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The Billionaires Are Getting Nervous (nytimes.com)
55 points by doener 14 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 121 comments

Warren's wealth tax makes me feel like she doesn't really understand how most wealth is held by billionaires. It's extremely illiquid, held in company stock, private business, wealth funds, private equity, and other things that don't allow someone to easily pay her 6% wealth tax ever year. It also would fundamentally change how businesses are owned in America. Imagine Bezos having to sell off 6% of his Amazon stake every year...eventually he wouldn't be the major shareholder any more. Mutual funds would become the large shareholders of every business since they would get to avoid this tax. The stock market would tumble (in my opinion), as there would always be a constant "sell" pressure on the market.

Now, she's an incredibly smart woman and I'm sure she does know exactly how it's held and its problems, which just makes me think she's trying to grab headlines with her platform without any real plans on how to do it. (Which seems to fit with her pattern on her platform anyway).

Here are examples she presents in her plan.


Married couple with household net worth of $100,000—the median level in the United States

    Pays zero tax because they are below the $50 million threshold
Married couple with a primary and vacation residence and substantial retirement savings for a household net worth of $20 million

    Pays zero tax because they are below the $50 million threshold
Extremely successful small business owner of a $30 million business as well as additional assets for a household net worth of $40 million

    Pays zero tax because they are below the $50 million threshold
Hedge fund manager with a net worth of $500 million

    Pays a 2% tax on the $450 million in net worth above the $50 million threshold, producing a total annual liability of $9 million
Heir with a net worth of $20 billion

    Pays a 2% tax on the $950 million between $50 million and $1 billion, and a 3% tax on the remaining $19 billion, for a total annual liability of $589 million.

Why are we downvoting someone for giving examples?

She's sufficiently smart to know that a wealth tax won't have the impact you describe. In the same way that X% corporation taxes don't pull in anything like the revenue that you'd naively expect.

Your argument is, essentially, an "everything else being equal" one. But it won't be. Company structures, trusts etc will be restructured to best deal with whatever the new laws state. As they do with the current laws.

Of course, the corollary is that she's also well aware that it won't raise anything like the money that's suggested but, from her perspective, that's not a problem either. In fact, the opposite. Bringing in a wealth tax that the wealthy avoid is probably close to ideal: deliver on your promise and still have the bogeyman. Result.

What I think is genuinely interesting is that the whole idea of a wealth tax is now considered to be electorally sensible. That's a huge change from a decade or so ago and, potentially, makes way for much more radical policies to be touted without the usual faux-shocked response.

It can be changed otherwise the poor will do something. Just too extreme these days.

Btw it takes about 8 years to reduce the wealth to 60%. That will do the balance and you can have another president by then. It is not forever.

It's a huge difference from just 4 years ago!

It can be changed otherwise the poor will do something. Just too extreme these days.

Btw it takes about 8 years to reduce the wealth to 60%. That will do the balance and you can have another president by then. It is not forever.

Would that be a bad outcome? Wouldn’t the market become more active because more shares of highly relevant companies would be available?

It would probably wreak havoc on the stock price, which not only hurts the business in question, but hurts employee shareholders, pension/mutual funds, etc.

The effect would be similar to what typically happens to public stocks after employee lockups expire, except at a higher scale.

The current stock system is NOT sustainable.

We either rock the boat in a controlled fashion or the boat sinks and we all metaphorically sink with it.

I fail to understand why people think ridding ourselves of the status quo isn't going to result in alot of collateral damage.

Do you think Bezos' investments earn more than 6% per year?

If so, then his wealth would not decline with a 6% wealth tax.

Bezos sells some Amazon stock to fund his space company. He sold nearly $2b in July.

"Yet he is now the latest affluent American to warn that Senator Elizabeth Warren’s plan for much higher taxes on the rich would be bad not just for the wealthy but for the rest of America, too."

I've watched the clip several times now and this is horrible characterization by this journalist. The title of this piece even seems to be click bait-y. We're starting to have a national conversation about more heavily taxing billionaires again but so much of the media is pumping this up into a "the Populists are going to eat the rich" kind of hysteria.


I find it interesting that individual journalists are also terrified of this. Like, do we really think the current system is a sustainable system 50 years into the future?

Seems like a lot of billionaires on hacker news given the comments. The past two Republican presidents have pushed for and gotten massive tax "reforms" that reward these same people and cost the treasury massive amounts of new debt. Seems like just reversing all of the "reforms" would be fairly simple to implement and return the lost revenue without even needed to do anything new.

