Billionaire Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates on Wednesday told a crowd at a New York Times sponsored conference that a proposed wealth tax from Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a frontrunner for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, could take so much money from his vast fortune that he wouldn’t know how much was left.
“When you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over,” said Gates, who prefaced his remarks by saying he was willing to pay $20 billion in taxes.
As Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), who is also running for the Democratic nomination for president in 2020, pointed out on Twitter, Gates’ fortune is valued at roughly $106.8 billion, leaving $6.8 billion after the hypothetical tax hit.
“Say Bill Gates was actually taxed $100 billion,” said Sanders. “We could end homelessness and provide safe drinking water to everyone in this country. Bill would still be a multibillionaire.”
Warren, by contrast, rushed to reassure Gates on Twitter that he wouldn’t be on the hook for $100 billion and invited the Microsoft founder to meet for a chat where the Massachusetts Democrat could “explain exactly how much you’d pay under my wealth tax.”
Gates replied to the senator, saying that the tax discussion was part of an “interesting conversation” on how to solve the myriad issues at play in the primary.
“I greatly respect your commitment to finding ways to address wealth inequality and poverty at home,” said Gates. “While we may disagree about some of the ways to get there, we certainly agree we need a lot of smart people committed to finding the path forward.”
Progressives found Warren’s tone to be too friendly to Gates and politically problematic as it missed the power dynamics in play with Gates’ wealth.
“You can’t logic Gates out of his class interest,” tweeted lawyer and activist Emma Caterine. “This is about power. We need a president who tells the billionaires to suck it up, not one who tries to win them over.”
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