Bill O’Reilly claims that he is going to move to Ireland if Bernie Sanders becomes president. He says that he is not willing to pay 90% income tax. This is strange because Sanders has said on numerous occasions that he will not raise income tax rates that high. At the 14 November 2015 Democratic debate, Sanders was asked how much he would raise the top marginal tax rate. He responded, “We haven’t come up with an exact number yet. But it will not be as high as the number under Dwight D Eisenhower which was 90%… I’m not a socialist compared to Eisenhower.”
So how is it that “I will not raise the income tax rate to 90%” becomes “I will raise the income tax rate to 90%”? Well, it comes from the man who I have come to think of as the heart and soul of the Republican Party: Donald Trump. Back in October, he was at a rally in Richmond, Virginia where he called Bernie Sanders a communist. And he said, “He’s gonna tax you people at 90 percent.” It must be true, it was on the television.
But television works both ways, and Politifact documented Sanders’ statements going back to 2008 where he has said that he wouldn’t go up to a 90% marginal tax rate. Based upon what I know of Bernie Sanders, I think he would like to go back to a top marginal tax rate that we had under that communist Richard Nixon (70%), but that he’d be thrilled just to get it back what it was under that pinko Ronald Reagan (50%).
There are several things to note about all this. As Martin Longman has pointed out, “Even if Sanders wanted that kind of tax reform, he’d never be able to accomplish it. He couldn’t accomplish it even if the Democrats controlled both chambers of Congress and had a filibuster-proof majority in the Senate.” Despite what idiot conservatives like to claim (but only when a Democrat is in the White House), we do not live under a dictatorship. What really matters in this case is that Sanders thinks that taxes on the rich are way too low, and this is a belief that even most Republicans share. Scary?! I don’t think so.
Part of the problem, of course, is that most people don’t understand marginal tax rates. I still hear urban legends about this guy who got a raise but ended up with less money because he got pushed into a higher tax bracket. Sorry folks, that ain’t the way our tax system works. (Note: this does happen to the poor, as I discussed before, Catch 22 for Poor in America.) But certainly Donald Trump understands marginal tax rates. But it’s like his bigotry: I don’t think he’s a racist; he’s a demagogue — which is far worse.
But at least Bill O’Reilly is being honest that Sander’s mythical 90% tax rate would affect him and not the nation as a whole. But I was really bothered by exactly what he said, “I’m not going to pay 90 percent of my income to that guy. I’m sorry. I’m not doing it.” This is typical of conservative thought and it is something that enrages me. Oh how conservatives like to talk about patriotism, but when it costs them one red penny, they are an island unto themselves.
If the top marginal tax rate went up to 90%, Bill O’Reilly would not be paying his taxes to “that guy.” He would not even be paying his taxes to the US government. He would be paying his taxes to the American people. He would be doing it because that is the price we pay for living in this country. It is the price that Bill O’Reilly pays for living in a country where he can make millions of dollars per year. If he had been born in Zimbabwe, he would have died poor and young of typhoid. Patriotism isn’t putting a yellow ribbon on your car and cheerleading every war that comes along. Bill O’Reilly is at best what Thomas Paine called a “sunshine patriot.” I would go further, I would call him a traitor.
But I think there are tens of millions of people in the US who would vote for Bernie Sanders for the single reason that Bill O’Reilly would go away. Sanders could not have received a better endorsement than this one. Unfortunately, O’Reilly is lying (as usual). He wouldn’t leave this country. To start with, he would have to renounce his US citizenship, or he would still have to pay the taxes. Once there, he would find that his income would plummet; he would no longer be making the $18 million from Fox News. And without that platform, his best selling books would become distinctly midlist. And as it is, his taxes would still be north of 50%.
Still, Bernie Sanders becoming president would really piss off Bill O’Reilly. And if I weren’t already a Sanders supporter, that would be enough to make me one.