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America’s Ultra Rich Have a Message for 2020 Candidates

In 2017, President Donald Trump and the Republican Party passed a tax bill that dramatically lowered taxes for some Americans—and American corporations.

But now some of these same Americans are sending the government a different message: tax us more.

Eighteen Americans, representing some of the wealthiest in the country, published an open letter on Medium on Monday calling on the 2020 presidential candidates to raise taxes on the richest Americans.

“We are writing to call on all candidates for President, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% of Americans — on us,” the letter reads. “The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans.”

The “us” includes the likes of George Soros, Abigail Disney, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, members of the Pritzker family, and Molly Munger, daughter of Berkshire Hathaway vice-chairman Charlie Munger.

“America has a moral, ethical and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more,” the letter continues. “A wealth tax could help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms. Instituting a wealth tax is in the interest of our republic.”

The signers refer specifically to Sen. Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax proposal, while clearly noting that this does not represent an endorsement for the candidate. The proposal would levy a two-cent tax on the dollar on assets over $50 million and an addition 1 cent on the dollar on any assets exceeding $1 billion. The tax would affect an estimated 75,000 families, raising $2.75 trillion over 10 years.

That such a “moderate tax on a minuscule number of Americans,” the signers said, could lead to such a dramatic increase in revenue is a reflection of growing income inequality in the U.S. The signers add that the “top 1/10 of 1% of households now have almost as much wealth as all Americans in the bottom 90%,” and while they “enjoy uncommon fortunes…[they] want to live in an America that solves the biggest challenges of our common future.”

A working paper by the National Bureau of Economic Research echoes this point, finding that the top 0.1% of Americans hold close to 20% of the country’s wealth, which is equal to the wealth of the bottom 90%. This is due in no small part to rising income inequality. An analysis of a Federal Reserve report found that between 1989 and 2018 the top 1% saw its total net worth increase by $21 trillion—the bottom 50%, meanwhile, saw its net worth decrease by $900 billion.

As such, the letter’s signers explain that they believe that a wealth tax is both fair and patriotic. These two points are among the six listed reasons that the signers note they support a wealth tax. The other reasons include using the revenue from the tax as a tool to combat the climate crisis, because it helps the economy, makes a healthier America, and strengthens American democracy.

Above all, they note that the arguments against “are mostly technical and often overstated.” And the people agree: most Americans want the wealthiest among us to pay higher taxes.

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