“We live in capitalism. Its power seems inescapable. So did the divine right of kings.”
-Ursula Le Guin
Billionaire charity is immoral – we need to cut out the middleman and just levy taxes on the 1%.
Why are so many people defensive of billionaires?
Unless you’re already a billionaire, you’ll never be one.
They’re also a net deadweight in global society.
Billionaires do not earn their wealth. Arguing that heavy taxes on wealth over one billion dollars punish a hard work ethic simply does not hold water.
It is functionally impossible to become a billionaire in your own lifetime. Every “self-made” billionaire started with millionaire parents. That amount of wealth is only attainable if you start with an already unfair advantage. In fact, many billionaire families directly owe their wealth to historical forces such as imperialism, colonialism and slavery. These families use their wealth to construct dramatically unfair advantages for their children. (This is one potential reason why Trump famously remarked that his father gave him “A small loan of a million dollars.”)
Tesla’s frontman, Elon Musk, hails from a family that once owned apartheid emerald mines in South Africa.
Bill Gates, the founder of Microsoft, just happened to attend one of the only schools in the Seattle area that had access to computers, during an era when this technology was incredibly rare and expensive.
But if your dad is a mechanic or your mom is a lawyer? You’re working class in comparison, and you will never be a billionaire. No amount of labor, education, innovation, creativity or passion will move you up from working class to billionaire in one generation.
Others argue that billionaires already contribute enough to society by giving away some of their wealth to charity. This straight-up isn’t true.
According to Philanthropy News Digest, in 2020, fifty American billionaires donated a total of 24.7 billion dollars. That’s an incredible amount of money, but most of them are donating to their own pet charities. Donating to charities is a way to shelter money from taxation while continuing to use their wealth to exert power to pursue their own agendas. Some of these can seem relatively helpful, such as The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, which has a focus on global development, health and life expectancy. However, it is the Gates Foundation that decides what the top development priorities are, not the countries and regions to which they offer aid.
Charities like this remove agency from the people they’re assisting, which is another way that billionaires use their wealth and power to shape the world as they see fit. Sure, we all really appreciate vaccine distribution and their medical research, but what would the world look like if well-funded governments were doing this same kind of work?
If we taxed billionaires at the same rate as the average American citizen, we would draw an incredible amount of money into a struggling economy. In 2021, White House economists released an analysis revealing that households with over a billion dollars are taxed at a rate of 8.2%, compared to the average non-billionaire household tax rate of 13.6%. It’s worth mentioning that the vast majority of wealth generated by billionaire households is sourced from stocks, which are taxed very differently (if they’re ever taxed at all!). It’s also worth mentioning that the current median income for a household in the United States is $31,000. The Federal Poverty Level (FPL) for a family of four in 2023 is $30,0000.
Taxing billionaires would generate desperately-needed funds for universal healthcare, universal childcare, universal eldercare, pensions, schools and a variety of other social services.
If you’re still licking Elon Musk’s boots, ask yourself why. Does he care about your well-being? Do his values align with yours? Do you truly think he deserves the immense power he currently wields?
Praising a billionaire’s work ethic sounds like a serf complimenting a king on his leadership skills. Neither work ethic nor leadership skills put these people where they are today. Like monarchies, one day, the people will have had enough.