Q1. Most all candidates for the White House agree that the rich should pay their “fair share” at tax time. In your mind, what top marginal tax rate for the federal income tax would rate as “fair”?
⚪ The 91 percent top rate in effect during the Eisenhower years of the 1950s.
⚪ The 70 percent top rate in effect most of the years from the mid-1960s through 1980.
⚪ The 50 percent top rate in effect after the 1981 Reagan tax cut.
⚪ The 28 percent top rate enacted in 1986.
⚪ The 37 percent top rate now in effect.
I believe the 39.6% top marginal tax rate that was in effect before Trump’s tax cuts (which were heavily weighted to corporations and the wealthy) is fair. In 2017, it only applied to individuals earning at least $418,000 annually, and households earning over $470,000.
Q2. The majority of Americans support higher taxes for the rich. But policy analysts differ on who exactly rates as “rich.” At what level should the highest federal income tax rate kick in?
⚪ At the threshold for entry into the nation’s top 10 percent. In 2017, the most recent year with IRS data, this threshold stood at $130,060.
⚫ At the threshold for entry into the top 1 percent, income over $463,320.
⚪ At the threshold for entry into the top 0.1 percent, income over $2,099,400.
⚪ At the threshold for entry into the top 0.01 percent, income over $11,218,000.
Q3. Inequality in household wealth — the difference between what families own versus what they owe — runs even greater in the United States than inequality in income. How much wealth in the pockets of its richest 1 percent do you believe a healthy democratic society can accept?
⚪ No more than the 42 percent wealth share our wealthiest 1 percent has held in recent years.
⚪ No more than the 23 percent the U.S. wealthiest 1 percent held in 1978.3
⚪ No more than the 11 percent the wealthiest 1 percent holds today in Japan.
I won’t assign an arbitrary percentage, but I believe wealth inequality is too great right now.
I am particularly troubled by the disparity in household wealth among people of different races and ethnicities. In 2014, the median household wealth of a white (non-Hispanic) family in the US was $130,800. It was $17,530 for Hispanic families, and $9,590 for Black families. It is even less for Native American households (the most recent good data is from 2000, when it was just $5,700). As we attempt to address income and wealth inequality, we must address the disparity between races as well.
Q4. Average Americans pay an annual property tax on their homes, the asset that makes up the bulk of the household wealth most Americans hold. But wealthy Americans pay no annual tax on the assets that make up the bulk of their wealth, everything from stocks and bonds to fine art and yachts. Would your administration support an annual wealth tax on the assets of America’s wealthy?
If yes: Above what level of wealth should this wealth tax apply? ______
I do not currently support a wealth tax, mainly because I believe it will incentivize wealthy people to move money offshore or avoid the tax by other means. I believe there are policies that can be implemented that will steadily raise the real income of working people, such as raising the minimum wage, increasing support for small businesses, and removing onerous regulations on small businesses. Additionally, my “training for a lifetime” plan is key, since technology changes so quickly and only a commitment to training and re-training will keep people from being forced out of the workforce.
Q5. Back in 1980, top corporate CEOs in the United States took home about 40 times the pay of the nation’s average workers. That gap now averages over 300 times. In 2018, 50 U.S. corporations paid their CEOs over 1,000 times their median worker pay. What do you see as the appropriate ratio for the pay that goes to CEOs and their own company’s workers?
⚪ 6:1, the ratio average Americans cite as most appropriate in polling research.
⚫ 20:1, the widest CEO-worker pay gap that Peter Drucker, the father of modern American management science, considered acceptable.
⚪ 100:1, the standard that Portland, Oregon — the first political jurisdiction in the world to tax excessive executive compensation — has set to define where excess begins.
⚪ 150:1, the average CEO-worker pay gap in the UK, the world’s second most generous nation — after the United States — for top corporate executive compensation.
I believe businesses have the right to use salary to attract the top talent to key positions like CEO, but I do believe that a 300:1 ratio is excessively disparate. In this case I agree with Drucker that a 20:1 ratio is most appropriate, but I do believe such decisions are up to individual businesses.
Q6. A century ago, Congress enacted an estate tax, to put a brake on concentrations of inherited wealth and power and raise substantial revenue from our nation’s richest. Since 2000, Congress has subverted that original intent. Lawmakers have lowered the estate tax rate and exempted millions in personal wealth from any tax. Fortunes worth up to $22.8 million can now face no estate tax at all. Which of these steps to limiting intergenerational transfers of wealth do you support?
☐ Exempting fewer millions from estate taxation. The estate tax threshold for couples should drop from the current $22.8 million to: _________________.
☑ Taxing the nation’s wealthiest estates on a graduated basis, an approach that would subject estates worth $1 billion to a higher tax than an estate worth $50 million. All large bequests currently face the same tax rate.
☑ Eliminating the “step up in basis” loophole, a giveaway to the affluent that lets appreciated stock and other assets transfer to heirs without ever incurring a capital gains tax.
☐ Treating inheritances as income instead of taxing the estates the wealthy leave behind. Standard income tax rates should apply on all inherited income over:
Q7. To effectively reduce inequality, many tax analysts agree, we need multiple new approaches to taxing the wealthy and the sources of their wealth. Which of these proposed approaches would you advance once in the White House?
