Bernie Sanders Misfires in Tax-Shaming Billionaires Like Bill Gates

Bernie Sanders' attacks Bill Gates after the Microsoft founder expressed concerns about Elizabeth Warren's 'billionaire tax' plan. 'Billionaires should not exist', Sanders wrote in a September tweet. A new UBS report suggests that billionaires are drivers of growth and prosperity. Bernie Sanders is on a…

Posted in: Politics
Published:
November 11, 2019 3:17 PM UTC
  • Bernie Sanders’ attacks Bill Gates after the Microsoft founder expressed concerns about Elizabeth Warren’s ‘billionaire tax’ plan.
  • ‘Billionaires should not exist’, Sanders wrote in a September tweet.
  • A new UBS report suggests that billionaires are drivers of growth and prosperity.

Bernie Sanders is on a crusade to take on the billionaire class as he ramps up his 2020 presidential bid. The latest billionaire in his firing line is Bill Gates – famously the ‘most generous philanthropist in America’ – who Bernie suggested wasn’t paying his fair share to society.

The Sanders attack on billionaires might be a convincing rally call on the campaign trail, but it’s deeply flawed on so many levels.

A report published by UBS this week entitled The Billionaire Effect concluded that billionaires are, in fact, the most effective leaders and drivers of economic growth. They are also among the most generous and charitable philanthropists.

An excerpt from the report reads:

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The billionaire effect [is] the ability to transform entire industries, to create large numbers of well-paid jobs, and to rally the world to find cures for diseases such as malaria.

Bernie Sanders’ bizarre attack on billionaire Bill Gates

Bernie Sanders’ is right about one thing; wealth inequality is an issue worth fighting about. But the problem here isn’t all billionaires.

That much became obvious when he directed his anger at Bill Gates, suggesting he pay more tax.

Bernie Sanders advocates higher taxes for billionaires like Bill Gates. Source: Twitter

There are, of course, corrupt and evil billionaires in the world but Bill Gates is not one of them. His company Microsoft supports 144,000 jobs and families. He personally pays tens of billions in tax and even offered to pay higher taxes. He’s pledged the vast majority of his wealth to charity. The Gates Foundation has distributed $36 billion to global causes and helped reduce the impact of polio, HIV and malaria. He created the Giving Pledge, which encourages billionaires to pledge at least 50% of their wealth to good causes. It’s estimated to generate $600 billion by 2020.

To call out the ‘most generous philanthropist in America’ for not paying his fair share is as dumbfounding as it is insulting. And Bernie Sanders isn’t the only Democrat with billionaires in the crosshairs. Elizabeth Warren has also outlined a wealth tax that would hit Bill Gates and others.

Liz Mair, a notable political strategist, said:

This is fairly nuts. Bill Gates is in the process of giving away literally all of his wealth to charitable causes. The only difference here is Bernie thinks he can spend Bill’s money better than charities that Bill has vetted can.

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Billionaires: better leaders and broadly generous

The latest UBS report on the billionaire class reveals that most wealthy individuals have a lot in common with Bill Gates. It reveals a “billionaire effect” in which ultra-wealthy individuals significantly outperform others when put in a leadership role. The phenomenon is even stronger among self-made billionaires.

Why does [the billionaire effect] exist? In our view, billionaires have three distinct personality traits that benefit businesses – smart risk- taking, business focus, and determination. [They are] constantly scanning the world for new opportunities.

It infers that, actually, billionaires might do a better job of pushing society forward than politicians.

What about Bernie Sanders’ accusation that billionaires don’t contribute enough to society? Or give up enough money in taxes? Well, the UBS report pours cold water on that too.

At least 400 of the wealthiest 500 billionaires openly engage in philanthropy. As the Billionaire Effect report explains, ultra high-net worth individuals have a pretty strong sense of civic duty and passion to move society forward.

These entrepreneurs are seeking new ways to engineer far-reaching environmental and social change.

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Bernie Sanders is dead right that wealth inequality is a problem. But vilifying successful and passionate billionaires is the wrong way to inspire change.

This article was edited by Samburaj Das.

Last modified: January 11, 2020 2:31 PM UTC

Ben Brown @_ben_brown

Ben is a journalist with a decade of experience covering financial markets. Based in London, UK, his writing has appeared in The Huffington Post and he was Chief Editor at Block Explorer, the world's longest-running source of Blockchain data. Reach him at benjamin-brown.uk or on Twitter at _Ben_Brown. Email ben @ benjamin-brown.uk.

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