Warren, Sanders tout wealth tax plans: Who will win over voters?

Senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are standing out from the pack of Democrats seeking their party's nomination to run for president next year in a so-called "Battle of the Taxes" by focusing on class divides rather than identity politics like many of their competitors.

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The liberal New Englanders have laid out progressive proposals and in recent weeks they have unveiled dueling tax plans that target the nation's most wealthy citizens in their competition to win voters with promises of a more equitable economy. But the strategy has flaws, according to one analyst.

Warren and Sanders are misdiagnosing the problems they're trying to solve and may lose voters in the process, said Adam Carrington, assistant professor of politics at Hillsdale College.

"There is worry and frustration among the working class," Carrington told FOX Business. "I think many people aspire to one day be [rich]. They want the idea that they're getting a fair shake, getting help where they deserve it. I think plans like that would be much more effective rather than saying, 'I'm going to get rid of billionaires.'"

That's exactly what Sanders, who's no stranger to calling for a "revolution," has been using as a catchphrase.

"Billionaires should not exist," he tweeted on the day he released his wealth tax plan.

Meanwhile, Warren's painted herself as the woman with a plan ⁠— not just on economics, but on education, gun violence and foreign policy.

Warren, a Massachusetts senator, proposed a wealth tax on individuals with more than $50 million in assets in January. Sanders released his campaign's wealth tax months later in September. His applies to individuals with at least $16 million and is much more extreme than Warren's.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., greet each other before the first of two Democratic presidential primary debates hosted by CNN Tuesday, July 30, 2019, in the Fox Theatre in Detroit. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

But it's not just wealth taxes. Sanders released a plan on Monday to impose tax penalties on corporations with huge pay disparities between CEOs and their employees. Then Warren unveiled a new plan to crack down on the multibillion-dollar lobbying industry, proposing a tax on "excessive" lobbying expenditures.

The two candidates have distinctive flavors, but they're competing to occupy the same lane, Carrington said. Sanders and Warren both focus on class divides, rather than racial or gender identity politics.

"While a lot of the Democratic party is trending toward identity politics, which allows an influx of richer voters, these two seem to want to be having some sort of agenda appealing to class differences," Carrington said.

If he had to pick, Carrington's money is on Warren.

"She has been a very effective communicator," he said, adding that Sanders' recent health scare could spook voters. "She is able to appeal to the donor class a little bit better,"

Daniel DiSalvo, political science chair at the City College of New York, told FOX Business he wouldn't count Sanders out despite his surgery for a clogged artery.

"Sanders is still staying in it, doing very well with small donors. He has a very loyal constituency," DiSalvo said.

DiSalvo sees Sanders' and Warren's plans, like their ideas for a wealth tax, as a way to shape the national conversation more than anything. But their public policy focuses are not likely to win them support in the black community, where former Vice President Joe Biden has a much stronger foothold, DiSalvo said.

"Most of these policies are more liberal than most black voters," he said. "I'm not sure on economic grounds whether it helps" Sanders and Warren.

Still, they seem to be drawing Biden to the left as his campaign reportedly weighs a tax on Wall Street. Biden's advisers are considering a plan that could tax financial transactions, like the sale of stocks and bonds, according to a report from The Washington Post citing individuals familiar with the discussions in September.


But the bottom line is that Warren and Sanders call for programs that would mandate a huge increase in federal government spending.

"Both of them have very ambitious spending plans that need to be financed somehow, or at least given the appearance they could be financed," DiSalvo said.