Bill Gates Urges Lawmakers To Raise Taxes On America’s Billionaires
The world’s second-richest person saw his own net worth double over the past decade.
Mike Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times
Topline: Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, the world’s second-richest person, has yet again weighed in on the wealth tax debate, this time arguing that he and his fellow billionaires should in fact pay higher taxes to help fix an unfair system that has led to growing income inequality.
Gates expressed his support for a tax system in which, “if you have more money, you pay a higher percentage in taxes,” he wrote in a year-end blog post on Monday. “I think the rich should pay more than they currently do, and that includes Melinda and me.”
The billionaire highlighted the growing wealth gap between the top and bottom incomes in the U.S., arguing that the “system isn’t fair” and that there shouldn’t be any reason “to favor wealth over work the way we do today.”
To solve the problem, Gates said the U.S. government should increase taxes on the ultra-rich: Specifically, he said that raising the capital gains tax (a tax on investment profits) would shift more of the burden onto the wealthy.
He also advocated for fairer state and local government taxes, not to mention a higher estate tax—and closing the loopholes in it that “many wealthy people take advantage of.”
The Microsoft co-founder’s comments come months after 2020 Democratic hopeful Elizabeth Warren first began publicly criticizing billionaires and calling for a 6% wealth tax on the ultra-rich.
Back in November, Gates had joined other billionaires in expressing skepticism over Warren’s proposed wealth tax, though he agreed that wealth inequality was a pressing issue.
Big number: Although Gates has given billions to charity over the last decade, his net worth has risen by over $50 billion during that period, thanks to favorable tax policies and soaring stock markets, Bloomberg reported. Gates’ net worth has more than doubled over the last ten years, to $108.5 billion, from $53 billion in 2010, according to Forbes estimates.
Tangent: Gates is certainly not the first member of the wealthy to argue that they should be paying higher taxes. Abigail Disney, for example, the heiress to the Walt Disney empire, spoke out against runaway CEO salaries as a prime example for growing wealth inequality in the U.S. She singled out Disney CEO Bob Iger’s “insane” pay package, which was $65 million in 2018—around 1,424 times the median pay of a worker at the company.
Crucial statistic: According to the tax calculator released by Elizabeth Warren’s campaign, which shows how much each billionaire would have to pay under her proposal, Gates would have to shell out $6.4 billion next year—a small hit when compared to his vast fortune.
Key background: With the 2020 election looming, many corporate leaders and figures on Wall Street have in recent months criticized Warren, viewing her as a threat to big business. In early November, a public spat erupted between Warren and billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, exemplifying the backlash that emerged after the Democratic senator announced her 6% wealth tax on billionaires to finance her large-scale “Medicare For All” plan. Several other high-profile business leaders and billionaires have since criticized Warren’s wealth tax proposal, including JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, Shark Tank investor Mark Cuban and ex-Goldman Sachs CEO Lloyd Blanfein. Hedge fund billionaires, such as Paul Tudor Jones, Steve Cohen and Stanley Druckenmiller, have also shared gloomy predictions of what a Warren presidency would mean for the stock market: a 10% to 25% drop, by their estimates.