimulus package. 

Over the weekend, Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen said implementing a wealth tax was something “that we haven’t decided yet, and can look at.” Previously, Yellen had said that she wasn’t planning on a wealth tax, citing difficulties over implementation; she also said it had been discussed, but wasn’t favored by Biden. 

Speaking on Monday, Psaki added that, as always, there will be “democracy in action.”

“When it’s the appropriate time I’m sure they’ll discuss — and he will discuss with others — what their views are of how to address this moving forward,” she said.

Warren’s wealth tax push

Warren recently introduced the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act, alongside several other progressives. Under the proposal, households with a net worth between $50 million and $1 billion would see a 2% tax, and a 3% tax for households with a net worth of over $1 billion.

In the 2020 presidential campaign, a wealth tax was a key plank of Warren’s platform. Warren eventually bowed out of the race, but not before drawing significant mainstream attention to the idea of such a tax. It was also a measure with popular support: An Insider poll from February 2019 found that 54% of Americans supported Warren’s proposal.

Besides implementation issues, namely, the fact that the ultrawealthy would be able to hide assets from the underfunded IRS, Warren’s proposal has been questioned over its constitutional legality. Insider spoke to seven law professors about the legal debate, and found it could be allowed under current law but would likely run into years of challenges in the courts.

Warren did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment on the White House’s remarks. 

Regardless, taxes may be increasing for wealthy Americans, even without a wealth tax: Biden is reportedly considering the first major federal tax increase in nearly 30 years, Bloomberg originally reported. Per Bloomberg, it could also raise income taxes for some high-earners, and expand the estate tax. 

The move comes as House Democrats get to work on a post-stimulus infrastructure package — and try to figure out the best way to pay for it.

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