Disney will probably not be making a movie any time soon about “Patriotic Millionaires,” an interesting group of some 200 members who are fighting their own class in the name of closing the income inequality gap--even with a Disney heiress leading the call to arms. The Patriotic Millionaires is a group of wealthy Americans concerned about … their own wealth to the extent that they are calling for increased estate taxes, taxes on the wealthy and corporations, higher minimum wages and an end to tax havens.
The group’s members, who describe themselves as "proud traitors to their class”, include technology entrepreneurs, software engineers, Wall Street investors, industrialists…
Last month, the group unveiled its first endorsements for this year’s congressional elections, and they plan to back some 50 lawmakers who have been calling for higher taxes on the rich since entering Congress last year.
It’s a “patriotic” bonanza for several Democratic candidates for US president in the 2020 election, including Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, who have also proposed new taxes on the super-rich to address inequality.
So, how wealthy do you have to be to join the ‘Patriotic Millionaires’? You have to be earning at least $1 million a year, or have a net worth of $5 million.
With some 200 members so far, there isn’t exactly a rush to join the club, considering that there are around 2.8 million households in the U.S. with $5 million or more.
The current patriotic millionaires are a minority in their class, and they’re also not just millionaires--they’re multi-multi-millionaires.
The most outspoken member of the group is Abigail Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, the co-founder of the entertainment giant. With a net worth of around $140 million, Abigail Disney describes herself as an uncomfortable heiress who has recently been devoting her time to fighting wage inequality at her family’s empire.
But last week, the group went beyond U.S. borders with an open letter to the members of the World Economic Forum’s high-profile summit held last week in Davos, Switzerland, calling for international tax reform.
The letter, titled “Millionaires Against Pitchforks”, warns that tax evasion has reached epidemic proportions and contributes to extreme and destabilizing inequality worldwide.
“There are two kinds of wealthy people in the world: those who prefer taxes and those who prefer pitchforks. We, the undersigned, prefer taxes,” the letter started.
Stressing that an estimated $8 trillion – nearly 10% of the world’s GDP – is hidden in tax havens, the letter urges the world’s wealthy “to step forward now — before it’s too late — to demand higher and fairer taxes”.
The group claims that in many nations, tensions caused by inequality have reached crisis levels and that low social trust and a pervasive sense of unfairness are diminishing basic social cohesion.
“The resulting dynamics guarantee that the global community will fail to adequately respond to the looming climate catastrophe. This will be disastrous for everyone, including millionaires and billionaires,” the letter said.
Out of 2,153 billionaires worldwide, 607 reside in the U.S. This year alone, the U.S. gained 21 new billionaires. That's more than a 50% increase compared to 2010 when the U.S. had 404 billionaires.
A 2019 study by the Institute for Policy Studies shows that the richest 400 Americans have a combined net worth of $3 trillion, equal to the bottom 61% of the U.S. population. They also own 3.5 percent of the country’s assets.
In June, 20 billionaires signed on to a letter essentially asking to be taxed more. That includes George Soros, Abigail Disney, and members of the Pritzker and Gund families. They’re not only supporting a wealth tax--they demanding one.
Bill Gates, the world's second-richest person, didn't sign it but has since said he doesn’t oppose a wealth tax. Real estate magnate Eli Broad had also separately spoken up in favor of a wealth tax.
Still, it’s a long road to full-on wealthy “patriotism”. Those calling for higher tax rates represent only a small fraction of the more than 600 billionaires in the United States.
By Josh Owens for Safehaven.com
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