Sanders breaks with campaign tradition in calling for tax hikes

Story highlights

  • Bernie Sanders told CNN's Chris Cuomo Monday night that he would raise taxes to pay for his universal health care plan
  • Since Walter Mondale, Democrats have generally campaigned on protecting the middle class and raising taxes on the rich

Washington (CNN)It had been more than 30 years since a Democratic presidential candidate said he'd raise taxes on all Americans.

Walter Mondale had been the last. In 1984, accepting his party's nomination he said: "Taxes will go up ...  It must be done. Mr. Reagan will raise taxes, and so will I. He won't tell you. I just did."
    It didn't work out so well for Mondale, who was trounced in that election by President Ronald Reagan.
    Ever since then, Democratic candidates have been scared to broach the topic, said Joseph Thorndike, a historian with Tax Analysts, which publishes tax information.
    Until Monday night, when Bernie Sanders told CNN's Chris Cuomo that he would raise taxes to pay for his universal health care plan.
    "We will raise taxes. Yes we will," Sanders said at the Democratic Town Hall, explaining that Americans would ultimately save money because they'd no longer pay private insurance premiums.
    Sanders' health care plan calls for raising income taxes by 2.2%. In addition, to pay for at least 12 weeks of family and medical leave, he'd boost payroll taxes by $1.61 a week for the typical worker.
    "Sanders is the first to say government is good and it's worth paying for," Thorndike said. He is "breaking the mold of Democratic candidates."
    Since Mondale, Democrats have generally campaigned on protecting the middle class and raising taxes on the rich. President Bill Clinton said he'd rather cut spending than hike taxes on Middle America. President Barack Obama promised he would increase the levy on the rich.
    Republicans, meanwhile, typically say they will cut taxes for all to spur economic growth, and their plans often give hefty breaks to the wealthy.
    The question remains whether Sanders can convince voters that the government is worth funding.
    So far, Sanders is doing better than many had expected. A Franklin Pierce University/Boston Herald poll conducted prior to the town hall showed him beating Hillary Clinton in New Hampshire and tightening the race with her in Iowa.