/Terence Corcoran: First we wipe out all the billionaires

Terence Corcoran: First we wipe out all the billionaires


Here’s a bit of a switch: Billionaire bashes politician. So, hats off to Mark Zuckerberg for taking on Elizabeth Warren, the U.S. Democratic presidential candidate who wants to break up Facebook and, while she’s at it, impose a three per cent wealth tax on his $60-billion net worth. In comments to employees in July regarding Warren’s plan to dismantle Facebook, Zuckerberg said, “if she gets elected president then I would bet that we will have a legal challenge, and I would bet that we will win.” He added: “If someone’s going to try to threaten something that existential, you go to the mat and fight.”

Zuckerberg made no comment on Warren’s three per cent annual wealth confiscation plan, which would — based on simple math — amount to an existential confiscation of $2 billion of his net worth in year one and knock it down to $40 billion in about a decade, although if she breaks up Facebook at the same time, Zuckerberg might actually be wiped out as a billionaire.

That’s an exaggeration, at least under Warren’s wealth expropriation plan. But in the grand schemes of the liberal left in America and elsewhere, that’s the objective. To paraphrase one of William Shakespeare’s characters, “First we wipe out all the billionaires.”

We also have the real Shakespearean character of Bernie Sanders, who — after announcing his plan to impose an escalating wealth tax that would rise to eight per cent annually on individuals who own $10 billion or more — said “There should be no billionaires.” A Sanders government, he said, would “take on the billionaire class, substantially reduce wealth inequality in America, and stop our democracy from turning into a corrupt oligarchy.”

With these attacks on billionaires and the wealthy, the Warren/Sanders ideological demolition of American capitalism is underway. The undermining of the U.S. economic system, based on free markets backed by individual and corporate rights, seems likely to intensify in the lead-up to the November 2020 election.

How deeply will these neo-Marxist revolutionary concepts infiltrate the thinking of U.S. voters? The idea that the United States is — or may be on the brink of becoming — a corrupt oligarchy controlled by a cabal of billionaires is a slanderous smear fabricated by radical theorists on the egalitarian left.

Sanders and Warren did not concoct their billionaire-bashing ideas on their own. Extreme socialist economic theory goes back a couple of centuries, but two contemporary practitioners are driving the ideological bus to economic peril: Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez and his longtime fellow-traveller, French socialist phenom Thomas Piketty, whose book, Capital in the Twenty-First Century, emerged as the 2013 bible of radical reformists. Piketty and Saez became guiding lights to scores of politicians, from U.S. president Barack Obama to Chrystia Freeland, then a Liberal MP and Justin Trudeau’s chief economic adviser.

The undermining of the U.S. economic system, based on free markets backed by individual and corporate rights, seems likely to intensify in the lead-up to the November 2020 election.

Today, Saez is the guiding mind behind Sanders, crunching the numbers and providing the theoretical backbone for the candidate’s plan to redistribute billionaire wealth to the people, including “the middle class.” In a paper tied to the Sanders plan, Saez and an associate described how the Sanders wealth tax could raise $4.35 trillion over a decade and “fully eliminate the gap between wealth growth for billionaires and wealth growth for the middle class.”

Saez, who has been promoting Canadian and U.S. inequality for more than a decade, begins his Sanders paper with a false premise: “Democracies become oligarchies when wealth is too concentrated.” But America is not an oligarchy. Russia is an oligarchy. China is an oligarchy. Half the United Nations members are thuggish and undemocratic oligarchies. American billionaires and owners of wealth gained most of their wealth through open and free market activity.

Nobody is forced to buy products through Amazon or log on to Facebook. From Henry Ford and Andrew Carnegie to Mark Zuckerberg, Bill Gates and Jeff Bezos, American billionaires operated in a market economy that allowed them to invest in and develop products and services that enriched the lives of billions of people around the world.

Are the billionaires ready to take on the fight?

The politicians who now aim to wipe out billionaires have themselves accomplished nothing. All they know is how to seize income and wealth that has been acquired freely and honestly and redistribute it to voters who have been conned into believing that the wealthy achieved their wealth by virtue of being part of an oligarchy.

The idea that U.S. billionaires are immoral exploiters of the poor and middle class will likely gain momentum in 2020 through to the election. In March, as the election moves into high gear, the English version of Piketty’s latest socialist blueprint will be published.

Titled Capital And Ideology, Piketty’s new book is reported to be a 1,200-page crucifixion of capitalism and the wealth creation it fosters. Under Piketty’s economic and political revolution, billionaires would be taxed out of existence.

Other Piketty proposals include requirements that employees control 50 per cent of corporate boards and that the votes of large shareholders be limited to 10 per cent; and that large properties be taxed up to 90 per cent.

Together, Saez and Piketty have been at the heart of the billionaire-bashing inequality movement. They were partners in the past: they co-authored a 2003 paper, Income Inequality in the United States, 1913-1998. Saez is the intellectual behind Sanders, and two former Piketty aides are said to have worked with Warren on her plans.

America’s billionaires, and all who appreciate the benefits of a capitalist market economy, have a fight on their hands. Are the billionaires ready to take it on?

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