(Bloomberg) -- Ask Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg how he’ll pay for his plans to create jobs, provide health insurance and repair roads and bridges, and you get the same answer: Wait until you see my tax plan.
Bloomberg has released almost 20 proposals since joining the race on Nov. 24: $1.2 trillion for infrastructure. $70 billion of federal spending in low-income neighborhoods to aid black homeownership. Another trillion and a half for health care. He hasn’t detailed where the money for the ambitious proposals will come from.
If Bloomberg comes out of Super Tuesday among the Democratic race’s top tier, there will be increasing pressure on him to explain how he’s going to pay for his policies, said Don Fowler, a former Democratic National Committee chairman who hasn’t endorsed a 2020 candidate.“There will be a great hue and cry for him to add substance to his proposals and do it very quickly,” Fowler said.
Bloomberg’s campaign says that it plans to release further details about the tax proposal as soon as next week and that it will show how he plans to pay for his proposals.
That would mean details come out before 14 U.S. states vote March 3 on Super Tuesday, the contests on which Bloomberg is staking his campaign. But until then, voters have only heard him say he supports “taxing wealthy people like me” to pay for a growing list of policy proposals.
The $250 million in advertising he’s spent so far delivering this message has garnered him 8% in a national poll released Sunday by the Washington Post and ABC News, enough for fourth place. That put him ahead of Andrew Yang, Pete Buttigieg and Amy Klobuchar and behind the front-running Bernie Sanders, Joe Biden and Elizabeth Warren.
A Fox News poll on Sunday showed Bloomberg in fourth place with 10% support, behind Biden, Sanders and Warren.
The approach is at odds with Bloomberg’s pitch -- that his three terms as New York mayor and in building the company that bears his name show he’s a practical problem solver, someone who takes a data-driven approach to running government efficiently.
It’s also at odds with his Democratic rivals who often explain revenue streams when they propose big programs. No one does that more thoroughly than Warren, whose plan to pay for her $20.5 trillion health care plan ran 19 pages.
Not that their estimates have always had pinpoint accuracy. Warren’s and Sanders’s Medicare For All cost estimates differ by $10 trillion. And academics have found Warren’s, Biden’s and Sanders’s revenue estimates from their tax plans overly rosy.
The lack of details hasn’t stopped the Bloomberg campaign from rolling out the proposals in his campaign’s earliest days, sometimes at a clip of two or three a week. The media has started to notice, as one recent Associated Press article led off by noting the lack of details about paying for a promise to create millions of new jobs.
Bloomberg’s plans on health care, the economy, climate change and other issues where he specifies costs total more than $3 trillion over 10 years. Many more don’t list a cost.
Bloomberg is the founder and majority owner of Bloomberg LP, the parent company of Bloomberg News.
His campaign has said it’s hard to determine cost estimates because plans are related, and the cost or savings in one proposal can affect another. But the campaign has consistently said that Bloomberg’s tax plan will pay for the policies he is releasing.
No Wealth Tax
Bloomberg himself has said little about his tax plan other than he supports increasing taxes on the rich but not with a wealth tax. He opposes the wealth taxes proposed by Warren and Sanders, which would place a tax on the fortunes of millionaires and billionaires.In a Jan. 11 interview, Bloomberg said the corporate tax rate cut in the Republicans’ 2017 tax overhaul was necessary for competitive reasons but was too deep, and he opposed the measure’s cuts in income-tax rates.“I’ve said I didn’t need the cut, and that was the money that we needed for infrastructure,” Bloomberg said. “You can expect me to try to rectify that in our proposals.”As New York’s mayor, Bloomberg increased property taxes by 18.5% in 2003 – the largest in the city’s history -- to generate $837 million to plug budget deficits. His poll numbers suffered but he was re-elected in 2005.
Other Democratic presidential candidates have released cost estimates and funding sources for their plans in varying levels of detail. Biden has said he would pay for $3.2 trillion in proposals with new and higher taxes on the wealthy and corporations, including a minimum federal levy targeting companies that have reported paying no federal income taxes in recent years.
Sanders has said his Medicare-for-All plan alone would cost more than $30 trillion over a decade but hasn’t fully detailed how he’d pay for it except to say taxes would go up while out-of-pocket health costs would go down.
Leonard Burman, a fellow at the Urban Institute, a nonpartisan policy research group in Washington, said he would expect Bloomberg “to put out a package where the revenues could cover the costs, but it’s just really hard to tell what it would look like without knowing the exact price tag and the details.” Burman co-founded the Tax Policy Center, which analyzes candidate tax plans.
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