Should billionaires be made to pay for their greater fortune? And should they exist at all in a society in which people are sleeping on the streets? Many people in the UK say no to the second question. According to a recent YouGov survey, half of Britons say no-one deserves to be a billionaire under any circumstances. 

In October, Labour party leader, Jeremy Corbyn, launched Labour’s general election campaign with a pledge to take on the UK’s billionaires. He tweeted recently:

‘There are 150 billionaires in the UK while 14 million people live in poverty. In a fair society there would be no billionaires and no one would live in poverty’.

Corbyn is not the only politician in the UK that is attacking the uber rich. MP Lloyd Russell-Moyle argued that billionaires shouldn’t exist at all in the UK in a recent interview with BBC’s Emma Barnett. 

Among Brits, many believe that billionaires existing in society is not a beneficial state of affairs. Over a third of Brits (37 per cent) believe an increase in the number of billionaires in the UK is a sign that society is getting worse. Only 14 per cent of those surveyed consider it to be a sign that society is improving. While 79 per cent of those surveyed, support the government raising taxes on billionaires in the UK, with 88 per cent believing the government should take action to stop billionaires from avoiding paying taxes

There is also wide agreement among people in the UK that wealthy people are not contributing what they should in taxes. Two-thirds (66 per cent) of those who believe that billionaires can deserve their money, support raising their taxes. While 89 per cent want the government to take action to ensure they pay their taxes. The logic is that if more billionaires contributed greater sums in taxes, it would help improve the living standards for many people in the UK. 

Great Britain has more than 150 billionaires who control assets worth 525 billion pounds. Yet, there are 14 million people living in poverty in the UK. Since the inequality of wealth is so prevalent, the presence and rising number of billionaires can be viewed as a failure of our government policy. These people hold a disproportionate share of wealth, making the historic divide between the rich and poor more entrenched.

Across the ocean in the United States, there has been much debate about billionaires and the potential implementation of a wealth tax. The US has about 700 billionaires; which is more than twice as many as any other country. Representative from the Bronx and Queens, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has said:

‘A system that allows billionaires to exist when there are parts of Alabama where people get ringworm because they don’t have access to public health is wrong’.

In the Democratic primary for the presidency, there are multiple billionaires running that are funding their campaigns with their own money. Tom Steyer is a billionaire worth 1.6 billion dollars. And newly announced candidate, Michael Bloomberg is worth 58 billion dollars. Billionaire and former Starbucks CEO, Howard Schulz, considered running for president in March as an independent candidate, but he received so much backlash that he backed out. 

On the other hand, there are many candidates running for president that are not billionaires and are relying on donations to fund their campaigns. Among those candidates is Senator from Vermont, Bernie Sanders, who has been critical of billionaires since he entered the race in February. Sanders has stated that billionaires should not exist, since there is an immoral level of income and wealth inequality. 

As of 2018, there was an estimated 320,000 people in the UK that were homeless. In a society in which there are this many people without a roof over their heads, the justification for the existence of billionaires proves questionable. The inequality of wealth in the UK is a huge problem that needs to be addressed. Some argue that billionaires earn their money, and so have no further obligation to contribute more in taxes. Yet others maintain that many of these billionaires have inherited their vast fortunes from family, or have become inordinately wealthy off the backs of underpaid and overworked individuals. 

The Sunday Times rich list calculates that the 1,000 richest people in Britain, including 151 billionaires, are worth a total of 771 billion pounds. This is about six times as much as the entire NHS budget, roughly eight times what the government spends on education, and is much greater than the total wealth of the poorest 40 per cent of the population.

The wealth amassed by billionaires could be put to better use by providing higher wages to those working in their companies. This wealth also needs to be properly taxed and go towards the infrastructure of schools, hospitals and housing, as well as the development of green energy and better public transport. 

In order to combat the inequality of wealth in the UK, changes to the tax system are urgently needed. This could include the introduction of a wealth tax and updates to property taxes. Bottom line; billionaires need to pay their fair share in taxes in order to combat income inequality.

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