Joe Manchin swings at Biden’s billionaire tax, saying the super-rich can’t be taxed on ‘things you don’t have’

By Joseph Zeballos-Roig

Sen. Joe Manchin poured cold water on President Joe Biden’s new billionaire tax plan on Monday, dealing a potentially fatal blow to its prospects in Congress.

The wealthiest Americans shouldn’t be taxed on “things you don’t have,” he said, per Bloomberg. “You might have it on paper. There are other ways for people to pay their fair share, and I think everyone should pay.” 

The conservative Democrat’s reluctance could be the end of the road for the White House proposal. Democrats are closer to reviving swaths of their climate and healthcare agenda, but it can only reach Biden’s desk if all 50 Senate Democrats back it.

The plan would establish a 20% minimum tax rate on households worth $100 million or more, and would expand the definition of taxable income to include the accruing value of unsold investments like stocks or bonds, otherwise known as unrealized capital gains. Currently, gains on investments are only taxed when they’re sold for cash.

It was the first time that the Biden administration drew up a plan to hit the growing fortunes of billionaires, and it’s meant to change how the American tax code treats income.

Most Americans get their income through a paycheck, but the richest families tend to see their wealth grow through the increasing value of their financial investments. Those are often taxed at a much lower rate than income — and only after they’re sold for a profit.

Some billionaires like Tesla CEO Elon Musk would pay a lot more in taxes to the federal government under the Biden plan. Musk’s tax bill would amount to an extra $50 billion over ten years, according to calculations from economist Gabriel Zucman. 

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Manchin had also expressed resistance to a similar tax proposal designed to hit billionaires last fall from Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, the chair of the Senate Finance Committee. That plan was aimed at 700 billionaires and was intended to finance much of Biden’s social and climate plans.

“I’m supporting basically that everyone should pay their fair share,” Manchin said in late October. “And I’ve just tried to think of it — I don’t like the connotation that we’re targeting different people.”

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