The Wealth of America
A graphic from Robert Reich's film Inequality For All

Edi­tor’s Note: The fol­low­ing are the pre­pared remarks of NPI’s founder and exec­u­tive direc­tor in sup­port of levy­ing a wealth tax on bil­lion­aire for­tunes. Bills to do this have been intro­duced this ses­sion in both the House and the Sen­ate. The Sen­ate Ways & Means Com­mit­tee held a hear­ing on its ver­sion this evening. 

Good evening, Senators.

For the record, I’m Andrew Vil­leneuve from the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, here in strong sup­port of Sen­ate Bill 5426.

We’ve heard a lot of tes­ti­mo­ny so far tonight on why Wash­ing­ton should levy a wealth tax. Our team has been study­ing this idea as part of our statewide research, and it’s one of the most pop­u­lar tax reform ideas we have ever test­ed. Our polling and oth­er polling we’ve seen is extreme­ly robust. Sup­port for a wealth tax starts at about 60% and goes up from there in the body of polling we’ve seen.

Here is the text of the ques­tion we asked in our May 2021 statewide sur­vey and the respons­es that we received from near­ly 1,000 like­ly voters:

QUESTION: Do you strong­ly sup­port, some­what sup­port, some­what oppose, or strong­ly oppose levy­ing a one per­cent wealth tax on Wash­ing­ton res­i­dents whose world­wide wealth exceeds one bil­lion dol­lars, to ben­e­fit pub­lic ser­vices here in our state?


  • Sup­port: 60% 
    • Strong­ly sup­port: 50%
    • Some­what sup­port: 10%
  • Oppose: 36%
    • Some­what oppose: 11%
    • Strong­ly oppose: 25%
  • Not sure: 5%

Our sur­vey of 992 like­ly 2022 Wash­ing­ton State vot­ers was in the field from Tues­day, May 25th through Wednes­day, May 26th, 2021.

The poll uti­lizes a blend­ed method­ol­o­gy, with auto­mat­ed phone calls to land­lines (50%) and text mes­sage answers from cell phone only respon­dents (50%).

It was con­duct­ed by Pub­lic Pol­i­cy Polling for the North­west Pro­gres­sive Insti­tute, and has a mar­gin of error of +/- 3.1% at the 95% con­fi­dence interval.

Why are Wash­ing­to­ni­ans so enthu­si­as­tic about levy­ing a wealth tax?

Our team thinks it’s because the vot­ers of our state under­stand that it’s always been part of the genius of Amer­i­ca to pool our resources to get things done.

And bil­lion­aires have more resources to put into that pool — our com­mon wealth — than any­one else does.

Although the words “mil­lion­aire” and “bil­lion­aire” dif­fer only in their first char­ac­ter, there is an enor­mous dif­fer­ence between hav­ing a mil­lion dol­lar for­tune and a bil­lion dol­lar one, as author Chip Health explains in his book .

Sen­a­tors, sup­pose for a moment that you all entered a spe­cial lot­tery with many large prizes. But there’s a catch: if you win, you have to spend $50,000 of your prize mon­ey every day until it runs out.

One of you wins a mil­lion dol­lars and one of you wins a billion.

How long does it take each of you to spend your winnings?

The one who wins a mil­lion will have fin­ished spend­ing their $50,000 per day after just twen­ty days.

But the one who wins a billion?

It’ll take them fifty-five years to spend $50,000 a day.

That’s how much a bil­lion is. One bil­lion dol­lars is an absolute­ly enor­mous amount of mon­ey, and many bil­lion­aires have well north of one billion.

Any­one with a bil­lion­aire for­tune is finan­cial­ly secure for life, because as you heard, a bil­lion dol­lars is so much that it’s hard to spend.

Con­se­quent­ly, bil­lion­aires are in a bet­ter posi­tion than any­one else to invest in Wash­ing­ton’s future. And the invest­ments they make through their tax dol­lars will go towards pri­or­i­ties like ensur­ing that we have out­stand­ing pub­lic schools, uni­ver­si­ties that lead in the world in fields like med­ical research, tran­sit for all, sea­ports that pro­vide freight mobil­i­ty and liv­ing wage jobs, beha­vo­r­ial health ser­vices, and so much more.

It is to their ben­e­fit to live in a state that offers great schools, great jobs, great recre­ation­al oppor­tu­ni­ties, great health­care, and great pub­lic services.

We invite you to join us in sup­port­ing a wealth tax on bil­lion­aire for­tunes. It will make our tax code more equi­table and strength­en our communities.

Thank you.

About the author

Andrew Villeneuve is the founder and executive director of the Northwest Progressive Institute, as well as the founder of NPI's sibling, the Northwest Progressive Foundation. He has worked to advance progressive causes for over two decades as a strategist, speaker, author, and organizer. Andrew is also a cybersecurity expert, a veteran facilitator, a delegate to the Washington State Democratic Central Committee, and a member of the Climate Reality Leadership Corps.

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