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Ben & Jerry's co-founders want a tax increase — on millionaires like them

  • Cohen and Greenfield, along with more than 400 other millionaires and billionaires, signed a public letter admonishing Congress against passing tax cuts.
  • The GOP tax legislation, they say, will exacerbate income inequality in the U.S.
  • The ice cream company co-founders have been politically active for decades.

The founders of Ben & Jerry's ice cream company might stand to benefit personally from the pending tax legislation in Congress. After all, both Ben Cohen and Jerry Greenfield walked away from a $326 million buyout by Unilever in 2000 with at least $10 million apiece, according to The New York Times.

But the ice cream magnates, whose activist political histories have been displayed on every tub of "Rainforest Crunch" or "Imagine Whirled Peace" sold over decades, recently came out in favor of a tax increase on the wealthy — including themselves.

Cohen and Greenfield, along with more than 400 other millionaires and billionaires, signed a public letter admonishing Congress against passing tax cuts that would exacerbate income inequality in the U.S.

"The issue is that the tax cut is for corporations and wealthy people," Greenfield, alongside Cohen, said Wednesday on CNBC's "Power Lunch."

"And it's not going to help poor people. It's not going to help middle-class people. It's going to throw people off health insurance. It's bad in so many ways," Greenfield said.

The founders of the Vermont-based ice cream giant have addressed income inequality in thought and deed throughout their careers. For a time, the company maintained a rule that no employee's wage could exceed seven times that of an entry-level worker — a rule that capped the president and COO's annual salary at a comparably low $150,000.

The tax proposals, proffered by the GOP and currently being debated in Congress, would permanently cut the corporate tax rate to 20 percent from 35 percent and would eventually eliminate the estate tax altogether, among other changes.

"It doesn't do any good to have a society where we have a bigger discrepancy between wealthy people and poor people," Greenfield said. "We've already got a huge issue with that as it is."

Cohen described the legislation as a "tax scam," "an excuse to give more money to already wealthy people."

Greenfield said that a country with so many people in poverty, on government health programs or without health care altogether shouldn't make wealthy people and corporations the first priority.

"It just makes no sense," he said.