Should billionaires exist?

‘The 360’ shows you diverse perspectives on the day’s top stories.

What’s happening:

Billionaires in many ways run the world. They lead the biggest companies. They own most of the media. A billionaire currently inhabits the White House. How many billionaires are there? By one count, there were 2,153 globally in 2019. They are worth a combined $8.7 trillion. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos alone has a $131 billion fortune, making him the world’s richest person.

To some, these lofty numbers are impressive, even admirable. But a growing movement among progressive politicians is starting to question whether it makes sense for so few people to have so much wealth. The candidates in the Democratic presidential primary offer a variety of policies that would diminish the fortunes of the richest people in America, redistributing that wealth among all citizens. Some proposals are so transformative, they might make billionaires extinct.

Why there’s debate:

When Sen. Bernie Sanders says “billionaires should not exist,” it might sound extreme to some. The real extreme, Sanders and his fellow democratic socialists argue, is that a small number of people possess more wealth than half of the world’s population combined. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said the current system, which has allowed for growing levels of income inequality, “doesn’t make moral sense.”

Billionaires don’t just hold a disproportionate share of the world’s wealth, critics argue, they also use their power to perpetuate the divide between the rich and the poor. This outsize influence of the superrich is how the U.S. ended up with a system that allows billionaires to pay a lower tax rate than working-class people.

Defenders of billionaires say rich people shouldn’t be criticized for their success. Limiting the opportunity for individual wealth, some argue, would prevent the type of entrepreneurship that drove billionaires like Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg to start companies that have created millions of jobs.

Many billionaires also pour tremendous amounts of money into philanthropic initiatives that are making progress on problems that governments have struggled with. Bill and Melinda Gates, for example, have reportedly given away more than $45.5 billion to improve global health, promote education and fight poverty.

What’s next:

A lot needs to happen before billionaires would need to start worrying about their fortunes, at least in the next few years. A progressive Democrat like Sanders or Sen. Elizabeth Warren would have to win the Democratic primary, then beat Donald Trump in the general election. Even then, Congress would have to get behind massive changes to the tax code. Polling suggests that Americans are largely behind many of the individual policies that would reduce the wealth of billionaires, but are against the idea of eliminating them entirely.

Perspectives

Billionaires shouldn’t exist

Concentrated wealth is bad for democracy

“Dramatic inequality in wealth means dramatic inequality in terms of political power means a political system unresponsive to what most people want. Wealth inequality, in other words, is an anti-democratic force.” — Annie Lowrey, the Atlantic

It’s immoral for a few people to horde wealth when many people are struggling

“Billionaires should not exist — at least not in their present numbers, with their current globe-swallowing power, garnering this level of adulation, while the rest of the economy scrapes by.” — Farhad Manjoo, New York Times

Billionaires didn’t earn their wealth on their own

“No one earns a billion dollars, but hierarchical economic structures and a skewed political system ensure some nevertheless acquire it because of the property they own. A billion dollars, let alone the over $100 billion amassed by Jeff Bezos, is not a reward proportionate to someone’s social contribution. It’s institutionalized theft, plain and simple.” — Luke Savage, Jacobin

Abolishing billionaires shouldn’t be the goal, but it may be a side effect of an equitable society

“Perhaps a way to cut through the murk would be to change the question: Once we’ve made the changes necessary to create a truly just society, would billionaires still exist? If we made a world where opportunity is abundant and prosperity is shared, would the rejiggering of resources and money flows still leave room for billionaires to become billionaires? I think it’s safe to assume the answer is ‘no.’” — Jeff Spross, the Week

The effects of billionaire philanthropy are overstated

“If all the billionaires were in fact giving all their money away to charity there’d be no billionaire wealth to tax, and thus no wealth tax debate except in a totally theoretical sense. But that’s obviously not the actual situation.” — Vox co-founder Matthew Yglesias

