“Sumo Stew” and a Tax Explainer || Donuts & Broccoli

No, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is not coming for your wallet.

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Hi everyone, and welcome back to this Sunday edition of Donuts & Broccoli! For a donut this week, I bring you a video about something a little more savory: chankonabe, and the sumo wrestlers who love it. And for our broccoli, we dive into the “70% marginal tax rate” figure that has Fox News in a flurry—although it’s not like Ocasio-Cortez has to do much for that to happen.

Donut: Sumo Stew

This video from Vice is a few years old, but it’s never too late to bring chankonabe into your life.

Commonly known as “sumo stew,” chankonabe is a high-calorie meat and vegetable stew eaten by sumo wrestlers to help them train. This video from Vice’s food network MUNCHIES follows around Byamba, a world class sumo wrestler, as he cooks the traditional dish and later helps out some amateur wrestlers at a Sumo Seminar in California.

And afterwards, they all go out for chanko. This video is 90% chanko and 10% wrestling. Which I’m sure Byamba would be fine with.

“I never stop eating chanko because I love it,” he says as he chops onion and garlic for the big pot of stew. “Probably all my life I’m gonna eat chanko.”

It’s a common misconception that sumo wrestlers can eat anything they want, all day every day. Byamba explained in a Reddit AMA that to the contrary, their diet has to be “very healthy, high in protein and vitamins, low in fat, with almost nothing but fresh vegetables and meats, and nearly no sweets.”

When they go out for restaurant chanko, one amateur wrestler gives this warning:

Another offers a review of “squishy and delightful.” Another praises the “really really moist vegetables.” Altogether, it doesn’t sound the…most appetizing. But Byamba’s love for his sport and this dish is infectious.

And just check out his meatball technique:

Broccoli: What all those headlines about a 70% tax rate actually mean

When Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez isn’t freaking out the masses by dancing, or wearing jackets, or signing the devil’s book with Black Phillip, she’s working to return the United States to its traditional roots.

Why’s that? Because the 70% marginal tax rate she floated to 60 Minutes last week would be a return to the kind of rates our country had for most of the 20th century.

Really, it would be a step down from the tax rates that the nation’s wealthiest saw in the 50s and 60s, which hovered at around 90%. It wasn’t until the advent of Reaganomics in the 1980s that tax rates for the wealthiest Americans plummeted, reaching 28% in 1988.

In fact, this is the context in which Ocasio-Cortez brought up the idea. When speaking with Anderson Cooper for 60 Minutes, she said, “You look at our tax rates back in the ’60s and when you have a progressive tax rate system, your tax rate, let’s say from zero to $75,000, may be 10 percent or 15 percent, etc. But once you get to the tippy-tops —  on your 10 millionth dollar — sometimes you see tax rates as high as 60 or 70 percent.”

Ocasio-Cortez is talking about increasing the highest marginal tax rate, which today hovers at around 37% for individuals earning above $500,000. Though not an official proposal, she suggests taxing those who earn over $10 million at nearly double that rate.

But remember, that doesn’t mean the government would be taking $7,000,000 in taxes — a marginal tax rate is only applied to income earned over that threshold. Politifact explains it here. They also point out that only around 16,000 Americans actually earn over $10 million.

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(Politifact is also where I got this handy chart, showing the top marginal tax rates since 1913.)

So why all the fuss? Why were conservative news sites running around like the sky was falling? Why were liberal media sources publishing handwringing Op-Eds about divides in the Democratic Party, and a runaway leftist agenda? All of that for a soundbite that isn’t even a real proposal?

Part of it is a tactical obfuscation of the truth. Republican congressman like Dan Crenshaw and Steve Scalise are purposefully misleading their constituents with tweets about Democrats wanting to “take away 70% of your income and give it to leftist fantasy programs.”

They’re congressmen; they know how a marginal tax rate works. They’re hoping that you don’t.

So enough with the handwringing. Having leftist politicians bring up new ideas (or in this case, really old ideas) is good for democracy, and pushes the Overton window to the left.

I hope everyone is keeping warm this snowy weekend — maybe with a bowl of chanko! Or at least something that makes you as happy as it makes Byamba.

That’s your donut and broccoli for the week. Thanks for reading, and stay hungry.

More reading:

How marginal tax rates actually work, explained with a cartoon by Alvin Chang at Vox.

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is Singlehandedly Shifting the Overton Window by Jacob Weindling at Paste Magazine.

The Special Stew at the Heart of Sumo Wrestling by Natasha Frost at Atlas Obscura.

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