Early this month, Bill Gates, most well-known as the co-founder of Microsoft Corporations, was interviewed by The New York Times and voiced his thoughts on US Senator and possible presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax plans. Gates said, “I’ve paid over 10 billion in taxes, I pay more than anyone in taxes. If I would have had to pay 20 billion, that’s fine, but you know, when you say I should pay a hundred billion, okay, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over.” However, some media outlets have left out that he went on to say, “Sorry, I’m just kidding now.”
Later that evening, Senator Warren tweeted in response, “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.)”
On Senator Warren’s presidential campaign website, she lists an “Ultra-Millionaire Tax” under her many plans to carry out if she wins. In a box to add your email in support, it says, “A two-cent tax on the great fortunes of more than $50 million can bring in nearly $3 trillion to rebuild America’s middle class.” As stated on her website, “the families in the top 0.1% are projected to owe 3.2% of their wealth in federal, state, and local taxes this year, while the bottom 99% are projected to owe 7.2%.”
Senator Warren’s Ultra-Millionaire Tax proposes “zero additional tax on any household with a net worth of less than $50 million . . . 2% annual tax on household net worth between $50 million and $1 billion . . . 1% annual Billionaire Surtax (3% tax overall) on household net worth above $1 billion.” Gates’ net worth is 107.1 billion dollars, and after putting this through Warren’s wealth tax calculator, it is shown that he would be paying $6.379 billion in taxes next year if she were president, far from the $100 billion he fears.
When thinking about how to look at Gates’ side of this interaction, political science major Elizabeth Flatoff (‘21) said, “I think it’s important to look at what they are already doing with their money. Are they spending it? Or hoarding it?” In response to why billionaires might jump to conclusions such as Gates did, Flatoff said, “I think they always jump to conclusions as a way to demean, or demote what others are saying about the tax. If you can make it seem crazy enough, if you have enough pull, then maybe it won’t affect you. Maybe you can stop it.”
After looking at Warren’s side of the interaction, it is important to When asked if it would even be possible for a wealth tax to go through, Ben Peterson, visiting professor of history and political science, said, “If [Elizabeth Warren] is elected and a significant number of the house remains in fairly progressive democratic hands, and then, if, and that’s a big if, the democrats gain control over the senate, then she would have a fighting chance to pass the things she wants. Otherwise she’s going to be negotiating. However, it’s just too soon to tell.”