In a recent interview with the New York Times’ Andrew Ross Sorkin, Bill Gates gave his opinion on Elizabeth Warren’s billionaire taxes. As the second-richest individual in the world, Gates agreed the wealthy should pay higher taxes but insisted that making the tax rate too high could encourage tax dodging and become counterproductive.
However, the internet didn’t quite see it that way. Bill Gates’ interview made the rounds on Twitter with angry users calling him out for being a whiney billionaire. People latched on to one particular comment in which Gates noted that at some point, he’d start to take issue with how much he was being taxed.
I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine. But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math over what I have left over.
Bernie Sanders pointed out that Gates would have $6 billion left in that scenario, and that $100 billion from Bill Gates would “end homelessness and provide safe drinking water to everyone in this country.”
The angry mob of Warren and Sanders supporters retweeted witty remarks and eye-roll emojis over how greedy America’s top 1% have become.
However even as the masses weighed in on how billionaires shouldn’t be allowed to influence this year’s election, they continued to recklessly retweet Gate’s quote— out of context and missing 4 very important words: “Sorry, I’m just kidding.”
Moments before his infamous quote, Gates also notes that we could “go a long way” with tax increases on the super-rich. His point about “doing a little math” on what’s left over is a valid concern when it comes to tax hikes— make them too high and it becomes worthwhile for people to find ways around them. In the interview, he also notes that raising taxes too much could squash innovation in the US— both of which are worthwhile points.
Gates’ clear intention during the interview was lost in the Twittersphere where out-of-context summaries and incomplete quotes were passed around and chided. Next came claims that he was planning to vote for Trump if Warren became the Democrat candidate. Again, his comments in the interview were skewed to further enrage the masses and spur on billionaire bashing.
Gates actually insinuated that he would vote for Warren, despite his disagreements with her.
The backlash against Bill Gates is a prime example of what we can expect from social media this election cycle— half-truths, propaganda and outright lies. Sure, Twitter can ban political ads and Facebook can erase sensitive information, but that won’t keep candidates from fueling the angry mobs that support their campaigns with misunderstandings and out-of-context quotes.
Bill Gates’ interview came at a fortuitous time for Sanders and Warren as it blew up just as billionaire Michael Bloomberg started taking steps to become an official candidate. The result was another round of billionaire bashing that’s unlikely to end as long as Bloomberg’s hat is in the ring.
The former NYC mayor’s candidacy isn’t even official yet and already his campaign has been met with hostility among Warren and Sanders supporters who say he doesn’t represent middle-class America. Like Gates, he’s been portrayed as another stingy, entitled member of America’s elite. However, Bloomberg ranks #3 on Forbes’ list of most giving philanthropists . Bill Gates came in at #2.
Elizabeth Warren has based her can didacy on closing the wealth gap, claiming that “the rich are not like you and me.” That sentiment has been cheered among her supporters who agree that the top 1% should have to pitch in more. However, it’s worth noting that Warren herself, while not a billionaire, doesn’t represent the bulk of Americans either. Her tax returns show that her 2018 gross income was well above the top 1% as defined by the IRS .