Bill Gates, who is known not only for his humanitarian work and his pioneering role at Microsoft but for having amassed massive amounts of wealth, recently sat down with columnist Andrew Ross Sorkin at The New York Times DealBook Conference to discuss matters of finance, philanthropy, and politics. In response to a question about taxation on wealthy individuals, Bill Gates said that he had paid over $10 billion in taxes, and that he’d be happy to pay $20 billion, but he is skeptical of tax rates higher than that. Gates insinuated that under Warren’s plan, he’d have to pay $100 billion in taxes, which he considered unacceptable. (He clarified that he meant that statement as a joke immediately after.) The interviewer then asked Gates if he had ever spoken with Warren about the topic, and he replied that he hadn’t, and that he didn’t know whether she’d be willing to “sit down with somebody, you know, who has large amounts of money.”
Gates’ comment about Warren’s tax plan, as well his comments about the election more generally, received a lot of attention in the media, potentially damaging Warren’s campaign. In response, Elizabeth Warren tweeted yesterday that she’d be happy to sit down with Gates, and that she’d “love to explain exactly how much [he’d] pay under [her] wealth tax.” She promised him it wouldn’t be $100 billion. Gates responded to Warren’s tweets by applauding her commitment to proposing solutions to many of the world’s greatest problems, including climate change and global poverty, and said that he respected her ambition despite their disagreements. Gates added that he’s “always willing to talk about creative solutions to these problems,” suggesting a conversation between the two may be in the works.
Gates is one of several billionaires who has recently expressed doubts about tax plans like Warren’s
Gates, who said during the recent interview that he wasn’t going to make any “political declarations,” stated nonetheless that he is likely to vote for the more “professional” candidate. This comment was criticized as a tacit endorsement of Trump, as many commentators felt that it should have been easy for Gates to denounce the sitting president. However, Gates is known for choosing not to give political endorsements, as he doesn’t want to influence the political process in that way. In fact, Gates’ preference for the more “professional” candidate could easily be read as an implicit criticism of Trump, who defies conventions of professionalism at every opportunity.
If Warren’s tax plan were passed into law, Gates’ taxes would surely go up, though not to the levels he suggested. Under Warren’s plan, fortunes over $1 billion would be taxed at 6%. As Gates is worth roughly $107 billion, this would mean he’d pay at least an additional $6.42 billion in taxes, a far cry from the $100 billion tax he joked about. Nevertheless, while Gates asserted that he supports progressive tax policies, he voiced skepticism and concern about Warren’s plans specifically, asserting he’d prefer “a middle-ground approach.” Notably, Sanders’ tax plan was not discussed, even though his plan calls for even greater taxes on the wealthy than Warren’s does. Perhaps a more significant source of disagreement between the two results from Warren’s proposal to break up big tech companies, which Gates opposes, though he has admitted his bias in favor of Microsoft.
Gates is one of several billionaires who has recently expressed doubts about tax plans like Warren’s; the prospect of paying more taxes drove one billionaire to tears on CNBC, and JPMorgan CEO Jamie Dimon worried that Warren “vilifies successful people,” and expressed concern about her use of “harsh” language.