Most billionaires don't have ordinary income in the same way workers do. If they really wanted to target billionaires, they would increase taxes on long term capital gains and dividends, and eliminate the carried-interest loophole.

Non-billionaire here.

I'll almost certainly never be a billionaire. But I will probably do well enough, because I've learned how to live below my means and how to invest. Doing this properly will make anyone relatively wealthy after a reasonable working career.

The system works. These days, we have low unemployment, rising wages and a great market for retirees. It's not a good idea to mess with it.

You would likely never be affected by the wealth tax. Do you think your prudent lifestyle will lead to > $50 million in assets?

Most of these billionaires' net worth are not liquid cash, they're in shares of the companies they founded/own. Jeff Bezos' $111B net worth, for eg, is mostly in $AMZN stock. The way a 6% wealth tax accrues, if he does nothing productive with his money, he would have to pay $6.67B the first year...and then a similar amount every year after that. After 20 years, $111B would turn into $32B — a ~71% tax rate over that time period.

And because most of his wealth is tied up in his stock, he would have to liquidate large portions of $AMZN to pay the yearly wealth tax bill. That kind of sustained mass influx of supply of $AMZN shares on the stock market would wreak havoc on its stock price, which would reverberate through retirement/pension funds. Few would gain from it.

If you took all of Bill Gates' wealth, you could fund the US Federal government for about 8 days. Not 8 days every year, 8 days total, one time. If you took all of the Forbes 400 wealth, you could fund the federal government for about 8 months. The upside is 8 months of runway, and the downside is that you would destroy decades of created wealth (wealth is not zero-sum), a tide which has lifted a lot of other boats, particularly those of the upper-middle class.

> he would have to liquidate large portions of $AMZN

Not at all. He'd just have to sell that stock to someone else, with no operational effect whatsoever.

Retirement reform is part of Warren's plan.

Our retirement system isn't sustainable. Most people have literally nothing saved in their 401ks, etc. It also assumes a growing economy. The system is already in a failure state, we're just ignoring it.

I thought Gate's commentary was on Warren's proposal for a 2%/yr tax on all assets (not income) in excess of $50m.

The article instead seems to be entirely about marginal tax rates.

A wealth tax has a lot more implications than changes to the marginal tax rates on income and capital gains-- it has different economic effects and requires far more invasive interactions from the government.

E.g. the content of Gates' home is largely his own private business, but under a wealth tax will he have to account for all his possessions and report them to the government? If not, then why wouldn't the tax be avoidable by buying expensive art?

In the past, including recently, Gates has been pretty consistent about supporting higher tax rates for the wealthy, in particular citing estate taxes and capital gains as areas that deserved focus. (https://www.cnbc.com/2019/02/13/bill-gates-suggests-higher-t...).

To me this suggests that NYT is just trying to create a bad guy opponent to make a boring policy discussion sound like something that requires pitchforks.

The problem is that hoarding wealth in various assets like the real estate market is also part of the problem.

Gates barely has a normal income. What he does have is a ton of wealth that a lot of us see as something broken in the system.

You could cure cancer and you still shouldn't have THAT much wealth.

> real estate market

Real estate is already taxed in the US (at the state/local level). I doubt Bill Gates would have an enormous problem with adjustments to that either.

There are currently three New York Times articles on the front page of HN. None of them are particularly interesting or well-written. I really don’t see why this is necessary.

I would hazard a guess that it's because other people find them more interesting than you, hence they get upvoted.

A hand wavey subjective dismissal at the quality of writing is hardly a substantive critique.

How are they all to be seen as not well written? Too many comma splices?

Are they factually accurate and you don’t agree with the tone?

Are they factually incorrect and you like the tone?

“Knee jerk hot take” is pretty unnecessary.

Not surprising since they produce a lot of original content that's pertinent to the smarter crowd.

I would be happy if the New York Times was banned from this site. An awful lot of low quality and off topic content from there seems to constantly make it to the front page here.

> An awful lot of low quality and off topic content from there seems to constantly make it to the front page here.

It makes it to the front page because people vote it up. This makes it de facto on-topic.

HN moderation frequently removes things that people upvote-- including some of the most upvoted subjects (they're upvoted a lot because they're divisive political stuff).

I think this is good, FWIW. I just don't think it's useful to argue that it shouldn't be removed just because it's upvoted because that's clearly not how HN is run.

