Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) talked about her proposed "wealth tax" at Wednesday's Democratic presidential debate and received feedback from Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ).
ANDREA MITCHELL, MSNBC: Senator Warren, you have cast yourself as a fighter. If you were elected, though, you would be walking into an existing fight, a country that is already very divided over the Trump presidency, among other things. Do you see that divide as permanent? Or do you need to bring the country together if you become president to achieve your goals?
WARREN: So I think the way we achieve our goals and bring our country together is we talk about the things that unite us, and that is that we want to build an America that works for the people, not one that just works for rich folks.
You know, I have proposed a two cent wealth tax. That is a tax for everybody who has more than $50 billion in assets, your first $50 billion is free and clear. But your 50 billionth and first dollar, you've got to pitch in 2 cents. And when you hit a billion dollars, you've got to pinch in a few pennies more.
Here's the thing. Doing a wealth tax is not about punishing anyone. It's about saying, you built something great in this country? Good for you. But you did it using workers all of us helped pay to educate. You did it using -- you're getting your goods on roads and bridges all of us helped pay for. You did it protected by police and firefighters all of us helped pay the salaries for.
So when you make it big, when you make it really big, when you make it top one tenth of one percent big, pitch in two cents so everybody else gets a chance to make it.
And here's the thing. That's something that Democrats care about, independents care about, and Republicans care about, because regardless of party affiliation, people understand across this country, our government is working better and better for the billionaires, for the rich, for the well-connected, and worse and worse for everyone else. We come together when we acknowledge that and say we're going to make real change.
MITCHELL: Thank you, Senator. Thank you.
Senator Booker, do you agree with that strategy?
BOOKER: Well, first of all, I think we all agree that we need to bring in a lot more revenue in this country. We actually have a real problem with the tax rates, tax loopholes, tax cheats. And I don't agree with the wealth tax, the way that Elizabeth Warren puts it, but I agree that we need to raise the estate tax. We need to tax capital gains as ordinary income. Real strategies will increase revenue.
But here's the challenge. We as Democrats need to fight for a just taxation system. But as I travel around the country, we Democrats also have to talk about how to grow wealth, as well.
When I stood in church recently and asked folks in a black church how many people here want to be entrepreneurs, half the church raised their hands. If we as a country don't start -- if we as a party don't start talking not just about how to tax wealth, but how to give more people opportunities to create wealth, to grow businesses, to have their American dream -- because, yeah, we need to raise the minimum wage to a living wage, $15 an hour.
But the people in communities I frequent, they're not -- aspiration for their lives is not just to have those fair wages. They want to have an economy that provides not just equalities in wealth, but they want to have equalities in opportunity. And that's what our party has to be about, as well.
MITCHELL: Senator Warren, you wanted to respond?
WARREN: Sure. So let me just tell you what we can do with that two cent wealth tax. Two cents on the top one-tenth of one percent in this country, and we can provide universal child care for every baby in this country ages zero to five. That is transformative.
We can provide universal pre-K for every 3-year-old and 4-year-old in America. We can stop exploiting the women, largely black and brown women, who do this work. And we can raise the wages of every childcare worker and pre-schoolteacher in America.
We can put $800 billion new federal dollars into all of our public schools. We can make college tuition-free for every kid. We can put $50 billion into historically black colleges and universities. And we can cancel student loan debt for 95 percent of the folks who've got it. Two cent wealth tax and we can invest in an entire generation's future.
MITCHELL: All right. Let me let Senator Booker respond.
BOOKER: You know, again, I agree with the need to do all of those things. We're all united in wanting to see universal preschool. And I'll fight for that. We're all united in wanting to fund HBCUs. Heck, I wouldn't be here if it wasn't for two parents that went to HBCUs.
But the tax the way we're putting it forward right now, the wealth tax, I'm sorry, it's cumbersome. It's been tried by other nations. It's hard to evaluate. We can get the same amount of revenue through just taxation.
But, again, we as Democrats have got to start talking not just about how we tax from a stage, but how we grow wealth in this country amongst those disadvantaged communities that are not seeing it. Look at VC dollars in this country. Seventy-five percent of them go to three metropolitan areas. There is worth in the inner city. There is value in our rural areas.
If I am president of the United States, we're going to have a fair, just taxation where millionaires and billionaires pay their fair share, but, dear God, we're going to have pathways to prosperity for more Americans. We're going to see a change in what we see right now. Small businesses, new startups are going down in this country.
MITCHELL: Thank you, Senator.
BOOKER: We need to give more new entrepreneurs access to wealth.
MITCHELL: Senator Warren, briefly, just your last thoughts on this.
WARREN: So I just -- the idea behind what is fair, today, the 99 percent in America are on track to pay about 7.2 percent of their total wealth in taxes.
BOOKER: I'm not disagreeing with that.
WARREN: The top one-tenth of one percent that I want to say pay two cents more, they'll pay 3.2 percent in America. I'm tired of freeloading billionaires. I think it's time that we ask those at the very top to pay more so that every single one of our children gets a real...
MITCHELL: ... Senator Booker, Senator Warren...
BOOKER: Everybody's tired of corporations getting away with paying zero taxes.
MITCHELL: Thank you.
BOOKER: I'm not disagreeing with that.
MITCHELL: Thank you very much, Senator Warren. Thank you.