Historian accuses billionaires at Davos of not paying their fair share in taxes

Historian accuses billionaires at Davos of not paying their fair share in taxes
© Now This | World Economic Forum

Dutch historian Rutger Bregman last week called out billionaires at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland, accusing them of not paying their fair share in taxes amid discussions on the impacts of inequality.

Bregman, in a now-viral video posted by Now This on Monday, spoke at a panel and criticized the world’s elite in attendance at the conference for avoiding their taxes.

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“I hear people talking the language of participation and justice and equality and transparency, but then, almost no one raises the real issue of tax avoidance, right? And of the rich just not paying their fair share,” Bregman said in the video that has been viewed more than 5 million times.

Bregman pointed out how the forum, which often draw’s the world’s wealthiest individuals, only hosted one panel on tax avoidance.

“It feels like I’m at a firefighters’ conference and no one’s allowed to speak about water,” he said.

Bregman called out tech billionaire Michael Dell by name for asking at an earlier panel to name one country where a top tax rate of 70 percent has actually worked.

Dell was specifically responding to a proposal presented by Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-CortezAlexandria Ocasio-CortezPoll: Biden and Sanders tied nationally, followed by Warren More than 100 Democrats sign letter calling for Stephen Miller to resign Steyer, Biden clash over climate credentials MORE (D-N.Y.) to implement a 70 percent marginal tax rate on the nation’s top earners. 

“I’m a historian — the United States,” Bregman said as an answer to Dell's question. “That’s where it has actually worked. In the 1950s, during Republican President Eisenhower, you know, the war veteran. The top marginal tax rate in the U.S. was 91 percent for people like Michael Dell. The top estate tax for people like Michael Dell was more than 70 percent.”

Bregman said solving inequality was “not rocket science.”

“We can talk for a very long time about all these stupid philanthropy schemes. We can invite Bono once more. But come on,” Bregman said. “We’ve got to be talking about taxes. Taxes, taxes, taxes. All the rest is bullshit in my opinion.”

He also threw a dig at the rich for flying to the conference in the ritzy Swiss mountain town on 15,000 private jets to later listen to broadcaster David Attenborough give a speech about man-made aspects of climate change.

President TrumpDonald John TrumpWatergate prosecutor says that Sondland testimony was 'tipping point' for Trump In private moment with Trump, Justice Kennedy pushed for Kavanaugh Supreme Court nomination: book Obama: 'Everybody needs to chill out' about differences between 2020 candidates MORE was scheduled to attend the World Economic Forum for his second time this month but canceled his visit amid the partial government shutdown, which ended Friday.

Trump, a former New York business mogul, was only one of two U.S. president to ever attend the forum in person, although the U.S typically sends a high-ranking delegation. Former President Clinton attended in 2000.