Biden Takes Senate Republicans To School On Tiny Millionaire’s Surtax (VIDEO)

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One reason you can expect unanimous Republican opposition to Senate Democrats’ latest jobs bill Friday is because it includes a tax — a 0.5 percent surtax on income above $1 million starting in January 2013.

That would raise enough money over the next 10 years to cover the $35 billion cost of hiring and retaining about 400,000 teachers and emergency responders next year — but for Republicans, it’s not worth it.

“This is the worst possible way to promote economic growth and job creation,” warned Sen. Jon Kyl (R-AZ) — the Senate Minority Whip, and member of the joint deficit Super Committee.

Enter Vice President Joe Biden, who at a Capitol Hill rally on Wednesday provided a lesson on just how modest the tax is.“You have a one-half of one-percent surtax on the 1,000,0001th dollar — in other words it doesn’t affect anybody who makes $999,000, it doesn’t affect anybody making $999,999 — and if you want to find the guy who make $1,000,0001, it only affects that $1. That’s the only thing the rate goes up on,” Biden explained.

This is a basic fact about marginal tax policy, but its one Republicans like to obscure.

“If you make $1.1 million, and god-willing this passes, you would pay next year, $500 more in taxes,” Biden said.

Biden claimed the average income of people who earn more than $1 million a year is $3 million. The jobs bill would cost a person making that much money $10,000 in 2013 — exactly one-third of one-percent of his total income.

“I say to the American people: watch your senator,” Biden said. “Watch him or her choose: Are you going to put 400,000 school teachers back in classrooms; are you going to put 18,000 cops back on the street, and 7,000 firefighters back into firehouses? OR are you going to save people with average income over $1 million a one-half of one-percent increase in tax on every dollar they make over a million.”

A lot of Republicans oppose this piece of Americans jobs bill because, they say, it’s temporary — a sugar high for the economy.

Before a supportive audience on Capitol Hill, Biden had an answer for that criticism as well.

“In housing the bottom fell out, foreclosures increased particularly in poor neighborhoods, abandoned homes … drug lords moved in, arson increases, budgets fall because property taxes fall, cops and firefighters get laid off, response times increase from five minutes to thirty, and innocent people die and people’s homes burn to the ground,” he said. “There’s nothing temporary about kindergarten being eliminated, that will have an effect on that child the rest of his life…. There’s nothing temporary about the life saved in a home invasion or a robbery because the squad car was able to get there in five minutes and not in thirty.”

Late update: Here’s video of Biden’s math lesson.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Brian Beutler is TPM's senior congressional reporter. Since 2009, he's led coverage of health care reform, Wall Street reform, taxes, the GOP budget, the government shutdown fight and the debt limit fight. He can be reached at brian@talkingpointsmemo.com
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