Erica Payne

Patriotic Millionaires founder and president Erica Payne speaks at a special United Nations meeting on March 19, 2024.

(Photo: Patriotic Millionaires/YouTube)

Testimony to UN Panel: 'Tax the Rich. Save the World'

"When too much money turns into too much power, it threatens us all," said Patriotic Millionaires president Erica Payne.

The founder of a group of millionaires that campaigns for a more progressive and just tax system said during a United Nations hearing on Tuesday that governments must increase taxes on the rich before it is too late to rescue democracy from the corrosive impacts of wealth concentration.

Failure to do so, warned Patriotic Millionaires president Erica Payne, "will not end well for anyone, including millionaires."

"This is not an act of kindness or of philanthropy," Payne said during a special meeting of the U.N. Economic and Social Council. "It is in our own self-interest. The far-right is on the rise around the world. If we do not address the twin crises of wealth concentration and inequality, we will face in the next decade the wholesale dismantling and eventual death of liberal democracy, of justice, and of basic human freedom."

Watch Payne's remarks in full:

Patriotic Millionaires, which has chapters in both the United States and United Kingdom, released survey results earlier this year showing that nearly three-quarters of millionaires in G20 countries support higher taxes on extreme wealth to improve key public services and address cost-of-living crises.

Additionally, the poll found that a majority of respondents see the vast accumulation of wealth at the very top as a threat to democracy.

Payne said Tuesday that "nearly 1,000 millionaires from across the globe have joined us in calling on governments to tax extreme wealth." In recent decades, top marginal tax rates around the world have plummeted, allowing the ultra-rich to amass eye-popping fortunes that they have used to impose their will on political processes and policy debates.

"Since 2020, five billionaires have doubled their wealth, while five billion of the poorest people in this world got even poorer. Children starve while billionaires fly their rockets into space," Payne said. "You may not care how much money a person has, but you likely do care how much power someone has. When too much money turns into too much power, it threatens us all."

"The single only way to preserve the chance of freedom and democracy, the only way to save this planet and humanity, is to tax extreme wealth."

Payne argued that "there are no benevolent billionaires" or "public-minded plutocrats" and implored policymakers to weigh the potentially disastrous consequences of not taxing extreme wealth, in addition to considering how and how much the rich should be taxed.

"The single only way to preserve the chance of freedom and democracy, the only way to save this planet and humanity, is to tax extreme wealth," said Payne. "Yes, the math might be a little complicated. I trust you all can figure that out. The principle itself is not complicated. Tax the rich. Save the world. It is that simple."

Payne's remarks came a day after an Institute for Policy Studies analysis of Forbes data found that the collective fortunes of U.S. billionaires have grown by nearly 88% to $5.5 trillion over the past four years.

On Tuesday, a group of congressional Democrats introduced legislation that would tax U.S. fortunes over $50 million.

Patriotic Millionaires was among the organizations that endorsed the bill, titled the Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act. Morris Pearl, the chair of the group, said in a statement that "contrary to popular belief, billionaires and millionaires like me do not amass such extraordinarily large fortunes because we work harder or because we are more talented than Americans who work for a living."

"Instead, it's because we rigged the tax code so that wealthy people like us who make most of our money off our assets pay next to nothing—or sometimes literally nothing—in taxes," said Pearl. "The Ultra-Millionaire Tax will be an important first step in requiring the rich to finally start paying their rightful share in taxes, thus reining in the destabilizing level of economic inequality that plagues our country and threatens our democracy."

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