Julian Castro Agrees Large Marginal Tax on Wealthy Is 'Worth It'

January 6, 2019

One likely 2020 presidential candidate agreed that a high marginal tax rate on the earnings of high-income Americans would be "worth it."

ABC's George Stephanopoulos asked Julian Castro Sunday whether he agreed with Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's (D., N.Y.) plan for a 70 percent marginal tax rate on earnings. "Can you support a tax increase like that?" Stephanopoulos asked. "Once you hit $10 million? 60-70 percent?"

In a "60 Minutes" interview clip released last week, both correspondent Anderson Cooper and Ocasio-Cortez called the plan "radical," one openly admiringly.

When asked, Castro agreed in principle. "Oh, I can support folks at the top paying their fair share," he said. Castro characterized taxing different incomes differently as "fair," saying it ensured health care and "peace of mind" to lower earners. He said:

As you know, George, there was a time in this country where the top marginal tax rate was over 90 percent, even during Reagan's era in the 1980's it was around 50 percent. So do I support, in order to have something like Medicare for all, that we ask folks that are in the top 0.05 percent or 0.5 percent or the top 1 percent to pay more? And also, that we get more serious about making sure that the corporations pay their fair share, and that we're smart about understanding how, instead of folks having to pay sky-high premiums to companies that are seeking a profit to deliver health care, that we can have a better system where people can get good health care and have peace of mind, even if that means that we rearrange where those dollars go? Yeah, I support that.

Castro, the former mayor of San Antonio, served in President Barack Obama's administration. He was the secretary of Housing and Urban Development during much of Obama's second term, and was considered a likely vice presidential candidate for the 2016 Hillary Clinton campaign. During his time there, he ran afoul of the law. The Office of Special Counsel determined he violated the Hatch Act during a 2016 political interview. Obama declined to punish Castro for the transgression.

Speaking with Stephanopoulos, Castro had his attention fixed towards the future, though he was coy about his intentions to tax them. "You know what? During this campaign—if I run—I'm going to be very up front with the American people on how we would do that because I think that they are owed that," he said. Castro has previously said he is "likely" to run.

Despite any possible shortcomings–whether unpopular, unjust or harmful to the economy–Castro endorsed such a plan. A more sharply progressive tax rate "is worth it," he said. "It is worth it in this country for us do that."