Overdevelopment, Overpopulation, Overshoot
Container City: Shipping containers, indispensable tool of the globalized consumer economy, reflect the skyline in Singapore, one of the world’s busiest ports.
America’s second-richest person — billionaire investment oracle Warren Buffett — caused a commotion on Monday when he argued that the “mega-rich” should pay higher taxes, pooh-poohing the argument that it would drive business out of the country. Buffett himself only surrendered 17.4 percent of his taxable income to the government last year — a figure that lies toward the low end of the middle-class tax spectrum, and significantly below what upper-middle-class professionals pay. Buffett wrote:
“I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. [...] Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.”
Salon decided to put that idea to the test. We’ve contacted the other 19 wealthiest Americans — based on the Forbes 400 list — to ask if they would support paying higher federal income taxes. We quickly heard back from six, though only financier, philanthropist and Fox News target George Soros would say that, yes, he’d pay more (see his full statement below). We’ll update this post (and alert readers through Twitter and Facebook) when we have new responses. And we hope others who have the opportunity will ask them, as well.
We’ve also had five people duck out with “no comments,” but we’re still hopeful they’ll change their minds.
UPDATE (8/19/11): Charles Koch, chairman and CEO of Koch Industries, has issued a resounding, if expected, “No” on the issue of a tax increase: ”Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending.” (See his full response below.)
Credit where credit’s due, Koch is just the second billionaire to answer our challenge. A half-dozen others have balked on the issue, dispensing opaque “no comments,” while other notables — such as New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, and Google’s Larry Page and Sergey Brin — so far remain mum. We’ll keep updating the page as we hear back from more of the subjects.
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Founder of Microsoft and co-chair of the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. (2011 net worth: $54 billion)
Co-founder and CEO of Oracle Corp. (2011 net worth: $27 billion)
Inheritor of WalMart fortune through her late husband, John T. Walton, and the world’s richest woman. (2011 net worth: $24 billion) (Walton’s brothers and sister in law — Jim, Alice and S. Robson, chairman of WalMart — are Nos. 7 through 9 on the Forbes 400 list, and each worth $20 billion-plus.)
Co-owners of Koch Industries and bankrollers of many a conservative cause. (2011 net worth: $21.5B, each)
NO VOTE “Much of what the government spends money on does more harm than good; this is particularly true over the past several years with the massive uncontrolled increase in government spending. I believe my business and non-profit investments are much more beneficial to societal well-being than sending more money to Washington.” — Charles Koch
Mayor of New York; founder and primary owner of Bloomberg LP. (2011 net worth: $18B)
Co-founders of Google. Page is also the search giant’s CEO. (2011 net worth: $15B, each)
Chairman and CEO of Las Vegas Sands Corp. (2011 net worth: $14.7B)
Chairman of the Soros Management hedge fund and financier of liberal causes. (2011 net worth: $14.2B)
YES VOTE “Warren Buffett is living up to his reputation as an astute investor,” he said. “The rich hurt their own long term interests by their opposition to paying more taxes.”
Founder and CEO of computer giant Dell, Inc. (2011 net worth: $14B)
CEO of Microsoft. (2011 net worth: $13.1B)
Co-founder of Microsoft, chairman of Vulcan, Inc. (2011 net worth: $12.7B)
Founder, president, chairman and CEO of Amazon. (2011 net worth: $12.6B)
Heiress, primary owner and a director of Cox Enterprises. (2011 net worth: $12.5B)
Founder and president of the Pauls & Co. hedge fund. (2011 net worth: $12.4B)
Peter Finocchiaro is a senior editor at Salon. Follow him on Twitter @PLFino.More Peter Finocchiaro.
Man Covering His Mouth: A shepherd by the Yellow River cannot stand the smell, Inner Mongolia, China
Angry Crowd: People jostle for food relief distribution following the 2010 earthquake in Haiti
“Black Friday” Shoppers: Aggressive bargain hunters push through the front doors of the Boise Towne Square mall as they are opened at 1 a.m. Friday, Nov. 24, 2007, Boise, Idaho, USA
Suburban Sprawl: aerial view of landscape outside Miami, Florida, shows 13 golf courses amongst track homes on the edge of the Everglades.
Toxic Landscape: Aerial view of the tar sands region, where mining operations and tailings ponds are so vast they can be seen from outer space; Alberta, Canada
Ice Waterfall: In both the Arctic and Antarctic regions, ice is retreating. Melting water on icecap, North East Land, Svalbard, Norway
Satellite Dishes: The rooftops of Aleppo, Syria, one of the world’s oldest cities, are covered with satellite dishes, linking residents to a globalized consumer culture.
Child Brides: Tahani, 8, is seen with her husband Majed, 27, and her former classmate Ghada, 8, and her husband in Hajjah, Yemen, July 26, 2010.
Megalopolis: Shanghai, China, a sprawling megacity of 24 Million
Big Hole: The Mir Mine in Russia is the world’s largest diamond mine.
Clear-cut: Industrial forestry degrading public lands, Willamette National Forest, Oregon
Computer Dump: Massive quantities of waste from obsolete computers and other electronics are typically shipped to the developing world for sorting and/or disposal. Photo from Accra, Ghana.
Oil Spill Fire: Aerial view of an oil fire following the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil disaster, Gulf of Mexico
Airplane Contrails: Globalized transportation networks, especially commercial aviation, are a major contributor of air pollution and greenhouse gas emissions. Photo of contrails in the west London sky over the River Thames, London, England.
Fire: More frequent and more intense wildfires (such as this one in Colorado, USA) are another consequence of a warming planet.