The AOC adviser behind the 'Every billionaire is a policy failure' slogan says there's a critical issue with depending on the richest people to fix the world's biggest problems

  • Dan Riffle, Rep.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s senior counsel and policy adviser, wrote the slogan “every billionaire is a policy failure.”
  • While Riffle believes big philanthropy can be a good thing, he toldVox that high-income taxes on the 1% would allow those resources to be distributed more democratically.
  • Riffle believes that the government should “tax income over $5 million at 99 percent,” according toVox.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

Dan Riffle is such a believer in “every billionaire is a policy failure” — the slogan popularized by Rep.Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez— that it’s listed as his name on hisTwitter profile. Riffle, Ocasio-Cortez’s senior counsel and policy adviser, toldVox that he originally came up with the slogan.

In an interview with Dylan Matthews fromVox, Riffle said he was inspired to write a slogan about wealth inequality after seeing the popularity of #abolishICE. “I think the most pressing issue in the country is wealth and income inequality, and wanted to draw attention to that,” he said. “I was trying to come up with a phrase to define a policy that would address that.”

When billionaires accumulate massive personal fortunes, it leaves fewer resources to be divided among the rest of the population, Riffle toldVox. While he applauds the philanthropic work of billionaires includingGeorge Soros andCharles Koch, Riffle explained that the real issue is that it is inefficient and undemocratic for billionaires to use philanthropy to decide how to solve the world’s problems. Riffle believes that it is better for an elected government to distribute those resources.

“The idea that Bill Gates is the one guy who should be out there curing malaria is ludicrous to me,” Rifflesaid in the interview. “Why should a guy who has expertise in software and taking maximum advantage of patent laws be the guy in charge of curing malaria?”

Read more:Meet the 18 ultra-wealthy Americans begging for a wealth tax, from a Facebook cofounder to a Disney heiress

Riffle toldVox that he believes that the government should “tax income over $5 million at 99 percent.” In fact, that very statement was a precursor to his now-famous slogan. However, Riffle said that he hasn’t settled on exactly at which income level the 99% tax should kick in.

Only 20% of Americans agree with Riffle that “every billionaire is a policy failure,” according to aHuffington Post/YouGov poll, but his ideas may have some support among ultra-wealthy Americans. In June, 19 multimillionaires and billionaires — includingGeorge Soros,Abigail Disney, and members of the Pritzker and Gund families — signed aletter asking presidential candidates to consider a wealth tax on the 1%. However,Business Insider previously reported that a wealth tax would likely be less successful than proponents like Elizabeth Warren hope, due to problems with tax evasion and appraising the value of assets.

Riffle isn’t the first to look at billionaires’ philanthropic habits with a critical eye.

In aninterview with Business Insider’s Richard Feloni, former New York University professor and New York Times contributor Anand Giridharadas said that billionaires use philanthropy as a “kind of lubricant in the engine of making a killing.” Giridharadas, who is also the author of the book “Winners Take All,” said that in addition to making businesses more profitable, philanthropy can also make it more difficult for democratically elected governments to produce lasting change.

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