The founders understood the corrupting power of concentrated wealth

“America’s first political theorists took these truths to be self-evident: that a person could not exercise political liberty if he did not possess a modicum of economic autonomy, and that disparities in wealth inevitably produced disparities of political power.” — Eric Levitz, New York

Billionaires deserve to keep their wealth

The goal of becoming wealthy drives innovation

“Saying wealth accumulation stagnates innovation bucks reality. The prospect of wealth is the antidote to economic stagnation, not its cause. Sitting still, betting on old ways lasting forever, causes stagnation.” — Tim Mullaney, MarketWatch

Billionaires create benefits for everyone else

“When we let billionaires become billionaires, they employ hundreds of thousands of people and create trillions of dollars of wealth for the economy overall. When we let billionaires stay billionaires, even the most undeserving of them keep gobs of cash in investments, growing the economy for everyone as they sleep.” — Tiana Lowe, Washington Examiner

There’s nothing immoral about being wealthy

“Maybe billionaires should pay higher taxes, or at least their estates should. We can have that debate. But their existence isn’t a sign of capitalist immorality. In America, at least, it’s a sign of economic vibrancy.” — James Pethokoukis, the Week

Many billionaires use their power to defend democracy

“Other democracies envy the United States for this vibrant, independent, thickly muscled web of institutions and its check on government overreach. And these institutions would not exist but for the generosity of those billionaires and their millionaire fellows.” — Fred Hiatt, Washington Post

Taxing billionaires out of existence is a slippery slope

“It’s a slippery slope. First, the billionaires are targeted, then the rich. Soon, it will be the middle class. After a while, there will be no one left to tax.” — Jack Kelly, Forbes


Is there a topic you’d like to see covered in “The 360”? Send your suggestions to the360@yahoonews.com.

Read more 360s

Cover thumbnail photo illustration: Yahoo News; photo: Getty Images

  • Trump scrubs New Hampshire rally as campaign struggles to reboot
    LA Times

    Trump scrubs New Hampshire rally as campaign struggles to reboot

    For weeks, President Trump's campaign aides have fretted about whether he could draw a major crowd to an airport rally Saturday night in Portsmouth, N.H., or if not, whether they could stage the event to make it look full. The danger, all agreed, was a repeat of Trump's disastrous last rally, three weeks ago in Tulsa, Okla., where TV cameras showed two-thirds of the indoor arena as a sea of empty blue seats, and the vast throngs predicted outside failed to materialize. On Friday, the White House abruptly pulled the plug on the planned New Hampshire rally, citing weather worries even though the forecast showed morning thunderstorms mostly clearing by the evening.

  • Russian accused of harassing Black family in Oregon was ordered deported 10 years ago
    Miami Herald

    Russian accused of harassing Black family in Oregon was ordered deported 10 years ago

    One of the seven men arrested after police said they harassed a Black family at an Oregon beach was ordered deported to Russia a decade ago, according to U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement. Oleg Saranchuk and six other men were arrested on July 4 after they were accused of yelling racial slurs and made a Nazi salute at a Black family at a Lincoln City beach, according to the Lincoln City Police Department. Saranchuk initially refused to identify himself to the police.

  • The governor of Florida is getting roasted online for comparing attending school with shopping at Home Depot or Walmart
    Business Insider

    The governor of Florida is getting roasted online for comparing attending school with shopping at Home Depot or Walmart

    Paul Hennessy/SOPA Images/LightRocket via Getty Images Florida Governor Ron DeSantis is being ridiculed on Twitter over comments he made regarding Home Depot, Walmart, and school reopenings. "I'm confident if you can do Home Depot, if you can do Walmart, if you can do these things, we absolutely can do the schools," DeSantis said. He cited his desire to "minimize this education gap that I think has developed" due to the coronavirus.

