Radical is relative

2023-05-16 10:48:56 -08:00

This was originally posted as a tweet thread in September 2019, back when Sen. Elizabeth Warren was a Presidential candidate advocating for a wealth tax. I have lightly edited it, mostly to account for the change in format plus a few other tweaks, but otherwise this is as I posted it then.

I went looking at Senator Warren’s wealth tax proposal.

Two things.

First: Wealth taxed includes “residences, closely held businesses, assets held in trust, retirement assets, assets held by minor children, and personal property with a value of $50,000 or more”.

I was looking at this because I was wondering how much it would apply to (as an example) Jeff Bezos. Bezos has a big pile of Amazon shares, but not a majority stake, so it’s not “closely held”. Not sure if any other criteria (e.g., trust) would cover it.

I like the wealth tax idea (though I’m sure it’ll get challenged in court if it ever happens) but want it to go farther: Include all stock directly held.

IMO, holding more than $50 million in stock should qualify you to start paying 2% of the overage as real money in tax.

Like, I would consider not wealth-taxing all stock to be a big loophole leaving a shit ton of money—and of “oh shit, gotta stop hoarding wealth” effects—on the table.

Bezos’s wealth-taxed net worth should be ~$110 billion [as of September 2019], not some number of millions.

Second: Senator Warren’s proposed wealth tax (somewhat famously but I probably shouldn’t neglect to mention it) kicks in at $50 million.

So imagine a thermometer. All them assets—your nine houses, $51,000 car, etc.—fill up the thermometer. If it doesn’t reach $50 million, you’re not wealth-taxed. But if it does pass $50 million, every dollar of total assets after that gets taxed 2%.

So if you have $50,000,000.00, you pay $0 tax—not $1 million.

If you have $50,000,001.00, you pay 2¢.

(Disclaimer: I am not a tax attorney.)

So both observations are why I think Senator Warren’s proposal is a moderate plan. A truly radical, socialist, wealth-redistributing proposal could go much farther!

I still like it. This isn’t an anti-Warren thread post by any means.

All’s I’m saying is: Fight for this, then fight for more.

Always remember the frame of reference you evaluate something in.

In our society, billionaires are normal. Low income tax rates upon them: normal. $billion corps paying $0 tax: normal.

Senator Warren’s proposal seems radical because it is: It’s corrective action to a tilted economy.

It’s radical in the sense that it is a significant deviation from the status quo. A change. No more full speed ahead—here we turn left.

Repealing past tax cuts is also a change. But less radical.

A more expansive wealth tax? More radical.

Radical is a spectrum.

So reject the idea that “radical” is necessarily bad—radical is just change. What change? That’s what matters.

How much is warranted? How much is too much? How much is not enough?

How much should we fight for, how much should we accept, how much more should we fight for after?

Senator Warren’s wealth tax is radical. It is also moderate.

It is corrective action on a damaged economy. A change, and I think a necessary one.

It could go farther. It’s a good start.

I hope it gets enacted. And I hope it gets improved.

Leave a Reply

Do not delete the second sentence.