Davos Erupts in Laughter at the Notion of Tech Billionaire Paying More Taxes

Billionaire Michael Dell was caught apparently unaware that the top marginal tax rate in the US used to be as high, and higher, than what Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has proposed.
A businessman laughing, presumably at the idea of paying more taxes
Image: Shutterstock

Ever since Democratic Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez floated the idea of having the richest people in the US pay a 70 percent marginal tax rate, there’s been a lot of lame, uninformed commentary about the idea.

I came across one such example of lame, uninformed commentary during my morning commute on public transit, as I mentally did the budgetary math and decided against buying myself a coffee—it came from Michael Dell, the founder of Dell, who has a net worth of more than $30 billion according to Forbes.


During a Davos panel on tech and inequality on Wednesday, moderator Heather Long asked Dell if he supported Ocasio-Cortez’s proposal. The audience erupted into laughter, and Dell—who, again, is worth more than $30 billion dollars—responded that no, he is not supportive of the proposal, and then said something hilariously uninformed. Or, it would be hilarious, if he wasn’t worth as much as the GDP of some nations.

“Name a country where that’s worked—ever,” Dell said confidently, apparently completely unaware that the top marginal tax rate in the US was 70 percent in the 1960s, and was as high as 94 percent during World War II. Thankfully, another panelist corrected him immediately. “The United States,” Erik Brynjalfsson, director of MIT’s Initiative on the Digital Economy, quipped.

“Those were actually pretty good years for growth,” Brynjalfsson added.

Owned, yes, but not as much as the rest of us trudging to our jobs in the dead of winter to support people like Michael Dell.

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