Marco Rubio’s Tax Plan Is Even Worse Than I Thought

Trust him. He knows exactly what he's doing.

Trust him. He knows exactly what he’s doing.

I’ve written about Marco Rubio’s tax plan before. I called it the same old trickle down story. But the more I learn about Rubio’s tax plan, the less I like it—in fact, Rubio’s plan is more like trickle down economics on steroids. He’s got one of the most extreme plans we’ve ever seen from a mainstream Republican presidential candidate. As Jonathan Chait reported for New York Magazine, Rubio’s plan “would eliminate all taxes on capital gains, dividends, interest, and inherited estates.” Basically, he would eliminate taxes on capital.

Jared Bernstein explains in the Washington Post that Rubio’s plan is the answer to the question, “what tax change could I implement that would be most helpful to the wealthiest households?” He adds, “taxation on these forms of income, currently taxed at a top rate of 23.8 percent, is highly concentrated: according to the Tax Policy Center, 79 percent of the tax take from this asset-based income comes from the top 1 percent, 5 percent from the bottom 90 percent.” It gets worse: 12 percent of all taxable capital gains in America belongs to the richest 400 American taxpayers. Among just those 400 richest Americans, this amounts to 92 billion dollars that Rubio wants to take off the table.

What you have here is a candidate who believes the wealthiest Americans—the top 1 percent, yeah, but more importantly the top 0.0003 percent, according to Bernstein—pay too much in taxes. And so naturally Rubio’s tax plan would result in significantly less revenue for the government. Wait, did I say “significantly?” I mean “disastrously.” Ramesh Ponnuru, senior editor for the conservative National Review, noted in Bloomberg: “The Tax Foundation estimated that over the first 10 years that revenue reduction would amount to $6 trillion, unless the reform boosted economic growth.”

Six trillion dollars in revenue gone. Think about that. What would an America with six trillion dollars less in revenue even look like? This is more than a tax plan—it’s a fundamental rethinking of America. Let’s talk about consequences: Rubio’s plan would leave more money in the hands of the wealthiest Americans. Presumably, he believes that money would then trickle down to the poorest Americans. Except that never, ever happens. With all that money gushing upward and no money trickling down, and without revenue to invest in the poorest Americans—kiss food stamps and poverty assistance programs goodbye, with a six trillion revenue hole—you’re in dystopian-movie territory. As Ezra Klein at Vox.com points out in a great explainer piece, “Rubio’s tax cuts are huge, and paying for them would require spending cuts or tax changes that dwarf anything we’ve seen in recent American history.”

Look, no presidential candidate’s tax plan ever comes completely true. And while a President Rubio would likely head up an entirely Republican-run federal government, there’s no way his plan would pass through Congress unscathed. But these plans exist to demonstrate a candidate’s vision for America, and that’s worrying. Rubio’s America exists solely to benefit the absolute wealthiest Americans. Everyone else is, at best, an afterthought. This is trickle down taken to its extreme.

(Thanks to Civic Skunk Works reader RD for the tip.)

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Paul Constant
Paul Constant has written about politics, books, and film for Newsweek, The Progressive, the Utne Reader, and alternative weeklies around the country.