You will be shocked that Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s call to return the top marginal rate to the level it was under known Trotskyist Jimmy Carter is scandalizing centrist pundits:
All of which is to say: In 1980, taxing incomes above $216,000 (or $658,213 in today’s dollars) at 70 percent was considered a moderate, mainstream idea, even though wage inequality was much less severe, and supply-side economics had yet to be discredited.
This week, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez told 60 Minutes that she believes the U.S. should consider taxing incomes above $10 million at a 70 percent rate. Specifically, the congresswoman suggested that taxing the rich at such a rate would be preferable to forgoing major investments in renewable energy, and other technologies necessary for averting catastrophic climate change.
And centrist pundits were scandalized by her extremism.
National Journal reporter Josh Kraushaar argued that, while congresswoman Rashida Tlaib’s profane call for Trump’s impeachment was getting more attention, Ocasio-Cortez “calling for a 70 percent tax rate on the nation’s most-watched news show a whole lot more politically damaging for Ds.”
As we’ve already established, there is nothing substantively extreme about Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal. Her tax policy is more generous to the rich than Jimmy Carter’s was, and the one percent wasn’t nearly as well off in the 1970s as it is now. A significant number of highly respected economists have endorsed top tax rates roughly as high as the one floated by the congresswoman, while Piketty has advocated for an 80 percent top rate.
Meanwhile, in political terms, Ocasio-Cortez’s view on tax policy for the rich is much more mainstream than Susan Collins’s.
Last year, a Data For Progress and YouGov Blue poll asked voters if they would support a 90 percent tax rate on all income above $1 million. Respondents opposed the idea by (just) a two-point margin. In Pew Research polling taken shortly before Congress passed the Trump tax cuts, voters opposed cutting taxes on households that earn more than $250,000 by a 48-point margin.
The notion that confiscatory tax rates on super-high incomes are more popular than the Republican Party’s alternative is buttressed by other data. For example, when Berkley political scientists David Broockman and Douglas Ahler offered voters seven different tax-policy options (ranging from extremely conservative to extremely progressive) in 2014, they found that the furthest left option — establishing a maximum annual income of $1 million (by taxing all income above that at 100 percent) — was the third-most-common choice, boasting four times more support than the Republican Party’s 2012 platform on taxation.
But of course it’s Iron Pundit Law that bog-standard left-liberal economic policy is EXTREMIST even if it’s popular, while Paul Ryan’s domestic agenda is serious moderate wonkiness even if it’s rejected by most Republican voters. I don’t make the rules.