  • Judge blocks removal of more Confederate statues in Richmond
    Associated Press

    Judge blocks removal of more Confederate statues in Richmond

    A judge issued an injunction Thursday barring the city of Richmond from removing any more Confederate monuments, a process that began last week after Mayor Levar Stoney ordered the statues cleared away amid weeks of protests over police brutality and racism. Richmond Circuit Court Judge Bradley Cavedo issued the decision after a hearing in a lawsuit filed Tuesday by an unnamed plaintiff, local media outlets reported. The lawsuit asked for an emergency injunction to halt the removal of the statues and alleged that Stoney violated state law by ordering their immediate removal.

  • U.S. has not yet decided how it will retaliate to France digital tax: Mnuchin
    Reuters

    U.S. has not yet decided how it will retaliate to France digital tax: Mnuchin

    The United States has not yet finalized a decision on how it will respond to France's digital tax, U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin said in an interview with CNBC on Thursday. Washington had been in talks with the European Union over the taxes on digital giants like Alphabet's Google, Amazon and Facebook, but Mnuchin called for a break in the negotiations in June.

  • Fox News host Tucker Carlson accused of echoing white supremacist slogan on air
    The Independent

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson accused of echoing white supremacist slogan on air

    Fox News host Tucker Carlson has been accused of echoing a 14-word white supremacist phrase during one of his on-air segments. During a segment on his Monday evening show, Mr Carlson showed side-by-side images of Representative Ilhan Omar and Senator Tammy Duckworth, both of whom are Democrats on Capitol Hill and were born overseas. Critics said the phrase across the screen mirrored that of the white supremacist 14-word slogan: “We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.”

  • Outdoor Dinging Decor That's Sure to Bring Joy to Any Table 
    Architectural Digest

    Outdoor Dinging Decor That's Sure to Bring Joy to Any Table 

    Cheerful furnishings in citrine bring smiles to the outdoor table Originally Appeared on Architectural Digest

  • Soldier Makes History as First Woman to Join the Green Berets
    Military.com

    Soldier Makes History as First Woman to Join the Green Berets

    An Army National Guard soldier marked a new milestone in the U.S. military Thursday by graduating from the grueling Special Forces Qualification Course (Q Course) to become the first woman to join the Green Berets. U.S. Army Special Operations Command would not identify the soldier, but confirmed that she graduated from the 53-week course in a ceremony at Fort Bragg, North Carolina, according to a USASOC release. Read Next: Army Reviewing 'Confederate Memorial' Featuring Slaves at Arlington National Cemetery USASOC Commander Lt. Gen. Fran Beaudette spoke at the ceremony, congratulating the class of approximately 400 soldiers.

  • Nile Dam row: Egypt and Ethiopia generate heat but no power
    BBC

    Nile Dam row: Egypt and Ethiopia generate heat but no power

    The recent meeting of the UN Security Council to discuss Ethiopia's huge hydro-electric plant, the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (Gerd), straddling the Blue Nile, was held by teleconference. The Gerd, which sits on the Nile's main tributary, is upstream of Egypt and has the potential to control the flow of water that the country almost entirely relies on. Using similar language, Ethiopia's UN ambassador Taye Atske-Selassie countered: "For Ethiopia, accessing and utilising its water resources is not a matter of choice, but of existential necessity."

  • Trump Aides Not Sweating His Supreme Court Taxes Rebuke
    The Daily Beast

    Trump Aides Not Sweating His Supreme Court Taxes Rebuke

    That sense of relief marked a coda on a dramatic and constitutionally consequential Friday morning, in which the court issued a pair of 7-2 decisions, ruling that the president's blanket claims of immunity from legal investigation—both by Congress and law enforcement authorities in New York—lacked legal merit. In broad strokes, the decisions were setbacks for Trump, which may explain why he tweeted, shortly after they were handed down, that it was “Not fair to this Presidency or Administration!

  • Ghislaine Maxwell says she hadn't been in contact with Jeffrey Epstein for more than 10 years before his death
    INSIDER

    Ghislaine Maxwell says she hadn't been in contact with Jeffrey Epstein for more than 10 years before his death

    Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell filed court documents on Friday asking for their client to be released on bail as she awaits trial on sex-trafficking charges. Lawyers for Ghislaine Maxwell said she hadn't been in contact with Jeffrey Epstein for more than a decade before he died by suicide while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges last year. Maxwell, a former girlfriend and associate of Epstein, was arrested last week on charges including inciting minors to travel to engage in sexual acts and the transportation of a minor with intent to engage in sexual acts.

