Has the Democratic Party Gotten Too Rich for Its Own Good?

Thomas B Edsall, in the NY Times today, describes a critical new factor in American political life – the conflict between progressive ideas and the growing wealth of important Democratic party factions. Here’s the beginning of the article:

During his primary campaign against Hillary Clinton, Senator Bernie Sanders, a self-proclaimed socialist, lived up to the grand Democratic tradition of favoring the underdog at the expense of the rich.

He proposed hammering the affluent by raising taxes in the amount of $15.3 trillion over ten years. New revenues would finance about half the cost of a $33.3 trillion boost in social spending

The Sanders tax-and-spending plan throws into sharp relief the problem that the changing demographic makeup of the Democratic coalition creates for party leaders. Trouble brews when a deeply held commitment to the underdog comes into conflict with the self-interested pocketbook and lifestyle concerns of the upper middle class.

The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center found that under the Sanders plan, a married couple filing jointly with an income below $10,650 would continue to pay no income tax; everyone else would pay higher taxes. Those in the second quintile would pay an additional $1,625 and those in the middle quintile would see their income tax liability increase by $4,692. Those in the top quintile would pay $42,719 more.

Higher up the ladder, the tax increase would grow to $130,275 for those in the top 5 percent, to $525,365 for those in the top one percent and to $3.1 million for the top 0.1 percent.

When the additional revenues from the Sanders tax hike are subtracted from the additional spending his proposals would demand, the net result is an $18.1 trillion increase in the national debt over 10 years, according to the center.

In rhetoric reminiscent of Franklin Delano Roosevelt and Harry Truman, Sanders declared:

We must send a message to the billionaire class: “you can’t have it all.” You can’t get huge tax breaks while children in this country go hungry.

But Sanders spoke to the Democratic Party of 2016, not the Democratic Party of the Great Depression.

In days past, a proposal to slam the rich to reward the working and middle classes meant hitting Republicans to benefit Democrats.

Even as recently as 1976, according to data from American National Election Studies, the most affluent voters, the top 5 percent, were solidly in the Republican camp, 77-23. Those in the bottom third of the income distribution were solidly Democratic, 64-36.

In other words, 41 years ago, the year Jimmy Carter won the presidency, the Sanders proposal would have made political sense.

But what about now?

The response of Democratic Party elites to Sanders’ proposals should answer that question. Read the rest of his article here.

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