Bernie Sanders is different. In the sweep of American history, in this presidential campaign, even in this Democratic primary race, he stands far apart from his rivals, with his aggressive plan to raise taxes. His ambition to soak the rich, in order to fund single-payer health care and a flotilla of other government programs, would almost certainly break any historical precedent for a major-party nominee, should he somehow roar back to defeat rival Hillary Clinton.
The tax gap between Clinton and the leading Republican candidates for president is already enormous, largely because every GOP contender is proposing trillions of dollars in tax cuts over the next decade, according to analysis by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center. Friday, the center released its breakdown of Sanders's plan. It suggests that his tax increases are a funhouse-mirror image of the GOP plans -- the reverse, but even bigger.
It also suggests there is a bigger difference between Sanders and Clinton on taxes than there is between Clinton and Republicans.
Here's how the Center has scored five candidates' plans. A negative number means a tax increase; a positive one means a tax cut.
The Center estimates that Sanders's tax proposals, including higher rates for income and investment taxes, a refundable tax on carbon emissions, a tax on Wall Street trading and a new payroll tax on all workers would raise $15.3 trillion over the next decade. Last year, a record year, the federal government took in $3.2 trillion in taxes. Sanders would increase that annual tax revenue by half.
Everyone would pay under his proposal, though the Sanders campaign says, repeatedly, that his new spending programs would more than make up the difference to poor and middle-class families, who would save big on their health care and education bills. Unquestionably, the plans would soak the rich. In this way, the Sanders plan is a bizarro version of Republican front-runner Donald Trump's plan. Again, negative numbers denote incomes going down from tax increases:
Unlike some other analyses, the Center does not project how tax cuts or increases might affect economic growth. Amazingly, but probably not surprisingly, both Trump and Sanders have cited analyses suggesting their plans would supercharge growth. The Center notes that some of Sanders's spending programs could boost economic growth in the long run, but that they also would "significantly reduce incentives to work and save, especially for high-income households."
Sanders's plan is, in effect, the Republican caricature of Democratic tax policy, come to life. He would reduce after-tax incomes by 45 percent for the top 0.1 percent of American income-earners, pushing the country into uncharted waters of economic theory. In this, he is really nothing like Clinton. Look at their plans side by side:
Republicans haven't bothered to hit Sanders much this campaign, preferring to weaponize him against Clinton, their most likely fall opponent. He's a socialist, the line goes, and so is she, and at least he's honest about it. On taxes, at least, that's simply not true. At every income level, Clinton is closer to Rubio and Trump than she is to her rival from Vermont.