Analysis Finds Elizabeth Warren’s Wealth Tax Generates $1 Trillion Less than Campaign Claims

ATLANTA, GA - NOVEMBER 21: Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), holds up two fingers to represent her two-cent wealth tax while speaking at a campaign event at Clark Atlanta University on November 21, 2019 in Atlanta, Georgia. Warren, introduced by U.S. Rep. Ayanna Pressley (D-MA), spoke about workers' …
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An analysis from the University of Pennsylvania’s Penn Wharton Budget Model (PWBM) released this week found that Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s (D-MA) wealth tax would not raise as much as her campaign claims.

Warren has vigorously pitched her “two cent” wealth tax on the campaign trail as a way to pay for a swath of big government proposals. Her plan, also dubbed the “Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” levies a two percent wealth tax on those with over $50 million in assets. The percentage increases to six percent for wealth over $1 billion. Her campaign estimates that the plan would result in $3.75 trillion in revenue over a decade.

Per her plan:

That’s why we need a tax on wealth. The Ultra-Millionaire Tax taxes the wealth of the richest Americans. It applies only to households with a net worth of $50 million or more—roughly the wealthiest 75,000 households, or the top 0.1%. Households would pay an annual 2% tax on every dollar of net worth above $50 million and a 6% tax on every dollar of net worth above $1 billion. Because wealth is so concentrated, this small tax on roughly 75,000 households will bring in $3.75 trillion in revenue over a ten-year period.

However, the PWBM suggested that the Warren campaign’s estimate is off and could result in up to $1.4 trillion less — $2.3 trillion and $2.7 trillion over ten years — and could cause the economy to contract “between 0.9% and 2.1% by 2050 — depending on how the new revenue is spent,” the Associated Press reports. It could also result in hourly wages falling by 2050.

The key takeaways, per the analysis:

  • PWBM estimates that the proposal would raise about $2.7 trillion over fiscal years 2021-2030, not including macroeconomic effects. Including macroeconomic effects, PWBM estimates that the proposal would raise about $2.3 trillion over the same period.
  • PWBM projects that the proposal would reduce GDP by 0.9 percent in 2050 under the standard budget scoring convention that additional revenues reduce the deficit. If the revenues were instead spent on public investments, PWBM projects GDP in 2050 would fall between 1.1 and 2.1 percent, depending on the productivity of the investment. Average hourly wages in the economy in 2050, including wages earned by households not directly subject to the wealth tax, would fall between 0.8 and 2.3 percent due to the reduction in private capital formation.

The two cent wealth tax has become a key talking point in Warren’s stump speeches. Her supporters have frequently broken out into “two cents” chants to show support for her proposal:

Warren has claimed that her wealth tax will cover her costly proposals, including the implementation of Medicare for All.

Her Medicare for All plan states:

By asking billionaires to pitch in six cents on each dollar of net worth above $1 billion, we can raise an additional $1 trillion in revenue and further close the gap between what middle-class families pay as a percentage of their wealth and what the top one-tenth of one percent pay.

Warren has also pitched the “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” as a way to pay for her plan to cancel the bulk of student debt.

“The entire cost of my broad debt cancellation plan and universal free college is more than covered by my Ultra-Millionaire Tax,” Warren said.

“For decades, we’ve allowed the wealthy to pay less while burying tens of millions of working Americans in education debt,” she continued. “It’s time to make different choices.”

The presidential hopeful promised that her wealth tax would cover the cost of universal child care, universal pre-k, and tuition-free college during a CNN town hall in April, repeating her long-held “you didn’t build that” sentiments:

Let’s remember where this all started. I started several months ago talking about a wealth tax, an ultra-millionaires tax. It’s two cents on every dollar of the great fortunes above $50 million. So your 50 millionth and first dollar, you got to pay two cents and two cents on all of the dollars after that. Here’s the stunning part. If we ask the great fortunes in this country, and understand, this isn’t about trying to be nasty or say you’ve done anything wrong, what it’s about is saying, look, you had a great idea, you got out there, you worked hard or you inherited wealth, whichever one it was, but now that you’ve got that great fortune, spend just a minute to remember how you got it. You built that great business or your ancestors did using workers that all of us helped pay to educate. You got your goods to market using roads and bridges that all of us helped pay to build. You are protected in your factories with firefighters and police officers that all of us helped to pay. And we say, good for you, that you have now gotten this great fortune, but two cents. You’ve got to pay something back so everybody else gets a chance.

She added that her two cent wealth tax will cover “universal child care for every baby zero to five, universal pre-k, universal college, and knock back the student loan debt burden for 95 percent of our students and still have nearly a trillion dollars left over.”

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