Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Mass.) wealth tax came under the spotlight during the Democratic presidential debate on Wednesday night.
The Massachusetts senator was asked about her ultra-millionaire tax, which would impose an annual tax of 2% on every dollar a household has above $50 million. That rate increases to 6% for households with more than $1 billion.
“I’m tired of freeloading billionaires,” Warren said at the podium. “I think it's time that we ask the very top to pay more."
Warren recently unveiled a Calculator for the Billionaires, which features sections for high net worth individuals, like Amazon (AMZN) CEO Jeff Bezos and Facebook (FB) CEO Mark Zuckerberg, to show what they would pay with her wealth tax. It also allows individuals who identify as billionaires to enter in their respective incomes to find out how much they would pay.
“Here’s the thing: Doing the wealth tax is not about punishing anyone,” Warren said. “It’s about saying ‘you built something great in this country, good for you. But you did it using workers all of us helped pay to educate. You did it getting all of your goods on roads and bridges all of us help pay for. You did it protected by police and firefighters all of us help pay the salaries for. So when you make it, you make it really big, you make the top 10th of 1% big, pitch in $0.02 so everybody else gets a chance to make it.’”
However, not everyone else on the stage echoed that sentiment. Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ) described the proposed wealth tax as “cumbersome.”
“It’s been tried by other nations,” he said. “It’s hard to evaluate. We can get the same amount of revenue through just taxation.”
Tech entrepreneur Andrew Yang came to the defense of billionaires as well — at least he did for the candidate next to him on stage, Tom Steyer.
“Tom has been spending his own money fighting climate change,” Yang said. “You can’t knock somebody for having money and spending it the right way.”
Warren’s wealth tax plan has been met with backlash over the past few months, particularly from billionaires who felt targeted by her tax plan. After being featured in one of Warren’s TV ads, ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blankfein tweeted: “Vilification of people as a member of a group may be good for her campaign, not the country. Maybe tribalism is just in her DNA.”
Bill Gates has also criticized the plan, along with JPMorgan (JPM) CEO Jamie Dimon and hedge fund manager Leon Cooperman. Warren responded by unveiling her calculator, along with “Billionaire Tears’” mugs for sale on her campaign website.
“Our country is working better for the billionaires, for the rich, for the well-connected, and worse and worse for everyone else,” Warren said. “We come together when we acknowledge that.”
Adriana is an associate editor for Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter @adrianambells.
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