Reason Podcast

Are Billionaires a Policy Failure?: Podcast

Assessing Elizabeth Warren's "tippy-top" tax, Howard Schultz's presidential candidacy, Donald Trump's shutdown-shutdown, and more



Leading 2020 Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D–Mass.) proposes an "annual wealth tax on the tippy-top 0.1%." Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D–N.Y.) maintains that "a system that allows billionaires to coexist with poverty is immoral." Billionaire Starbucks magnate Howard Schultz declares that he's "seriously considering running for president" as an independent. President and purported billionaire Donald Trump announces the end of the partial federal government shutdown. In the wake of widespread media layoffs, journalists fantasize about "benevolent billionaire backers not fixated on maximum growth." And one such billionaire, Jeff Bezos, saves The Expanse from cancellation.

What do these seemingly disparate stories have in common? BILLIONAIRES, THAT'S WHAT. And also, theyall get discussed on this week's Editors' Roundtable edition of the Reason Podcast, starring Katherine Mangu-Ward, Nick Gillespie, Peter Suderman, and me. The conversation also covers U.S. policy toward turbulent Venezuela, the hero's journey of Rep. Walter Jones (R–S.C.), and a certain generational culture-chasm between the podcast's participants.

Subscribe, rate, and review our podcast at iTunes. Listen at SoundCloud below:

Audio production by Ian Keyser.

'The 3rd' by Anitek is licensed under CC BY-NC-SA 3.0

Relevant links from the show:

"Trump Announces Deal to End Government Shutdown," by Joe Setyon

"The Government Will Always Be Shut Down," by Matt Welch

"If You Still Think the Shutdown Proves Government Is Important, You're Seeing What You Want to See," by J.D. Tuccille

"Air Safety Is Important. We Shouldn't Let Politics Put It at Risk," by Robert W. Poole, Jr.

"Venezuelan Crisis Boils Over as Opposition Leader Declares Himself President," by Eric Boehm

"Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez Calls Climate Change 'Our World War II,'" by Nick Gillespie

"Rep. Walter Jones, Who Supported and Then Denounced Iraq War, Is Dying," by Nick Gillespie

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  1. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D?N.Y.) maintains that “a system that allows billionaires to coexist with poverty is immoral.”

    It’s unfortunate how stupid this comment is. But she’s used to twitting which fortunately for her doesn’t usually involve thinking too deeply about what you’re saying.

    1. That’s an unbelievably stupid – and DANGEROUS I might add – comment.

      She’s an illiberal retard.

      She has lots of illiterate fans. The Tardheads.

      1. In today’s news, AOC has slammed Facebook, Google, and Microsoft for minor sponsorships of LibertyCon, a libertarian oriented conference where several Reason writers spoke.

        Check it out here.

        She finds it “imperative” that the companies do not “make the same mistake again”.

        1. Like a true party apparatchik, she must ensure there is no deviation from the hive mind.

          Wrongthink is not to be tolerated.

        2. Hahahahhahahahahaha.

          “established science”


    2. The obvious retort to her question is: why?

      The billionaire is not why the person in poverty has little. The billionaire has, more than likely, created the wealth he owns, which also is likely not in some kind of treasure hoard. There are no swimming pools of gold coins and jewels. The poor person is not less for the billionaire existing. Her moral judgment here makes no sense except as inchoate envy and anger.

      1. I would love a chance to ask her that. Unfortunately, I know I’ll never get that chance and nobody else will ever ask that question.

  2. Re: billionaires

    Keep in mind that billionaires only get to become billionaires if they were more successful than other would-be billionaires in persuading the public to give them their money (in return for whatever the would-be billionaire is offering for sale). Bill Gates and Steve Jobs and Howard Schultz only became billionaires because the masses (i.e., us) wanted what they were offering. And if they weren’t so good at giving us what we wanted, we would have taken our money elsewhere. There’s a reason, contrary to Bernie’s complaints, that there a gazillon varieties of shampoo.

    Let’s assume the Warrens and AOCs of the world get their way and nobody is allowed to make (or keep) a billion dollars. There would be no reason for a Steve Jobs to develop and market an IPhone, no reason for Schultz to open Starbucks in new locations, etc. And we would be forced to buy something we didn’t want in lieu of the IPhone, latest iteration of Microsoft products, a Starbucks latte, etc. In order for Warren and AOC to have things her way, the rest of us can’t have what we want (to buy).

