Clin­ton prom­ises ma­jor wealth re­dis­tri­bu­tion

Daily Local News (West Chester, PA) - - OPINION - By­ron York Colum­nist

Even by the stan­dards of lib­eral Democrats, Hil­lary Clin­ton is run­ning the most frankly re­dis­tri­bu­tion­ist pres­i­den­tial cam­paign in years. She prom­ises mas­sive new spend­ing ini­tia­tives and bal­anced bud­gets, achieved by rais­ing taxes on higher-in­come Americans in ways that other Democrats have re­jected in the re­cent past.

At a fundraiser in Seat­tle Fri­day night -- with her grow­ing lead over Don­ald Trump, Clin­ton holds few ac­tual cam­paign ral­lies -- Clin­ton de­scribed her spend­ing agenda: the “big­gest in­vest­ment in jobs since World War II,” higher spend­ing on pre­scrip­tion drugs, bil­lions more for Oba­macare, preschool, fam­ily leave, col­lege af­ford­abil­ity, roads, bridges, tun­nels, ports, air­ports, a new elec­tric grid to “dis­trib­ute all the clean, re­new­able en­ergy we’re go­ing to be pro­duc­ing,” half a bil­lion new so­lar pan­els, ad­vanced man­u­fac­tur­ing, cli­mate change, and more.

Clin­ton con­ceded that was a lot to pay for, but ar­gued Amer­ica’s wealthy have more than enough cash to hand over to the gov­ern­ment. Chief among them, Clin­ton said, is her bil­lion­aire op­po­nent, Don­ald Trump, whom she prom­ises to tar­get af­ter the elec­tion.

“When peo­ple ask me, so how are you go­ing to pay for in­fra­struc­ture jobs and paid fam­ily leave, I say well, I’m telling you I’m go­ing to pay for ev­ery­thing,” Clin­ton told the fundraiser au­di­ence. “I’m not go­ing to add a penny to the na­tional debt. We’re go­ing to go where the money is. We’re go­ing to make the wealthy pay their fair share. And we’re go­ing to fi­nally close those cor­po­rate loop­holes. And it would be a good idea to start with my op­po­nent.”

It’s not clear whether Clin­ton meant there might be some spe­cific re­tal­i­a­tion against Trump un­der her ad­min­is­tra­tion or whether Trump would sim­ply pay more taxes along with other wealthy Americans.

Clin­ton of­ten uses the phrase “go where the money is” to de­scribe her tax-rais­ing pro­pos­als. (The phrase comes from a leg­endary 20th Cen­tury crim­i­nal, Willie Sut­ton, who was asked why he robbed banks and sup­pos­edly replied, “Be­cause that’s where the money is.”)

Clin­ton used the phrase at three separate ral­lies last month, as well as over the sum­mer when she was asked on CBS’s “60 Min­utes” what the term “mid­dle class” means to her. “Well, we say be­low $250,000 be­cause here’s what we want to do,” Clin­ton said. “We want to go where the money is. Most of the wealth in­crease, the in­crease in in­come, both ac­tive and pas­sive, has gone to the very top of the in­come scale.”

Of course, $250,000 per year, while more than the vast ma­jor­ity of Amer­i­can house­holds make, is also not the “very top of the in­come scale.” A house­hold bring­ing in that amount would be in the top 3 per­cent of Amer­i­can earn­ers na­tion­wide. In some ar­eas of the coun­try, like Sec­re­tary Clin­ton’s home, the New York met­ro­pol­i­tan area, it would be in the top 5 per­cent. In any event, Clin­ton’s pre­cise fig­ure, $250,000, is one that has given Democrats fits in their pre­vi­ous ef­forts to raise taxes.

In 2008, can­di­date Barack Obama pledged to raise taxes on cou­ples mak­ing more than $250,000 a year and in­di­vid­u­als mak­ing more than $200,000. The idea was that in 2010, when the Bush tax cuts on all U.S. earn­ers were set to ex­pire, taxes on the wealth­i­est would go up.

Clin­ton doesn’t need sub­tlety. With the po­lit­i­cal world fix­ated on all things Trump, she could res­ur­rect Willie Sut­ton him­self, and threaten to sic him on ev­ery­day Americans, and it’s pos­si­ble no­body would no­tice. Clin­ton is be­ing blunt about her in­ten­tions be­cause she can.

By­ron York is chief po­lit­i­cal cor­re­spon­dent for The Wash­ing­ton Ex­am­iner.

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