Billionaires are Raging About Biden’s State of the Union Tax Proposals


Real estate billionaire Jeff Greene sat in his oceanside mansion in Palm Beach on Thursday as President Biden unveiled a proposal to raise taxes on the ultra-rich—a central element of his State of the Union address. The plan would impose a 25 percent minimum income on anyone worth at least $100 million. Greene, with an estimated $7.5 billion net worth, would easily make the cut.

Perhaps unsurprisingly, the real estate tycoon doesn’t support Biden’s proposal. “I don’t agree with the idea of just singling out people because of how much they have or don’t have,” he fumed to The Daily Beast.

“The progressive income tax, I understand,” he continued, though he argued that tax rates in some parts of the country have already grown out of control. “You have to leave incentives for people who are the ones who are going to create the jobs for all those people trying to climb the ladder.” Greene also contended that wealth can be difficult to measure. Some billionaires, like Mark Zuckerberg or Jeff Bezos, have net worths composed mostly of publicly traded stock, which is easy to value. In his world—real estate—that kind of analysis is often subjective.

“People speculate about my net worth. I don’t think I can tell you what my net worth is. I have a bunch of assets that are artwork and real estate,” he said. “I mean, do I know every day what it’s worth?”

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Grocery billionaire John Catsimatidis also raged against Biden’s plan when contacted by The Daily Beast for an interview on Thursday.

“I think it sounds like President Biden doesn’t want a capitalist government. He wants a government for socialism. And socialism doesn’t work. Ask the people in Russia, ask the people in Cuba, ask the people in Venezuela,” Catsimatidis said, invoking one of his frequent talking points. (The billionaire hosts his own radio show; recent guests include right-wing Senate candidate Kari Lake, former Trump attorney Alan Dershowitz, and Bill O’Reilly.)

“You’re trying to take away the incentives for people to work hard,” he said. Catsimatidis added he doesn’t like how the American government doles out taxpayers’ money, particularly on foreign affairs. “I don’t mind supporting the United States’ poor, but you can’t support the whole world,” he said.

Billionaire investor Leon Cooperman, meanwhile, said Biden’s proposals amount to “a version of tax and spend where they don’t tackle the real problem.” According to Cooperman, “The real problem is excess spending.”

Biden claimed in his State of the Union address that the 25 percent minimum tax on the ultra-rich will raise $500 billion over 10 years. “Imagine what that could do for America,” he said. He asserted that, on average, the country’s 1,000 billionaires pay just over 8 percent in income tax per year. (The math behind this claim is subject to dispute.)

“I grew up in a home where trickle-down economics didn’t put much on my dad’s kitchen table,” the president also recounted in his speech. “That’s why I’m determined to turn things around so the middle class does well. When they do well…the wealthy still do very well. We all do well.”

Biden, reveling in his allies’ chants of “four more years,” proposed other tax increases as well, including increasing the corporate minimum tax from 15 percent to 21 percent, reducing tax benefits for corporate private jet use, and quadrupling taxes on stock buybacks for companies.

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Greene, despite his opposition to Biden’s plan, acknowledged that taxes generally need to increase. “At some point, if you’re not making enough money to pay your bills, either you get less bills or work more hours. Well, same with the government.”

A former Democratic candidate for Senate and governor of Florida, Greene offered other potential ways to generate revenues, such as raising the age of social security eligibility over time. “My kids, who are 10, 12 and 14, you could tell them, ‘You know what, when you retire you’re gonna get money at 70, not 65.’” he said. “Do you think they’re gonna care?”

Not all billionaires were equally rattled by the tax-hike talk. Reached by The Daily Beast early on Thursday, Cost Plus Drugs cofounder Mark Cuban said he had no plans to tune in to the State of the Union and would instead watch his Dallas Mavericks take on the Miami Heat.

Cuban needs no more convincing on who he’ll vote for come November. Speaking to Bloomberg this month, he shrugged off concerns about Biden’s advanced age: “If they were having his last wake, and it was him versus Trump, and he was being given last rites, I would still vote for Joe Biden.”

Read more at The Daily Beast.

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