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Trevor Noah boils down the problem with the mega-rich using 'unrealized gains' as money

Trevor Noah's talked about Elon Musk's Twitter purchase in a Between the Scenes segment.

In the era of the mega-billionaire, much has been made of how such gargantuan wealth is built and what kind of taxes on wealth are fair and unfair.

The intricacies of economics can make such questions a bit tricky both practically and ethically, but there's no question that billionaires get enormous tax breaks through loopholes in our tax system and through straight-up tax legislation favoring the wealthy.

For the average American who will never see so much as one percent of a billion dollars in our entire lifetime, wrapping our minds around the financial workings of extreme wealth is like trying to learn another language. The whole "here's how much money I earn, here's what I can write off, here's what I pay in taxes" thing is pretty straightforward, but not how the uber-rich life works. Wealth doesn't equal money in uber-rich-land—except when it does.


In a Between the Scenes moment, Trevor Noah highlighted the weird way billionaire wealth sometimes counts as money and sometimes doesn't in a segment on The Daily Show. In his signature funny-but-smart way, Noah broke down the hypocrisy of billionaires being able to treat their stock shares as money when it comes to buying businesses, but not when it comes to paying taxes.

"I'm by no means an economist, nor am I an expert on stock markets and all things finance-related, but you have to admit, a lot of what happens on Wall Street seems like a scam," he began.

He talked about how the stock market went up one day because of what Chair of the Federal Reserve Jerome Powell said about raising interest rates, then plummeted the next day because of people misinterpreting what he said.

"First of all, how does that happen?" he asked. "How are markets changing because somebody didn't read something or understand—and all of you at the same time? And secondly, why do markets do that?"

He said the nature of stock markets going up and down feels "scammy," and somehow we're supposed to be convinced that the stock market is good for us.

"I get it for people's retirements, and I get it for 401Ks and I understand those aspects of it," he said. "But I've realized there are so many things that are designed in such a slick, scammy way."

He gave Elon Musk's pending purchase of Twitter as an example.

"People argue that you cannot tax billionaires on the shares that they hold in a company because it is an 'unrealized gain," he said. Then he explained that he understands that argument because the shares haven't been sold, so there's no actual money in hand. "So you're worth the money, but you don't have the money…and it could also crash, and then you have nothing, so we can't tax you on it."

"You can't tax the people on a thing because they don't have it, it's just there," he says. "Okay fine."

Then he talked about Elon Musk's offer to buy Twitter, in which Musk put up his shares of Tesla stock as collateral. Noah explained how using his Tesla stock as collateral to get banks and investors to put up the cash for him to borrow to buy Twitter.

"So you can buy a thing based on what you have, yes. But when we want to tax you, you can say 'I don't have it,'" said Noah. "It's such a fun game that billionaires get to play because all their money is in that."

Noah points out how we can't fudge around with the IRS due to where our money is located. "You can't be like, 'That money's in the bank, I don't have that money. What money? It's in the bank. Only when I take it out, then you can tax me. For now, it's in the bank, IRS."

That's not something the IRS would accept.

"But if you have billions in shares, you can then use that as money, to then get more money, but not get taxed on any money, because you 'don't have money.'"

Noah said he's not suggesting that we tax people on unrealized gains.

"But I am saying, it seems to me that you then shouldn't be able to use a thing that's unrealized as collateral," he said.

That last point is worth restating. Noah isn't saying that billionaire wealth in the form of stock shares should be taxed like liquid money. He's questioning whether people should be able to use their untaxed wealth as collateral to get liquid money loans to avoid having to liquidate their own wealth (which they would then have to pay taxes on).

Food for thought. Watch:

All images provided by Bombas

We can all be part of the giving movement

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We all know that small acts of kindness can turn into something big, but does that apply to something as small as a pair of socks?

Yes, it turns out. More than you might think.

A fresh pair of socks is a simple comfort easily taken for granted for most, but for individuals experiencing homelessness—they are a rare commodity. Currently, more than 500,000 people in the U.S. are experiencing homelessness on any given night. Being unstably housed—whether that’s couch surfing, living on the streets, or somewhere in between—often means rarely taking your shoes off, walking for most if not all of the day, and having little access to laundry facilities. And since shelters are not able to provide pre-worn socks due to hygienic reasons, that very basic need is still not met, even if some help is provided. That’s why socks are the #1 most requested clothing item in shelters.

homelessness, bombasSocks are a simple comfort not everyone has access to

When the founders of Bombas, Dave Heath and Randy Goldberg, discovered this problem, they decided to be part of the solution. Using a One Purchased = One Donated business model, Bombas helps provide not only durable, high-quality socks, but also t-shirts and underwear (the top three most requested clothing items in shelters) to those in need nationwide. These meticulously designed donation products include added features intended to offer comfort, quality, and dignity to those experiencing homelessness.

Over the years, Bombas' mission has grown into an enormous movement, with more than 75 million items donated to date and a focus on providing support and visibility to the organizations and people that empower these donations. These are the incredible individuals who are doing the hard work to support those experiencing —or at risk of—homelessness in their communities every day.

Folks like Shirley Raines, creator of Beauty 2 The Streetz. Every Saturday, Raines and her team help those experiencing homelessness on Skid Row in Los Angeles “feel human” with free makeovers, haircuts, food, gift bags and (thanks to Bombas) fresh socks. 500 pairs, every week.

beauty 2 the streetz, skid row laRaines is out there helping people feel their beautiful best

Or Director of Step Forward David Pinson in Cincinnati, Ohio, who offers Bombas donations to those trying to recover from addiction. Launched in 2009, the Step Forward program encourages participation in community walking/running events in order to build confidence and discipline—two major keys to successful rehabilitation. For each marathon, runners are outfitted with special shirts, shoes—and yes, socks—to help make their goals more achievable.

step forward, helping homelessness, homeless non profitsRunning helps instill a sense of confidence and discipline—two key components of successful recovery

Help even reaches the Front Street Clinic of Juneau, Alaska, where Casey Ploof, APRN, and David Norris, RN give out free healthcare to those experiencing homelessness. Because it rains nearly 200 days a year there, it can be very common for people to get trench foot—a very serious condition that, when left untreated, can require amputation. Casey and Dave can help treat trench foot, but without fresh, clean socks, the condition returns. Luckily, their supply is abundant thanks to Bombas. As Casey shared, “people will walk across town and then walk from the valley just to come here to get more socks.”

step forward clinic, step forward alaska, homelessness alaskaWelcome to wild, beautiful and wet Alaska!

The Bombas Impact Report provides details on Bombas’s mission and is full of similar inspiring stories that show how the biggest acts of kindness can come from even the smallest packages. Since its inception in 2013, the company has built a network of over 3,500 Giving Partners in all 50 states, including shelters, nonprofits and community organizations dedicated to supporting our neighbors who are experiencing- or at risk- of homelessness.

Their success has proven that, yes, a simple pair of socks can be a helping hand, an important conversation starter and a link to humanity.

You can also be a part of the solution. Learn more and find the complete Bombas Impact Report by clicking here.

via UNSW

This article originally appeared on 07.10.21


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