“Astonishing,” tweeted Anand Giridharadas, the editor at large of Time magazine. “Bill Gates, the great philanthropist of our age, is so attached to his own wealth that he refuses to rule out voting to re-elect a white nationalist demagogue over Elizabeth Warren.”
Giridharadas’ tweet comes in response to Bill Gates’ comments at a New York Times DealBook Conference with Andrew Ross Sorkin on Nov. 6. It appears Gates doesn’t favor Warren’s lofty wealth tax vision so much — despite his general support for some form of “middle-ground” wealth tax — to the end that his 2020 endorsement is still a toss-up.
“I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes,” he said to audience laughter. “But I’m glad to have paid — you know, if I’d 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 about what I have left over. I’m sorry,” he said chuckling. “I’m just kidding.”
When asked about whether Gates had talked with Warren, Gates replied, “I’m not sure how open-minded she is — or that she’d even be willing to sit down with somebody who has large amounts of money.”
Sen. Elizabeth Warren took to Twitter, expressing her eager willingness to socialist-splain to Bill Gates just how much of his money she would actually snatch through her plans.
I'm always happy to meet with people, even if we have different views. @BillGates, if we get the chance, I'd love to explain exactly how much you'd pay under my wealth tax. (I promise it's not $100 billion.) https://t.co/m6G20hDNaV
— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) November 7, 2019
Given Warren’s patronizing Twitter tone and her grabby wealth tax pontificating, Gates’ hesitancy to back her would be far from “astonishing,” even when juxtaposed with the Orange Man. But what’s actually astonishing is the utter misunderstanding of philanthropy across the progressive board, from 2020 candidates to Sorkin and the media.
During the New York Times conference, Sorkin moved on from asking about Warren’s wealth tax to asking Gates about philanthropy:
There has been a question about the idea that vast fortunes in this country are able to be moved from the private sector into a foundation without paying tax. So the shares of Microsoft that you were able to generate … there’s no capital gains on that. There’s no step up on that. And so the U.S. taxpayer, the U.S. citizen — it’s not clear that they are beneficiaries of your success to the extent you believe that they should be. What do you think of that? Would you ever be in favor of taxing philanthropy in that way? (emphasis mine)
Is the Gates Foundation Not Benefitting People?
Sorkin’s question is problematic on many levels, raising serious questions and shining a bright light on the logical inconsistencies within the redistributionist framework that leads to notions of a wealth tax. First, to what degree is Gates obligated to benefit others as a result of his success? The question is ridiculous on its face, for Americans have, on the whole, benefitted immeasurably from Gates’ Microsoft success. If they hadn’t derived benefit, his endeavors would have been a flop. Not to mention the insane amounts of money Gates and his wife have donated — as Sorkin noted, “$50 billion so far, and another $50 billion is in the [Bill and Melinda Gates] Foundation itself.”
Second is the curious idea of “taxing philanthropy.” In a Warren world, aiding people out of one’s own volition isn’t enough. Can philanthropy even be philanthropy if she didn’t have a “plan” for it?
To a socialist politician, individual goodwill is never enough. After all, charity won’t fund mammoth government programs or a behemoth welfare state. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation may aid 1,000 undergraduate students of color annually, or spend billions in global health initiatives to fight malaria and Ebola. But that charity won’t chip away at the $59 trillion price tag of Warren’s Medicare for all, and therefore, there can’t possibly be any “beneficiaries.” We can laud Bill Gates all day long for his being “the great philanthropist of our age,” but only so long as he’s willing to fund our pet projects without question.
Government Redistribution Isn’t Philanthropy
“Taxing philanthropy” isn’t more philanthropy. Neither is Warren’s wealth tax. While this may come as a shock to Warren and the media, philanthropy filtered through Elizabeth Warren and her plans isn’t philanthropy at all — it’s a political power grab. While greedy politicians struggle to out-redistribute each other, they don’t realize that in taxing wealth, not only are they robbing people of actual money, they’re robbing them of the ability to be philanthropic.
In his book “The Ethics of Redstribution,” Bertrand de Jouvenel spoke to the timeless greed of socialism, “While it seems right to give, the rightness of taking away is far less obvious.” In other words, drooling Washington bureaucrats aren’t righteous for having big ideas for Bill Gates’ bucks.
Elizabeth Warren is the Sheriff of Nottingham in a Robin Hood mask, self-justified in her robbery because it victimizes only the richest of the rich, all the while playing the part of the tax tyrant who endlessly oppresses all the peasants. If she truly wants to find ways to give to the poor, she should take her sights off the Oval Office and start a foundation.