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Tax on Super-Rich a Popular Idea, Except in the Media

A new poll shows that 67 percent of Canadians support or somewhat support a wealth tax

tax the rich sign

A new Abacus poll shows that 67 percent of Canadians support (or somewhat support) a wealth tax. (Photo: AFP/Getty)

The Onion magazine once sardonically described the gap between rich and poor as the Eighth Wonder of the World—"a tremendous, millennia-old expanse that fills us with both wonder and humility… the most colossal and enduring of mankind’s creations."

Let's not forget that the super-rich typically made their fortunes by selling products built by employees we all paid to educate, and shipping those products on roads we all paid to build.

Another aspect of the rich-poor gap that fills me with wonder is the way the rich manage to keep it off the political agenda, although that may be changing.

Prominent U.S. Democratic presidential contenders Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders are campaigning on taxing the super-rich, with Warren calling for a 2 percent annual tax on wealth above $50 million, rising to 3 percent on billionaires.

In Canada, where politicians have shied away from even putting their toe in the water when it comes to taxing the rich, NDP Leader Jagmeet Singh has taken a bold plunge, calling for a version of Warren's tax—an annual one percent tax on wealth over $20 million.

This is an excellent idea, and is apparently popular. A new Abacus poll shows that 67 percent of Canadians support (or somewhat support) a wealth tax, along the lines proposed by Warren, and that even a majority of Conservative voters support it. That's probably about the same percentage of Canadians who support (or somewhat support) Mother's Day.

Yet the wealth tax has received little media coverage—beyond denunciations in the National Post, which surely has nothing to do with the fact the media is largely owned by billionaires. 

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One Post columnist posed the bizarre question: what is the problem to which creating a wealth tax is a solution?

Fortunately, the brilliant French economist Thomas Piketty answered that question at length in his celebrated international best-seller, Capital in the 21st Century, where he made the case for wealth taxes.

Without them, he argued with extensive data, wealth will become ever more concentrated, allowing the mega-rich to swallow up an ever larger share of the world's resources.

Given that 26 individuals now have as much wealth as the bottom half of humanity (3.8 billion people), one wonders at what point conservative commentators might consider this a problem. What if one individual had as much as the rest of humanity—or if she had allthe world’s wealth? Would that cause alarm at the Post?

Let's not forget that the super-rich typically made their fortunes by selling products built by employees we all paid to educate, and shipping those products on roads we all paid to build.

Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig

Linda McQuaig is an author, journalist, and former NDP candidate for Toronto Centre in the Canadian federal election. She is also the author (with Neil Brooks) of Billionaires’ Ball: Gluttony and Hubris in an Age of Epic Inequality, published by Beacon Press.

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