This week, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) released her plan to fund Medicare for All, insisting her plan wouldn’t raise taxes on middle-class Americans.
On Saturday, CBS reporter Zak Hudak asked Warren what income bracket she used to define the “middle class.” Warren’s initial response made no sense, as she claimed: “Here’ it’s 100%.”
“It doesn’t raise taxes on anybody but billionaires, and, you know what, the billionaires can afford it and I don’t call them middle class.”
Hudak followed up his question by asking, “So, anyone under $1 billion net worth…”
“That’s right – is not paying a penny more,” Warren interjected. “That’s exactly right.”
Hudak’s tweet thread on the issue mentioned Warren’s communication director, Kristen Orthman saying that Warren “was referencing the wealth tax, which is only on billionaires.” Hudak added that Orthman “acknowledges the capital gains tax would affect non-billionaires, but only the top 1%.”
Wall Street Journal reporter Josh Jamerson tried to get Warren to clarify by asking: “Is there a salary or income that you would define as middle class when you say ‘No middle class taxes?'”
Warren replied: “Sure. For Medicare for All, it’s a billion dollars.”
“I mean, everyone understands this,” Warren lectured Jamerson. “This is no increase in taxes for anyone except billionaires. Period. Done. This is about access to health care for everyone. This is about taking that $11 trillion that families will be reaching in their pockets to pay over the next 10 years and bringing it down to zero and funding it by increasing taxes on billionaires and giant corporations. That’s the whole thing – and the other pieces all just stay where they are. The federal government keeps contributing, state governments keep contributing and employers keep contributing as they’re doing right now. It builds on what we’ve already put into Obamacare. And just says ‘but we can do better for American families.’”
Warren is going to have to clarify a lot in what she said. For starters, she conflated having a billion-dollar net worth with having a salary or income of $1 billion. Net worth and salary are different. Billionaires in this country don’t make a billion dollars a year.
For example, Mark Zuckerberg’s net worth is more than $70 billion, but his annual salary from Facebook is $1. His base salary in 2013 was $500,000, according to Verdict. Zuckerberg’s salary is in line with some other tech CEOs, including Alphabet’s Larry Page and Twitter’s Jack Dorsey. As Verdict reported, the CEO with the highest salary was Apple’s Tim Cook, at $3 million. The CEO who earned the most in 2017, Snap Inc’s Evan Spiegel, earned $637.7 million – still under the billion-dollar threshold set by Warren.
Salary.com says Zuckerberg earned nothing from stock and options or bonuses, but earned $22.5 million in “other” income. That income is related to personal security and travel costs incurred in 2018, reported CNN. Yes, that seems high, but we also just can’t understand the level of security someone like Zuckerberg requires.
Clearly, she must be referring to net worth. It should be noted that “millionaires” have seemingly disappeared from the tax-hike promises after Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT) became one due to book sales.
Even with the net worth/salary issue aside, Warren’s claim that taxes wouldn’t be raised on anyone but billionaires is impossible.
Rival candidate Joe Biden’s campaign pointed this out in a statement saying Warren’s plan “would create a new tax on employers of almost $9 trillion that would come out of workers’ pockets, a new financial transaction tax that would impact investments held by middle class Americans, and a new capital gains tax that would affect far more people than she stated tonight.”
As a final note, Warren’s claim that contributions from state governments isn’t accurate. A New York Times description of her plan includes a claim that “States and local governments would be required to make payments to the federal government, similar to what they currently spend on government employee benefits and their share of Medicaid expenses.” She claimed this would raise $6.1 trillion. This proposal is likely not even constitutional, yet it is indicative of the mental gymnastics Warren and her campaign must perform in order to claim that her single-payer health care plan won’t be an economic disaster for the middle class.