Bernie Sanders: Yes, Family Leave Tax Would Affect All

Bernie Sanders Family Leave Tax

Democratic presidential candidate and Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders said Sunday that he endorses a small tax hike on all Americans to ensure universal access to paid family and medical leave.

Speaking on ABC’s This Week with George Stephanopoulos, Sanders acknowledged that a Senate proposal to fund 12 weeks of leave through a new payroll tax would indeed “hit everyone.”

“Yeah, it would,” he said. “But it would mean we would join the rest of the industrialized world and make sure that when a mom has a baby she can in fact stay home with that baby for three months, rather than going back to work at the end of one week.”

Sanders, a self-described democratic socialist who has been elected to the House first and then Senate as an independent from Vermont, has centered his presidential campaign around the issue of income inequality. While shying away from a full embrace of the “socialist” label, Sanders has railed against the disparities between most Americans and the wealthiest 1% while offering European social democracies like Germany and Denmark as his models.

“We have huge amounts of tax loopholes that exist for the wealthy and large corporations,” he said on Sunday, pointing out that he wants to close those gaps.

Earlier this year, Sanders introduced the College for All Act that would make undergraduate tuition free for students at public colleges and universities. How would that be funded? By a so-called “Robin Hood Tax” on speculative Wall Street trading.

In a statement at the time, Sanders argued for the plan by saying

“We live in a highly competitive global economy and, if our economy is to be strong, we need the best-educated work force in the world,” Sanders said in a statement at the time. “That will not happen if, every year, hundreds of thousands of bright young people cannot afford to go to college, and if millions more leave school deeply in debt.”

But when Stephanopoulos pressed Sanders on Sunday about whether he would raise any taxes on those outside of the wealthiest class of Americans, the senator pointed to a proposal by New York Senator Kirsten Gellibrand to guarantee paid family or medical leave through a 0.2% payroll tax. That would affect all workers.

“We are the … only major country on earth that doesn’t guarantee paid family and medical leave,” Sanders said.

Written by Gene Giannotta

Gene Giannotta is a writer based in Washington, D.C. He reports on economic policy, finance and business news.