  • Police are welcome at Seattle ice cream shop — but their guns aren’t, owner says
    Miami Herald

    Police are welcome at Seattle ice cream shop — but their guns aren’t, owner says

    No armed police officers are allowed inside a popular Seattle ice cream shop, the store says. Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream on Capitol Hill posted a sign saying no one who is armed is welcome inside the shop, social media posts say. Police officers: Molly Moon's is a gun-free zone,” the sign reads.

  • This aviator just became the US Navy's first Black female fighter pilot
    Business Insider

    This aviator just became the US Navy's first Black female fighter pilot

    U.S. Navy photo by Anne Owens The US Navy has graduated its first Black female fighter pilot, Lt. j.g. Madeline Swegle, the service said. "Very proud of LTJG Swegle," the Vice Chief of Information Rear Adm. Paula Dunn wrote.

  • Bernie Sanders hails Biden as possibly the 'most progressive president since FDR'
    FOX News Videos

    Bernie Sanders hails Biden as possibly the 'most progressive president since FDR'

    Will Democrats get what they want from Biden? Political analyst Tezlyn Figaro and attorney Alex Swoyer debate.

  • Hundreds gather for funeral of Palestinian shot by Israeli troops
    Reuters

    Hundreds gather for funeral of Palestinian shot by Israeli troops

    Hundreds of people gathered in the occupied West Bank on Friday for the funeral of a Palestinian man shot by Israeli soldiers a day earlier. Israel's army said troops opened fire after the Palestinian and another man started throwing fire bombs at a guard post near the town of Nablus. Palestinian officials dismissed the report and said the man had been walking with friends when he was shot dead.

  • Oxygen already runs low as COVID-19 surges in South Africa
    Associated Press

    Oxygen already runs low as COVID-19 surges in South Africa

    The coronavirus storm has arrived in South Africa, but in the overflowing COVID-19 wards the sound is less of a roar than a rasp. Medical oxygen is already low in hospitals at the new epicenter of the outbreak, Gauteng province, home to the power centers of Johannesburg and the capital, Pretoria. Health Minister Zweli Mkhize, visiting a hospital Friday, said authorities are working with industry to divert more oxygen their way.

  • Christian Science Monitor

    For Russian experts, Taliban bounty report just doesn’t make sense

    From the very start of the American-led invasion of Afghanistan almost 19 years ago, Russian experts were shaking their heads and warning that it would not turn out well. It provided intelligence and logistical support, and repeatedly urged NATO to stay and “finish the job” of defeating the Taliban. Moscow's main concern, then and now, was that the victory of extreme Islamist forces in Afghanistan would promote instability and insurrection in the vulnerable former Soviet states of central Asia, as it had prior to the U.S. intervention in 2001.

  • Gun violence disproportionately affects minorities. Data shows it's getting worse.
    NBC News

    Gun violence disproportionately affects minorities. Data shows it's getting worse.

    In New York City, after the number of shooting victims more than doubled from June 2019 to this June, every person who has been shot this July, nearly 100 in total, has been a member of the minority community, according to the police department. And in June, 97 percent of the shooting victims were minorities, the department said. In Chicago, where minority communities have long struggled with deadly gun violence, shootings have increased 76 percent from the same time last year, with nearly all the bloodshed concentrated in the city's predominantly Black and brown communities on the South and West Sides.

  • Dr Fauci last briefed Trump two months ago, as the top expert admits he has reputation to not ‘sugar-coat’ information
    The Independent

    Dr Fauci last briefed Trump two months ago, as the top expert admits he has reputation to not ‘sugar-coat’ information

    Dr Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious disease expert, has not briefed President Donald Trump in the past two months about the coronavirus pandemic, as cases surge in parts of the US. Early on in the pandemic, the president would meet with Dr Fauci and the White House Coronavirus Task Force multiple times per week. The task force also held daily press briefings in March and April, which Mr Trump would often attend, before abruptly ending them.

