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Billionaires, she’s coming for you: Abigail Disney intensifies push for wealth tax on the 1%

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, calls to “tax the rich” are louder than ever.

Billionaires, she’s coming for you: Abigail Disney intensifies push for wealth tax on the 1%
[Photo: Monica Schipper/Getty Images for The New York Women’s Foundation]
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Abigail Disney, granddaughter of Roy Disney and a longtime critic of wealth inequality, went on CNBC’s Squawk Box Thursday morning to call for higher taxes on American billionaires.

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That is, “the individual people who are sitting on mountains of money,” said Disney. “There were 20 billionaires in 1980, now there are over 600 [in the United States]. If money has been concentrated too heavily in a too small population, it needs to be driven across the economy.”

In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, which has spotlighted the economic inequality between the one percenters—who continue to collect millions while working out of mansions and beachfront second homes—and the minimum-wage workers who brave virus-infested streets to get to grocery store jobs and delivery gigs, calls to “tax the rich” are coming from members of varying income brackets.

Among the ultra-wealthy in her circle, Disney told CNBC, there is “less resistance than we’ve gotten in the past.”

As for what’s a fair tax rate, Disney put it at 50%. “For wealthy Americans, their effective tax rate has gone from around 50% in the last 40 years to around 23%, which is roughly what the middle class pays,” said Disney. “I would be happy to go back to the 50%. If that’s not politically feasible, let’s talk about 40% … There are people in this country who are so wealthy, that a 40% tax rate would do nothing to erode the quality of their life.”

The heiress, whose grandfather was a cofounder of the Walt Disney Company, recently signed an open letter along with nearly 100 millionaires asking governments to raise taxes on “people like us.”

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The letter has prompted queries on Twitter as to why a law change is necessary when wealthy philanthropists can mail checks to the IRS whenever they choose.

To that point, Disney responded, “If the world is terribly polluted, I’m not going to fix it by going in front of my house and picking up all the trash off the sidewalk. That’s not the problem. The problem is systemic. We need to make this a more fair system that doesn’t so much favor the wealthy.”