‘We’re trying to give it away faster…’
(Ben Sellers, Liberty Headlines) Although he may not be the world’s richest man anymore, Microsoft founder Bill Gates said on the “Late Show with Stephen Colbert” that he still has way too much money.
“We’re trying to give it away faster,” Gates said during a joint appearance with his wife, Melinda, to pitch their annual philanthropy newsletter.
But Gates, who last year was officially surpassed by Amazon’s Jeff Bezos (pre-divorce) on the wealthiest person list, said proposals like radical socialist Rep. Alexandria Ocasio–Cortez‘s pitch for a 70 percent income-tax rate would not do the trick.
“These great fortunes were not made through ordinary incomes, so you probably have to look to the capital gains rate and the estate tax if you want to create more equity there,” he said.
In fact, while he supported making the tax system “take a much higher portion from people with great wealth,” Gates said there should be no defined cap on the amount the government can claim from the uber-rich.
“I think if you go so far as to say that there’s a total upper limit, that might have more negatives than positives—but you know, I may have a distorted view of this.”
Gates said he and his wife have lobbied for a higher estate tax—often referred to by critics as the “death tax”—in which Uncle Sam takes his cut from a deceased individual’s earthly possessions prior to inheritance.
“There was actually one year that was good to die in because there was no estate tax,” he joked.
Melinda Gates agreed that the wealthy needed to be hit harder but said the system also needed to be set up in such a way as to “stimulate good growth.”
She pointed to France, which lacks a vibrant tech sector, she claimed, because its tax system had de-incentivized innovation.
The key, she said, was to encourage more charitable giving in areas that weren’t necessarily contributing to the common good.
“Philanthropy can never make up for taxes, but it is that catalytic wedge where we can try things—we can do innovations that you wouldn’t want your government to do with tax dollars.”
Still, she said, higher taxes for the wealthy were also necessary to cover the vast expanse of public services in a perfect world.
“It has to be government that scales up things like health and education,” she said.
Pointing to a multitude of billionaires who were considering entry into the political arena—among them Starbucks’ Howard Schultz, business-media mogul Michael Bloomberg and hedge-fund investor Tom Steyer all eyeing runs against the well-to-do current president—Colbert asked if either Gates had considered running.
Fortunately for the nation’s taxpayers, they have not.
“We work with politicians, but neither of us will choose to run for office. We are specialized in what we dig into and what we know,” Bill Gates said. “And we hope we get good politicians, but we’re not going to run.”