Billionaires call on America to adopt wealth tax in new open letter
FILE PHOTO: Business magnate George Soros arrives to speak at the Open Russia Club in London, Britain June 20, 2016. REUTERS/Luke MacGregor/File Photo

On Monday, The New York Times reported that 19 mega-wealthy individuals, including financier George Soros, Facebook co-founder Chris Hughes, and heiresses Abigail Disney and Regan Pritzker, have signed an open letter calling on the federal government to enact a "wealth tax."

"We are writing to call on all candidates for President, whether they are Republicans or Democrats, to support a moderate wealth tax on the fortunes of the richest one-tenth of the richest 1% of Americans — on us," said the letter. "The next dollar of new tax revenue should come from the most financially fortunate, not from middle-income and lower-income Americans."

While a number of billionaires, like petroleum magnate Charles Koch and big data tycoon Robert Mercer, have used their fortunes to finance conservative and libertarian anti-tax advocacy in politics, others, like Berkshire Hathaway founder Warren Buffett and Microsoft's Bill Gates, have advocated a more progressive redistribution of wealth for years. Buffett in particular has highlighted the absurdity of how the tax code lets him pay a lower marginal tax rate than his own secretary.

Wealth taxes, or a tax levied on the money you already have rather than the income you earn each year, is not a new or radical idea — millions of Americans already pay wealth taxes each year to their state or local government, in the form of property taxes on their houses.

But Democratic candidates increasingly support something further: a federal tax on all wealth above a certain level, that would apply not just to houses but all assets and investments. For instance, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) wants to levy a 2 percent tax on all assets greater than $50 million, and 3 percent on assets greater than $1 billion — a proposal that would theoretically raise almost $3 trillion in tax revenue over a decade. Some other Democratic presidential candidates, like former Rep. Beto O'Rourke (D-TX) and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg, support similar policies.