Demanding Change at Davos

Shutterstock | Tinnaporn Sathapornnanont

 
 
  

As the rich and powerful have gathered this week in Davos for the World Economic Forum’s (WEF) Annual Meeting, there has been a lot of talk about how to make the world a better place. Davos attendees, from world leaders to billionaires, have made a massive show of how they will build “Cooperation in a Fragmented World,” as the title of this year’s gathering is named.

It’s all a load of nonsense. Because this year, like every year at Davos, the attendees are again ignoring the most obvious answer to the world’s various crises – fighting out-of-control inequality and extreme wealth by making rich people pay higher taxes. The WEF’s own promotional materials for this year’s meeting claim that “the sheer number of ongoing crises calls for bold collective action,” but the word “tax,” a fundamental prerequisite for any real collective action on a global scale, is nowhere to be found in the program’s agenda.

Our Response
We’re fed up with world leaders and billionaires congratulating themselves for doing absolutely nothing. That’s why yesterday, the Patriotic Millionaires released an open letter signed by over 200 millionaires across 13 countries demanding that leaders of the WEF’s Davos summit address the crisis of extreme wealth by raising taxes on the rich.

Click here to read the letter.

We’d like to give a special thanks to our partners at taxmenow,  Millionaires for Humanity, Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, and Oxfam for joining us in recruiting signers, leaving us with an extremely impressive list. Millionaires from multiple backgrounds – including business leaders old and new from tech, food, and energy companies, celebrities Mark Ruffalo and Abigail Disney, as well as inheritors and investors – have given their support to this mission.

Our letter was hand-delivered by two millionaires in Davos to attendees of the WEF Annual Meeting. These millionaires, Phil Knight of Patriotic Millionaires UK and Marlene Englehorn of taxmenow, spent the entire week in Davos protesting for higher taxes on the rich. Click here for a peek at how they spent the week.

Since the letter was released yesterday, our call for action is resonating around the world. Check out a few of these stories in a few major news outlets for additional details:

CNBC
CBS News 
The Guardian 
Yahoo! Finance 
Fast Company 
Sky News 

Our Report
Our letter comes alongside a new analysis conducted by the Patriotic Millionaires, the Fight Inequality Alliance, the Institute for Policy Studies, and Oxfam, which outlines the state of global wealth inequality and explores how taxes can combat the plague of extreme wealth and inequality.

The report shows how quickly extreme wealth is growing around the world:

  • The total number of people with at least $5 million in net wealth has increased by 52.9 percent over the last decade.
  • Individuals with a net wealth of $50 million or more have enjoyed similar growth levels.
  • The global billionaire class has more than doubled, and their wealth has skyrocketed at a similar rate – 99.62 percent, to be exact. This is a gain of more than $5 trillion.
  • In the first two years of the pandemic, the richest ten men doubled their wealth while 99% of people saw their incomes fall.

Furthermore, a survey of economists’ views on inequality and tax within the report found:

  • 71 percent believe falling taxes on the rich partly cause rising inequality in their country.
  • 73 percent believe the rich pay fewer taxes in proportion to their income than the average citizen in their country.
  • 71 percent also think there is scope for increasing taxes on the rich in their country over the next five years.

The paper also highlights the extensive public attitude polling on inequality and taxes conducted in G20 countries over the last six years by multiple agencies, all of which show overwhelming public support for taxing the rich.

The report also found that if a wealth tax was introduced globally, starting at 2% annually for those with more than $5 million, 3% for those with over $50 million, and 5% annually for billionaires, the global revenue potential could be $1.7 trillion a year.

In the US alone, even introducing such a tax only on those with over $50 million, a group of fewer than 65,000 people (just 0.02 percent of the US population), would raise a potential $355 billion a year in revenue.

Change is needed
The various crises facing the world – environmental, economic, geopolitical, public health – all have roots in the 50-year trend of governments prioritizing their wealthiest citizens above all else. The belief that this would build stronger, more innovative economies where everyone prospers has proved to be baseless. Instead, we are left with highly unequal economies and growing mistrust in the ability of democratic governments to deliver for ordinary people, a dangerous sentiment in a time of rising authoritarianism across the globe.

Here in the United States, the growing wealth gap is leading to massive societal unrest, deepening poverty, and the overtaking of our political systems by anti-democratic forces. This cannot continue. As our letter reminds political leaders: “Extremes are unsustainable, often dangerous, and rarely tolerated for long.”

There’s a better way. We can and must tax the rich. Taxing extreme wealth can kill two birds with one stone – we can restore trust in democratic institutions and also pay for essential social programs around the world. Best of all, we can do it without hurting anyone – the extremely wealthy can easily afford to pay more.

If we want to build a global economy that works for everyone, not just those at the top, it has to start with taxing the rich. We’re calling on global leaders to act now and tax extreme wealth.

Background Reading and Resources
The Cost of Extreme Wealth | Letter
Davos Report 2023
Survival of the Riches | Oxfam International

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