New York Times, Mayor Pete’s 49.9999% Tax Bracket:
“Being left of Obama doesn’t make you extremely progressive,” Pete Buttigieg told me last week, when we met in Chicago to record a conversation for the new episode of “The Argument” podcast.
My question to Buttigieg — the mayor of South Bend, Ind., and a 2020 Democratic presidential candidate — had been about tax policy. Specifically, I wanted to know whether he supported an annual wealth tax and how high he thought the top marginal income tax rate should be.
He said he did support a wealth tax, arguing that it was not so different from a property tax. On income taxes, he said something I hadn’t heard him, or anyone else, say before: He is intrigued by a top rate of 49.9999 percent. “There’s something about paying the majority of a dollar that comes your way to Uncle Sam that I think people have more trouble with,” he explained. He also said he would favor a financial transaction tax.
All of that adds up to a highly progressive agenda, I responded. President Obama, by comparison, raised the top rate to 39.6 percent and didn’t pass either a wealth tax or a financial transaction tax.
That’s when Buttigieg said that merely being to Obama’s left doesn’t make somebody extremely left-wing.
“Remember that he was the last Democratic president of the Reagan era,” Buttigieg said. Obama was constrained by congressional Republicans and by a misunderstanding among many politicians, in both parties, about how progressive the American public really was on economic policy. “What I’m proposing might be considered conservative by the standards of the 50s, 60s or 70s.” Buttigieg said. “And so where I think we are today is the beginning of a totally new chapter.”