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Soros & US billionaires call for new wealth tax; public reacts with instinctive skepticism

Soros & US billionaires call for new wealth tax; public reacts with instinctive skepticism
A group of US billionaires including infamous financier George Soros is backing a "moderate wealth tax" on the fortunes of the richest .01%, echoing several Democratic candidates' proposals. Somehow, Americans don't trust them.

"Polls show that a moderate tax on the wealthiest Americans enjoys the support of a majority of Americans - Republicans, Independents, and Democrats," the group of 20 billionaires, including Soros, his son Alexander, the Pritzker, Gund, and Disney families, and the elusive Anonymous, wrote in a letter published by the New York Times on Monday.

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While acknowledging that "major policies seldom come to pass without the prior support of wealthy elites or other wealthy interests," the billionaires made the case that taxing the rich would benefit everyone by bankrolling solutions to "our climate crisis," infrastructure improvements, "public health solutions," and wiping out student loan debt. Why, it would even "strengthen American freedom and democracy," the billionaires gush.

A tax of $.02 per dollar on assets over $50 million and an additional $.01 per dollar on assets over $1 billion would "generate nearly $3 trillion in tax revenue over ten years," the would-be philanthropists report, lending their endorsement to Democratic presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren's wealth-tax plan while denying they back her or any of the other wealth-tax-supporting Democrats they name in the letter. And while they name-check Pete Buttigieg and Beto O'Rourke as backing the policy "too important to be part of only a few candidates' platforms," they explicitly avoid mentioning Bernie Sanders.

The letter's publication on the same day Sanders proposed paying for the cancellation of $1.6 trillion in student loan debt with taxes on stock trades, bonds, and derivatives - i.e. Wall Street transactions that can't be hidden in offshore bank accounts, "donated" to family charities, or otherwise concealed via the tried and true methods of America's richest families - in his "College for All Act" may have been a coincidence, but his omission from the "approved candidate" list struck some people as odd. Nor is Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez's suggestion of walloping a larger swath of America's wealthiest – anyone earning over $10 million annually – with a 70 percent tax rate mentioned.

Nearly every social media response was suspicious of the billionaires' motives, sincerity, or both. Reasoning there's no such thing as a free lunch, or free money, they pointed out that Soros and his ilk didn't get fabulously wealthy by helping the less fortunate. As several Twitter users pointed out, nothing is stopping Soros and his peers from overpaying their taxes now, and why would wealthy families that have avoided paying their fair share of every other tax choose to pay this one? "Plug the loopholes and find the money that they've stashed in family trusts and in countries hidden from taxes," one user suggested.  

Soros, like many of the world's superrich, "donated" $18 billion to his own Open Society Foundation in 2017, leaving him with "only" $8 billion to his name, and other hugely wealthy families from the Rockefellers to the Rothschilds have similarly spread their money around in self-directed foundations and charities.

Others focused more on their distrust for Soros, whose political meddling on behalf of left-wing causes has earned him the hatred of conservatives – and whose history of currency manipulation (not for nothing is he called "the man who broke the Bank of England") has earned him the distrust of everyone else. "Stop using taxes to control the people," one user admonished him, while another snarked "If you believe this guy, he's probably got a bridge in Brooklyn to sell you." 

Former Obama Secretary of Labor Robert Reich was one of the only voices supporting the billionaires' plan, tweeting that he "couldn't agree more" with the idea that "a wealth tax is patriotic." Others qualified their support by pointing out that this was "an intelligent move on behalf of the wealthy if they don't want capitalism to devour itself within the next 20 years."

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