Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have a lot in common — they share a laundry list of expansive proposals they’ve vowed to implement if they win the 2020 presidential election — but when it comes to the existence of billionaires, the two progressives are divided.
While participating in a forum on environmental justice at South Carolina State University, Warren was asked by co-moderator Amy Goodman, the host of Democracy Now, whether she, like Sanders, believes billionaires should not exist.
“Look, somebody has a great idea, and they follow it through and they work hard and they build something, good for them," Warren said on Friday.
However, the Massachusetts senator followed that with a caveat: Because billionaires rely on taxpayer-funded roads, bridges, police, firefighters and educated workers to build their businesses, she said, they needed to pay steeper taxes.
“Here’s my view,” she said. “You make it to the top, to the tip-top, then the answer is: Pay a wealth tax so we can invest and create opportunities for everyone else. That’s what my two-cent tax is about.”
At the beginning of the year, Warren unveiled a plan to impose a 2 percent tax on Americans worth more than $50 million, and a 3 percent levy on those worth more than $1 billion. (In her Medicare-for-all plan, she raised the tax to 6 percent on billionaires.)
Sanders released a competing wealth tax plan in mid-September as the two candidates jockey for left-wing support. His proposal called for a slew of new taxes, ranging from a 1 percent tax on married couples with a net worth above $32 million to an 8 percent tax on wealth over $10 billion.
“Billionaires should not exist,” he wrote in a series of tweets introducing the bill, adding, "There is no justice when three billionaires are able to own more wealth than the bottom half of the entire country.'
Sanders’ proposal is expected to impact 180,000 families, while Warren’s would apply to about 75,000 families.
Warren’s comments come amid an onslaught of criticism of her wealth tax proposal -- and campaign -- by a number of Wall Street titans and billionaire executives. This week alone, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon and money manager Leon Cooperman took a swipe at Warren.
“I’ve paid over $10 billion in taxes. I’ve paid more than anyone in taxes. If I had to have paid $20 billion, it’s fine. But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left,” Gates said this week, adding that he was “just kidding.”
Warren responded on Twitter, extending an invitation to Gates to meet and talk about how much he’d actually pay under her wealth tax proposal — “I promise it’s not $100 billion,” she wrote — before eventually sharing a link to a wealth tax calculator for “confused billionaires.”
Under Warren’s proposal, Gates would pay $6.379 billion in taxes next year, according to the calculator. Cooperman would pay $151 million.
“Good news -- you’ll still be extraordinarily rich!” the calculator said. “And if history is any guide, if you do nothing other than invest your wealth in the stock market, it’s likely that your wealth will continue to grow.”