That's a separate issue than what's happening in this thread: someone accusing upvoted content of being off-topic.

afaict, HN mods generally remove submissions because their comments are a dumpster fire. Though I haven't witnessed it in a while. The last dumpster fire comment section I saw, dang just stickied his comment to try to encourage people to get back on the topic of the article and avoid the obvious knee-jerk response to it.

Individual contributor seeks change in group behavior to more closely appease contributors individual preference.

Such high quality discourse

I think there are plenty of billionaires who would agree that taxes need to be higher, but they disagree specifically with the taxing mechanisms being proposed by Warren and Sanders, namely the wealth tax.

Take everyone's favorite startup founder, Adam Neumann, of WeWork. Under Warren's plan, he would have been worth around 14 billion last year, based on a 30% stake in a $47 billion "valuation". So he'd owe close to a billion in taxes, when in fact, he was worth far less. And even if $47B was the correct valuation, there's not a great mechanism for him to actually get the liquidity to pay taxes.

So higher taxes on billionaires? I'm all for it. But we need realistic proposals to make it happen.

Then the taxes would've property shown the valuation of that company.

You're taking a whole system and applying it to a single variable and saying it doesn't make sense. WeWork should've never been worth that much and an inability to pay taxes would've shown that.

The fact that the tax rate for the very rich has been reduced that much over the decades (not just in the US) shows how much they have corrupted the political process.

Yes, the tax rate has been reduced, but since Reagan became President, the US has been on an unprecedented 40 year economic growth. The same can't be said for Europe, England, or any other country with giant top bracket marginal rates.

I don't understand this reasoning. Shouldn't unprecedented economic growth mean that the vast majority of US citizens are better off than they were 40 years ago? But this isn't the case at all. Back then the vast majority of families could afford to own a home, have a bunch of kids, etc. and do it all on a single income. That is laughable today. What is the point of a country experiencing unprecedented economic growth if the citizens of that country are by and large worse off? I assume that growth came at the expense of the citizens and not to their benefit. But if not to their benefit, wouldn't it have been better to not have the growth at all?

Americans are better off than they were 40 years ago.


This type of measurement of being better off is inherently flawed.

Insurance costs going up and employers paying more for that doesn't mean people have been getting a better and better deal.

Also why is it that the standard of life is higher and has grown to be much higher in many European countries with the so called "slow growth" vs America?

I don't need statistics to tell me this is wrong. I can just look at the lives of my family members, my friends, my neighbors, etc. This is an instance where common sense and real life experience trumps statistics. We all know the saying about statistics.

The reason wealthy don’t need to pay their fair share of taxes is due to all the tax loopholes. The solution to that is not adding more complexity in our taxes. The solution is to remove loopholes and make taxes as simple as possible. For a certain well known income, there should be a certain well known tax rate. And, after a certain minimum, there should be almost no ways to get deductions from that tax rate.

> The solution to that is not adding more complexity in our taxes. The solution is to remove loopholes and make taxes as simple as possible.

Simplicity in taxes is where all the loopholes come from. Taxes become more complicated in order to close the loopholes.

Define income.

Define wealth.

However we tax, we’ll have to define terms. The goal should be to remove loopholes in those definitions. Not add loopholes. By adding the concept of wealth, we’ll just encourage behavior like undervaluing assets (like art, private stocks, etc). And we’ll be back to square one.

Why would I define wealth? I am not proposing anybody does anything with, for, of, or in any way related to wealth.

"The goal should be to remove loopholes in those definitions"

So, define income, without loopholes. Your plan depends on this.

My plan? I’m not defining any plan. I’m suggesting that people who define plans should focus on removing loopholes that wealthy use today. Rather than giving them more chances to find loopholes. Income is something that we already use in taxes. If its definition has loopholes too, then “those people” should try to remove those loopholes in the definition.

p.s., There’s a difference in reducing loopholes and having absolutely zero loopholes (something that may be impossible)

Yes, your plan, the solution as you called it.

If the solution is that those people should try to remove those loopholes from the definition of income and there is nothing beyond that to explain how those people should do that then it is a vacuous solution.

p.s, There’s a difference in reducing loopholes and having absolutely zero loopholes (something that may be impossible)


It’s impressive how you’ve taken issue with my simple statement about “don’t add more complexity to taxes; simplify taxes.”

You’re basically arguing that I shouldn’t make this statement unless I have specific details about how to simplify taxes? I can’t make a general directional statement if I haven’t taken the time to learn about all the nuances? Do you always learn about all the nuances and define all the terms before starting a discussion?

