Elon Musk used his Telsa stock to raise money through loans to buy Twitter and Noah pointed out why that's a problem.
America's superrich increased their wealth during the pandemic while a majority of the country was financially hit by the crisis. No country has more oligarchs than America. By November 2021, the likes of Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, Bernard Arnault and family, Bill Gates, Larry Ellison, Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Ballmer and Warren Buffett had seen their fortunes grow by $821 billion dollars, according to Forbes. Inequality in America is no secret but now the gap is getting wider and wider and one of the reasons is that the rich don't pay taxes in proportion to their wealth. “If these ten men were to lose 99.999 percent of their wealth tomorrow, they would still be richer than 99 percent of all the people on this planet,” said Oxfam International’s Executive Director Gabriela Bucher.
How did the billionaires get so rich? Trevor Noah, "The Daily Show" host, may have the answer. It's been long known that billionaires get enormous tax breaks through loopholes but Trevor Noah put the finger on the problem during an informal chat with his studio audience and many feel he hit the nail on the head. Noah first questioned how a stock market's growth reflected a country's growth. "I'm by no means an economist, nor am I an expert on stock markets and all things finance-related, but you have to admit, a lot of what happens on Wall Street seems like a scam," he said. He explained how the stock market shot up after Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell's comments on raising interest rates and then plummeted because people misinterpreted what he said. "First of all, how does that happen?" he asked. "How are markets changing because somebody didn't read something or understand — and all of you at the same time? And secondly, why do markets do that?"
"'It's the economy. It's for you. Good for you.' But is it though?" he asked, referring to those claiming it was for the good of the people. He questioned how the stock market's growth was good for the people. "I get it for people's retirements, and I get it for 401(k)s and I understand those aspects of it but I've realized there are so many things that are designed in such a slick, scammy way," he said. He pointed out that billionaires hoard most of their wealth in shares and have argued that they shouldn't be taxed on shareholdings as share prices are volatile and could potentially crash. He then cited examples of billionaires placing a "value" on their stock to take loans but never while paying taxes.
"People argue that you cannot tax billionaires on the shares that they hold in a company because it is an 'unrealized' gain," he said, before adding that he understood the reasoning behind the argument. "So you're worth the money, but you don't have the money…and it could also crash, and then you have nothing, so we can't tax you on it. You can't tax the people on a thing because they don't have it, it's just there," he said. "Okay fine."
He then cited Musk's pending purchase of Twitter and questioned how the oligarch could put up his shares of Tesla stock as collateral when it was, again, an 'unrealized gain.' Noah explained how Tesla is using his Tesla stock as collateral to get banks and investors to put up the cash for him to borrow to buy Twitter. He questioned the hypocrisy of picking and choosing when to give value to stocks. "So you can buy a thing based on what you have, yes. But when we want to tax you, you can say 'I don't have it,'" said Noah. "It's such a fun game that billionaires get to play because all their money is in that."
He pointed out how normal people couldn't fool the IRS in the same manner but the system gives billionaires a pass. "You can't be like, 'That money's in the bank, I don't have that money. What money? It's in the bank. Only when I take it out, then you can tax me. For now, it's in the bank, IRS." He then continued, "But if you have billions in shares, you can then use that as money, to then get more money, but not get taxed on any money, because you 'don't have money.'" Noah argued that billionaires shouldn't be able to an unrealized asset as collateral.
You can watch the video here: