Earlier this week, Bernie Sanders released his 2014 tax returns and it turns out he has a net worth of $205,000 and paid $27,653, creating an effective tax rate of…13.5%. Damn the 1%!
For the progressive populist who rails against the rich not paying their fair share to pay an effective tax rate that low, it’s going to cost his some street cred with his followers. Oh, who am I kidding? That fact won’t matter a bit to them. He could fleece a rich person on 5th Avenue and his supporters would still support him. But before those of us to the right of him start yelling “hypocrisy,” let me offer an alternative viewpoint.
I say it’s good for Sanders to pay such a low tax rate because he’s using the current system to his advantage. He’s no different than the “evil rich” who pay around that same effective tax rate, like Mitt Romney. That’s not cheating the system; that’s playing by the rules as written. Good for him! We should not begrudge Sanders for that.
Where we can begrudge him is in thinking people like Romney aren’t paying their fair share. When you break down the percentages, the top 10% pay over 90% of the tax burden. Meanwhile, the bottom 50% pay less than 5% of the tax burden. Some of this has to do with the amount of income they make, but the larger part of this is the current tax system, the same one Sanders is both using and lambasting.
Now, here’s the funny part. Sanders is making a great case for a flat tax without even knowing it. Imagine a system where the rich pay more in taxes from a monetary standpoint while paying the same percentage as the lower and middle classes. That’s what a flat tax will accomplish in short order. That way both the Left and the Right can get what they want without advancing the notion the rich or poor are gaming the system.
Of course, that’s not going to satisfy the Left because, well, they’re always pissed off about something. But it’s the most logical approach to the problems Sanders says are out there. Until we get a President with the guts to insist upon a flat tax, we should all be free to use the system we have without fear or guilt.
So, thank you, Bernie Sanders, for giving us the best case for a flat tax!