Millionaires from around the world support wealth taxes as a way to curb extreme inequality, according to a new poll that was released to coincide with the meeting of the World Economic Forum wrapping up today in Davos, Switzerland. “Davos” has evolved into quite the place to be for the billionaire set, who fly in on their private jets to party and schmooze with government and business bigwigs from all over the planet—and basically get to feel important.
The poll results were accompanied by a letter signed by 260 millionaires—including Brian Cox, who plays billionaire Logan Roy in Succession—and a few billionaires, asking world leaders to raise their taxes. It was conducted by UK firm Survation at the behest of Patriotic Millionaires, a group of affluent Americans that advocates for fairer tax policies.
The key takeaways:
- More than half of respondents said extreme wealth is a threat to democracy, that it hinders social mobility and prevents others from improving their lots, and that it exacerbates climate change.
- Two-thirds said they would support higher taxes on themselves if the money were used to improve public services and infrastructure—70 percent felt such policies and investments would make their economies stronger.
- Three-quarters favored a 2 percent wealth tax on billionaires. Indeed, 58 percent said they would support such a tax for anyone with more than $10 million in assets.
The respondents consisted of 2,300 citizens of G-20 nations who have more than $1 million in “investable” assets—or net assets excluding a person’s primary residence. Globally, this puts them within the richest 5 percent, per Patriotic Millionaires—though only barely in the United States, where the average household in the top 10 percent has assets of $5.2 million, according to data from RealTimeInequality.org.
The poll results accompanied PM’s Proud to Pay More report, which profiles a handful of very wealthy people who believe their class should be taxed much more heavily. “We have spent the last 50 years believing in and nurturing an economic idea: that intensifying investment in the individual and encouraging the personal protection of wealth will benefit everyone,” writes Giorgiana Notarbartolo, an Italian entrepreneur from an old, wealthy industrial family. “It’s not hard to see how much damage the reality of the application of this idea has brought to our society.”
It’s true that something has to give, and you can read a lot more about all that when Mother Jones‘ “American Oligarchy” package hits the internet next week, but taxing wealth has always been a tough sell in the United States. As I noted somewhere in my book, Jackpot: How the Super-Rich Really Live and How Their Wealth Harms Us All, Patriotic Millionaires only has a few hundred members, but it is up against a juggernaut of billionaires, trade groups, and wealth protection firms lobbying in the opposite direction. Meanwhile, there are roughly 184,300 US households with an average real wealth of $141.5 million: the 0.1 percent. These families have substantial political clout, and I can’t imagine they would agree to their fortunes being taxed without making an epic stink.
Even with slim control of the White House and Congress, the Democrats were unable to pass a billionaire wealth tax, though heaven knows they’ve tried. That window closed in 2022, when Republicans took back the House. If Donald Trump comes back to into power, it’ll be game over for another four years. Or forever, if he gets his way.