  • Thousands Of Parents, Students Shocked As New York Catholic Schools Close
    CBS New York - WCBS

    Thousands Of Parents, Students Shocked As New York Catholic Schools Close

    Thousands of parents and students in New York were in shock Thursday after they were told their Catholic schools will not reopen in the fall. Officials say fallout from the coronavirus pandemic is to blame; CBS2's Hazel Sanchez reports.

  • Texas Lt. Governor Is Determined to Sacrifice Everyone but Himself for GOP Convention
    The Daily Beast

    Texas Lt. Governor Is Determined to Sacrifice Everyone but Himself for GOP Convention

    Nobody howled louder than Texas Lt. Gov Dan Patrick when Houston Mayor Sylvester Turner barred the state GOP from holding its convention there amid a COVID-19 explosion. “This is nothing but a political hack job by Mayor Turner,” Patrick told Laura Ingraham on Fox News. Patrick failed to mention that he and Gov. Greg Abbott and various other GOP elected officials had earlier opted out of actually joining the 6,000 party stalwarts who signed up for the July 16th gathering at the George R. Brown Convention center.

  • Jared Kushner said the US would be 'really rocking again' by July. 7 states are shutting back down, and new COVID-19 cases have set records 6 times in July's first 10 days.
    Business Insider

    Jared Kushner said the US would be 'really rocking again' by July. 7 states are shutting back down, and new COVID-19 cases have set records 6 times in July's first 10 days.

    Jared Kushner's bold prediction from April about the country "really rocking again" by July has not held up. Seven states have been shutting down aspects of their reopening efforts, while 14 more are pausing their reopenings as the virus surges. Kushner's bullish economic outlook from his April Fox News hit has not fared much better, with the unemployment rate still sitting at 11.1% and two-thirds of Americans on unemployment earning more than they did at their old jobs.

  • Airline passengers are finding 'creative ways' to remove masks, American pilot says
    USA TODAY

    Airline passengers are finding 'creative ways' to remove masks, American pilot says

    American Airlines pilot Dennis Tajer has taken several flights during the coronavirus pandemic, both in the cockpit and as a union official, and has noticed something unsettling lately: passengers removing their masks for more than eating or drinking. "We're starting to see people take creative ways on the aircraft of temporary relief from wearing the masks,'' he said in an interview Thursday on CNBC's "Squawk Box. "You see it drop down over the nose.

  • Brazil bans fires in Amazon rainforest as investors demand results
    Reuters

    Brazil bans fires in Amazon rainforest as investors demand results

    Brazil's government announced on Thursday it planned to ban setting fires in the Amazon for 120 days, in a meeting with global investors to address their rising concerns over destruction of the rainforest. The decree banning fires, set to be issued next week, repeats a similar temporary ban instituted last year when forest fires surged, provoking outcry that Brazil was not doing enough to protect the world's largest rainforest. Brazil's government, led by Vice President Hamilton Mourao, had arranged Thursday's video conference in response to a letter sent by 29 global firms demanding the government stop environmental destruction that has surged since right-wing President Jair Bolsonaro took office at the start of last year.

  • UN official: 700 people died in Syrian camps for IS families
    Associated Press

    UN official: 700 people died in Syrian camps for IS families

    The U.N. counterterrorism chief said his office received information that 700 people died recently in two camps in northeast Syria, where more than 70,000 mainly women and children connected to Islamic State fighters are detained in “very dire conditions.” Vladimir Voronkov told a news conference Thursday that the people, including children, died of “lack of medicine, lack of food” at the al-Hol and Roj camps, which are overseen by Kurdish-led forces allied with the United States who spearheaded the fight against the extremist Islamic State group. Voronkov did not clarify when the 700 reportedly died or what the source of the information was.