Thomas Piketty, the world’s most prominent proponent of a wealth tax, held forth in the Globe on Elizabeth Warren’s proposal for same. His verdict: Good, but it could go farther!
The debate has only just begun and the proposed schedule could still be extended and made more progressive — with rates rising, for example, to 5 to 10 percent per annum for multibillionaires.
And he puts a welcome historical perspective on this: That the current wealth-worshipping, the-rich-shall-inherit-the-earth attitude of much of our political establishment is relatively new. And he notes that the postwar period of the rise of the middle class was concurrent with much higher taxes on the rich, and public investment for all:
Between 1930 and 1980, the rate applied on the highest incomes was on average 81 percent, and the rate applied to the highest inherited estates was 74 percent. Clearly this did not destroy American capitalism. Far from it. It made it more egalitarian and more productive, at a time when the United States had not forgotten that educational advancement and investment in training and skills — not the religion of property and inequality — were the backbone of prosperity.
What Warren, Sanders, and Ocasio-Cortez are proposing is not “radical” in the least; it’s going back to what we used to take for granted. Wild degrees of inequality are not some state of nature, or a sign of the inherent virtue of the rich. We need not accept these circumstances with a Panglossian wave of the hand — that all that is, is right.