It is no surprise that Donald Trump has endorsed liberal economic ideas in the past.
After all, on trade, Social Security and campaign finance, he is to this day more like Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) than fellow Republican presidential contender, Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas).
It is nonetheless astonishing that Trump once proposed a tax on the super-rich that would make Sanders blush.
In November 1999, the businessman proposed a one-time, 14.25 percent tax on the total wealth of individuals and trusts with a net worth of $10 million or more.
Unlike increases in capital gains or income taxes, which fall on people’s earnings, Trump’s plan would assess all of their wealth, minus the value of their principal residence. It would potentially force people to liquidate assets -- selling stocks and real estate investments -- in order to pay taxes.
Trump claimed the plan would generate $5.7 trillion in revenue, which would be used to pay off the national debt, cut middle-class taxes and close Social Security’s long-term funding shortfall.
He apparently saw his idea as a political winner, since he rolled it out as he was considering running for president on the Reform Party ticket in the 2000 elections.
The proposal puts Trump in the company of Thomas Piketty, the French liberal economist, whose research on income inequality is credited with popularizing the 99 percent-1 percent framing of the wealth divide.
Piketty recommends a more modest version of Trump’s plan in his bestselling book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century. He would impose a 1 percent tax on net worths of $1.3 to $6.5 million and a 2 percent tax on those of $6.5 million or more.
1 percent of Americans ... would be affected by my plan -- the other 99 percent of the people would get deep reductions Donald Trump, November 1999
But Trump may have beaten Piketty to the punch with his use of the 99 percent-to-1 percent rhetoric.
“By my calculations 1 percent of Americans who control 90 percent of the wealth in this country would be affected by my plan -- the other 99 percent of the people would get deep reductions in their federal income taxes,” Trump said in a statement introducing his plan in November 1999.
Dean Baker, the co-director of the progressive Center for Economic and Policy Research, said that he applauded Trump’s past support for a net worth tax, though he wonders whether it would be enforceable, given American resistance to government intrusion.
“If you have a tax that is hard to enforce, it is probably not a good tax,” Baker said.
Baker cited it as evidence, however, that Trump may be more progressive than he lets on.
“I think he has some sort of liberal instincts,” Baker added. “Saying there should be a net wealth tax implies you think rich people have too much money.”
Needless to say, Trump has changed his tune since then.
Trump the presidential candidate would dramatically reduce the income taxes of the wealthy, including lowering the top marginal rate to from nearly 40 percent to 25 percent -- the very same rate Trump criticized former President Ronald Reagan for lowering the top rate to.
The non-partisan Tax Policy Center estimates that Trump’s tax plan would cost the federal government $5.9 trillion over 10 years.