Bernie Sanders & The Myth of The Billionaire Class

Right now the United States is home to 615 billionaires. In 2012 Warren Buffett donated 3.084 billion dollars – that’s three million thousand dollars. That is also 15% of his total wealth. Not what he made in 2012 – his total wealth. Per the federal tax bracket, if I were to make 3 billion dollars this year, I would be required to pay a total of $1,187,956,369 at 39.6%. Listening to people like Bernie Sanders speak about the ‘billionaire class’, I assumed that there would be significantly more than 615 of them in this country. So the poor are waging war on 615 people who were diligent and smart enough to make a fortune in their respective businesses. Now, as a technically poor individual the idea of a man who made 3 billion dollars being forced to give back 39.6% doesn’t really mean much to me – until I actually think about what that means. If taxing 40% of someone’s wealth is not enough, then what is? I assure you that the notion of paying a 40% on my income makes me queasy.

Let’s take a closer look at Mr. Buffett:

Among his many donations are three foundations run by his children, the Howard G. Buffett Foundation in Decatur, Ill., run by his oldest son, the NoVo Foundation in New York, run by younger son Peter, and the Sherwood Foundation in Omaha, run by daughter Susan. These foundations fund issues ranging from conflict resolution in the Congo to Iowa food banks and anti sex-trafficking efforts in India. I’m sure it would also please liberals to know that, despite being a Republican, Mr. Buffett has donated a staggering amount of money to agencies like Planned Parenthood.

Buffett is No. 2 on the Forbes 400, with a total net worth of $46 billion. He is co-founder of the Giving Pledge in which he has pledged to give away 99% of his fortune. Buffett has also donated at least $9.5 billion in shares of Berkshire Hathaway to the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and that does not include 2012’s $3 billion pledge to his children’s philanthropies. His foundations award grants on several continents. In 2006, Mr. Buffett announed that he would begin the process of donating his entire fortune, which currently stands as the single largest act of charitable giving in United States history.

A majority of Buffett’s wealth is due to the fact that he controls 40% of Berkshire Hathaway – a conglomerate that he has personally managed since the mid-1960’s. That’s 50 years of work in the same place. That is the work ethic of a man who began investing at the age of 11, who began running a small business by the age of 13. He saved the money he made as child and used it to pay for a degree from the University of Nebraska.

Take a minute to look over these facts and numbers. We’re looking at philanthropy; at giving. This comes after tax. After his 40% is taken away. Warren Buffett is just 1 of the 615 billionaires in our country and I would argue that he has single-handedly done more to improve the lives of other human beings than most anyone else on this planet – on the planet.

These facts and figures race through my brain whenever I hear Bernie Sanders scream about how he’s coming after the billionaire class. Think about that. The billionaire class. They are not a class. They are not a group. They are not a tribe. They are individuals. And incredibly successful ones. And here you have Bernie Sanders telling them that he is basically attempting to assemble an army to come after their money – the money that remains after their 40% tax and incomprehensible donations. There is a word for that and it is larceny.

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