A few days ago, ProPublica released a report headlined “The Secret IRS Files: Trove of Never-Before-Seen Records Reveal How the Wealthiest Avoid Income Tax.” The cache of leaked information revealed, among other details, that Jeff Bezos (net worth: $193.4 billion) paid nothing in federal income taxes in 2007 and 2011. He wasn’t alone. George Soros (net worth: $8.6 billion), Michael Bloomberg (net worth: $59 billion), and Elon Musk (net worth: $153.2 billion) all paid no federal income taxes for at least one tax year.
The Wall Street Journal editorial page called BS on the whole thing. But if you’re already inclined to think that billionaires like Bill Gates and Rupert Murdoch play by a different set of rules than the rest of us, the report might leave you wondering: Why shouldn’t we eat the rich?
So I decided to ask a billionaire.
I called up Mark Cuban, who, for my money, is among the most likable of this set. In part that’s because I am a diehard “Shark Tank” fan. In part it’s because he’s a fellow Pittsburgh native who worked at the same summer camp as my dad in Morgantown, West Virginia. (Mark was the assistant maintenance man.) And in part it’s because, even when I disagree with him, I appreciate his frankness.
We talked about taxing the rich, cryptocurrency, selling garbage bags and buying an NBA team, Section 230, A.I., TikTok, NFTs, the one percent, ranked-choice voting, universal basic income, burning down the political parties, and . . . my dad.
We covered a lot of ground.
The most important part of the conversation, and I think Mark would agree, was about the point of having “f*ck you money.”
You’d think that one of the most significant benefits of having a ton money is the ability it confers to say what you really think. But no group seems to have a more gaping chasm between their private truths and public lies than the ultra-rich. On the one hand, that gap makes sense: the people with the most have the most to lose. On the other hand: isn’t this exactly what having money and power is for?
I can’t think of a subject where the stakes are higher — and where the gulf between what people know is right and what they do and say in the name of the bottom line — than China.
All of these American behemoths — Apple, Coca-Cola, the NBA, you name it — pride themselves on virtues like diversity, inclusion, and justice. Yet they are struck with a curious silence when it comes to the evils of the Chinese Communist Party. I’ve written about this subject before and I pressed Mark on it. It was definitely the most heated part of our talk, which I’m eager for you to hear.
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A bit of housekeeping:
A huge thank you to everyone who has shared and reviewed our first episode this week. We’ve already made it into the top 20 on the Apple charts and have gotten amazing tips and guest ideas from many of you. Please, keep 'em coming!
The first two stories in Katie Herzog’s series about the state of American medicine made national news: Everyone from the New York Times to Tucker Carlson covered her work. We’ve got some more stories in the pipeline that I’m eager to share with you.
I’ve done several podcasts and talks over the past week. Among them:
I spoke at the American Jewish Committee’s annual Global Forum about the mainstreaming of antisemitism with Bret Stephens and Simone Rodan-Benzaquen. You can watch that here.
I sat down with Jordan Peterson. We spoke for nearly two and a half hours and covered a huge range of subjects. Watch that here.
And I spoke on Tim Dillon’s show about Israel. Tim is a hilarious — and often ridiculous — comedian who is fully obsessed with Jeffrey Epstein. Here’s that conversation.
Last: My parents are in town! Nellie and I are taking them on a road trip up the 101 to her hometown of San Francisco. I’ll be off this week, but we’ll be dropping another podcast episode mid-week — and, if all goes according to plan, at least one guest essay.
See you soon.