Commentary: The Middle Class Is Collateral Damage in Biden’s War on Wealth

by E.J. Antoni and Caden Wolf


The Biden administration’s hackneyed talking point of “the rich paying their fair share” sounds appealing at first. Who could be against fairness?

But there is nothing fair about a political agenda that punishes the middle class and lowers everyone’s standard of living — rich and poor alike.

DCNF-logoIn his proposed budget for 2025, President Joe Biden plans to not only increase income tax rates across the board, but also radically change the rules governing retirement accounts with large balances. What is being sold as a way to soak the rich will severely damage the average American’s ability to save for retirement.

Wealthy individuals with large retirement accounts will be forced to withdraw any savings over the government’s predetermined limits. To add insult to injury, those withdrawals will be taxed at a penalty rate.

This disincentivizes putting savings in financial assets like stocks. The result will be less money flowing into these traditional investments — vehicles which are ubiquitous among middle-class retirement accounts.

But Biden’s proposed changes would effectively force those with large savings accounts to liquidate their holdings and forbid those savers from rebuilding their drained balances. That represents a significant drop in demand for stocks and other financial instruments.

With that decline in demand comes lower prices. Thus, middle-class Americans will not see their retirement savings grow as quickly. But it gets worse for these folks.

Instead of owning things like stocks held in a retirement account, the wealthy will have to use other vehicles for investment, like housing. The essential mechanics work the same whether a person invests in equities or real estate: you buy an asset today with the anticipation of selling it in the future at a higher price.

The problem for the middle class is that the increased demand for real estate on the part of the wealthy will drive up demand for housing and put upward pressure on prices. That will exacerbate the homeownership affordability crisis already afflicting millions of Americans.

Furthermore, as wealthy investors gain additional incentives to purchase real estate, homes for sale will be taken off the market, replaced by homes for rent. This will force many Americans to rent forever and to miss out on what is often a middle-class family’s largest component of their wealth: owning a home.

Another deleterious effect of Biden’s proposed retirement change will be slower economic growth. When you tax or otherwise penalize something, you get less of it. By disincentivizing saving and investing among those with the most resources, Biden’s war on wealth will reduce the nation’s total investment in the economy.

Since private investment is the source of factories, machines, A.I. and other productivity gains, less investment means less growth, and that results in a lower standard of living for all Americans, regardless of income level.

The middle class are simply collateral damage in Biden’s war on wealth. His assault on high-income earners, innovators, and other targets of political demagoguery will cause far more financial casualties among average Americans — the very group Biden claims to defend.

His insistence on killing the Trump tax reform is a perfect example of this phenomenon. By allowing the tax reform of his predecessor to expire, Biden will be increasing taxes on virtually all Americans, including the middle class. However, one notable group will pay much less in taxes.

Ultra-high-income earners in high tax states — which are exclusively run by Democrats — will be able to take advantage of special deductions which the Trump tax reform has limited for the last six years. Millionaires in New York City will see their federal income tax liability decrease about 9%, despite their tax rate going up on paper.

By committing to ending the Trump tax reform, Biden is promising to give a handout to major political donors at the expense of the middle class. Such is the difference between rhetoric and reality.

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E.J. Antoni is a public finance economist and the Richard F. Aster fellow at the Heritage Foundation and a senior fellow at Committee to Unleash Prosperity. Caden Wolf is an intern at the Heritage Foundation’s Grover M. Hermann Center for the Federal Budget.
Photo “Stock Market” by AhmadArdity CC0 1.0.

The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of the Daily Caller News Foundation.



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