Abigail Disney Says Tax the Rich When it Comes to Coronavirus Recovery

In an interview on Thursday, Abigail Disney said the U.S. government should "tax us," referring to wealthy Americans, in order to support COVID-19 relief.

Abigail Disney calls for a wealth tax: “Money has been concentrated too heavily in a too small population. It needs to be driven across the economy.” https://t.co/rP2iCIpLme pic.twitter.com/ZwEHXCW9sO

— CNBC (@CNBC) July 16, 2020

Disney, whose grandfather was the Walt Disney Company's co-founder Roy Disney, recently became one of 98 wealthy people worldwide to sign the "Millionaires for Humanity" letter, calling on governments to tax them higher in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. The letter makes the point that "Humanity is more important than our money," and calls for an easy solution: "Tax us. Tax us. Tax us. It is the right choice. It is the only choice."

In the CNBC interview, Disney said that the people signing the letter felt that they had the means to pull more weight than they have historically. "I think that there's a recognition that we've gotten so far out of balance that's just not realistic to keep going forward as we have. We're contributing so much less to the economy than we really ought to be to the wellbeing of our fellow Americans. So it's time for us to cough up a little bit more," she said.

In response to people that may oppose higher taxes for those who didn't sign the letter, the documentary filmmaker likened the problem to making a small difference in a community versus seeing the big picture. "If the world is terribly polluted, I'm not going to fix it by going in front of my house and picking up all the trash off the sidewalk. That's not the problem. The problem is systemic. We need to make this a more fair system that doesn't so much to favor the wealthy," she explained.

Disney explained that leadership is the key issue at the federal level has been leadership, but at other levels, the systems have failed because they are "underfunded and starved by this insistence that we take all the money out of the public systems we possibly can."

She explained where the money should have been going to better help the people that have suffered due to the pandemic. "If we had invested more in our health systems, if we had invested more in making sure the low-income and middle-income workers had, for instance, some savings or owned their homes or anything that ensures a life that's secure, we would be doing so much better, but you saw how quickly those lines formed at the food pantries. Millions and millions of people who work full time in this country did not have enough money laid by to ensure that they had enough to eat for the next week, much less however long this is gonna last," she said.

Disney concluded by suggesting a new higher tax rate for the wealthy and even offered a compromise. "For wealthy Americans, their effective tax rate has gone from around 50 percent in the last 40 years to around 23 percent, which is roughly what the middle class pays," she said. "If you take all the taxes-state, local, sales taxes-into consideration, we actually are effectively paying a flat tax across the country. I would be happy to go back to the 50 percent. If that's not politically feasible, let's talk about 40 [percent], but we need to recognize that there are people in this country who are so wealthy that a 40 percent tax rate would do nothing to erode the quality of their life."

Fork Films, Disney's film company, did not respond to Newsweek's emailed request for comment in time for publication.

Abigail Disney
Honorary chair and co-founder of Level Forward, Abigail E. Disney speaks onstage during attends the New York Women's Foundation's 2018 "Celebrating Women" breakfast on May 10, 2018 in New York City. Disney was one of 98 people to sign the "Millionaires for Humanity" letter calling for higher tax rates in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. Getty/Monica Schipper