The Corner

Fiscal Policy

Who’s Rich Enough to Pay Higher Tax Rates, According to Democrats?

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) and Rep. Cori Bush (D-MO) participate in a “No Climate, No Deal” demonstration outside the White House in Washington, DC, June 28, 2021. (Evelyn Hockstein/Reuters)

Federal tax rates on income have risen four times in the last 35 years.

In 1990, a Democratic Congress enacted a tax increase on married couples making more than $82,000, which works out to $176,000 in today’s dollars.

In 1993, another Democratic Congress enacted a tax increase on married couples making more than $140,000, or $268,000 in today’s dollars.

In 2010, a Democratic Congress raised taxes on married couples making more than $250,000, or $316,000 today.

In 2013, Democrats sought to raise taxes on married couples making more than $250,000 but settled in a split Congress for an increase on couples making more than $450,000, or $535,000 today.

Today, Democrats are proposing to increase income-tax rates on couples making more than $450,000.

This history is part of the context of Representative Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s infamous “TAX THE RICH” dress. Over time, as the Democratic Party’s coalition has grown more affluent (and more concentrated in high-cost areas), the line between middle-class households who need to be protected from higher tax rates and rich people who should pay them keeps inching higher. The congresswoman herself denies that she means to include doctors in her category of rich people. Their median pay in 2020 was $208,000. “Physician” is the most common job held by people in the top 1 percent of income.

Ramesh Ponnuru is a senior editor for National Review, a columnist for Bloomberg Opinion, a visiting fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and a senior fellow at the National Review Institute.

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