- The Washington Times - Monday, September 23, 2019

Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s plan to pay for a series of far-reaching government programs with a 2% wealth tax has liberal audiences chanting “2 cents” in much the same way that President Trump’s vow to build a wall along the southern border led to a “Build that wall” battle cry.

The tax increase on the ultra-wealthy, however, is getting the cold shoulder from lawmakers on Capitol Hill.

It’s the harsh dose of reality that awaits every president in the halls of Congress, where ideas that energize the masses on the campaign trail often get flattened.

“History proves that generally [the biggest ideas] are almost impossible to get done as stated in campaigns,” said Sen. Doug Jones of Alabama, likely the most vulnerable Senate Democrat in 2020. “If you are going to govern, you have to give and take, you are going to reach across the aisle, and sometimes on some of the issues being talked about reach within your own party to get the right votes.”

Look no further than the “Medicare for All” bill that Sen. Bernard Sanders of Vermont rolled out in April to great liberal fanfare with the support of 14 Democrats from relatively safe blue states.



The measure is emblematic of the aggressive push from far-left activists fighting to steer the Democratic Party in a more liberal direction and the uphill climb ahead of them.

Since the bill was introduced, it has failed to gain the support of any other lawmaker in the upper chamber — all while Mr. Sanders, Ms. Warren and other far-left presidential contenders make the case that it can be a sort of cure-all.

Polls show roughly half of the public embraces the idea of a government-run single-payer health care system, but support erodes when respondents learn that it could lead to longer wait times, the elimination of private health insurance and higher taxes.

Ms. Warren’s wealth tax also garners strong support. A recent New York Times/Survey Monkey poll showed 6 in 10 voters approving of the idea. Voters, though, are skeptical that the plan will survive in the polarized political climate.

Some of the other ideas aired on the campaign trail, such as decriminalizing border crossings, are so removed from the discussion in Washington that they haven’t made it into the scores of bills filed in recent years.

Former Rep. Beto O’Rourke of Texas, meanwhile, has faced stiff blowback from Capitol Hill over his thunderous vow to take away Americans’ AR-15s and AK-47s as part of a mandatory buyback program for so-called assault weapons.

Rep. Ro Khanna, a California Democrat who is backing Mr. Sanders’ campaign, said voters know the candidates could struggle to deliver on their promises if elected.

“[Former New York Gov.] Mario Cuomo once said you campaign in poetry and you govern in prose, and a campaign is about the aspirational vision about what you believe an ideal society should look like,” Mr. Khanna said. “Once you are president, then obviously you have to work with the Congress and the Senate to get as close to that vision that you outlined as possible, and that requires coalition building. It requires compromises, and that is a messy process, and no president in history is able to get the entirety of their vision passed.”

President Barack Obama learned the difficulty of governing when he had to retreat from his push for a public health care option to get every Democrat to support the Affordable Care Act.

When he couldn’t get Congress to back protection for illegal immigrant “Dreamers,” Mr. Obama responded by making changes unilaterally through executive action, sparking a series of legal battles.

Mr. Trump also has watched from the Oval Office as lawmakers, including fellow Republicans, have resisted his efforts to scrap Obamacare and to fulfill his promise to build 1,000 miles of border wall between Mexico and the United States to curb illegal crossings.

Lawmakers want to know how Mr. Trump plans to fulfill his promise of getting Mexico to pay the bill while the president tries to find funds beyond what Congress has appropriated.

That could be a bad omen for Ms. Warren’s vision, which hinges largely on raising $2.5 trillion over 10 years by passing a 2% tax on individuals with more than $50 million in assets.

She says the tax would pay for a policy wish list of universal child care; universal pre-K school; increased Social Security benefits; higher wages for child care workers and preschool teachers; a $50 billion investment into historically black colleges and universities; tuition-free college; and reducing student debt for 95% of individuals.

“It’s time for a wealth tax in this country,” Ms. Warren said over the weekend at the Polk County Democrats’ “Steak Fry.”

She pumped her hands above her head and greeted the chants of “2 cents! 2 cents!” with a big smile.

“Here’s how it works: Your first $50 million [is] free and clear, but your $50 million and the first dollar, you have to pitch in 2 cents … and 2 cents for every dollar after that,” she said.

Meanwhile, the push is making it easier for Mr. Trump and other Republicans to paint Democrats as socialists and making life harder for down-ticket Democrats to run on more pragmatic messages.

“I fear that some of the presidential candidates on the Democratic side are moving a little too far from the center, and that is certainly going to impact down-ballot races like mine,” said Rep Anthony Brindisi of New York. “I appreciate when candidates come out with big, bold ideas, but the ideas to fix our nation’s immigration system or gun violence problems or health care issues have been around for a long time. We have just needed some compromise to get something done.”

Ms. Warren, though, has shown no signs of moving away from the populist pitch that is attracting massive crowds to her campaign rallies.

She also has been surging in polls, including in Iowa, where she has leapfrogged over former Vice President Joseph R. Biden into first place.

Mr. Jones, who is backing Mr. Biden, also said the far-left promises can make his political life more difficult.

“But, like I say, you are going to see some of the things that President Trump is running on that is going to make whoever the nominee is against me, it is going to make them squirm a little bit as well,” he said. “That is the nature of political campaigns.”

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