☐ A tax on Wall Street financial transactions designed to discourage the speculation that undercuts the economic security of average Americans.
☑ An end to preferential tax rates that privilege income from dividends and buying and selling stocks, real estate, and other assets over income from wages and salaries.
☐ A 10 percent surtax on all income over $2 million.
Q8. Robust tax rates on the incomes and estates of America’s wealthiest helped forge a much more equal America in the middle of the 20th century. Robust protections for workers and their right to organize into trade unions played an equally pivotal role. Which of these initiatives would your administration work to enact into law?
☐ A requirement that all corporate boards of directors include elected worker representatives.
☐ Labor law reforms that require employers to bargain collectively once a majority of a company’s workers have signed cards indicating they want union representation.
☑ Stiffer penalties on employers who retaliate against workers organizing unions.
☐ Legislation that requires large corporations to transfer up to 10 percent of their shares into “Inclusive Ownership Funds” that give employees “a stake and a say” in corporate dividend distribution and other enterprise decisions.
☐ A national fair workweek act, along the lines of similar legislation passed in several U.S. cities and states, that ensures all workers stable and predictable hours.
I also support the Protecting to Organize Act, which contains a variety of common-sense solutions to problems facing unions today, and the Public Sector Freedom to Negotiate Act, because all public sector workers should have the right to collective bargaining and unionization (with the caveat that first responders and other critical public sector employees do not have a guaranteed right to strike). I believe the NLRB needs to better enforce rules and regulations to protect the right to organize.
Q9. Over a century ago, the famed newspaper publisher Joseph Pulitzer urged Americans to beware both “predatory plutocracy” and “predatory poverty.” The United States has made little appreciable progress against poverty over recent decades, and that failure has had a disproportionate impact on women and people of color. Which of these policies to “lift the floor” and expand the U.S. social safety net will your administration promote?
☑ A national $15 minimum wage.
☐ The elimination of the federal subminimum wage for tipped workers, currently $2.13 per hour.
☑ A guaranteed two weeks of annual paid family and medical leave for every worker.
☑ Universal, single-payer health insurance.
☐ Free tuition at public colleges and universities.
☐ A federal jobs guarantee.
Studies have shown that a minimum wage 50% or less than the average hourly wage does not lead to job losses. I therefore support setting the minimum wage to 50% of the average hourly wage and adjusting it every few years. At present, the current average wage is $27.98/hr, so that would mean a minimum wage of roughly $14 per hour now, and as wages rise will lead to a $15 minimum wage soon.
I favor immediately shoring up the Affordable Care Act, including by restoring the individual mandate and adding a public option, as part of a deliberate transition of choice to a single-payer system.
Q10. Today, over a half-century since the classic triumphs of the civil rights movement, the United States still suffers from a staggering racial wealth divide, with median white families holding over 40 times more household wealth than black families — and over 20 times more than Latinx families. Which of these policies to narrow the racial wealth divide would your administration advance?
☐ “Baby bonds” that would be awarded at birth to every American child and held in trust until each child turns 18, with the federal contributions to each bond keyed to parental income.
☑ Federal down payment assistance to first-time homebuyers living in formerly redlined or segregated areas.
☑ A postal banking system that gives the “unbanked” ready access to non-predatory check-cashing and small-loan services.
☑ The convening of a federal commission to explore options for structuring reparations that address the economic legacy left by slavery and generations of racist public policy.
I also propose that we establish a federal program to allow low to middle income Americans to start tax-free savings accounts to set aside money for a down-payment on a first home — much as we do now for education savings accounts, because a down- payment is the largest impediment to buying a first home.
Q11. Women in the United States now earn the majority of college degrees awarded. Yet women continue to be underrepresented in high-level, highly paid positions and overrepresented in low- paying jobs. Which of these steps to narrow the gender divide will your administration support?
☑ Adopting the Equal Rights Amendment to the U.S. Constitution.
☑ Requiring companies to disclose gender pay gaps, the current practice in the UK.
☐ Mandating gender quotas on corporate boards, the current practice in Norway.
☑ Fining companies with gender pay divides, a move France is now implementing.
☐ Using gender-responsive budgeting — as many nations worldwide are now doing — to identify how fiscal policy impacts gender gaps and then funding initiatives to bridge these gaps.
Q12. American children born in 1940, research shows, had above a 90 percent chance of earning more than their parents. Children born in the 1980s have had a 50 percent chance. Many of the proposals identified in previous questions would help restore much greater social mobility to American life. Which of these additional steps would your White House support?
☐ Mitigating the consequences of adverse personal shocks, as OECD analysts suggest, by protecting individuals against income loss after unemployment, divorce, and childbirth.
☑ Disaggregating current federal quarterly and annual GDP growth stats, as proposed by Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s “Measuring Real Income Growth Act,” to show how low-, middle-, and high- income Americans are actually experiencing the nation’s economic growth.
☑ Establishing an official “Social Justice Commission,” as recently proposed by the UK Labour Party, to publish periodic “impact statements” that would assess whether particular government policies are growing mobility throughout communities of modest means — or only advancing the life chances of a select few.