Bill Gates, a man who’s worth an estimated $156 billion, suggested on Wednesday he’d be open to voting for U.S. President Donald Trump in 2020 if the Democrats try to make him pay his fair share in taxes. The bizarre suggestion is just the latest sign that American oligarchs are prepared to support an authoritarian if Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax moves forward.
“If I had to pay $US20 ($29) billion, it’s fine,” Gates said at the New York Times DealBook conference yesterday when discussing a possible wealth tax. “But when you say I should pay $US100 ($145) billion, then I’m starting to do a little maths about what I have left over.”
The crowd laughed before Gates said, “Sorry, I’m just kidding.”
Warren’s proposed wealth tax wouldn’t make him pay $145 billion, but even if it did, Gates would have about $10 billion left over. In reality, Warren’s wealth tax would be 2 per cent annually on people worth over $75 million and 3 per cent annually on Americans worth over $1.5 billion. The tax would bring in roughly $4 trillion in revenue over 10 years, according to Warren, and would fund things like education and health care for all Americans.
Gates, who describes himself as in favour of progressive taxation, said that he’s not going to declare who he’ll vote for in 2020, but suggested that he’s at least open to voting for Trump if his opponent isn’t “professional” enough.
“I’m not going to make political declarations,” Gates said. “But I do think no matter what policy somebody has in mind [...] whoever I decide will have the more professional approach in the current situation, probably is the thing I will weigh the most. And I hope that the more professional candidate is an electable candidate.”
What does it mean to be “professional”? Presumably, that’s code for letting billionaires get away with hoarding enormous amounts of wealth since Gates says he wants to find a “middle ground” in the current political debate.
The thing that Gates doesn’t seem to understand is that a 3 per cent wealth tax on billionaires is the middle ground in a wealthy country that doesn’t have a basic social safety net like the rest of the world.
The U.S. is the only wealthy country in the world that doesn’t guarantee health care to all of its citizens, and the only country, along with Papua New Guinea, that doesn’t guarantee paid parental leave. Those facts are considered extreme by the rest of the world. And yet, Gates seems to think that a 3 per cent wealth tax on billionaires is extreme.
Gates also said at the conference that he doubts Warren would bother sitting down with him to discuss her new tax plan, another thing that seemed to get laughs from the audience.
“I’m not sure how open minded she is, or that she’d even be willing to sit down with somebody who has large amounts of money,” Gates said.
Warren responded on Twitter that she’d be more than willing to talk with Gates about her wealth tax.
“I’m always happy to meet with people, even if we have different views. @BillGates, if we get the chance, I’d love to explain exactly how much you’d pay under my wealth tax. (I promise it’s not $100 billion.),” Warren tweeted on Wednesday.
This is as good of a reminder as any that billionaires care about controlling their wealth more than almost anything. Gates has been a critic of Trump for years, but he’s not above flipping sides to make sure that billionaires continue to exist.
Billionaires shouldn’t exist, of course, because no one “earns” a billion dollars. There simply aren’t enough hours in the day for anyone to earn that much money. A billion dollars is simply taken.
A billion dollars is more than any one person can spend within a lifetime and there’s no good reason that a civilised society should allow someone to hoard that much wealth while so many Americans are suffering. And if Gates believes that a 3 per cent wealth tax is extreme, he needs to grow the fuck up because Americans aren’t going to stand for it much longer.