L.A. billionaire Eli Broad joins call for higher taxes on the rich

Eli Broad stands in front of a Cy Twombly painting, part of Broad's vast art collection, at his Los Angeles home in April.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

Los Angeles billionaire Eli Broad has joined the call for higher taxes on the wealthy, saying progressive social policies are not enough to alleviate the growing prosperity gap between the rich and everyone else.

Broad, 86, a lifelong Democrat who has donated heavily to the charter school movement, said that he has “come to realize that no amount of philanthropic commitment will compensate for the deep inequities preventing most Americans — the factory workers and farmers, entrepreneurs and electricians, teachers, nurses and small-business owners — from the basic prosperity we call the American dream,” in an opinion piece published Tuesday in the New York Times.

“Let’s admit out loud what we all know to be true: A wealth tax can start to address the economic inequality eroding the soul of our country’s strength. I can afford to pay more, and I know others can too,” he wrote in the article headlined “I’m in the 1 Percent. Please, Raise My Taxes.”


The article comes just one day after fellow billionaire George Soros and 17 other ultra-high-net-worth individuals published an open letter to the 2020 presidential candidates to support a “moderate” wealth tax on the “fortunes of the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% of Americans — on us.”

It also follows similar calls by billionaires, including Warren Buffett, for higher taxes on the wealthy. Such calls have arisen as the income gap has grown between the rich and others since the recession — and studies have shown the wealthy have disproportionately benefited from the 2017 GOP tax cuts.

The open letter to the presidential candidates was posted days before the first debate among the Democratic hopefuls, scheduled to take place Wednesday in Miami. It highlighted the proposal by Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) for a tax targeting the 75,000 wealthiest families in the country, those with assets worth more than $50 million.

Broad also noted Warren’s plan and described Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) call for an increase on estate and inheritance taxes as “overdue.” He also appeared to throw his support behind a proposal to tax capital gains as income rather than at its currently lower rate.

“I’m not an economist but I have watched my wealth grow exponentially thanks to federal policies that have cut my tax rates while wages for regular people have stagnated and poverty rates have increased,” Broad wrote.

Veteran Democratic political strategist Mark Mellman said Monday that he expected more of the progressive wealthy would join the call for higher taxes on themselves, providing Democrats a talking point in their push to change the tax code.

“The ultra wealthy know they are not paying their fair share. It should be difficult for Republicans or anyone else to say they are paying their fair share,” he said.

Broad founded and ran home builder KB Home and retirement services company SunAmerica before devoting himself full time to civic work and philanthropy. He has an estimated net worth of $6.7 billion, according to Forbes.