Show us the money

  • 2 July 2019
  • NormanL

A small group of multimillionaires and billionaires wrote a letter to the 2020 presidential candidates urging the passage of a new wealth tax. Their reasoning? Such a levy would strengthen democracy, make all Americans healthier (no -- really, they wrote that) and generally make the candidates popular with voters.

Putting aside whether any tax has every done such things, the Wall Street Journal has a suggestion for these wealthy tax hikers: don't wait for the government to act. Send your checks to Uncle Sam today:

If billionaires see themselves as a threat to “the stability and integrity of our republic,” they could cease being billionaires any day. If retiring student debt is vital, they could put out a call to graduates and start paying off loans. If the climate is a priority, they could fund a green Manhattan Project.

Maybe they’re intent on routing their largesse through the government, since it already does such a bang-up job of setting priorities and spending prudently. Again, though, why wait for legislation? They could start contributing more today. First, they could pledge to forgo all tax write-offs, including on charitable donations and foundations. As a side benefit, this would save them money on accountants.

Second, they could put their money where their convictions are by writing a big annual check—3% of assets each year, going by Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax—to local, state or federal government. The Treasury accepts “Gifts to the United States” at P.O. Box 1328, Parkersburg, W.Va. Donations usually go to the general budget, but state policies differ, and maybe an exception could be made to let benevolent billionaires specify an earmark in the “memo” line.

The Journal offers several specific program the patriotic billionaires could adopt right now -- from paying for the California bullet train boondoggle to writing checks to underfunded public pension systems.

But as everyone knows, such selflessness will not happen.

There's an old saying in politics: you can have the issue, or you can have the solution. You can't have both. The billionaires want to have the issue -- and keep their money -- rather than pay up today.