By Robert Schroeder, MarketWatch
TOMMASO BODDI/AFP/Getty Images
Some of the richest businesspeople in the U.S. could be much less rich today if Elizabeth Warren’s wealth tax had been in place.
How much? Amazon /zigman2/quotes/210331248/composite AMZN +0.24% founder and Chief Executive Jeff Bezos’ fortune would be about $87 billion versus the $160 billion it was estimated at last year. Microsoft /zigman2/quotes/207732364/composite MSFT +0.24% founder Bill Gates would have seen his wealth cut to $36 billion from $97 billion. And Berkshire Hathaway’s /zigman2/quotes/208872451/composite BRK.A +2.70% /zigman2/quotes/200060694/composite BRK.B +2.62% Warren Buffett would be sitting on about $27 billion instead of $88 billion.
Those figures assume a wealth tax going back to 1982, and come from a paper authored by two economists who helped to write Warren’s own plan . It’s one of several proposals that may be in the spotlight when the Massachusetts senator debates nine fellow Democratic presidential contenders on Thursday in Houston.
Warren, currently holding the No.2 spot behind Joe Biden in an average of presidential polls, has proposed an annual 2% tax on every dollar of net worth above $50 million, and a 3% tax on each dollar of net worth above $1 billion.
Warren has said her wealth-tax plan would raise money to fund her proposals such as universal free public college and canceling student debt.
The paper, by economists Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman of the University of California at Berkeley, finds that the top 15 wealthiest Americans as estimated by Forbes magazine would collectively have seen their net worth drop to just under $434 billion had Warren’s plan been in effect since 1982. That’s down from about $942 billion.
Buffett, for one, has argued for higher taxes on the wealthy. Meanwhile, groups like the Tax Foundation have said it’s unclear if Warren’s proposal is constitutional . She has cited scholars who say it is .