Davos

Participants wait for a session at the World Economic Forum annual meeting in Davos, Switzerland on January 16, 2024.

(Photo: Fabrice Coffrini/AFP via Getty Images)

Millionaires and Billionaires to Davos Elites: 'We Must Be Taxed More'

"Even millionaires and billionaires like me are saying it's time," said Abigail Disney. "The elites gathering in Davos must take this crisis seriously."

Survey results released Tuesday as corporate CEOs, top government officials, and other global elites gathered in Davos, Switzerland show that nearly three-quarters of millionaires in G20 countries support higher taxes on extreme wealth, which they view as an increasingly dire threat to democracy.

The poll was conducted by the London-based firm Survation on behalf of the Patriotic Millionaires, an advocacy group that campaigns for a more progressive tax system. The survey, which polled over 2,300 millionaires in G20 nations, found that 74% "support higher taxes on wealth to help address the cost-of-living crisis and improve public services."

More than 70% of the respondents said they believe wealth "helps buy political influence" and a majority see extreme concentrations of wealth at the very top as corrosive to democracy. According to an Oxfam analysis released earlier this week, the world's billionaires have gotten $3.3 trillion richer since 2020 as 5 billion people across the globe have lost ground, struggling to get by as wages fail to keep up with inflation.

"We, the very richest, are sick and tired of inaction, so it's hardly surprising that working people, at the sharp end of our rigged economies, have lost all patience," said Guy Singh-Watson, a British entrepreneur and member of Patriotic Millionaires U.K.

The poll was released as 260 millionaires and billionaires signed a letter imploring the dozens of world leaders at the World Economic Forum in Davos to raise taxes on rich people like them, warning that a continued failure to "address the dramatic rise of income inequality" would be "catastrophic for society."

"Every moment of delay entrenches the dangerous economic status quo, threatens our democratic norms, and passes the buck to our children and grandchildren. Not only do we want to be taxed more but we believe we must be taxed more," the letter reads. "The true measure of a society can be found, not just in how it treats its most vulnerable, but in what it asks of its wealthiest members. Our future is one of tax pride, or economic shame. That's the choice."

"There is a clear social, economic, ecological, intergenerational, and democratic need to address extreme economic inequality."

Abigail Disney, an American documentary filmmaker and letter signatory, said in a statement that "throughout history, pitchforks were the inevitable consequence of extreme discontent, but today, the masses are turning to populism, which is on the rise throughout the world."

"We already know the solution to protect our institutions and stabilize our country: it's taxing extreme wealth," said Disney. "What we lack is the political fortitude to do it. Even millionaires and billionaires like me are saying it's time. The elites gathering in Davos must take this crisis seriously."

A report published Tuesday by the Patriotic Millionaires and allied organizations argues that "the extreme economic conditions of our age are at the heart of the world's overlapping and compounding crises," pointing to the outsized carbon footprints of the ultrawealthy and the ongoing acceleration of inequality.

The report notes that top income tax rates have fallen globally in recent decades, dropping from 58% in 1980 to 42% in recent years across Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) countries.

"There is a clear social, economic, ecological, intergenerational, and democratic need to address extreme economic inequality," the report says. "And yet political leaders have failed to take action on the simplest of solutions: raising taxes on the ultra-rich. This is a political choice."

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