tthe sound system released Pink Floyd’s Money as Patriotic Millionaires gathered at the Eaton Boutique Hotel in Washington last week. After the obligatory tests for Covid, there were many hugs and laughter among the crowd, who looked like extras from Succession, as they sat at tables lined with M&Ms stamped with the “rich tax”.
This was the first time since the pandemic that the Patriotic Millionaires had gathered in person. Founded in 2010, the group is made up of people with high net worth who believe – counter-intuitively these days – that the really rich need to pay more taxes. And after a decade of often disappointing years, some of them already believe that change is coming.
At the White House, Joe Biden proposed new household taxes worth more than $ 100 million. The war in Ukraine has shown that the international community can and will fight the oligarchs. Some of the workers who made fortunes for Jeff Bezos of Amazon and Howard Schultz of Starbucks have successfully formed unions despite the millions spent by the two companies to fight them.
“No one was talking about taxing the rich when we started,” said Maurice Pearl, chairman of the Patriotic Millionaires and former managing director of BlackRock, the world’s largest money manager.
Even the conversation seemed ridiculous with Donald Trump, Pearl added. “We have seen a huge change. You have a president who talks about taxing the rich, people talk about wealth taxes – these were not even extreme ideas 10 years ago. I’m not saying this will happen and pass into law, but there are talks at the highest level. “
Part of the reason these conversations are happening is that the situation has gotten so bad. Lecturer after speaker at the one-day conference highlighted how many, many rich people have hijacked the world’s political system, reduced wages and deepened income inequality, with the title of the conference: Oligarss vs All of Us: The Fight for Power and Money.
Another member, Gary Stevenson, a British trader who has become an inequality economist, believes things will only get worse. Billionaires made fortunes from rising stock markets, property prices and other assets during the pandemic. The submission of the government has greatly helped the rich, he said. “If nothing is done, it will be a huge disaster,” he said. “As much as you think things are, I guarantee they will get much, much worse.
When the pandemic hit, there was talk that it was a great alignment – we were all in it together. In fact, Covid-19 exacerbated economic and racial inequalities. American billionaires received an unforeseen profit of $ 1.1 billion as their wealth rose to record levels. The class of billionaires thrives in Asia and reaches record levels in the United Kingdom. But as we step out of the shadow of Covid-19, hoi poloi is struggling with rising inflation and rising spending on basic things like rent, utilities and food.
For Stevenson, this huge explosion of wealth is “the end of civilization.” “There is only one thing we can do,” he said. “We need to get that money back.”
But are rich – and predominantly white – people the right people to get this message across? Abigail Disney thinks so. Disney, the granddaughter of Roy Disney, co-founder of Walt Disney, sees his family as a synecdoche of what happened to the rest of America.
The Disney family was already super rich by the time Disney, 62, was born, but their wealth grew tremendously just as the gap between rich and poor widened. “Money has changed my family,” she said, but not for the better. Now, she says, these rich people live in another world and cannot see the consequences of growing inequality. Hearing this from one of their own, she breaks down that barrier, she believes.
“The only people billionaires will listen to are other billionaires and multimillionaires. You need at least two commas. And if they don’t listen, their children and wives are there and they will listen, “she said.
As her money opens the door to power, Disney discovers that her message is troubling even ordinary Americans. It is regular attacked on Twitter to dare to suggest that rich people should pay more taxes. The problem is that people have been convinced that “every single person in this country is a billionaire waiting to happen” in an organized campaign that she believes was created to protect 1% of wealth.
Hearing one in 1% suggests that this dream may be a nightmare, driving people crazy, she said. The repulsion I get is, “You’ve never worked a day in your life!” You know nothing! Well, you’re right, you express my opinion about me! I should not have this power and influence. Just keep giving your opinion for me, “she said.
“Speaking against my own supposed self-interest has a wow factor that attracts attention. I never want to stop doing that. We need to model how you don’t seem to be defending your own interests all the time. When you are good and other people are not, you put aside your own interests and stand up for someone else. ”
Biden’s chances of tax breaks passing through Congress are slim. American politicians rely too much on the rich, and some Democrats, as well as Republicans, will refrain from taxing them more. However, Disney claims that the debate has changed. After the pandemic, American oligarchs are not the heroes they once were, and Republicans in particular have so far avoided a total attack on Biden’s proposal.
“Four years ago, if you had said ‘tax on billionaires’, then they would have said you can’t hit billionaires, you’re encouraging class warfare. “I haven’t heard a word about it,” Disney said. “Let’s not joke, the other side is testing this and finding that it doesn’t work. This rhetoric about class war no longer works. And that’s good news. Because if we don’t unravel some feathers now, we will have a class war. They are alone. “