Democracy has a billionaire problem. The solution: Tell Congress to tax billionaire wealth!
According to a new report from Americans for Tax Fairness, the nation’s roughly 750 billionaires are increasingly using their personal fortunes and the profits of connected corporations to drown out regular voters’ voices and elect hand-picked candidates who further rig the nation’s economy—especially the tax system—to make their wealthy donors even richer. This anti-democratic vote buying, totaling $1.2 billion in the 2020 election cycle, has expanded greatly in recent years, almost 40 times more than the $31 million billionaires donated in 2010, when the Citizens United rules were first in effect.
Their undue influence in our elections and our democracy is facilitated by—and is facilitating—the accelerating wealth growth of the Billionaire Class and the record profits of the corporations they own.
U.S. billionaires saw their total wealth grow by $2 trillion during the first two years of the pandemic—a 70% increase. They paid about an 8% federal income tax rate when the growth in the value of their stock holdings is included in their income. That’s less than most teachers, nurses and plumbers pay.
Over the first two years of the pandemic, the wealth of 27 billionaire Republican donors grew by $82.4 billion. Their $89.4 million in donations just to GOP congressional super PACs over the first 16 months of the 2022 election cycle is just 0.1% of that wealth gain. They're counting on that "small" investment in electing anti-tax Republicans to Congress to save them billions in taxes.
But what these billionaires donate to super PACs is not the full picture. Some billionaires and their corporations directly back candidates who are trying to sabotage our elections, limit our freedom, and oppose making the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes.
Billionaires donated almost $240 million to the combined campaign efforts of Donald Trump’s two runs for president. Over half came from just one billionaire household, that of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson (who has since died).
Paypal co-founder Peter Thiel , who is worth about $5 billion, has so far spent almost $30 million through super PACs supporting the 2022 senatorial bids of two former employees who share his anti-democratic and anti-tax beliefs. J.D. Vance won the Ohio Republican U.S. Senate primary thanks in part to Thiel’s $15 million in spending. Blake Masters has a fighting chance in Arizona’s GOP U.S. Senate primary in August due to Thiel’s $13.5 million in contributions.
Wall Street trader Jeffrey Yass , who is worth about $12 billion, has already contributed $28.5 million to right-wing political candidates this election cycle, many of them election deniers, and anti-tax and other right-wing groups. Between 2009 and 2018 Yass had income of $11.4 billion and paid $1.95 billion in federal income taxes, an effective tax rate of just 17.2%—a little more than the 13.3% average rate paid by all families.
In order to rein in the undue influence of billionaire money in our elections and our democracy, it’s time for America’s roughly 750 billionaires to pay taxes on their wealth gains each year, not just when they feel like it.
Billionaires saw their wealth grow by $2 trillion during the first two years of the pandemic. In the 2020 election, they spent a whopping $1.2 billion buying our elections and our democracy. It’s time for billionaires to start paying their fair share in taxes, and that means paying taxes each year, just like working people. Whether through a Billionaires Income Tax or other means that tax the wealth gains and income of billionaires, Congress must make billionaires pay their fair share in taxes and limit their influence on our elections.