A group of billionaires just co-signed a letter to all 2020 presidential candidates asking them to support a small tax on their net worths, calling such a tax “patriotic.”
The letter, which was signed by 19 billionaires — including heirs to the Disney and Hyatt fortunes as well as an early Amazon investor — asked all candidates to officially adopt a policy stance of taxing net worths in excess of $50 million. The billionaires wrote that such a tax would raise roughly $3 trillion in revenue over a ten-year period, and that paying such a tax is their “patriotic duty” as members of America’s ownership class.
“In our republic, it is the patriotic duty of all Americans to contribute what they can to the success of the country, and the wealthiest are no exception. Others have put far more on the line for America,” the letter read. “Those of us in the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% should be proud to pay a bit more of our fortune forward to America’s future. We’ll be fine—taking on this tax is the least we can do to strengthen the country we love.”
Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Massachusetts) is running on such a plan, which she dubs the “ultra-millionaires tax.” The proposal is was a hit with Americans of all political stripes in a Politico/Morning Consult poll earlier this year, with 61% of Americans supporting it, including 75% of Democrats, 50% of Republicans, and 56% of Independents.
Senator Bernie Sanders (I-Vermont), who is competing with Warren in the progressive space of the Democratic primary, has proposed a different form of wealth taxation by expanding raising the estate tax. Under Sanders’ “For the 99.8% Act,” inheritances of $3.5 million and up would be taxed at 45%; inheritances of $10 million and up would be taxed at 50%; inheritances of $50 million and up would be taxed at 55%, and inheritances in excess of $1 billion would be subjected to a 77% tax. Revenue estimates for Sanders’ plan are difficult to calculate, however, as they depend on a member of the ownership class passing their wealth to their families after death.
However it is ultimately addressed, wealth inequality in America is currently at levels not seen since prior to the Great Depression, according to University of California-Berkeley economics professor Gabriel Zucman. This inequality was exacerbated by the Republican tax cuts of 2017, which overwhelmingly benefited the wealthy. Goldman Sachs even predicted that the 2017 tax cuts could be the precursor to another recession.
Tom Cahill is a contributor for Grit Post who covers political and economic news. He lives in Bend, Oregon. Send him an email at tom DOT v DOT cahill AT gmail DOT com.