The Patriotic Millionaires held a half-day conference in DC yesterday morning.

Fox News’ Stuart Varney hated it.

Not that he attended, but he didn’t need to.

He hates socialism — and apparently believes that America in the 1950’s under Eisenhower (when the marginal rate on the best off was 90%) was a socialist country . . . that America remained a socialist country in the 1960s and 1970s under Kennedy, Nixon, Ford, and Carter (the top rate was 70%) . . . and veered even more drastically socialist with the imposition of Medicare (as the Hollywood actor Ronald Reagan famously warned it would).

The truth, of course, is that lots of things people like are socialist: free roads, public education, parks, unemployment insurance . . . even the free quality health care that the citizens of all our industrialized competitors enjoy.

Instead of calling what Democrats — and most Republicans — want “socialism,” it might be more accurate to call it “Capitalism Plus.”

Patriotic Millionaires love capitalism.  But it needs to be regulated . . . competition needs to be kept vigorous (through anti-trust enforcement) . . . and the spoils of its success need to be shared (through, among other things, progressive taxation and a robust tax on billionheirs).

It’s perfectly legitimate to argue around the edges — how high should health insurance co-pays be, if you have them at all?  At what age should full Social Security benefits kick in?  Should the top rate be 49% or 59% or 69%?  Should it kick in only above $10 million in income?  $50 million?

And it’s important to try to think through unintended consequences.  Would a tax on high-frequency trading really produce $1 trillion?  Or would it just kill high-frequency trading or drive it offshore?  A lot of work needs to go into the details.

But you can’t tell me that if the corporate tax rate — cut from 35% to 21% in 2017 — were reset at 25%, it wouldn’t bring in more revenue.  Or that if the carried-interest loophole almost everyone decries were abolished, it wouldn’t bring in more revenue.  Or that if the “stepped up basis” on inherited wealth were done away with it wouldn’t bring in more revenue.

There are plenty of sensible ways America can remain capitalist — and become more prosperous — by taxing the very richest among us more heavily.  If you only got to keep $3 million a year instead of $4 million, life would go on.  Likewise, if you inherited only $200 million instead of $300 million.  The incentives would still be there to start new businesses and get rich, just as they were there in the Fifties and Sixties and Seventies.

With that background, watch the conference? (Or on Facebook here?)

Or just the first few speakers?



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