Beto O’Rourke joins calls for wealth tax to avoid ‘kings and queens’

Democratic presidential candidate Beto O’Rourke is joining in calls for higher taxes on the wealthy, an issue that’s taking hold among the contenders for the party’s nomination in 2020.

Making his first campaign trip to the crucial early primary state of South Carolina, O’Rourke said one of his first acts in the White House would be moving to repeal what he called the worst excesses from President Donald Trump’s 2017 cuts in corporate and individual tax rates.

“Fundamental to this experiment to America and our democracy is ensuring we don’t have princes and princesses, kings and queens, a concentration of wealth and power and privilege,” the former U.S. Representative from Texas said at a campaign stop Friday in Rock Hill, South Carolina. “That is exactly what we have in this country right now.”

Beto O'Rourke, former Representative from Texas and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate
Beto O'Rourke, former Representative from Texas and 2020 Democratic presidential candidate, shakes hands with an attendee during a canvass kickoff event for Eric Giddens, Democratic candidate for Iowa state Senate, not pictured, in Waterloo, Iowa, U.S., on Saturday, March 16, 2019. In remarks on the first day of his 2020 bid, O'Rourke urged full legalization of marijuana in the U.S., but also called for stigmatizing the drug like tobacco to discourage children from using it. Photographer: Joshua Lott/Bloomberg

A wealth tax would generate revenue for “our common benefit,” such as infrastructure projects and health care, he said.

South Carolina will be a key test for the crowded Democratic field, fourth in line of the caucuses and primaries that get underway in February 2020. With 15 candidates so far vying for the Democratic nomination, those early contests are likely to provide a winnowing.

O’Rourke, 46, didn’t give any specifics about tax rates or income levels he thinks should be part of any wealth tax. The issue has been brought to the top of the Democratic debate by Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren, who’s proposed an annual 2 percent levy on household wealth over $50 million, and 3 percent on every dollar above $1 billion.

Senators and presidential hopefuls Senators Bernie Sanders of Vermont and Cory Booker of New Jersey would expand the estate tax, with Sanders calling for a tax of as much as 77 percent on the portion of estates worth more than $1 billion. Booker, who’s set to campaign in South Carolina this weekend, would increase estate taxes to pay for a $1,000 savings account for each American child at birth.