It's impressive how you've taken a simple two word response to your start of discussion that aimed to succinctly demonstrate problems with your general directional statement with so much worthless blather. Do you always fail so magnificently to just accept the point when challenged in some pathetic need to 'win' the conversation?

Good point. We both are being pathetic in trying to win the conversation. Conversation that’s not even that stimulating. Okay, I’ll stop.

Marginal tax was 70%....

Yeah and what was inflation? And what was Reagan doing to fix it? It wasn’t all economic unicorns and rainbows in the 70s to 80s transition.

A tax on assets would be absolutely impossible to implement and would lead primarily to increase fees to accountants and lawyers.

Are you aware that taxes on assets already exist?


The Estate Tax is a tax on your right to transfer property at your death. It consists of an accounting of everything you own or have certain interests in at the date of death (Refer to Form 706 (PDF)). The fair market value of these items is used, not necessarily what you paid for them or what their values were when you acquired them. The total of all of these items is your "Gross Estate." The includible property may consist of cash and securities, real estate, insurance, trusts, annuities, business interests and other assets.

How do they calculate the fair market value of closely held private businesses?

I wonder how countries like Norway and Switzerland implement their wealth taxes if this is absolutely impossible. It's true that more countries use an inheritance tax which has a similar effect to a wealth tax.

We've got low unemployment (record low for African Americans and Hispanics), rising wages, and a strong stock market.

Why mess with things now? I'd understand it if someone wanted to monkey with things when the economy was awful. But why mess with it when things are good?

They'll cope.

Dude, don't be so casual about it! Some of them may end up leaving the 3-commas club!

Avoid giving clicks to companies like the NYT that are working to kill the open web.


Or trying to fund their operation? This article seems free anyways

Free the first time or sth. Everybody's trying to fund their operations, i don't see why paywalls aren't considered the spam (that they are)

Because there are people who believe in supporting journalism and understand that real journalism isn't cheap?

Like a lot of things in life, you get what you pay for.

There are people who support kayaking, that doesn't mean that Gmail should allow kayak fan spam in my inbox.

How is that relevant to the NYT charging for their work? You always have the option of not reading it if you don’t want to.

Google considers all kinds of hidden or caged content as spam, and will delist those sites, but they make an exception for paywalls.

If your issue is that NYT can get its entire article indexed even though people will hit a paywall when they go to view it, I can see what you're saying.

But you have to balance these concerns with what's practical. After all, a search engine is supposed to help people find things.

If an NYT article actually answers your search query, I don't think the greater good is for Google to not show you that result. I don't think that's what most people would want, either.

I feel the same way about Google hypothetically only indexing the part of the article that is shown above the paywall fold. What if the rest of the article can answer your search query? I don't think you're better off not knowing such an article exists.

There are only trade-offs.

The other things that Google bans are more obviously deceptive with few upsides to be found for the end-user, like cloaking a malicious website. I don't think you could enumerate the other sorts of things that Google blocks and compare them honestly to NYT's paywall, but I'd be curious to hear you build that case.

The article is just an opinion piece on Bill Gates opinion, it really adds nothing of value, no investigative journalism, no fact checking.

I argue that the only reason people are interested in this article is because of Bill Gates opinion not the ny times.

I think search results for the original opinion would be much more relevant than a random persons opinion of the opinion. The opinion of some one else's opinion is not worth money, if ny times considers that as quality journalism I think it says a lot about the quality of their journalism.

So you're upset that the NYT ran an opinion piece in the opinion section?

It's free with NoScript installed.

Thanks! I didn't know how to get by this paywall until now.

I got a paywall, its not free.

“Working to kill the open web”? That’s not how I would describe needing to get paid for their work.

The article is an option pice on Bill Gates opinion.

Bill Gates opinion is the only reason any one is interested in the article, and he gave his opinion for nothing because thats what opinions are worth.

Giving your opinion is free, doesn't require any investigation, doesn't require any fact checking, doesn't require any journalism.

To put it bluntly nytimes has added no value to Bill Gates opinion, they have done no work, total value of their contributions is 0 they don't need paid for nothing.

It's an opinion piece in the opinion section. You are, of course, always free not to read it and presumably their advertisers and subscribers will react by giving them less money if many people share your view. What I don't get is why you or the “libertarian” who posted the comment I replied to think it's important to get access to someone else's work while depriving them of the expected payment — it's like complaining when a hotel asks you not to sit in their lobby.

FYI: archive.is doesn’t resolve for people using cloudflare dns.

