Poor Jeff Bezos. Sure, he’s the wealthiest human being on the face of the Earth and is in such a rarefied economic status that he will never have to worry about a single material thing for the rest of his natural life, but Sen. Elizabeth Warren is out to get him.
At least, that’s the impression you would get from CNBC’s story (written by “wealth reporter” Robert Frank) on Warren’s proposed wealth tax and the accompanying headline, “Jeff Bezos would pay over $5 billion a year under Warren’s wealth tax.”
Wow! $5 billion a year. With a capital “b.” That’s undoubtedly a lot of money. $5 billion!
Now, if you scroll down ten paragraphs in the CNBC piece, there is this juicy nugget, which might give the eye-popping figure in the headline a little bit of context:
According to calculations from the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness, Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, would owe $5.7 billion in 2020 under the Ultra-Millionaire tax. He still would have been left with a net worth of more than $185 billion after the tax, according to the analysis.
So, after Warren’s proposal passed into law, Mr. Bezos would be stuck, stranded on a street corner, panhandling for money, with only a mere $185 billion left in his name.
This story and how it is framed is a pretty good example of how so much of our media and the politics it influences favors not just the wealthy, but the ultra-wealthy.
We are a long way from Sen. Warren’s proposal becoming law. I would doubt that she even has support at this point from a majority of Democrats, though putting ideas like this into the public arena is smart and I wish more elected Democrats would do it (their fear is a story for another time).
But just the very idea of the proposal generated this scare story, designed to appeal to the right-wing suspicions of CNBC’s core readership/viewership of extremely wealthy people who don’t want to pay taxes. The headline was also constructed to attract the attention of a public who has been conditioned to believe Democrats want to bleed them dry with taxation (though I would argue that recent election results show this tactic doesn’t work much anymore).
CNBC could have said something like “Warren plan would add $5 billion to health care, education, leave Bezos with $185 billion fortune,” or some punchier, pithier version of the same message, but why bother when you can lead with an eye-popping figure that’s purportedly being extracted from poor Mr. Bezos?
It’s just another day in the so-called “liberal” media, where they coddle the outrageous fortunes of the richest human being in the entire world.
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