It was the dodge that launched a thousand memes.
Bill Gates, the second-wealthiest man in the world with an estimated net worth of $107 billion, declined to say on Wednesday whether he’d vote for Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for president, given her proposed plan to tax billionaires at a rate of 6 percent.
And after a glib comment that he’d have to “do a little math” about what his net worth would be in a world post-Warren, the under-45 crowd had a few choice words for the 64-year-old Microsoft co-founder.
Chiefly: OK, boomer.
“I’m not Bill Gates, so his math is probably better than mine, but he’s worth 106 billion dollars, so if you took away 100 billion, it seems like that would leave him with SIX FUCKING BILLION DOLLARS,” Carter Bays, the producer and screenwriter, tweeted.
“Congratulations to all the journalists who propped up Bill Gates for years without asking hard questions about his beliefs or his philanthropy,” said Michael Hobbes, the reporter who has written extensively about how the Gates Foundation’s philanthropic efforts have negatively affected education programs.
On Twitter, people started re-circulating Tik Tok videos of young people trying to spend Gates’ wealth on his behalf. Spoiler alert: He could own every NFL team and still be a multi-billionaire.
The responses — some earnest, some dripping in irony — highlighted the cultural rift between the baby boomer generation and its younger counterparts.
And if there is a culture war, the phrase “ok boomer” has become its de facto rallying cry, a way to dismiss the more conservative politics that older generations represent.
Politics like, for example, not taxing the ultra-wealthy to fund social services.
“If I had to pay $20 billion, it’s fine,” Gates said on Wednesday during a financial conference hosted by the New York Times. “But when you say I should pay $100 billion, then I’m starting to do a little math about what I have left over.”
He also declined to say who he’d cast his vote for given the choice between Trump and Warren. “I hope the more professional candidate is the electable candidate,” he said.
(To be clear, Warren’s proposal would not tax Gates’ wealth at a rate of over 90 percent, as Gates suggested; it would be six percent for people worth more than $1 billion. Warren has said the revenue from that tax would fund healthcare for the entire country.)
Even Tom Steyer, the 62-year-old billionaire funding his own race for the presidency, weighed in.
“@BillGates, a wealth tax is the right thing to do,” he tweeted Wednesday night. “Don’t panic — you’ll be alright.”
But Gates is far from the only billionaire to bemoan Warren’s plan.
Financier Leon Cooperman publicly sparred with Warren last week after writing in a letter that she treats wealthy people like “an ungrateful child.”
“Warren’s tax could cut roughly in half the fortunes of the very wealthy over its first 10 years. The aggressiveness of her plan should not be understated,” Michael Strain, an economist at the conservative think tank American Enterprise Institute, tweeted this week.
He later told Vox in an interview: “No group of Americans should be treated as a tool to raise the welfare of the rest of society.”
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