This was the case a while ago, but this has been fixed, I am able to resolve archive.is to the correct ip using

Hmm, you sure about that? You might be getting results from a fallback DNS server.

  | ~ @ TRUHQWSOSX3 (muser)
  | => nslookup archive.is
  ;; connection timed out; no servers could be reached

  | ~ @ TRUHQWSOSX3 (muser)
  | => nslookup archive.is

  Non-authoritative answer:
  Name: archive.is

Thank you I have been wondering where archive.is went

What's the reason for using cloud flare dns?

Fast and much more private than your ISP or local coffee shop router. Still doesn't stop these middlemen from snooping on browsing destinations, but it's a step closer.

This is thoroughly shoddy journalism.

> The available evidence strongly suggests that taxation exerts a minor influence on innovation.

No citation given.

> Congress has slashed taxation three times in the past four decades, each time for the stated purpose of spurring innovation and investment and growth. Each time, the purported benefits failed to materialize.

No citation given.

> President Trump initiated the most recent experiment in 2017. The International Monetary Fund concluded in a recent report that it had not worked.

This NYT piece is about individual income tax, whereas the IMF article exclusively analyzed corporate tax cuts.

> Decades of episodic tax cuts have left the government deeply in debt

Yes, though nobody in the article (or in the broader political arena) is all that interested in paying them off.

> The wealthiest Americans are paying a much smaller share of income in taxes than they did a half-century ago. In 1961, Americans with the highest incomes paid an average of 51.5 percent of that income in federal, state and local taxes. Half a century later, in 2011, Americans with the highest incomes paid just 33.2 percent of their income in taxes, according to a study by Thomas Piketty, Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman

There is no source for the 1961 number. That study says that the tax rate on the top 0.001% increased 185% from 1946-1980 and decreased 3% from 1980-2014. [1]


Aside from the typically bad NYT coverage, a point seldom brought up in many articles is the current income tax burden of the wealth relative the rest of the country.

More than 90% of individual income taxes come from the top 1% of taxpayers. [2]

I can't find that number for billionaires specifically, but some quick searching and math estimates that $9T from billionaires taxed at 23% accounts for $2T of $10T individual income tax.

So < 0.001% of individuals pay 20% of the income tax.

Makes me wonder what the opt-referred to "fair share" actually is.

[1] https://www.nber.org/papers/w22945.pdf Table 2

[2] https://taxfoundation.org/summary-latest-federal-income-tax-...

Let's tax the people who pay all the taxes even more...

The worst problem with these tax proposals is that they won't even raise half as much revenue as they need for the programs they are supposed to fund.

I prefer to think of it as, let's tax the people who benefit 10000 times more from the current system or who have probably a million times more influence than the average person. They certainly didn't work 10000 times harder and I don't think anyone should have the influence they do.

Do you have a citation for the claim that only billionaires pay taxes? I mean, why do Americans popularly fear April 15th if only a few thousand pay?

Honestly, no fucking idea. Most Americans get a refund because they have overpaid their taxes throughout the year.

> The specific proposals by Ms. Warren and one of her rivals, Senator Bernie Sanders, to impose a new federal tax on wealth are innovations that require careful consideration.

The NYT and myself have a very different definition of “innovation”.

Even if "innovative" was just a synonym of "original", it's not even an original idea, as many European countries have already tried a wealth tax -- and I'm fairly certain every country that has tried it has repealed it not long after.

Was the repeal a result of it not working, or a result of a more billionaire-friendly party returning to power?

"Working" in the political arena has a flexible meaning. They "work" in terms of, yes, they collect money.

However, they always collect way less money than the people who made the initial promises said, because the people who were making the promises always assume that if they tax wealth at 75%, their income will be 75% of the current tax base, at the time the wealth tax is proposed and/or passed. The problem is, if you make staying within your tax zone suddenly cost, say, literally 3 billion dollars (and that's the sort of thing we're talking about here), then you just gave the wealth a 3 billion dollar incentive to leave before your tax can come into effect, and the end result is the tax base is much smaller than was anticipated.

So they don't "work" in the sense that they will not collect anything near what the advocates promise they will, and they also chase the wealth away, which, for all the rhetoric about inequality and such, isn't necessarily a good thing for a polity. Generally when people want "equality", they want their wealth level to be raised, not to attain "equality" by lowering the average wealth level. Chasing, say, Jeff Bezos out of the country, along with whatever bits of Amazon he decides to take with him, is not going to be a net gain for the US, just as one example.

