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Bernie Sanders’ War With CEOs Making Bank Just Got Real

Sanders new tax plan would punish companies whose chief executive makes 50 times more than the average worker

by Morgan Baskin
Sep 30 2019, 3:37pm

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has promised voters he can get the wealthy to “pay their fair share” — and today, he rolled out another way to get there.

His campaign is now proposing to boost the corporate tax rate for companies whose chief executives make at least 50 times more than the median employee. It would only apply to businesses that bring in $100 million or more a year, with harsher penalties for wider gaps between the highest- and lowest-earning workers.

“The American people are sick and tired of corporate CEOs who now make 300 times more than their average employees."

The AFL-CIO, the country's largest labor union, estimated last year that a CEO from the average high-earning company makes 287 times more than their median employee. At Amazon for example, CEO Jeff Bezos makes makes an estimated $6.5 billion every month from his salary and stock holdings; 315 times more the median Amazon employee makes in a year, according to Business Insider.

“The American people are sick and tired of corporate CEOs who now make 300 times more than their average employees, while they give themselves huge bonuses and cut back on the health care and pension benefits of their employees,” Sanders said in a statement.

READ: Sanders proposes an aggressive wealth tax.

For businesses that pay their median worker 50 times less than the CEO, Sanders' proposal would hike the tax rate by half a percent. That figure would rise to 1% if a CEO makes more than 100 times what the median employee does. Corporate taxes would increase to 2% at places where the CEO makes 200 times what the median employee does, and so on, up to 5% for an income gap of 500 times.

Sanders’ campaign estimates that the plan will raise $150 billion over 10 years, and says he’ll use the money to eliminate $81 billion in medical debt — another plan the candidate rolled out in September, as national polls show him vying for second place with Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren. The idea of taxing businesses based on the disparity between workers and chief executives is now in play on the local level in Portland, Oregon, while San Francisco plans to vote on the idea next year. But Sanders is the first candidate to propose a national tax plan that takes aim at CEOs.

“At a time of massive income and wealth inequality, the American people are demanding that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes,” Sanders’ statement continued. “It is time to send a message to corporate America: If you do not end your greed and corruption, we will end it for you.”

Cover: Sanders addresses members of the Chicago Teachers Union on September 24, 2019, as they discuss plans to strike. (Photo by Scott Heins/Getty Images)