Multiple posts on social media make the claim that 2020 presidential candidate Bernie Sanders is proposing a 52% tax rate on incomes above $29,000 a year. Examples of the claim appear on Facebook here , Instagram here , Twitter here , and Reddit here .
The posts give a breakdown of the potential impacts of this extreme tax-hike alongside one of Sanders’ signature proposals: the increase of the federal minimum wage to $15 an hour (see here) . Some of the posts claim that Sanders said he proposed a 52% tax raise at the ninth Democratic debate, hosted on February 19, 2020 in Las Vegas, Nevada. Some posts claim the reason for this hike is to finance another one of Sanders' signature policies, Medicare for All, a single-payer national health insurance plan (as referenced berniesanders.com/issues/ ).
A full transcript here of the debate here shows that “$29,000” was only said twice, by former South Bend mayor Pete Buttigieg. There were no instances of anybody saying “52%”. Buttigieg's comments on Sanders' alleged proposed tax increase on incomes above $29,000 is likely part of the inspiration for the claim made on social media.
Buttigieg first scrutinized Sanders’ alleged plan to raise taxes for incomes above $29,000. Around the 37-minute mark of the debate (as seen in the video here ), Buttigieg said:
“But I’m actually less concerned about the lack of transparency on Sanders’ personal health than I am about the lack of transparency on how to pay for his health care plan, since he’s said that it’s impossible to even know how much it’s going to cost, and even after raising taxes on everybody making $29,000, there is still a multi-trillion-dollar hole.”
In the last half hour of the debate, Buttigieg refers here again to this figure while making remarks similar to those earlier in the debate. The exchange goes as follows:
“BUTTIGIEG: … He’s honest about the fact that taxes will go up on anybody making more than $29,000 to fund his health care plan, although, again, a little bit vague about how the rest of that gets... / SANDERS: You’re not being honest. Premiums would be eliminated. / BUTTIGIEG: But you’re still raising those taxes. And when you do it... / SANDERS: But we’re saving people money because they don’t pay any premiums, out-of-pocket expenses, co-payments, or deductibles. They’re going to be much better off. / BUTTIGIEG: But where is -- where is the other $25 trillion supposed to come from? At a certain point, you’ve got to do the math. / SANDERS: Well, we got it all up there on the internet. It’s a payroll tax -- a payroll tax... / (CROSSTALK) / BUTTIGIEG: Well, no, but even after the payroll tax, you still have a hole. / (CROSSTALK) / SANDERS: Because we have a wealth tax. Elizabeth has a good one. Ours is a little bit tougher on Mr. Bloomberg than hers. We’re going to raise it in a progressive way, which deals with income and wealth inequality, and makes certain, finally, that health care in this country is a human right, not a privilege.”
This exchange confirms that Sanders' plan is to finance Medicare for All through a mixture of different taxes. (His website confirms here that his extreme wealth tax mentioned in the debate will help fund Medicare for All.)
The 52% figure of the claim likely comes from a memo released by Sanders' Senate office ahead of the introduction of the Medicare for All Act of 2019 here to the US Senate. The memo, Options to Finance Medicare for All, discusses different tax proposals to finance his healthcare program, not all mentioned during the debate.
(Read the full memo here )
In the memo, one option here proposed is a progressive income tax schedule that includes a 52% tax rate, but strictly applied to incomes over $10 million.
Another option proposed is the so-called “payroll tax” that Sanders mentioned in the debate. This 7.5% payroll tax would be paid by employers, exempting the first $2 million in payroll to protect small businesses.
A final option is a 4% income-based premium applicable to all households making more than $29,000. Currently, the marginal tax rate (as referenced here ) for a household making more than $29,000 (and below $40,124) is 12%. This 4% premium is the only evident proposal that could raise taxes on incomes above $29,000.
Sanders has spoken publicly in the past about his Medicare for All plans and his menu of financing options. Reuters was unable to find any mention of tax increases anywhere near the claim made (52%). Sanders recently answered a question about how he would fund Medicare for All at a CNN Townhall in South Carolina. The video is available here
Sanders made no other mention of an increase in taxes during this debate, except when discussing the current tax code that has, he alleges, benefited corporations and billionaires more than the middle class.
The claim that Bernie Sanders plans to tax anyone making above $29,000 a year 52% is therefore false.
False: Bernie Sanders does not plan to tax minimum wage incomes 52%.
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