They also "work" in the sense that the Gini coefficient probably will indeed go down, so advocates can claim success. But it may not be what you were looking for.

(Also, for the record, I am neither particularly celebrating nor particularly condemning anything or anyone here. This is just how the incentives line up. You can't wish incentive structures away. Effective law takes incentives into account and harnesses them for the desired result. Generally, solving the Big Problems requires something other than the most obvious, direct approach, because there's a selection effect; if the most obvious, direct approach solved the problem, we wouldn't have it.)

> then you just gave the wealth a 3 billion dollar incentive to leave before your tax can come into effect

You can impose tax on leaving bigger than 3 billion dollars effectively removing leaving incentive.

Also you are assuming they are fluid and actually can leave and stay wealthy somewhere else, which is likely not the case for most of the wealth on the planet.

"You can impose tax on leaving bigger than 3 billion dollars effectively removing leaving incentive."

In the US, the country in question, you'd have some constitutional problems with that plan. That's a bad thing; you need this wealth confiscation to be clearly legal, because you have incentivized billions of dollars worth of legal expenditure to prevent it from happening. (There's those nasty incentives again.)

Also, it turns out that demonstrating to the entire world that you'll just take whatever you want, whenever you want, and punish anyone who tries to protect themselves from that, doesn't exactly incentivize a healthy business environment or encourage the kind of investment you need to create the wealth that you need to bring inequality down by bringing most people up. People need predictability to make plans for the future; this sort of thing extremely strongly incentivizes even shorter term planning than we sometimes get, because nobody knows whether you're going to come along and take most of their stuff tomorrow, or even retroactively. It's not a good plan to create a wealth-producing society.

It's really, really easy to "solve" the wealth inequality problem by simply destroying all (or almost all) wealth, everywhere. It's been done in several countries in the past century. It's not usually the solution people want when they're talking about wealth inequality... oh, they might take a small hit in spite if they knew it was really going to stick it to those "wealthy fat cats", but for the most part, people expect the end of "wealth inequality" to increase their own wealth, not destroy it.

"Also you are assuming they are fluid and actually can leave and stay wealthy somewhere else, which is likely not the case for most of the wealth on the planet."

It is the case for the sort of wealth we are talking about, though. Yes, you can indeed tax the lower and lower-middle classes very hard, because they tend to be unable to move. Not exactly a "wealth" tax anymore, though, is it? Billionaires can move wealth. After all, if we're talking a 75% confiscation rate, it's worth it to move overseas even if they take a 50% bath. Billions of dollars worth of incentives cover a lot of things.

You are sooo right. I hate when people make a promise to change a system by changing one variable and pretending that all the other related variables will not change at all. Tax the rich is just a soundbite. There are lots of ways to close tax loopholes. We need to raise taxes by creating the right incentives.

Almost certainly the later.

I know this is a hawkish view, but certain individuals have so much wealth and political influence that it's not so far fetched to consider them like a hostile sovereignty that has effective regulatory capture of the the countries they exist in. People generally don't like to be treated like serfs. The taxes will eventually stick, or there will be trouble.

They still have it where I live (Catalonia, Spain).

Also, the fact that was repealed doesn’t really say whether or not it was a good policy or not.

A clever twist in Warren's proposal is that the Government has the right to buy your property for whatever you've listed it for.

Now I'm sure any attempt to actually do that would end in a court case, but it's not really worth the risk to the owner of said wealth to offer the government all your Rembrants at bargain basement prices.

What value goes down on paper? The value that something has to you? The price that someone else would pay?

Let say you have Warren Buffett's shoes.

Warren Buffett paid $X for those shoes.

A pair of new shoes would cost him $Y.

Someone might pay $Z as they are Warren Buffett's shoes.

Someone might pay $V just to inconvenience Warren (so he would have to go to the shoe store).

Maybe they have some sentimental value to Warren, so he would pay $T not to lose them.

What are the shoes worth?

> What value goes down on paper? The value that something has to you? The price that someone else would pay?

I mean, I don't know anything beyond what the person you're responding to said, but they made it pretty clear:

> the Government has the right to buy your property for whatever you've listed it for

Couldn't they just offshore their assets?

Only the government for privacy's sake?

Why is the government buying property?

I think Argentina has a an asset tax on anything above USD $300,000 at 0.75% but they also have basis adjustments for inflation which I think is fair. The basis of all your assets increases as a result of inflation.

