Assessing Joe Biden’s Tax Plan

Dear Capitolicos,

With only a week to go before the 2024 campaign season begins, today’s pretty much the last chance for Capitolism to evaluate 2020 candidate policy. Having already done that a few times for President Trump, I think it’s only fair to spend today looking at one of the more documented and analyzed portions of Democratic nominee Joe Biden’s proposed platform: his tax plan. (You can read my review of Biden’s potential trade policies here.) So that’s what we’ll do today, and I’ll save my Nachifesto for next Tuesday when literally no one on the planet will be caring about policy.

Should We Even Pay Attention to These Proposals?

Before we begin, however, an important disclaimer: As I’ve noted previously, “presidential campaign policies” do not necessarily become “White House policies” and instead merely reflect political calculations about what voters—especially key voters in key states—want to hear. Furthermore, even if a campaign proposal is what the candidate wants, it still has to be implemented, and that usually depends (for domestic policy, at least) on Congress—a body that could very well be led by the opposition party and, regardless of who’s in charge, would be subject to majoritarian processes that inevitably breed horse-trading and political calculation. This is especially the case for tax policy, given Congress’s constitutional role over revenue measures and its legislative expertise.

Nevertheless, campaign proposals often do form at least the starting point for future law, and the White House is increasingly involved in legislative plans and compromises. The proposals also tend to give us an idea of what the candidate—and his or her party—want to do, if given a governing mandate. So, to the extent that policy still matters at all in deciding elections (an open question indeed!), analyzing these plans remains worthwhile—just in case any of you out there are still crazy enough to be undecided.

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