May 31, 2020

Warren Would Take Billionaires Down a Few Billion Pegs

Warren Buffett, a billionaire since 1990, would have amassed $10.4 billion rather than $88.3 billion. Mark Zuckerberg, who became a billionaire at 23 in 2008, would have $32.5 billion instead of $61 billion.

Mr. Sanders, who has also fashioned a wealth tax, would trim their fortunes slightly more, according to calculations by Mr. Zucman and Mr. Saez.

These, of course, are just estimates. The economists’ model makes lots of assumptions and does not take account of some of Ms. Warren’s other proposals, like taxing investment profits at the same rate as wages and taxing them every year instead of only upon sale.

Individuals and businesses would also be certain to change their spending and investing in quest of creative ways to avoid paying more. Political contributions, for example, might increase as some try to roll back the tax increases.

Still, families would have a much tougher time establishing multibillion-dollar dynasties that echo for generations in the face of taxes that aim more aggressively at wealth, capital gains and inheritances. Bequests exceeding $1 billion would be taxed at a marginal rate of 70 percent under Ms. Warren’s proposed estate tax.

For Mr. Sanders, preventing concentrated wealth from passing from generation to generation is the goal. He argues that such legacies undermine democracy.

“I don’t think that billionaires should exist,” he has said. In introducing his tax plan, Mr. Sanders, who identifies himself as a democratic socialist, said, “It eliminates a lot of the wealth that billionaires have, and I think that’s exactly what we should be doing.”

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