Sen. Bernie Sanders manifestly fears that if he succeeds in becoming president and enacting his economic plan, some Americans may seek to flee the country.
How do we know this?
His plan imposes a severe penalty on anybody who tries to leave to avoid paying his "wealth tax."
"The wealth tax includes a 40 percent exit tax on the net value of all assets under $1 billion and 60 percent over $1 billion for all wealthy individual(s) seeking to expatriate to avoid the tax," it says.
Under the current tax system, the United States does impose an "expatriation tax" on people renouncing their citizenship and leaving the country. But that tax, as explained by Forbes contributor Robert W. Wood, is applied like a capital gains tax on the estimated value of a person's holdings on the day before they leave. Generally, according to the IRS, the top capital gains rate is currently 20% — although a 28% rate applies to some "collectibles" such as "coins and art."
Sanders obviously does not think even a 28% tax on what you own would be sufficient to deter people from fleeing the new country into which he hopes to "transform" America.
Meanwhile, patriotic Americans who stay in what they know is the greatest country on Earth — and who work to keep it free during a Sanders reign — would need to deal with what this self-proclaimed socialist calls a "national wealth registry."
What is that?
It is an IRS-controlled federal database of the things that "wealthy" Americans own and how much the government estimates those things are worth. Sanders believes this registry is needed to carry out his "extreme wealth tax."
After all, the government cannot know who has "extreme wealth" until it has cataloged what people suspected of being wealthy own and has assigned a monetary value to those belongings.
The way Sanders explains it, it is like you die every year and the federal government is enforcing the death tax against you — again and again and again.
"Under current law, the IRS is already required to assess the net worth of the wealthiest Americans when they pass away, to calculate estate tax liability," says his plan. "A federal wealth tax would require the IRS to make the same assessment on an annual basis for the wealthiest Americans."
"For assets that are difficult to appraise, the Treasury Department would have the option of allowing taxpayers to have appraisals done periodically instead of annually," says the Sanders plan. "The Treasury Department would establish the average rates of appreciation for several classes of assets. Those appraised only every few years would be assumed to appreciate in the intervening years at the average rate established for their designated class."
"In order to ensure that the wealthy are not able to evade the tax, the proposal includes a number of key enforcement policies," says the plan. "First, it would create a national wealth registry and significant additional third party reporting requirements."
What sort of "assets" would this national wealth registry need to include?
What sort of "third party" reporters would the government need to recruit to make sure you had registered all the paintings in your house or rings in your jewelry box — or the writings you had composed?
Yes, the writings.
The IRS instructions for calculating what you would owe under the current pre-Sanders expatriation tax reminds would-be payers to report their "intangible property."
IRS "Instructions for Form 8854" says "intangible property" includes such things as a "literary, musical or artistic composition." Or a "study," "customer list" or "know-how."
If you were one of the wealthy elitists who owned such things, the Sanders regime would need to have them all in its registry, and you would need to pay an annual tax for continuing to own them.
The main argument Sanders makes for this tax is that it will apply only to those of "extreme wealth." But the short explanation he has posted on his own website demonstrates that "extreme wealth" is an extremely flexible concept.
"It would start with a 1 percent tax on net worth above $32 million for a married couple," says his plan. (It would then escalate to 8% for a married couple with a net worth over $10 billion.)
So, a married couple worth $30 million would not have "extreme wealth."
But then the plan says: "These brackets are halved for singles."
So, a hardworking and imaginative young woman who uses her "know-how" to build a business that creates a hundred new jobs and is worth $17 million does have "extreme wealth."
And that is before you count her $520,000 home, her $32,000 car and the diamond ring her grandmother gave her just before she died.
The Sanders plan boasts it will "cut the wealth of billionaires in half over 15 years." Its strategic goal is for government to take "wealth" away from those who built it or maintain it.
Perhaps if Sanders is elected, he will decide the extremely wealthy includes anybody worth more than a million dollars.
Or a $100,000.
Or who gets up in the morning and goes to work and saves a little from each paycheck.
Maybe he will decide the 8% annual rate should apply to all levels of "wealth."
Remember: He says he is a socialist.
Terence P. Jeffrey is the editor in chief of CNSnews.com. To find out more about him, visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.