They Want Billionaires Gone

A video protest sign on a truck paid for by the Patriotic Millionaires drives past a mansion owned by Amazon founder Jeff Bezos in Washington, D.C. May 17, 2021. (Jonathan Ernst/Reuters)
For the Left, abiding by the law is no defense for the crime of being too wealthy.

The ProPublica tax leaks have shaken up the business world and led to a flurry of cries to overhaul the tax system. Many have increased their calls for a wealth tax, arguing that billionaires can flaunt the rules ordinary Americans have to abide by. But people across the political spectrum should all be concerned by the rhetoric coming from the left. Recent events show some on the left won’t be satisfied until the entire billionaire class is eliminated.

Liberals have waged war on businessmen for decades, so the recent attacks on the wealthy are hardly surprising. In the past, liberals would point to individual instances of corporate greed running amok, or of corporations knowingly putting profits above all else. Inconveniently for those on the left, the leaked documents show that the billionaires in question followed the letter of the law. Unable to claim that their actions were illegal, left-wing rhetoric has changed. Thus, the system itself is now attacked as illegitimate, and abiding by the law is no defense for the crime of being too wealthy.

Two articles from the New York Times in the last week show just how profound this change is. First, a guest article published yesterday by Anand Giridharadas explicitly argues that there is no such thing as a “Good Billionaire.” Giridharadas specifically targets Warren Buffett, a generous philanthropist who plans to give away his fortune upon his death. Some might say that is noble and generous, an example of how social pressure and a desire for a legacy incentivize good behavior. For the Left, though, it’s just another example of privileged power.

A New York Times interview of Jesse Eisinger, one of the journalists who broke the tax leaks, further shows how antagonistic the left is to wealth. The interviewer, Kara Swisher, threatened that either the wealthy would have to give their money to Washington, D.C., or that they’re “going to have to armor plate [their] Teslas.” We shouldn’t shrug off her comments or believe Swisher is joking. Swisher specifically said, “That’s my argument to them,” and that she says it all the time. She is not outright advocating violence against the ultra-wealthy; she is saying, however, that such a thing is inevitable if they do not do what she wants. And she is not alone on the left.

Many among the ultra-wealthy are misguided if they believe that donating to leftist causes will shield them from criticism. Eisinger remarks that Buffett’s strategy of planning his private philanthropic endeavors instead of sending checks to the federal government is like wanting to control your tax dollars. Instead of reaching the conservative position on taxes, though, Eisinger believes this means philanthropy by the wealthy is problematic.

Giridharadas echoes this sentiment. Warren Buffet may help millions with their charitable donations, but they help legitimize a system “that allows a man to accumulate more than $100 billion.” The whole system is a problem, and wealthy people are a symptom. Even Bill Gates is not spared. These pieces should serve as a warning that the ultra-rich cannot win the left’s approval because many on the left are ideologically opposed to their very existence. As former policy adviser for Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez likes to say, “Every billionaire is a policy failure.”

This line of thinking is based on the idea that highly profitable businesses are always predatory. But many companies (such as the New York Times, for instance) relied on Amazon and other tech companies to keep the power on during the pandemic. “Working remotely” was only feasible for some because of these innovations. Villainizing company leaders for “hoarding” their wealth by owning soaring company stock is downright absurd.

This matters for those of us who make less than eight figures, too. Giridharadas, Eisinger, and Swisher are not fringe theorists, and we cannot ignore the radical implications of their thinking. The left asks why the IRS can’t “claw back” more money from billionaires, and they won’t stop if the rich hand over just a bit more to the government. If following the rules and doing charity work doesn’t protect the rich and powerful, it won’t protect those of us who don’t have billion-dollar companies. The rich, poor, and middle class should all stand united against this brave new world.