July 29, 2021

Given the absolute onslaught of news we’ve experienced in recent months (if not recent years), it can feel like the presidential debates for the 2020 election happened a lifetime ago. Many of us here at Daily Kos recall the countless times Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren campaigned to tax the ultra-wealthy and tried her best to break down complicated tax systems and structures for the masses. As she displayed during an interview on Wednesday morning, Warren has not lost her touch.

Warren appeared alongside billionaire Ken Langone on CNBC’s Squawk Box, where Langone asked Warren why he, a billionaire, still receives social security checks, among other questions about taxes on the super-wealthy. When he finally gave Warren a moment to get a word in, she certainly delivered. Let’s check out the exchange and footage below.

Langone, who described himself as a “fat cat,” told Warren he had an “easy” question that would “surprise” her.

“How do you justify giving me a three thousand dollars a month check every month with all my wealth? Why don’t you people have the courage to address entitlements as to what should no longer be an entitlement?” He added that he shouldn’t get Social Security and asked why corporations don’t have a minimum alternative tax.

Warren took his questions in stride, starting by explaining how taxes work for the super-wealthy.

“Jeff Bezos has not paid taxes on the wealth that he has,” Warren stated, adding that in spite of being worth a “bazillion dollars,” he has not paid taxes on his wealth.

“In fact,” she continued. “Jeff Bezos, many years, has either paid nothing in taxes or has paid 1%. Why? Because his income is very, very small but he continues to grow his wealth through all of his Amazon stock. And how does he then fund a lifestyle, like he does? Not by cashing in Amazon stock but by borrowing against it.”

Warren explained that right now, our tax system simply doesn’t encompass people at a certain level of wealth (like Bezos), but does make low-income and middle-class folks pay.

In response to Langone’s second question about minimum tax rates, Warren addressed that she has herself suggested something very similar to a minimum tax on corporations, which she called a “real corporate profits tax.” She added this would be another way to get funds for universal child care and infrastructure repair.

And in terms of Social Security? Warren said it’s set up differently in that it’s structured more like an “insurance policy.” Warren broke down that you (in this case Langone, but also the public in general) pay in year after year, and that it’s not “welfare” or “charity.”

Social security, on the other hand, is an “agreement that every employee in the country, who is eligible for Social Security, paid into, and gets a return on the back end. Surely, you wouldn’t want to be the person to go on national TV and say, after a contract has been negotiated, and someone has paid into it for 40 years, that the federal government should turn around and say, ‘Oops! We changed our mind. We’re not going to give you the payout that you earned by making the payments all those years.’”

Also on Squawk Box, Warren offered up a fresh zinger toward Bezos when asked about how to take cryptocurrency, saying, “I want to see us tax wealth however your wealth is tied up. It shouldn’t make a difference whether you have real estate, or whether you have cash or whether you have a bazillion shares of Amazon.”

“Yes, Jeff Bezos,” she added. “I’m looking at you.”

Here is that clip.

Published with permission from Daily Kos.

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