    So policy failure? No way. I’m thrilled that our system allows people the incentive to come up stuff that I and others want to buy and that our society doesn’t impose arbitrary limits that limit my ability to buy what I want.

  3. Hey Welch, learn to code!

    *awaits high fives from commenters*

    1. Down below, Crusty.

  4. I don’t understand the question. It seems to imply a policy creates wealthy people. Which strikes me as wrongheaded. I could be wrong. However….

    If wealth is tied to policy, then just take the left lane on the road to serfdom and kick the speed up.

  5. Personally I’m not wasting my breath fighting on behalf of progressive billionaires when there are other areas of liberty more in need.

    Let them eat each other, and let the billionaires defend themselves. They’ve been fine with income tax protecting their hegemony for decades. Watching them lose their minds over a wealth tax will at least have entertainment value.

    1. Her argument is specifically on billionaires, but it is generally on property rights. She is specifically saying that there is a level of property ownership above which is immoral and implies society can and should do something about it. They come for the billionaire’s today, they will come for the rest of us tomorrow.

  6. Please explain to me again why wealthy people are bad, and why it would be utopia when no one is wealthy? Am confused.

  7. We all have to work if we want food, shelter and clothing. We need to buy stuff in order to survive. So we have no choice but to work and to buy stuff. You could say we are forced to work and to buy stuff. That means that this libertarian idea of these transactions being voluntary is a load of shit. We are in fact forced to work for these billionaires and forced to by their goods and services. Otherwise we die. That means that these billionaires are getting rich by holding a gun to our heads and making us work for them and buy their stuff. We are in fact slaves to the rich. They own us. Literally. Only government can save us, because government is the people. Says it right there in the constitution. We the people. That’s us. Government protects us from the rich who would otherwise enslave us all with their jobs, goods, and services. But it is government’s fault that these rich people even exist. Government allows them to get rich. That’s a failure of policy. Good government would confiscate the wealth and return it to the people where it belongs. Then nobody would need to work. Everything would be free! But instead government forces us to be slaves to the rich.

    Warren in 2020! She will fix it!

  8. Liberals should learn to vote with their dollars.

    I wonder if AOC has an Amazon Prime account. Don’t like Billionaires, don’t give them your money.

    1. Bet she has an iPhone and other aapple products as well. She’s also a Twitter user (a twat?), and has been known to use Uber. Probably on the way to Whole Foods.

    2. She’s in congress. Which by definition means she’s wealthier than 99% of her constituents.

  9. purported billionaire Donald Trump announces the end of the partial federal government shutdown.

    Awesome snark from a purpoted libertarian with a purpoted French wife.

  10. It is worth recalling that the 1913 income tax was just 1% on incomes over about $180,000/year in today’s money and 7% on incomes over $24,000,000/year in today’s money.

    By 1918, the bottom rate was 6% on incomes above zero $/year and increased rapidly to the top rate of 77%.

    It just took five years.

    But, of course, honorable politicians like Fauxchahantas and AOC wouldn’t do anything like that, would they?

    1. It just took five years.

      And a World War that the US had no business participating in.

  11. Steeler Nation finds Welch’s 39-year fermented tears delicious.

  12. There’s nothing wrong having billionaires exist. It’s what one would expect from a capitalist system that benefits everyone in terms of raising their absolute, objective standards of living.

    The politics of whining about “wealth inequality” is a marxist sham run on jealousy. Why should it matter if some people are unfathomably rich, if standards of living for the average person are also maximized?

    So, focusing on equality of outcome is nonsense. But equality of opportunity, equality under the law, are paramount.

    Frankly, the differential tax rates on wages and capital are probably unjustified and unfair.

    1. I agree it is a sham jealousy misdirection. I think Warren and AOC should expand their “altruistic” notion of inequality by requiring that representatives represent for free. Why should they get rich off of our backs?

  13. Everyone’s on here commenting about the billionaire discussion…

    No one wants to talk about the comments on Venezuela? About how Suderman reads Trump’s mind and finds that Trump can’t wait to use military force in the fresh conflict? So weird, his projections onto this president, after he endorsed and probably voted for the previous president. The previous President that engaged in 4 new wars and pulled us out of none.

    But sure, keep pretending you can read Trump’s mind, and jerking off to TDS War Porn, Suderman. Just maybe take it off air?

  14. Needs a nice fat tax on monetary transfers and stock movements, too. Put some of the funds into spay and neuter programs at high schools across the nation.

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