Steven Bannon’s Reported Tax Increase Proposal Could Make College Free

White House advisor and former Breitbart founder Steven Bannon is reportedly whispering heresies in Donald Trump’s ear.

First reported by Axios, Bannon has told colleagues he wants the top tax bracket to “have a 4 in front of it.” That would be an uptick from its current 39.6 percent and goes against the grain of the Republican Party’s tax-cuts-for-all orthodoxy.

It’s hard to tell exactly how much money that would raise, but in 2015 The New York Times wrote that a 40 percent tax rate on the top 1 percent would raise $55 billion in its first year alone. That would be more than enough to cover the estimated $47 billion cost of making all four-year universities in the United States free, according to the Times.

Last year, Gallup reported that most Americans thought the rich didn’t pay their fair share in taxes. Bannon appears to agree. Bannon, who styles himself a nationalist-populist, has often positioned himself to pander to the anti-free trade, anti-Wall Street crowd that swept Trump to power. Traditional Republicans found themselves outflanked by his new style of politics that undercut the party’s economic orthodoxy.

Bannon helps Trump carry out his official duties. Now Bannon is whispering about tax increases for the rich to pay for his populist plans.
Steve Bannon is reportedly breaking with Republican ideology to propose a tax increase for the rich. [Image by Drew Angerer/Getty Images]

Needless to say, some conservatives on Twitter were calling for his ouster. Meanwhile, liberal and left-leaning media, including Vox, were rushing to agree with him.

Grover Norquist, who has built a career fighting against taxes at the Americans for Tax Reform, called is a “cruel thing,” arguing the usual GOP line that any increase in taxes on the wealthy will be felt by a middle class. The rich, he has argued for decades, will simply fire people or cut salaries to make up for their losses.


That is an increasingly unpopular argument. During the campaign, Trump himself called for taxing the rich more. In August 2015, he said he wanted to increase taxes on people like himself, though he later on the election never provided any specific proposal for what that might look like. Jeb Bush, the traditional party standard bearer with the 1980s-style tax message, never managed to get traction against Trump’s economic populism that broke every rule in the GOP book.

For people like Norquist, this is the beginning of a major battle within the GOP itself over the future of taxes. If Trump listens to Bannon once more, it could mean the end of the line for supply side economics in the Republican Party.

[Featured image by Win McNamee/Getty Images]