My Conversation With Billionaires About Taxes, Responsibility, And Libertarian Lies

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When is the last time you've heard a billionaire say this?

Our country is having an extremely important argument about taxation. We have lived the trickle-down theory since the Reagan years, and are now having a great debate about whether it does or does not work. Clearly, it does not.

Those words came from venture capitalist Nick Hanauer in a conference call with Bill Gates, Sr., father of Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and they were music to my ears. Hanauer and Mr. Gates are the leading voices in a Washington state initiative to shift some of the tax burden away from the poor and middle class onto the richest residents in the state.

Hanauer's words were refreshing to hear:

"The public sphere is as essential to the creation of wealth in a democratic society as the private sphere. They are inextricably intertwined. And, to the degree to which we have as citizens the capacity to invest strategically in the public sphere, defines our ability to create wealth for ourselves and our fellow citizens."

Prop 1098 cuts property taxes by 20%, gives small business owners a credit for the state-imposed Business and Occupancy Tax, and imposes a 1.2% income tax on residents who earn in excess of $400,000 (or in the case of a couple, $500,000).

As you might imagine, it has split the wealthy in Washington right down the middle, but Hanauer is undeterred by their arguments. As he pointed out on the call, if libertarian utopias worked the way they are supposed to, there would be many of them everywhere, and if income taxes were such a terrible thing, Silicon Valley would be in Wyoming and Wall Street in North Dakota.

But they're not, and this is because there is value in community and investing in it. The revenues from this proposition would be put directly into Washington public schools and their health care program, which currently has nearly 100,000 on a waiting list according to Mr. Gates.

The most refreshing part of the conversation with these men was hearing their passion and commitment for making their communities better by changing the tax system to benefit the middle class and ask the rich to pay a small piece of their annual income for that to happen. Hanauer's arguments were strong, passionate and heartfelt. This initiative is one to watch on election night. It's good that the leadership for it stems from private, wealthy citizens, because it takes the stain of a "tax increase" away from embattled candidates like Patty Murray.

More like this, please. It is very, very good for everyone.

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