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Salesforce's Marc Benioff backs higher taxes, renews critique of capitalism

Julia La Roche

Salesforce (CRM) co-CEO Marc Benioff supports higher taxes for businesses and wealthy individuals, as part of an effort to tackle inequality and reform free markets.

Last year, Benioff publicly advocated for a tax levied on the wealthiest companies in his hometown of San Francisco, in order to address the city's severe homeless problem. Specifically, he supported Proposition C, which applies a 0.5% tax on the wealthiest companies to provide homeless services, which includes Salesforce, the city's biggest private employer.

Like other billionaires, Benioff has sought to chart a way forward for modern-day capitalism, where dislocations have created an opening for populist policies. In a wide-ranging interview with Yahoo Finance, he reiterated his critique of free markets.

"I really think capitalism is dead and that everything needs to be thought about from the beginning,” Benioff said on the sidelines of Dreamforce, the annual blowout tech conference hosted by Salesforce in San Francisco.

“In terms of should individuals and corporations have more taxes? Absolutely. Exactly what those taxes should be, I'm not an expert on it,” he said.

Yet citing a growing problem of homelessness and poverty, he insisted that governments “need more money to be able to do homeless services. That's clear as day. So yes, we need a tax reform, we need more taxes for key social services, we need more housing. We do need some fundamental reforms of our system. This is extremely important so that we can all have the society that we want."

‘Pavlov’s dogs’

Marc Benioff headshot, SalesForce co-founder, graphic element on gray
Marc Benioff headshot, SalesForce co-founder, graphic element on gray

In his new book, “Trailblazer,” Benioff wrote how he was surprised that while pushing for Prop C, many tech businesses and well-known investors refused to support the tax. Some of his peers even phoned Benioff asking that he oppose the tax.

"It's Pavlov's dogs. You know, it's like CEOs have this reaction,” he said. “You're trained in business school if somebody says 'taxes' to you, you say 'no.' 'Do you want more taxes? No. Do you want more taxes? No.' But it's not right, actually."

Benioff added that if companies are "always creating the more efficient, lowest tax," then they're not going to be able to invest in social structures.

"That's what taxes ultimately are for. So, in that case, like in Prop C, yeah, we need more taxes in that area,” he insisted. “Maybe not in every area, but certain areas we absolutely do."

Julia La Roche is a Correspondent at Yahoo Finance. Follow her on Twitter.

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