Mark Begich’s Gigantic Tax Increase on the Rich

For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis, the election, and more, subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily newsletter.


Dylan Matthews writes today about a proposal from Sen. Mark Begich to fix Social Security’s finances:

The Begich bill would lift the current payroll tax cap, which exempts wages in excess of a certain amount ($110,100 this year) from the tax….According to the Congressional Research Service, a change like that would almost entirely wipe out the program’s long-run actuarial imbalance. Specifically, it would eliminate 95 percent of the shortfall.

….But Begich’s bill doesn’t just increase taxes for high earners….

Dylan breezes by this a little quickly for my taste. Lifting the payroll cap is an idea that comes up a lot, but it’s worth acknowledging what it really means. If you’re a high earner—let’s say $500,000 per year—you currently pay 12.4 percent of $110,100 in payroll taxes. That’s $13,652, or 2.7 percent of your income. Under Begich’s proposal, you’d pay the full 12.4 percent on all your income.

That’s a total tax increase and a marginal tax increase of 9.7 percentage points. That’s huge. It’s four times the increase we’d get from letting the high-end Bush tax cuts expire and double the marginal increase.

That would, obviously, be a massive political battle. But what’s worse from my perspective is that it imposes this huge tax increase for one tiny purpose: saving Social Security. That’s crazy. We shouldn’t waste a big tax increase like this just to save Social Security, especially when there are lots of better ways of doing this that would require far less pain. Raising the payroll tax cap a bit to get it back to its historic level (covering 90% of income, or maybe a bit more) is a perfectly good idea. Eliminating the payroll tax cap is an idea that I don’t think even liberals ought to be happy about.

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

SIX TRUTHS

Reclaiming power from those who abuse it often starts with telling the truth. And in "This Is How Authoritarians Get Defeated," MoJo's Monika Bauerlein unpacks six truths to remember during the homestretch of an election where democracy, truth, and decency are on the line.

Truth #1: The chaos is the point.

Truth #2: Team Reality is bigger than it seems.

Truth #3: Facebook owns this.

Truth #4: When we go to work, we're in the fight.

Truth #5: It's about minority rule.

Truth #6: The only thing that can save us is…us.

Please take a moment to see how all these truths add up, because what happens in the weeks and months ahead will reverberate for at least a generation and we better be prepared.

And if you think journalism like Mother Jones'—that calls it like it is, that will never acquiesce to power, that looks where others don't—can help guide us through this historic, high-stakes moment, and you're able to right now, please help us reach our $350,000 goal by October 31 with a donation today. It's all hands on deck for democracy.

payment methods

We Recommend

Latest

Sign up for our free newsletter

Subscribe to the Mother Jones Daily to have our top stories delivered directly to your inbox.

Get our award-winning magazine

Save big on a full year of investigations, ideas, and insights.

Subscribe

Support our journalism

Help Mother Jones' reporters dig deep with a tax-deductible donation.

Donate