Hillary Clinton seems to be in a race with Bernie Sanders to see who can spend and borrow the most taxpayer money. These days that's how you win the Democratic nomination for president. So far, Clinton's losing the spend-fest. But she's catching up.
Clinton has just endorsed a $275 billion proposal for public works projects. No word yet as to whether these projects are "shovel ready." What is certain is that the proposal makes the unions and the construction lobby mighty happy.
Never mind that Barack Obama was supposed to have already solved the infrastructure crisis when, just a few years ago, he spent hundreds of billions of dollars of "stimulus" funds on roads, bridges, green energy projects and the like. In the next few weeks Congress is expected to approve one of the biggest transportation bills in history.
The former secretary of state's advocacy of infrastructure programs sounds a little hollow given that it comes only a few weeks after she announced her opposition to the Keystone XL pipeline project that would create thousands of mostly union, high-paying construction jobs without costing taxpayers a thin dime. But that policy apparently contributes to climate change, so no go. Um, Ms. Clinton, it takes energy to build roads.
The bigger conundrum for Clinton is how all of these construction projects are going to be paid for. Her infrastructure plan comes on top of her $350 billion "college affordability" initiative, her call for a new early childhood education program and her support for a doubling of funding for the Early Head Start program. The combined price tag for all this is about $700 billion over five years.
She also wants to raise the minimum wage and require businesses to offer workers paid family and medical leave. These mandates are the equivalent of stealth tax hikes that could add another $300 billion to the cost structures of American employers. The total price tag for all of this progressivism is close to $1 trillion. But who's counting?
Here's the contradiction for Hillary. Just a few weeks ago, she pledged not to raise taxes on those who make less than $250,000. But that leaves roughly 2 percent of the taxpayers forking over $700 billion more to the IRS. Mark Zuckerberg and Bill Gates are very rich, but not that rich.
The top 2 percent already pay about half the income taxes in America, according to the latest IRS statistics. That means two out of 100 Americans pay as much as the other 98.
The maximum tax rate would have to start climbing to well above 50 percent to fund this government spree. The highest tax rate today is about 42 percent. So Clinton would send us back to the rates that prevailed under Jimmy Carter in the good old 1970s. By the way, in the 1970s, when the highest tax rate was 70 percent, the rich paid a smaller share of total taxes than today.
Is it just me or is Hillary Clinton starting to sound more like Bernie Sanders every day? One difference is that he unashamedly acknowledges that he's a socialist; she doesn't.
The other difference is that Sen. Sanders openly acknowledges that his giveaways to the middle class must be accompanied by raising their taxes. Clinton, by contrast, is making promises she can't possibly keep. Let's be honest: Taxes are going to have to go up on the middle class to finance all her goodies. So much for the straight-talk express.
Stephen Moore is a distinguished visiting fellow at The Heritage Foundation, economics contributor to FreedomWorks and author of "Who's the Fairest of Them All?" To find out more about Stephen Moore and read features by other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit the Creators Syndicate Web page at www.creators.com.
Photo credit: Joe The Goat Farmer