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GOP Wants Tax on Middle Class Instead of Rich for Infrastructure, Sanders Says

Republicans have proposed a massively watered-down infrastructure bill with regressive pay-fors based on user fees.

Sen. Bernie Sanders speaks during a rally at the Las Vegas Academy of the Arts on October 25, 2018, in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont) said on Wednesday that Republicans are “insistent” upon taxing the working class in order to pay for the upcoming infrastructure bill in lieu of raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations.

In an interview on CNN, Sanders said that Republicans’ infrastructure pay-fors would disproportionately affect the working class, which has been hit hard by recent economic crises.

“For too, too long, the average American has seen government work for the 1 percent, for large corporations,” Sanders said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer. “What some of us are trying to do with the president is have government start paying attention to the needs of the working class, which is struggling economically in a way we have not seen for a long, long time.”

“In terms of paying for it, what the Republicans are very insistent upon, is they want the middle class and working families to pay for it,” the senator continued. “The president, correctly, is saying he wants wealthiest people, who are doing very, very well, large corporations, who, in some cases, are not paying a nickel in federal income taxes, to pay for it. The president is right, and we have got to move in the direction of progressive taxation.”

Republicans have been recalcitrant in negotiations for President Joe Biden’s infrastructure bill. They have proposed cutting it to nearly an eighth of its original size with a spending cap of $800 billion as opposed to the $4 trillion that Biden has proposed.

The GOP congress members are also unbending in their absolute refusal to hike taxes for wealthy people and corporations, instead clutching on to Donald Trump-era tax breaks that resulted in an estimated $1.9 trillion in lost revenue for the government. Despite weeks of negotiations on the issue, top Republicans are still refusing to allow higher tax rates on corporations and the wealthy, even though Biden’s corporate tax hike is already a compromise from what it could be.

While Biden has proposed raising the corporate tax from 21 percent to 28 percent to help pay for the infrastructure bill, Sanders has proposed raising it back to what it was before Trump took office: 35 percent.

Instead, Republicans have proposed a regressive tax to pay for the bill — favoring user fees over taxes, which would disproportionately affect the middle and lower classes.

“They do want to raise taxes, but they want to raise regressive taxes — taxes on working families,” said Sanders. “I come from a very rural state; people drive long distances to get to work. Apparently, [Senate Minority Leader Mitch] McConnell wants those folks — working people — to pay more in taxes.” Sanders says he prefers that rich people and corporations pay their “fair share” instead.

The senator went to say that the split between Republicans and progressive Democrats on taxation and what constitutes infrastructure is a “fundamental divide” that will be hard to reconcile.

Sanders has not shied away from warning the president about the futility of trying to negotiate with Republicans despite their stated goal to block all of Biden’s proposals. Democrats should make every effort to make bills bipartisan, Sanders said, but they should not water down their proposals in the process. “The bottom line is, the American people want results,” he said on Axios on HBO earlier this week.

Progressives have been learning that ignoring bipartisanship — at least, the Republican version of it, which is largely just capitulation and obstruction — can be a winning strategy for the left. After all, Senate Minority Leader McConnell (R-Kentucky) made it clear last week that his party’s only focus is to block the Biden administration, no matter what.

Despite McConnell’s insistence on obstructing the Democratic agenda, however, many Democratic policies are widely popular among the electorate. Case in point: A poll last month found that support for Biden’s infrastructure plan, which is popular in itself, goes up when the corporate tax is mentioned as a means of financing it.

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