A person walks toward the camera and away from a burning car. It's dark and their face is covered.

Photo Credit: Carolyn Cole / Los Angeles Times

“It’s Taxes or Pitchforks,” Some Super-Rich Say

More than 100 millionaires and billionaires tell world leaders to tax them more

Why? Hungry people riot. And when they get really hungry they come after rich folks.

There was a huge virtual conference for rich people last week. Yes, that sounds like a story from a James Bond movie. And yes, it actually happened.

Every year, the World Economic Forum holds a conference in the tiny town of Davos, Switzerland. Like James Bond villains, thousands of very rich people get together in the mountains to “solve world problems.” At least, that’s what they say they’re doing.

Last week, the World Economic Forum held the warm-up round for this year’s summer camp for millionaires. They held it online because no one wanted to get Omicron. Only some of the millionaires weren’t happy.

More than 100 millionaires and billionaires sent a letter to their rich buddies. That letter called for higher taxes. But not higher taxes for everyone. Higher taxes for them.

The letter took a jab at all the people who think their conference actually solves problems. “You’re not going to find the answer in a private forum, surrounded by other millionaires and billionaires and the world’s most powerful people,” it said. “If you’re paying attention, you’ll find that you’re part of the problem.”

But why would a bunch of rich people turn on their rich buddies? Well, they see that millions of people are being pushed into poverty because of COVID. Meanwhile, rich people are getting much richer.

In fact, since COVID hit, the 10 richest men in the world have gotten $1.2 billion richer every day.

The millionaires who wrote the letter know that poor people are hungry people. And hungry people riot. And when they get really hungry and angry, they come after the rich folks.

“It’s taxes or pitchforks,” the letter reads. The saying “eat the rich” sounds funny until there’s nothing left to eat.

None of the letter-writers call VanIsle home. Unlike the lower mainland, we don’t have many resident billionaires, but lots of super-rich retire or vacation here.

An independent study found that a small wealth tax on the world’s richest would raise $2.52 trillion a year. That’s enough to lift billions of people out of poverty and vaccinate the world against COVID.

And even after paying that tax, rich people would still be very, incredibly, wildly wealthy. So they wouldn’t exactly suffer.

Seems like a no-brainer, right?

Some of their rich buddies don’t see it that way. They like charity more than taxes because then they have all the power. They get to decide who gets help and who doesn’t.

But then again, a brain scientist from Hamilton, Ontario, figured out that power basically gives you brain damage. So maybe these rich buddies aren’t thinking straight.

A tax on the super-rich would sure be helpful. But the letter might be distracting folks from bigger questions. Like, should billionaires exist at all?

Here’s something to think about. When a regular person has $20, they spend it. That $20 becomes part of the economy. It gets passed around from grocery stores to hair salons to bars and construction projects. Maybe it becomes part of a down payment.

But when a billionaire gets $20, that money gets parked. It just sits there in a giant slush of stocks and cash. And maybe, when he feels like it, he’ll give some to charity.

The letter writers may have good intentions. Like Abigail Disney (yes, that Disney), some of them never asked to be rich. They want to contribute to society and not play god by giving money to charities.

It’s also possible they just don’t want to be the first ones to get eaten when the poor folks get hungry.