Just days ahead of President Obama’s State of the Union on Tuesday, the White House has announced plans for a major tax overhaul which would raise rates on the nation’s wealthiest individuals and increase fees for financial firms while offering an assortment of tax breaks designed to help the nation’s struggling middle class.
In a media call with reporters on Saturday, an unidentified Obama administration official offered the broad strokes of the proposal. According to Reuters:
Vox.com also offered a thorough rundown of the various aspects of the White House proposal.
U.S. Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) welcomed news of the proposal.
“At a time of obscene levels of income and wealth inequality, President Obama’s plan moves us in the right direction,” Sanders said in a statement on Sunday. ” I look forward to working with the administration to adopt a tax system that eliminates unfair tax loopholes that only benefit the wealthiest people and largest corporations and to increase the take-home pay of working Americans.”
Not surprisingly, the plan spurred immediate condemnation from the Republican Party, but Robert Greenstein, president of the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, assessed the plan by saying it would likely boost economic growth and provide the intended benefits to both lower- and middle-income families.
“The president’s new tax proposals will surely elicit howls of protest from various special interests and on ideological grounds, adversaries will make predictable claims that the proposals would harm the economy and jobs,” Greenstein told The Hill. “Yet while the proposals do present a major challenge to the status quo, they should benefit economic growth, not hinder it, while substantially helping tens of millions of middle- and lower-income working families and individuals.”
Invoking the French economist Thomas Piketty—whose best-selling book, Capital in the 21st Century, called for a global tax on the wealthiest—the Washington Post‘s Matt O’Brien lauded the president’s plan as he placed it in the context of other domestic policy measures announced ahead of Tuesday’s speech. According to O’Brien:
Meanwhile, according to the New York Times’ David Leonhardt, what is really driving the debate over tax reform and the economy is what he describes as the “great wage slowdown.” He writes:
Taken in terms more familiar to progressives, this argument speaks to the reality that while the top 1 percent have been the main recipients of prosperity and financial improvement for decades, it remains the middle class, the working poor, and those left out of the economy entirely who continue to be punished by rampant inequality and an economic and political elite that has detached itself from the concerns of the majority of people. And though there may be reason to celebrate aspects of the new plan, it’s clear that many will be unimpressed by that fact that the proposal to more adequately tax the rich and help the poor arrives at the very moment the president and his party are least capable of making it a reality.
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