Billionaire philanthropists Bill and Melinda Gates appeared on “The Late Show” and were asked about rhetoric and policy proposals that have been circulating among the American left.
“Late Show” host Stephen Colbert questioned the couple if they have heard the chatter about how billionaires “shouldn’t exist,” most notably from progressive darling Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY.
“We have,” Melinda Gates responded.
“What would you say to those people who say billionaires shouldn’t exist?” Colbert asked.
“Well, we might be biased,” the Microsoft founder joked. “I think you can make the tax system take a much higher portion from people with great wealth.”
“Seventy percent?” Colbert chimed in, which sparked cheers from his audience.
“That’s the ordinary income. These great fortunes were not made through ordinary incomes. So you probably have to look at the capital gains rate and the estate tax if you want to create more equity there,” Gates elaborated. “So I think that’s a great debate. I think if you go so far as to say that there’s a total upper limit that might have more negatives than positives, but I may have a distorted view of this.”
When asked how high tax rates on the rich works in other countries they have visited, Gates's wife expressed “not necessarily that well.”
“In fact, there have been many times when you’re in France where they’ll say, ‘Gosh, we wish we could have a Bill Gates. We wish we could have such a vibrant tech sector, but the taxes have been done there in such a way that it doesn’t actually stimulate good growth,” Melinda Gates elaborated. “So we believe in a good tax system that should tax the wealthy more than low-income people for sure.”
“More than what is presently being taxed?” Colbert asked.
“Yes, absolutely,” she answered.
“We’ve been lobbying in favor of increasing the estate tax,” the Microsoft executive said. “That could be increased quite a bit. It used to be 55%.”
“We do believe that to whom much is given, much is expected. And that means you need to have a fair tax system that taxes the wealthy more than lower/middle income and you need to have a vibrant philanthropy sector. Philanthropy can never make up for taxes, but it is that catalytic wedge where we can try things, we can do innovations that you wouldn’t want your government to do with tax dollars, but then it has to be government that scales up things like health or education,” Mrs. Gates added.