Watch a historian nail the super-rich: ‘enough of your charity bulls**t, let’s talk taxes’

Historian Rutger Bregman and musician Bono
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The billionaires’ annual gathering at Davos was shaken up by a stinging takedown on taxes by a Dutch historian. And for many, it was a welcome and long overdue moment.

Stop the bull shit, let’s talk about taxes

There was a lot of talk about tax at Davos. And there was certain hostility directed at new US congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. She had called for the introduction of a 70% tax rate on the rich (an idea backed by a Nobel Prize-winning economist).

The predictable reaction of Dell’s CEO Howard Dell was an example of this:

Read on...

However, Dell was schooled by MIT economist Erik Brynjolfsson. It was a clear demonstration of the economic and historical ignorance common within the global business community. As one commentator documented, in the US there have been vastly higher tax rates throughout history compared to today’s norm:

It was the intervention of Dutch historian Rutger Bregman that dealt with the nonsense best, though. And he was direct, firing straight to the heart of the matter and calling out Dell’s ignorance directly:

Spot on!

Bregman famously wrote the best-selling book Utopia for Realists, which advocates the introduction of a Universal Basic Income (UBI).

Others observed with amusement that the audience member questioning Bregman’s insights was none other than Ex-Yahoo CFO, Ken Goldman:

Although Bregman acknowledged that the takedown of Goldman by Oxfam director Winnie Byanyima was equally impressive:

An acknowledgement appreciated by Lara Witt of feminist publication Wear Your Voice:

Bregman further added that many of the corporate CEOs who opposed tax increases do themselves benefit from redistributed taxes:

Jamie Bartlett, the creator of Secrets of Silicon Valley, also pointed out a glaring hole in the thinking of Silicon Valley CEOs, many of whom think a universal basic income is a way to maintain consumer spending and solve inequality, except for one small problem:

Others enjoyed Bregman’s perfect swipe at the philanthropy of celebrities like Bono:

A long overdue challenge to corporate greed

Davos interviewer Heather Long of the Washington Post observed two common beliefs of corporate CEOs she interviewed at Davos:

And an expert in automated unemployment, Brian Merchant, summed up the flawed thinking perfectly:

The dominant corporate belief system is that working people must evolve to suit business needs. But corporations seem to expect no such responsibilities for themselves. Instead, they believe they can choose to engage in charity instead of paying the taxes they owe to society.

This is why interventions by Ocasio-Cortez, Bregman, Byanyima and others are so welcome. They point out an obvious truth: without taxing the rich (or fundamentally changing our political and economic system), equality and social justice are impossible – and token charity will not do.

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