Clinton Treasury secretary knocks wealth tax: 'Little chance of passing through the Congress'

Clinton administration Treasury Secretary Larry Summers last week slammed the idea of a wealth tax proposed by some Democratic presidential candidates while speaking as part of a panel on economic inequality. 

Top-tier 2020 hopefuls Sens. Elizabeth WarrenElizabeth Ann WarrenWarren goes local in race to build 2020 movement 2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides MORE (D-Mass.) and Bernie SandersBernie Sanders2020 Democrats make play for veterans' votes 2020 Dems put focus on stemming veteran suicides The Memo: Democrats confront prospect of long primary MORE (I-Vt.) have both backed a wealth tax as a way to combat income inequality.

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“For progressives to invest their energy in a proposal that the Supreme Court has better than a 50 percent chance of declaring unconstitutional, that has very little chance of passing through the Congress, whose revenue potential is extraordinarily in doubt — for that to be the defining element in the progressive agenda in the United States, it seems to me to potentially sacrifice an immense opportunity,” Summers said while speaking at the Peterson Institute, a think tank focused on international economics.

Summers prefaced his speech saying he was speaking as someone who believes in a "government that does substantially more to help the middle class and the poor."

He also said other strategies that could be used to combat inequality are taxing inheritances and closing estate tax loopholes.

Warren defended the idea of a wealth tax during the most recent Democratic debate in Ohio, saying that it is more effective than taxing income "because the rich are not like you and me" and make money from their accumulated wealth.

Sanders, while announcing his wealth tax plan, said, "We are going to take on the billionaire class, substantially reduce wealth inequality in America and stop our democracy from turning into a corrupt oligarchy.” 

Summers served as Treasury secretary between 1999 and 2001. He also served in the Obama administration as White House National Economic Council director.