For the Billionaires Bad at Math

As others have noted, Bill Gates had a bit of a minor freakout about Elizabeth Warren’s proposed wealth tax, admitting that he doesn’t know how much he would have to pay and seemingly begrudged having to do the math.

Well, never let it be said that Warren is not the billionaire’s friend. She has subsequently released a tax calculator for billionaires. The results are beauteous to behold.

It starts in the obvious way:

Elizabeth Warren's wealth tax calculator starts with the obvious question: Are you a billionaire?

Step one: Are you a billionaire?

Go! Now! Make up a net worth and see how much you would be taxed.


  1. consciousness razor says

    I mean, sure you could click some buttons. But that’s work. Some may prefer to have their accountants bill them for a few hundred hours doing the calculations, plus time spent telling the scary story while sitting around the money bonfire and eating s’mores.
    Of course, Gates isn’t really that dumb. I remember hearing in the past that he’s a pretty voracious reader. More recently, I learned there was a Netflix documentary series about him and his foundation (which I haven’t watched), and that was mentioned in this review of the series:

    Inside Bill’s Brain does have some fleeting insights into who Gates is and what he’s accomplished — again, mostly in episode two. But there’s a moment in the series where Guggenheim and Gates talk about the latter’s periodic “think weeks” where he goes off the grid with a stack of books and tries to open himself up to new ideas, largely unrelated to his daily work.

    From an earlier part of the review:

    The point, apparently, is to replicate Bill Gates’ thought processes. Having spent most of his adult life (and even some of his teenage years) juggling multiple complicated projects, Gates doesn’t have the kind of mind that functions in neat, straight lines. At one point, Melinda even laughs at this series’s title, saying that her husband’s brain is as cluttered and chaotic as the cheap apartment he once shared with Paul Allen when the two were building Microsoft.

    Maybe Warren’s website should be more chaotic or non-linear or something? It could be like a choose-your-own-adventure book illustrated with Escher drawings, but turn it into a real multimedia experience, you know? He could put on some Mingus-style group improv, mix up a pot of gumbo, play a blindfold 3D chess match on the side … you know, whatever sort of chaos he needs to keep those juices flowing. Then I bet he would totally get it.

  2. StevoR says

    Neat claculator, even neater idea to tax them all.

    No one is worth $ billion dollars USA money. Not unless the dollar goes down even further than the Yen.

  3. wereatheist says

    I think the calculator is both funny and a really good idea for a campaign.
    But why is the net worth of my most-beloved American billionaire displayed as something like $42.***.***.*** ?
    Is it not supposed to be like 42,***,***,*** ?
    I guess real, red-blooded, ‘mericans from flyover country might take offense.
    I’m European, and we call a billion “eine Milliarde”.

  4. says

    No one is worth $ billion dollars USA money.

    If you have USD $20M as an individual, you have enough to live a lavish lifestyle for the entire rest of your life, whatever your current age. Even if you cure cancer, what more should society be expected to do than support you lavishly for life? My dream home might cost CAN $600k-700k. I have no particular need to travel the world, although I would truly enjoy it. Maybe CAN $1.2-1.5M would easily set me up for life (and I’m not saying I should be set up for life or that I deserve it or that I’ve accomplished anything particularly socially valuable such that I’m owed anything at all).

    The idea that someone could have one thousand times that much and be outraged by paying 3-5% in taxes seems simply monstrous to me.

  5. says

    Here’s another outrageous bit of stupid that Gates tried to foist over – that an entrepreneur who was looking at maybe clearing $100mn on their start-up would decide “oh no! If I sell my company I’ll only net $50mn! Fuck THAT I’m going to sit on the couch and play playstation instead of innovating and taking a shot at the brass ring!”

    Either Gates the arch-entrepreneur profoundly fails to understand entrepreneurs or he’s a lying fuckbucket of blancmange. Which could it be do you think?

  6. lochaber says

    I can’t even comprehend a billion dollars, it’s just such a vast amount, and should only be used in discussions of countries, or possibly other large organizations. That a single person can have not just a single billion, but a hundred billion dollars sitting in a bank, whilst we have so many homeless, food insecure, medically bankrupt, underemployed, and poor families is beyond morally bankrupt.

    I ran across something earlier today (I think it was a twitter screenshot?) that stated if you worked full-time, for $2,000/hour, since the birth of Jesus till now, you would have accumulated approximately $8 billion, and there would still be dozens more people with more wealth than that today…

  7. says

    That a single person can have not just a single billion, but a hundred billion dollars sitting in a bank, whilst we have so many homeless, food insecure, medically bankrupt, underemployed, and poor families is beyond morally bankrupt.

    Yes. A billionaire, by definition, has the funding necessary to attempt to re-invent how aspects of capitalism work. They don’t want to do that – they prefer to play politics and invest in public works that make them look better to the new class that they identify with.

  8. lochaber says

    Marcus Ranum@6

    I think you nailed what I was trying to think of much more succinctly…

    These bastards have accumulated enough power in the current system that they can either/both work within the current system to reduce incredible injustices, or reforge the current system into something new that will be less prone to allowing/excusing the current injustices. But despite having nearly incomprehensible power, they are still more concerned with accumulating even more power, than risking some poor plebe experiencing anything that may be perceived as “equality”

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