Spain, Belgium, Switzerland and Norway have some form of a wealth tax, and it can bring them between 0.5 to 3+% of total revenue.

If America could raise 1% of its revenue from wealth taxes, that would be a yearly revenue of ~$31.8B.

For reference, NASA's yearly budget is around $21B, and the cost of free college for all Americans would be around $45B depending on plan and how aggressive a single payer could reduce costs.

A person is a person and all of us must be equal - until it comes to paying things. Then it's ok to burden the rich for paying for dramatically more than their fair share.

When one runs out of other ideas, and can't extract money from the bottom 50% of US citizens who do not pay taxes, yet want to continue spending instead of cutting entitlements - treating rich people as another revenue source will continue.

Then it's ok to burden the rich for paying for dramatically more than their fair share.

They own dramatically more than their fair share so it all balances out.

A lot of it starts with how you frame the discussion. If you start from an instinctive sense of what's "fair", then you get the current state of affairs: escalating wealth disparity (where else is this more visible than on the streets of SF, where millionaires trip over the homeless?), an America in 2019 that has no sane health policy in sight, and guys like Paul Ryan gleefully crowing about reining in "entitlements" in order to feed an agenda of tax cuts. All of it starts from the kind of mindset demonstrated in the parent post.

If, instead of starting from a vague sense of what feels fair, you instead see wealth as a measure of one's responsibility to a society and look at the actual effects of these various redistributive policies, you get a very different picture. It's often pointed out (including in TFA) that some of the most prosperous, productive periods of American history had extremely high tax rates, but it's amazing when you actually look at the raw numbers for yourself:


It's baffling to me that faced with this, people continue to push this idea that the key to economic stimulation is tax cuts at the top end.

I mean, to me "fair" would be everyone paying the same tax total, like $1k per person per year.

The next level of "fair" would be everyone paying the same tax rate, like 10% of their income.

Just because a tax can be shouldered by some group doesn't mean it ought to be levied. It's extremely unfair.

Equity is evil. Equality is good.

The whole point of my post is that when your starting point in the discussion is to seek a taxation scheme that's "fair", you've already lost.

The point should be to seek an outcome that is good for the society as whole, and that means balancing a lot of different objectives. For example:

- People who are wealthy and successful should enjoy an elevated standard of living.

- Regardless of your birth and other factors outside your control (race, wealth of parents, etc), it should be possible to achieve wealth through hard work.

- No one who works hard should lack basic necessities like food and shelter.

The current system optimizes heavily for the first item at the expense of the other two, and the fact that someone can even propose with a straight face that a flat $1k/year taxation scheme would be "fair" is just a sign of how broken our attitudes around this are.

That's because having that much money gives you disproportionate power. That power should come at a cost. Democracy is supposed to represent each individual equally yet money (powerful lobbies) have swayed that in the favor of a very small few since forever. If equality is important when paying taxes then it should be equally important when pulling strings.

And if we're talking about fairness if you were always happy with one of these imbalances then it's only fair to accept the second.

Edit: Why would taxing "power" solve anything? We tax responsibilities and assets.

Sure there are massive inequalities in the US - but it is not because of "wealthy people". I could suggest it is because of the mainly failings of humans as a barely evolved species to create scaleable entities (businesses) as it requires a huge human effort, skill, luck, and capaiblity to do. Most humans give up on the really hard stuff required to build strategic levers that multiply their monetary outcomes. And instead focus on small ROI skills (monetarily speaking).

I disagree - I believe this is mostly projection. Most wealthy people aren't exorbitantly wealthy. There are 607 billionaires in the US (thats not many). They're not all hiring lobbyists, and trying to corrupt the US. Neither are the deca-millionaires, they're just either building things (businesses to employ others) or getting better at their craft.

You did not object to the fact that democracy does not give each individual equal share of power as one would expect. Since you don't object to the perversion of democracy you should not object to the perversion of the taxing system... mainly due to failings of humans as a barely evolved species to create scaleable [taxing systems].

A while ago, I was curious about the relationship between income taxes and growth in the US, so I looked up the data... and I was unable to find any clear relationship!!!

As one of many possible examples I could give, below is a table I compiled showing the highest marginal federal income tax rate and year-over-year real GDP growth in the US since 1950. Can you find a relationship?

My conclusion, so far: There's a tremendous amount of theory, and rhetoric, and posturing, and straw-man arguments... but very little or ZERO actual evidence that national economic growth is impacted one way or another. (In fact, in many cases the data shows higher economic growth during periods of higher taxation at the top of the income distribution.)

