Andrew Ross Sorkin interviews Bill Gates, who got himself in trouble talking about Elizabeth Warren. | Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times
Most of the ultra-rich are right-wing and single-mindedly focused on lowering their taxes, and it’s a major social problem.
On Wednesday, New York Times reporter Andrew Ross Sorkin interviewed Bill Gates and took the opportunity to ask the world’s second-richest man for his take on Sen. Elizabeth Warren and her wealth tax proposal.
“I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to have paid $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,” Gates said.
Gates was obviously — based on both his tone and the fact that he literally said the words “I’m just kidding” right after — just kidding. The point of his comments was that he supports dramatically higher taxes on people like himself. He even concluded his response to Sorkin’s question by saying that you could “go a long way” toward raising taxes on people like him before creating any problems with work incentives.
Here’s what Bill Gates had to say yesterday about Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax, plus his thoughts on a potential Warren vs. Trump decision in 2020. #DealBook https://t.co/aYsCPUL3b7 pic.twitter.com/rWrIj8fSO8
— CNBC (@CNBC) November 7, 2019
His remarks were … not interpreted that way. When my colleague Teddy Schleifer tweeted Gates’s comment about the possibility of paying $100 billion, it got 4,000 retweets and 2,500 replies, mostly in outrage; Teddy’s follow-up making it clear Gates was kidding got only 145 retweets and 37 replies. Amid the blow-up, both Warren and Bernie Sanders (who has also proposed a wealth tax) took the opportunity to respond, Warren by assuring Gates that her tax wouldn’t cost him $100 billion and Bernie by speculating about what $100 billion could do if seized as revenue.
Say Bill Gates was actually taxed $100 billion.
We could end homelessness and provide safe drinking water to everyone in this country.
Bill would still be a multibillionaire.
Our message: the billionaire class cannot have it all when so many have so little. https://t.co/fVlxuIGygf
— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) November 7, 2019
The backlash got even worse when Gates demurred in response to a question about whether he’d vote for Warren or Trump in a general election, saying he’d favor the more “professional” candidate in the general election and adding with a meaningful glance to Sorkin, “I hope the more professional candidate is an electable candidate.”
I took this as a barely disguised statement that he’ll vote for the Democratic nominee because anyone the party could nominate would be more professional than Donald Trump. This interpretation is reinforced by his body language and the crowd’s laughter during the answer; he was just expressing a hope that Democrats nominate someone he considers electable. Gates has not …read more