There has been a discussion this week about how much of Bill Gates’ money Bill Gates should be allowed to keep. Gates himself has said, I think reasonably, that he doesn’t mind paying taxes but he’d prefer if the majority of his own money stayed with him. Elizabeth Warren has generously promised not to appropriate all of it, though she would skim a healthy sum off the top. But Bernie Sanders asks us to at least entertain the notion of levying a near 100% tax on billionaires like Gates.
“Say Bill Gates was actually taxed $100 billion,” Sanders tweeted. “We could end homelessness and provide safe drinking water to everyone in this country. Bill would still be a multibillionaire. Our message: The billionaire class cannot have it all when so many have so little.”
This may not have been a serious proposal (then again, none of Sanders’ proposals are serious), but he certainly does believe that taking lots of money from rich people can solve nearly every societal problem. Here he says we could “end homelessness” and “provide safe drinking water to everyone” with a mere $100 billion confiscated from a dastardly billionaire. I’m not sure where he gets that figure, but it doesn’t matter. Let’s think about this.
If $100 billion would enable the government to establish a utopia with 0% homelessness and clean water for everyone, why aren’t we living in that utopia already? After all, annual federal tax revenue is approaching $4 trillion. Let’s call it $3 trillion, because what’s a trillion dollars between friends? So, the government already brings in $3 trillion. In the last decade, they’ve earned (well, taken by force) over $30 trillion in taxes. We should note that all of the physical money in the world adds up to about $36 trillion. Since the beginning of Obama’s first term, therefore, the U.S. government has raked in more money than exists on Earth.
Sanders swears that homelessness could be utterly and completely solved with just 1/30th of what the government makes in a year. Why isn’t it solved, then? Are you really telling me that the government has confiscated more money than exists on Earth — and that’s still not enough? If you were to build a giant tower out of $3 trillion, it would nearly reach the Moon. A pile of cash over 200,000 miles high isn’t sufficient? They need more? Can Bernie and his friends not find a way to peel a measly $100 billion out of that galactic stack of tax money to solve the homelessness problem?
Here, let me help. The Maritime Administration costs us almost $1 billion a year. The Appalachian Regional Commission runs $100 million or so. The Justice Department’s Community Oriented Policing Services sucks up another $300 million. I could list dozens of other programs, agencies, departments, and projects that are redundant, pointless, inefficient, ineffective, and yet cost us hundreds of millions of dollars a year. What do you say — should we end homelessness or keep the Appalachian Regional Commission going? Which is more important?
And we haven’t even scratched the surface. The major waste in our government comes in the form of entitlements and defense spending. We sink trillions into both. Do you think these two behemoths could spare $50 billion a piece? I mean, we’re ending homelessness here. And giving everyone clean water. I’m sure the twin beasts of defense and entitlements would love to chip in. If they don’t, take it anyway. These aren’t private citizens. A phrase like “they cannot have it all when so many have so little” actually applies and makes sense in reference to governmental entities.
What about foreign aid? We give about $50 billion a year to countries around the globe. According to Sanders’ figures, we could put an end to homelessness and thirst, and save thousands of lives, if we just redirected that money from the pockets of foreign bureaucrats back into our own country. Cut off foreign aid to everyone for two years and homelessness goes away, according to Bernie Sanders. Why aren’t we doing that? Why hasn’t he suggested it?
Bernie Sanders, Elizabeth Warren, and all the rest of the Democrats, insist that more money — more and more and more and more money — is needed to solve our problems. They look at the $4 trillion already available to them and scoff. That’s because these people have no interest in solving any problems. And they know that problems like homelessness can’t be solved with money anyway. Most homeless people are homeless because of drug addiction or mental disorder. Give them a bag of cash and they’ll be dead by morning. Give them a free house and they’ll be on the street again in a week. I’m not saying we shouldn’t help the homeless. I’m saying that we can only treat homelessness by addressing what causes it — and you need more than money to do that. Sanders knows this. So does Warren. They all do. But, for them, homeless people, sick people, poor people, college students in debt, etc., are just pawns to be used in pursuit of more control and more power.