A Democratic member of Congress just introduced a plan to tax the ultra-rich at such a high rate it would make Bernie Sanders blush. And, even though almost any tax increase is considered DOA in a GOP-controlled government, this one comes with a unique provenance: It was first proposed in 1999 by a real estate mogul named Donald J. Trump.
That's why Rep. Juan Vargas (D-Calif.) introduced his bill with a very trolly name: the Donald J. Trump Wealth Tax Act of 2017. The proposal would impose a 14.25% net worth tax on "all individuals and trusts with a net worth of $10,000,000 or more." By taxing net worth instead of income, such a tax would effectively seize one-seventh of the wealth held by the nation's richest people — making it a remarkable and radical redistributive proposition.
The idea first surfaced in 1999 when Trump was flirting with the notion of launching independent bid for the presidency. Trump introduced the audacious proposal as a way to raise $5.7 trillion in tax revenue and eliminate the national debt without taxing middle-class Americans.
"By my calculations, 1% of Americans, who control 90% of the wealth in this country, would be affected by my plan," Trump said at the time, framing his argument in remarkably prescient terms. "The other 99% of the people would get deep reductions in their federal income taxes."
Vargas is using the looming fight on tax reform to try and remind the president of his days as a class warrior.
"In the spirit of bipartisanship, I am introducing the Donald J. Trump Wealth Tax Act of 2017 to allow the president to follow through on his original idea," Vargas said in a statement.
Since Trump first proposed his net worth tax back in 1999, wealth taxes have become increasingly en vogue among left-leaning economists and policy wonks. French economist Thomas Piketty became a household name with his bestselling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, the central thesis of which argues that wealth inequality has become a major problem for society best solved through a global wealth tax.
Vargas now says he's willing to work the Trump "to ensure that his wealth tax becomes law for the future and economic well-being of our country."
It's unlikely that the Republican Congress would ever get behind such a confiscatory proposal. But if they're expecting their leader in the White House to come out strongly against something called the Donald J. Trump Wealth Tax Act of 2017, they probably shouldn't hold their breath.