Bill Gates criticizes Warren wealth tax, she responds

This story has been updated with a new Bill Gates tweet.

Billionaire Bill Gates may not be a fan of presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax. But she’s aiming to change his mind.

“I've paid over $10 billion in taxes,” the Microsoft (MSFT) co-founder aid during the New York Times DealBook Conference on Wednesday. “If I'd had to pay $20 billion, it's fine. But when you say I should pay $100 billion, OK then I'm starting to do a little math about what I have left over,” he joked. “You really want the incentive system to be there, and you can go a long ways without threatening that.”

Warren responded that Gates, one of the world’s richest people, was mistaken about how much he’d have to cough up under her proposed tax on the rich: 

Warren’s plan hopes to enact a new annual tax of 2% on every dollar a household has above $50 million, which increases to 6% for households with more than $1 billion.

Gates then responded to Warren’s tweet on Thursday morning, praising her commitment to “finding ways to address wealth inequality and poverty at home,” and for “having a really interesting conversation on how to solve some of the world’s toughest problems.”

He also added that while they disagreed on how to get there, he was happy that at least she was addressing it.

Gates on Wednesday had commented that while he was “all for super progressive tax systems,” he warned that high levels of taxation could risk capital formation, innovation, and America’s desirability as a hub of innovation for companies.

Acknowledging that he’s been a “prime beneficiary of the existing system,” Gates said that if someone were to find a “middle ground approach,” he’d be more supportive.

Bill Gates, Co-Chair, Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation speaks onstage at 2019 New York Times Dealbook on November 06, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Michael Cohen/Getty Images for The New York Times)

‘The vilification of billionaires’

Gates is not alone in criticizing Warren’s plan.

JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon also criticized Warren’s plan, commenting: “She uses some pretty harsh words, you know, some would say vilifies successful people.”

“Y’all, the billionaires are asking for a safe space - you know, in addition to the entire US economy and political lobbying industry,” New York Congresswoman Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez responded in tweet.

Fellow billionaire Leon Cooperman also recently expressed how upset he was over the taxes.

Leon Cooperman, chairman and chief executive of Omega Advisors Inc., speaks at the Reuters Investment Summit in New York December 13, 2005.

“I don’t need Elizabeth Warren telling me that I’m a deadbeat and that billionaires are deadbeats. The vilification of billionaires makes no sense to me. The world is a substantially better place because of Bill Gates, Michael Bloomberg, David Rubenstein, Bernie Marcus, Ken Langone,” Cooperman told CNBC. “This is idiocy! It’s appealing to the lowest common denominator and basically trying to turn people’s heads around by promising a lot of free stuff.” 

In her response to Cooperman, Warren noted the billionaire’s stake in Navient, a student loan servicer that has come under heavy fire for allegedly manipulating borrowers amid the student debt crisis.

‘Not sure how open-minded’ Warren is

When asked if he had spoken to Warren, Gates replied: “I'm not sure how open-minded she is or that she'd even be willing to sit down with somebody you know who has large amounts of money.” 

And looking ahead at 2020, Gates said that he wasn’t about to make a political endorsement but said he’d probably vote for the candidate that took the “more professional approach.” He didn’t specify any names.

Aarthi is a writer for Yahoo Finance. She can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @aarthiswami

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