Sanders unveils economic plan a day before U.S. Democratic debate

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) – Senator Bernie Sanders, a day before the next debate among the Democratic U.S. presidential candidates, released a plan on Monday underscoring his left-leaning economic views aimed at curbing corporate tax avoidance, tightening antitrust enforcement and empowering workers.

Sanders, one of the top three contenders for his party’s nomination, said in a statement his plan would raise up to $3 trillion over 10 years by upping the corporate tax rate to 35 percent, eliminating most corporate tax breaks and loopholes, and taking steps to eliminate use of offshore tax havens.

The 78-year-old senator from Vermont, set to take part in Tuesday’s debate in Ohio after a heart attack this month, has sought to differentiate himself from another top contender for the party’s nomination, Senator Elizabeth Warren, who has issued her own set of economic proposals.

In an interview that aired on Sunday on the ABC program “This Week,” Sanders said, “Elizabeth I think, as you know, has said that she is a capitalist through her bones. I’m not.”

Sanders, part of a large Democratic field vying for the right to face Republican President Donald Trump in the November 2020 election, describes himself as a democratic socialist.

In his statement, he complained of “greedy corporate CEOs” rigging the tax code, harming market competition and hurting U.S. workers and communities.

“The American people have had enough. They are sick and tired of profitable corporations like Amazon (NASDAQ:), General Motors (NYSE:), Eli Lilly (NYSE:), Chevron (NYSE:), Halliburton (NYSE:), Netflix (NASDAQ:) and Delta making billions in profits, but paying nothing in federal income taxes,” Sanders said in the statement.

Amazon disagreed with Sanders.

“We’ve paid $2.6 billion in corporate taxes since 2016. We pay every penny we owe in the U.S. and every country where we operate,” an Amazon spokeswoman said.

Delta said it would soon resume paying taxes.

    “Delta accumulated tax credits during our years of losses after 9/11 and have been using those credits to account for our tax payments. We expect to return to full cash paying status next year,” Delta spokeswoman Lisa Hanna said.

Halliburton said in a statement it “complies with all federal tax laws and regulations and pays our corporate tax accordingly.”

General Motors declined to comment while the others did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Sanders called for tighter enforcement of antitrust law and undoing mergers that created highly concentrated markets.

His plan would require firms with more than $100 million in annual revenue and all publicly traded companies to begin selling shares to employees until they own at least 20 percent of the firm. These companies would also be required to let workers elect at least 45 percent of their boards of directors.

Sanders called for banning large stock buybacks as well as requiring companies that move production to robots or poorer countries to share any extra profits with displaced workers. He also advocated making it easier for workers to buy a company that is being sold or closing.