Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) is rolling out an ambitious plan to tax the inheritances of the wealthiest 0.2 percent of Americans.

The plan, dubbed the “For the 99.8% Act,” targets all inheritances over $3.5 million, and creates estate tax brackets for different sizes of inheritances. According to Sen. Sanders’ website, the new estate tax brackets would be 45 percent for estates between $3.5 million and $10 million; a 50 percent tax on estates between $10 million and $50 million, and a 55 percent tax rate on inheritances surpassing $50 million. Additionally, all inheritances billionaires pass on to their children would be taxed at 77 percent.

In a public statement, Sanders contrasted his plan with Republicans’ proposed legislation to completely eliminate the estate tax — which The Washington Post estimates will only affect 2,000 Americans this year.

“At a time of massive wealth and income inequality, when the three richest Americans own more wealth than 160 million Americans, it is literally beyond belief that the Republican leadership wants to provide hundreds of billions of dollars in tax breaks to the top 0.2 percent,” Sanders stated.

“Our bill does what the American people want by substantially increasing the estate tax on the wealthiest families in this country and dramatically reducing wealth inequality. From a moral, economic, and political perspective our nation will not thrive when so few have so much and so many have so little.”

Sanders introduced the bill with the support of French economist Thomas Piketty — author of the international bestseller Capital in the Twenty-First Century — who wrote that economic inequality would only worsen without aggressive efforts to tax and redistribute the wealth of the ultra-rich.

“One century ago, the U.S. invented steeply progressive estate and income taxes in order to maintain the egalitarian and democratic legacy of the country. Today’s U.S. is becoming even more unequal than pre-World War I Europe,” Piketty stated.

While Sanders hasn’t yet declared his intent to run for the presidency in 2020, he’s widely believed to be mulling an announcement relatively soon. His plan, along with Senator Elizabeth Warren’s (D-Massachusetts) plan to tax net worths of more than $50 million, and Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s (D-New York) plan to tax incomes in excess of $10 million at a 70 percent marginal rate, suggests that the 2020 campaign cycle will be centered around economic inequality.


Carl Gibson is a politics contributor for Grit Post. His work has previously been published in The Guardian, The Washington Post, The Houston Chronicle, Al-Jazeera America, and NPR, among others. Follow him on Twitter @crgibs or send him an email at carl at gritpost dot com.

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