Henry Ford is credited with revolutionizing the auto industry and was on the forefront of innovation by creating the assembly line. He paid his employees $5 per day so they could purchase the cars they were manufacturing. He once said, “If I had asked people what they wanted, they would have said faster horses.” Mr. Ford’s net worth was about $200 billion. Capitalism allowed him to create great wealth.
Billionaires and the uber-wealthy are under attack by Elizabeth Warren, Bernie Sanders, and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. Ms. Warren is calling for a tax of 2% on wealth from $50 million to $1 billion and 1% above $1 billion. Ms. Ocasio-Cortez is suggesting a top tax rate of 70%. Mr. Sanders wants an estate tax of 77% for estates north of $1 billion. He’s also proposing a 45% tax for estates with assets more than $3.5 million. When fisherman cast a wide net, they catch big and small fish.
Apple, Amazon, Ford, Facebook, Google, McDonalds, Microsoft, Nike, Starbucks, and Walmart were all founded by one or two people. These ten companies started with an idea from their founding fathers who weren’t billionaires at the time. Today these ten companies employ 3.7 million people.
Let’s do a deeper dive into these 3.7 million people. I’m assuming 75% of them are married and half the couples have two children. I arrive at 10.1 million people with my math. I’m also going to assume half of this population works and earns $100,000 per year. So, as a group, they’ll earn $506 billion per year. The average tax rate for this cohort is 22%. At 22%, they’ll pay $111 billion in taxes! Over the course of a decade they’ll pay more than $1 trillion in taxes. I’m not sure how many people Ms. Warren employs, but I’m positive they don’t pay $111 billion in taxes.
Furthermore, these 10.1 million people need services. They need teachers, doctors, real estate agents, insurance agents, bankers, grocers, plumbers, gardeners, bus drivers, electricians, painters, roofers, veterinarians, nurses, dentists, lawyers, accountants, dry cleaners, mechanics, architects, builders, engineers, librarians, florists, morticians, police officers, fire fighters, ambulance drivers, paramedics, military personnel, pilots, travel agents, butchers, bakers, and candlestick makers.
These billionaire’s employ thousandaire’s. On a recent Mad Money episode with Jim Cramer, Ms. Warren called for billionaires to “Stop being freeloaders.” Bill Gates doesn’t fit the description of a freeloader to me, but I could be wrong.
I’m not opposed to paying taxes and I believe everybody should pay their fair share. In fact, so does Jesus. Mark 12:17 says, “Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s.”
The individuals who founded these ten companies are also philanthropically oriented and they’ve established the following organizations: Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, Bezos Family Foundation, The Brin Wojcicki Foundation, Carl Victor Page Memorial Foundation, Chan Zuckerberg Initiative, Emerson Collective, Ford Foundation, The Joan B. Kroc Foundation, Knight Foundation, Schultz Family Foundation and the Walton Family Foundation. These charitable organizations are armed with billions of dollars to make our world better by focusing on education, healthcare, the environment, and several more causes. They also employ thousands of people.
Our capitalist structure gives everybody an opportunity to succeed. People living in Afghanistan, Haiti, and Venezuela will never have this experience. Socialists suck resources out of their citizen’s pockets. Margaret Thatcher said, “The trouble with Socialism is that eventually you run out of other people’s money.”
Animals are hypersensitive to danger and activate their fight or flight response often. The gazelle knows when the cheetah is lurking. Billionaires and other wealthy individuals will defend their wealth by moving money overseas, changing residences, or creating trusts. On paper, they’ll look like paupers. They won’t wait around to be eaten by the government if the attack on their wealth begins. When the wealthy move and take their business with them what will be left? Venezuela? Ayn Rand captures this sentiment in her best-selling novel Atlas Shrugged.
If you want to protect your wealth or help others, here are a few strategies you can employ.
- Charitable Remainder Trust (CRT)
- Annual Gift Exclusion
- Charitable Lead Trust
- Donor Advised Fund
- Family Limited Partnership
- Grantor Retained Annuity Trust (GRAT)
- Life Insurance Trust (ILIT)
- Private Annuity
- Revocable Family Trust
My great-grandparents migrated to Los Angeles from Mexico in the early 1900s. My grandfather told me repeatedly they didn’t have a pot to piss in, they were poorer than poor. He came of age during the Great Depression. He was a good student and wanted to attend Stanford, but his family couldn’t afford it, so he went to work instead. When he was 50 years old, he started his own business and was financially successful. If you’ve ever eaten at a fast food restaurant or enjoyed a bag of chips, you’ve benefited from his handywork. At his death, he gave his wealth to two colleges in Southern California for perpetual scholarships. His gift allows students without resources to obtain a college degree, one of the few things missing from his resume. Capitalism allowed my grandfather to create great wealth.
Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler. ~ Proverbs 6:5
February 1, 2019
Bill Parrott is the President and CEO of Parrott Wealth Management located in Austin, Texas. Parrott Wealth Management is a fee-only, fiduciary, registered investment advisor firm. Our goal is to remove complexity, confusion, and worry from the investment and financial planning process so our clients can pursue a life of purpose.
Note: Investments are not guaranteed and do involve risk. Your returns may differ than those posted in this blog.