Ultra-rich seeking wealth tax to remedy inequality

Abigail Disney attends the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall

Abigail Disney attends the 73rd Annual Tony Awards at Radio City Music Hall

"Tax us more!" was the message on Monday from about 20 super-wealthy Americans who urged presidential candidates to back higher taxes on the wealthiest to confront climate change and other priorities.

Such a tax could "help address the climate crisis, improve the economy, improve health outcomes, fairly create opportunity, and strengthen our democratic freedoms", the letter said.

Other signatories include financier George Soros, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, Disney heiress Abigail Disney, venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, and one "Anonymous" who could have at least included their net worth if they were withholding their name.

"The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans", the letter continues.

The letter alluded to support among Democratic presidential candidates for higher taxes on the super-wealthy, including Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke.

The signers "thought it was important for people who would be affected by a wealth tax to come out publicly and say we want this, this is OK, this leads toward the America we want to see", she said in a phone interview. It would generate almost US$3 trillion in tax revenue over 10 years, they said.

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And it points out that economic researchers estimate that the richest 0.1 per cent of Americans will pay 3.2 per cent of their wealth in taxes this year compared with 7.2 per cent paid by the bottom 99 per cent.

The multi-millionaires and billionaires justify a wealth tax in several ways.

European countries have experienced mixed results with a wealth tax.

USA president Donald Trump proposed a one-off wealth tax in 1999 to cut the national debt, but did not make it part of his election policy. Those on the opposite end of the spectrum - those earning less than US$25,000 annually - saw an average personal income tax break of US$40. She estimated that it would raise $2.75tn over 10 years. At the same time, they have questioned whether vast family fortunes conferring outsize economic and political power are inimical to democratic values. Almost 20 per cent of the nation's wealth belongs to the country's richest people.

Some of those signing the letter have already expressed concerns about rising inequality. Disney, whose grandfather and great-uncle founded Walt Disney Co., recently called Chief Executive Officer Bob Iger's $65.6 million compensation package "insane".

Others signing the appeal include Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes and Liesel Pritzker Simmons and Ian Simmons, co-founders of the Blue Haven Initiative, an impact investment group, as well as Molly Munger, an attorney and the daughter of Charlie Munger, vice chairman at Berkshire Hathaway.

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