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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:

Joy

1991 blooper clip of Robin Williams and Elmo is a wholesome nugget of comedic genius

Robin Williams is still bringing smiles to faces after all these years.

Robin Williams and Elmo (Kevin Clash) bloopers.

The late Robin Williams could make picking out socks funny, so pairing him with the fuzzy red monster Elmo was bound to be pure wholesome gold. Honestly, how the puppeteer, Kevin Clash, didn’t completely break character and bust out laughing is a miracle. In this short outtake clip, you get to see Williams crack a few jokes in his signature style while Elmo tries desperately to keep it together.

Williams has been a household name since what seems like the beginning of time, and before his death in 2014, he would make frequent appearances on "Sesame Street." The late actor played so many roles that if you were ask 10 different people what their favorite was, you’d likely get 10 different answers. But for the kids who spent their childhoods watching PBS, they got to see him being silly with his favorite monsters and a giant yellow canary. At least I think Big Bird is a canary.

When he stopped by "Sesame Street" for the special “Big Bird's Birthday or Let Me Eat Cake” in 1991, he was there to show Elmo all of the wonderful things you could do with a stick. Williams turns the stick into a hockey stick and a baton before losing his composure and walking off camera. The entire time, Elmo looks enthralled … if puppets can look enthralled. He’s definitely paying attention before slumping over at the realization that Williams goofed a line. But the actor comes back to continue the scene before Elmo slinks down inside his box after getting Williams’ name wrong, which causes his human co-star to take his stick and leave.

The little blooper reel is so cute and pure that it makes you feel good for a few minutes. For an additional boost of serotonin, check out this other (perfectly executed) clip about conflict that Williams did with the two-headed monster. He certainly had a way of engaging his audience, so it makes sense that even after all of these years, he's still greatly missed.

Noe Hernandez and Maria Carrillo, the owners of Noel Barber Shop in Anaheim, California.

Jordyn Poulter was the youngest member of the U.S. women’s volleyball team, which took home the gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics last year. She was named the best setter at the Tokyo games and has been a member of the team since 2018.

Unfortunately, according to a report from ABC 7 News, her gold medal was stolen from her car in a parking garage in Anaheim, California, on May 25.

It was taken along with her passport, which she kept in her glove compartment. While storing a gold medal in your car probably isn’t the best idea, she did it to keep it by her side while fulfilling the hectic schedule of an Olympian.

"We live this crazy life of living so many different places. So many of us play overseas, then go home, then come out here and train,” Poulter said, according to ABC 7. "So I keep the medal on me (to show) friends and family I haven't seen in a while, or just people in the community who want to see the medal. Everyone feels connected to it when they meet an Olympian, and it's such a cool thing to share with people."

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Marlon Brando on "The Dick Cavett Show" in 1973.

Marlon Brando made one of the biggest Hollywood comebacks in 1972 after playing the iconic role of Vito Corleone in Francis Ford Coppola’s “The Godfather.” The venerable actor's career had been on a decline for years after a series of flops and increasingly unruly behavior on set.

Brando was a shoo-in for Best Actor at the 1973 Academy Awards, so the actor decided to use the opportunity to make an important point about Native American representation in Hollywood.

Instead of attending the ceremony, he sent Sacheen Littlefeather, a Yaqui and Apache actress and activist, dressed in traditional clothing, to talk about the injustices faced by Native Americans.

She explained that Brando "very regretfully cannot accept this generous award, the reasons for this being … the treatment of American Indians today by the film industry and on television in movie reruns, and also with recent happenings at Wounded Knee."

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