Abigail Disney thinks she should help foot the massive bill for the United States’ uneven coronavirus response.
Increased health care costs and economic stimulus are not the only thing she wants her wealth — and the wealth of her rich peers — to help fund. In various interviews, tweets, and open letters, Disney has long said that the ultrawealthy need to do their part in funding infrastructure improvements, education, and efforts to end systemic poverty throughout the country.
Keep reading to learn more about Abigail Disney’s years-long crusade to get her taxes raised.
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Abigail Disney is the granddaughter of The Walt Disney Company cofounder Roy Disney, but has made a name for herself as one of the company’s most outspoken critics.
The 59-year-old heiress is a film producer by trade, but inherited a $120 million fortune from her father.
In a March 2019 interview with The Cut, Disney said that she could be a billionaire if she wanted to be, adding that she has donated $70 million over the past 30 years.
She also spends a lot of time criticizing her family’s company. Disney publicly criticized the salary of Walt Disney Co.’s former CEO Bob Iger, defended Meryl Streep after she called Walt Disney a “bigot,” slammed the company for furloughing thousands of workers during coronavirus closures, and said she even went to Disneyland undercover to check on workers’ conditions, per Business Insider.
Since 2017, Abigail Disney has regularly spoken out about how America’s tax system benefits the wealthy.
The heiress appeared in a 2017 NowThis video to criticize President Trump’s Tax Cuts and Jobs Act, saying the bill unfairly benefited the wealthy.
“This bill will give me this tax cut while also killing health insurance for over 13 million people,” Disney says in the video. “It will let me pass over $20 million to my children, tax-free. And all my friends with private jets? They get a tax cut too.”
“With a suffocating education system, a dying infrastructure, and a national debt that will be at least $1.5 trillion bigger, that social mobility will be far out of reach for people like you,” Disney said. “But I will be able to stay comfortably right where I am. Does that strike you as fair?”
In June 2019, Disney co-signed a letter with 18 other ultrawealthy Americans that advocated for a moderate wealth tax.
The open letter was addressed to 2020 presidential candidates and was also signed by George Soros and members of the Pritzker and Gund families, Business Insider reported at the time.
“America has a moral, ethical, and economic responsibility to tax our wealth more,” the letter states, arguing that a moderate wealth tax like the one proposed by then-Democratic presidential candidate Sen. Elizabeth Warren could help solve America’s climate crisis by funding environmental initiatives; fuel economic growth; and provide funding for public health care. The authors also wrote that a wealth tax is fair, patriotic, and would strengthen the country’s democracy by reducing inequality.
“Those of us in the richest 1/10 of the richest 1% should be proud to pay a bit more of our fortune forward to America’s future,” the letter says. “We’ll be fine — taking on this tax is the least we can do to strengthen the country we love.”
Ahead of the elite World Economic Forum meeting known as Davos in 2020, Abigail Disney coauthored another letter asking more ultrawealthy people to join her cause.
The letter, published in January 2020 and entitled “Millionaires Against Pitchforks,” was signed by 121 ultrawealthy people from across the globe including Disney and was addressed to “Our Fellow Millionaires and Billionaires Across the Globe.” Its publication coincided with the exclusive event that attracted 53 heads of state, and a handful of celebrities to a Swiss resort town earlier this year.
“There are two kinds of wealthy people in the world: those who prefer taxes and those who prefer pitchforks,” the letter reads. “We, the undersigned, prefer taxes. And we believe that, upon reflection, you will as well.”
“For that reason, we urge you to step forward now — before it’s too late — to demand higher and fairer taxes on millionaires and billionaires within your own countries and to help prevent individual and corporate tax avoidance and evasion through international tax reform efforts,” it continued.
Amid the coronavirus crisis, Abigail Disney is once again speaking out about how a wealth tax could benefit the United States.
Disney was one of 83 millionaires from across the globe who signed a July 13 letter asking governments to raise taxes on wealthy people “immediately. Substantially. Permanently,” Business Insider reported. Other signatories included Ben & Jerry’s cofounder Jerry Greenfield and “Love, Actually” director Richard Curtis.
The millionaires aren’t the only ones suggesting tax hikes to cover the cost of fighting the coronavirus pandemic. The International Monetary Fund advised countries to consider implementing wealth taxes to raise revenue during the pandemic in an April policy paper, Business Insider previously reported. Citi executive Luigi Pigorini also floated the idea in an interview with Bloomberg.
The United States alone has spent more than $6 trillion on health care and economic stimulus throughout the crisis, leading to a projected $3.8 trillion budget deficit in 2020, according to nonpartisan think tank Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. The shortfall would make the national debt larger than the entire United States economy combined, CRFB estimates.
“So please. Tax us. Tax us. Tax us. It is the right choice,” the letter ends. “It is the only choice.”