As the world’s elite attend the annual meeting of the World Economic Forum in Davos this week, a group of billionaires and millionaires have released a letter demanding that elected leaders tax the extreme wealth they possess. It’s a message that comes as the charity Oxfam earlier this week revealed that the world will likely have its first trillionaire by 2034.
The letter includes hundreds of signatures from wealthy individuals, including filmmaker Richard Curtis, Disney heir Abigail Disney, actor Simon Pegg, and Valerie Rockefeller. It is part of a campaign dubbed “Proud to Pay More” by multiple groups that urge governments to increase taxes on the wealthy. Those groups include the Patriotic Millionaires, Patriotic Millionaires UK, TaxMeNow, Millionaires For Humanity, and Oxfam.
“Our request is simple: we ask you to tax us, the very richest in society,” the letter reads. “This will not fundamentally alter our standard of living, nor deprive our children, nor harm our nations’ economic growth. But it will turn extreme and unproductive private wealth into an investment for our common democratic future.”
Failure to reduce inequality by taxing the rich more, the signatories argue, only entrenches the status quo and threatens democratic norms.
“The value of fairer tax systems should be self-evident. We all know that ‘trickle down economics’ has not translated into reality. Instead it has given us stagnating wages, crumbling infrastructure, failing public services, and destabilized the very institution of democracy. It has created a shameful economic system incapable of providing a brighter, more sustainable future. These challenges will only worsen if you fail to address extreme wealth inequality.”
In addition to the letter, an accompanying report was released highlighting the growing gap between the world’s few ultrarich and its other billions of citizens. Nearly two billion people struggle to meet the rising costs of living, the report points out.
Meanwhile, most countries tax work income—how a majority of the world acquires their assets—at a higher rate than they do capital gains, which is how most wealthy people acquire and grow their assets. The report warns that this inequality is helping fuel a waning faith in democratic institutions.
“Neglecting the underlying economic conditions we live in has empowered a generation of populist leaders who claim they are fighting for the economically excluded,” the report explains.
This year’s letter mirrors one that the groups sent to world leaders last year. So far its warnings remain unheeded.