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Wealth tax calculator: Try your hand at taxing the super rich

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Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) recently proposed a wealth tax on the very rich as a way to curb wealth inequality. It’s a simple 2 percent tax on fortunes over $50 million, and a 3 percent tax on fortunes over $1 billion. Early polls suggest her proposal is very popular.

A wealth tax is different from most other taxes we pay. Usually, the government only taxes us when money changes hands — when we earn or spend money. But a wealth tax targets the huge fortunes that sit in wealthy people’s possession, whether it’s in the form of stocks or a yacht.

UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, who is advising Warren, estimates that the tax will hit 75,000 households and raise $2.75 trillion over a 10-year period.

But Warren, who is running for president, isn’t the first Democrat to propose a wealth tax in recent years. During the 2016 Democratic primaries, Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed a more modest wealth tax as an option for financing part of his Medicare-for-all plan. And we might see other 2020 candidates propose wealth taxes.

Now we’ve created a wealth tax calculator — a tool that lets you design your own wealth tax — based on a data set estimating the wealth of Americans in 2016 from the People’s Policy Project. You can see how much revenue it generates and what programs it could pay for.

Make your own wealth tax

The math behind the tool, explained

Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project shared a data set that shows the estimated wealth of Americans in 2016. He used the Survey of Consumer Finances microdata, plus the 2016 Forbes 400. That data set tries to capture the wealth of every household in the US.

From there, the tool checks whether a household would be subject to the wealth tax, and then taxes them accordingly.

We looked at the Tax Policy Center’s 10-year estimated cost of Sanders’s free college proposal from the 2016 campaign and used the average annual cost; and the Columbia Center on Poverty and Social Policy’s estimate for the Bennet-Brown child tax credit proposal. These estimates aren’t for 2016, which is when the wealth data is from. So in order to get an apples-to-apples comparison, we applied a 5.5 percent annual increase in revenue, in line with Congressional Budget Office norms.

One other note: We did not calculate how much the wealth tax would pay for Medicare-for-all because of the wide range of cost estimates.

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Vox Sentences: The pope will listen to survivors

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Vox Sentences is your daily digest for what’s happening in the world. Sign up for the Vox Sentences newsletter, delivered straight to your inbox Monday through Friday, or view the Vox Sentences archive for past editions.

The Vatican prepares to talk about the sexual abuse of minors; Australia is hit with a cyberattack.


“The Protection of Minors in the Church”


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  • The Vatican prepared Monday for a Thursday meeting called “The Protection of Minors in the Church,” which will address the long and destructive history of sexual abuse of children by officials of the church. Pope Francis and presidents from international bishops’ conferences will gather for four days to meet with abuse survivors and increase transparency. [NYT / Jason Horowitz and Elisabetta Povoledo]
  • Boston Archbishop Seán O’Malley, one of the few Americans who advise Pope Francis, says the church still lacks a procedure for how to deal with bishops accused of abuse. And addressing those wrongs is only complicated by the fact that most of the cases still waiting for justice occurred decades ago. [Atlantic / Emma Green]
  • The Vatican took decisive action over the weekend against a cleric it had long shielded: ex-Cardinal Theodore McCarrick. The former archbishop of Washington became the highest-ranking American cardinal to be defrocked after he was found guilty of abusing minors. McCarrick was made cardinal in 2001, despite the church knowing of accusations against him. [Vox / Amanda Sakuma]
  • On the same day the summit starts, an explosive new book by a French journalist will be released, alleging that the Catholic Church is “one of the biggest gay communities in the world.” In the Closet of the Vatican could be the first reliable account of gay members of the clergy, which has some members of the church worried it could distract from the meeting’s goal: addressing the abuse of minors. [CNN / Daniel Burke]
  • Gay Catholic priests have long been terrified to come out, fearing repercussions from the church, which almost always controls a priest’s housing, health insurance, and retirement pension. The Times spoke to two dozen anonymously, who said the environment is only getting worse, with homosexuality increasingly being blamed for clergy abuse of young boys. [NYT / Elizabeth Dias]
  • Relations between the Vatican and US church leaders like O’Malley on abuse cases are becoming more and more tense. O’Malley was excluded from organizing this week’s summit on sex abuse, despite his top position on the commission for the protection of minors. The Vatican thinks American leadership is going too far — even in the practice of publishing accused clergy members’ names. [WSJ / Francis X. Rocca]

Australia reckons with a cyberattack

  • An unidentified foreign government is likely responsible for a hack of Australia’s major political parties and its parliament’s computer network, according to a statement by Prime Minister Scott Morrison on Monday. [NYT / Jamie Tarabay]
  • The Australian government was already investigating an attack on the parliament that occurred early February when it became aware, 10 days later, that the Liberal, Labor, and National parties had also been breached. [Al Jazeera]
  • Australia’s federal elections are coming up in May, but Morrison assured the country there had not been any electoral interference — even as the Australian Cyber Security Centre admitted it did not know what information had been stolen. [BBC News]
  • “A sophisticated state actor” is the culprit, according to Morrison, and many policy experts are pointing to China or Russia. The attack draws attention to the potential meddling (by at least one of those countries) in the 2016 US elections, and how this could be repeated. [TechCrunch / Jon Russell]
  • It’s also possible the responsible organization tried to mimic China to encourage Australian and foreign officials to point fingers. China has denied any role in the attack. [The Verge / Jon Porter]

Miscellaneous

  • Past presidents like Abraham Lincoln and George Washington have earned their place on national monuments — but history has shown that no president was a perfect leader. [NBC News / Ethan Sacks]
  • Public records about the Interior Department could be harder to access if a new rule the department has proposed is adopted. Under the rule, Interior would have more control over what information goes public and could limit how many documents one individual or an organization may view per month. [NPR / Nate Hegyi]
  • President Trump is expected to heighten support for Juan Guaidó as president of Venezuela on Monday. Pressure for President Nicolás Maduro to step down is mounting from the US, which has targeted sanctions against Venezuela’s valuable oil industry. [CNN / Jeremy Diamond]
  • Only one of the current Democratic presidential hopefuls is a heterosexual white man. Others may declare, but they all could have trouble accessing in-demand campaign talent and media attention — not to mention widespread support — as women and other minority candidates appeal to voters. [Politico / Bill Scher]
  • Millions of Nigerians were disappointed on Saturday when a last-minute decision delayed national presidential elections. Without an absentee voting system, many Nigerian citizens who had traveled or planned to travel to their home districts had to change plans when they found out they wouldn’t be voting. Nigeria’s current president, Muhammadu Buhari, is seeking his second consecutive term. [NYT/ Dionne Searcey and Emmanuel Akinwotu]

Verbatim

“What you do to children matters. And they might never forget.” [Excerpt from God Help the Child by Toni Morrison, who turns 88 years old today]


Watch this: American segregation, mapped at day and night

We work in diverse places. We live in segregated ones. [YouTube / Alvin Chang]


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