         Highest  Real GDP
  Year  Tax Rate    Change
  1950:    84.4%      8.7%
  1951:    91.0%      8.0%
  1952:    92.0%      4.1%
  1953:    92.0%      4.7%
  1954:    91.0%     -0.6%
  1955:    91.0%      7.1%
  1956:    91.0%      2.1%
  1957:    91.0%      2.1%
  1958:    91.0%     -0.7%
  1959:    91.0%      6.9%
  1960:    91.0%      2.6%
  1961:    91.0%      2.6%
  1962:    91.0%      6.1%
  1963:    91.0%      4.4%
  1964:    77.0%      5.8%
  1965:    70.0%      6.5%
  1966:    70.0%      6.6%
  1967:    70.0%      2.7%
  1968:    75.3%      4.9%
  1969:    77.0%      3.1%
  1970:    71.8%      0.2%
  1971:    70.0%      3.3%
  1972:    70.0%      5.3%
  1973:    70.0%      5.6%
  1974:    70.0%     -0.5%
  1975:    70.0%     -0.2%
  1976:    70.0%      5.4%
  1977:    70.0%      4.6%
  1978:    70.0%      5.5%
  1979:    70.0%      3.2%
  1980:    70.0%     -0.3%
  1981:    69.1%      2.5%
  1982:    50.0%     -1.8%
  1983:    50.0%      4.6%
  1984:    50.0%      7.2%
  1985:    50.0%      4.2%
  1986:    50.0%      3.5%
  1987:    38.5%      3.5%
  1988:    28.0%      4.2%
  1989:    28.0%      3.7%
  1990:    28.0%      1.9%
  1991:    31.0%     -0.1%
  1992:    31.0%      3.5%
  1993:    39.6%      2.8%
  1994:    39.6%      4.0%
  1995:    39.6%      2.7%
  1996:    39.6%      3.8%
  1997:    39.6%      4.4%
  1998:    39.6%      4.5%
  1999:    39.6%      4.8%
  2000:    39.6%      4.1%
  2001:    39.1%      1.0%
  2002:    38.6%      1.7%
  2003:    35.0%      2.9%
  2004:    35.0%      3.8%
  2005:    35.0%      3.5%
  2006:    35.0%      2.9%
  2007:    35.0%      1.9%
  2008:    35.0%     -0.1%
  2009:    35.0%     -2.5%
  2010:    35.0%      2.6%
  2011:    35.0%      1.6%
  2012:    35.0%      2.2%
  2013:    39.6%      1.8%
  2014:    39.6%      2.5%
  2015:    39.6%      2.9%
  2016:    39.6%      1.6%
  2017:    39.6%      2.4%
  2018:    37.0%      2.9%

Year-over-year real GDP growth: https://fred.stlouisfed.org/graph/?g=pssP

Tax rates: https://www.taxpolicycenter.org/statistics/historical-highes...

The increasing lack of a mass market consumer base for capitalist goods & services also threatens economic growth. In other words it does society more economic good for everybody to be able to afford a dishwasher than for a few people to be able to afford luxury goods. We've had decades of rather low tax rates and decades of rather low growth and no solutions given other than to double down on the low-tax investment-first strategy.

Low taxes sure bolster economic growth in the short term and bolster investment but they also lead to forms of societal decay like income inequality which leads to crime which leads the more demand for order which leads to cementing the accumulation of power. Left unchecked the powerful will accumulate resources out of line with their actual merit to society through the leverage of their existing capital. We're in a situation now where it's increasingly obvious how the rich are overcompensated relative to their productive output but countries race to the bottom to compete for their capital. If this race to the bottom were not happening every country would be better off taxing the wealthy more fairly but we're in a tragedy of the commons situation.

Tax on wealth (earnings which were already taxed once) will lead most shareholders to do the math and skip over to Canada or Europe if profitable. Especially companies ran in a remote/asynchronous manner.

You think they will give up their US citizenship? That's about the only way to get out of filing taxes.

This is the same bs* as trickle down economy.

.. or, it is not.

Care to explain?

What is the government going to do with the billions collected from wealth taxes?

If 'the billionaires' are as powerful as those like Warren and Sanders say no one has to worry about them ever being elected.

Additionally, I hear a lot from the left about modern monetary theory which essentially claims government can just print more money when it is needed and therefore collecting taxes is not necessary.

Which is it then? Perhaps they are attacking the wealthy out of political hatred and vitriol not out of a desire to help the poor or build roads.

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