Karl Marx? Nancy Pelosi? Bernie Sanders? Nope--Bill Gates Sr. Not that this is surprising that rich people don't want to pay taxes but it's worth listening to Gates' views on the fight over the attempt to put in place a tax on the richest people in Washington State.
Last night, "60 Minutes" had a segment on taxing the rich, mainly focused on the ballot initiative to be voted on tomorrow that would put in place a five percent income tax on individuals earning more than $200,000 annually or households earning more than $400,000 annually; the state does not have an income tax at the moment.
This was a particularly interesting exchange between correspondent Leslie Stahl and Bill Gates, Sr., father of the you-know-who:
"Businesses are saying they'll leave," Stahl pointed out.
"Yes. But the real truth of the matter is that the people that own businesses are the people who will be paying the tax. And my analysis is they don't want to pay the tax," Gates said. "The rich guys don't want to pay the tax."
"Are you saying you just think they're greedy?" Stahl asked.
"No," he replied. "They're defensive. I guess you could call it greed, I suppose. Wanting to not write another check, sure," Gates said.
"Steve Ballmer?" Stahl asked. "He's worth $14 billion. You don't think he..."
"He's a very fine guy, too. The fact of the matter is there are 43 states in this country that have a state income tax. And in those states, the Microsofts or the ABCs, whatever, have not fled the state. I mean, it's just a gross exaggeration," Gates said.
What was interesting about this exchange is two things. Gates is used to seeing rich people. He hears the unfiltered conversations. And he understand that all the blather about taxes hurting "competitiveness" are just full-out lies.
The rich guys just don't want to pay more. It's greed. And Gates is precisely right: the argument about hurting businesses has always been a "gross exaggeration" if not an outright lie.
Which made the attempts by the "small business CEO" to dress up the greed with a business-competitive argument seem even more ludicrous (I recommend actually watching the video clipof the segment to get a full appreciation of his comments).
The final piece of the segment worth absorbing are the comments of David Stockman--yes, that David Stockman. As the implementing bureaucrat of the trickle-down economics "theory" during his stint as Reagan's OMB director, it was worth hearing this--though there is no admission of guilt about his role in creating the disaster we face:
But, as David Stockman will tell you, that attitude is hard to find. "We've demonized taxes. All right. We've created almost the idea they're a metaphysical evil," he said. [Well, yes, David, who helped do that?--EDITORIAL COMMENT ADDED]
Still, he says there should be a one-time 15 percent surtax on the wealthy that he estimates would cut the national debt in half.
"In 1985, the top five percent of the households, wealthiest five percent, had net worth of $8 trillion, which is a lot. Today, after serial bubble after serial bubble, the top five percent have net worth of $40 trillion," he explained. "The top five percent have gained more wealth than the whole human race had created prior to 1980."
Follow Jonathan Tasini on Twitter: www.twitter.com/jonathantasini