As prominent billionaires continue to amass wealth while millions of Americans are losing their health insurance during the global pandemic, Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) recently introduced a 60-percent tax on the wealth increases of billionaires to pay for all out-of-pocket medical expenses for other Americans for a year.
“The legislation I am introducing today will tax the obscene wealth gains billionaires have made during this extraordinary crisis to guarantee healthcare as a right to all for an entire year,” Bernie said in a press release on Thursday. “At a time of enormous economic pain and suffering, we have a fundamental choice to make. We can continue to allow the very rich to get much richer while everyone else gets poorer and poorer. Or we can tax the winnings a handful of billionaires made during the pandemic to improve the health and well-being of tens of millions of Americans. In my view, it is time for the Senate to act on behalf of the working class who are hurting like they have never hurt before, not the billionaire class who are doing phenomenally well and have never had it so good.”
“As more than 160,000 Americans have lost their lives and millions more have lost their jobs, it is unconscionable that the super-wealthy are getting even richer in the midst of this crisis,” stated Sen. Markey. “Despite overwhelming need, Republicans continue to look for any excuse under the guise of deficit reduction to cut vital support programs like jobless aid and health insurance for the most vulnerable. The American people pay with their lives every day for the criminal negligence of the Trump administration to combat the coronavirus. It is time the country’s wealthiest do the same off with their profits.”
“During this unprecedented economic and public health crisis, millions of Americans are out of work and struggling to put food on the table while billionaires are getting even wealthier,” noted Sen. Gillibrand. “Requiring billionaires to pay their fair share will help support workers and families dealing with job losses, food insecurity, housing instability and health care. Not only is this a common-sense proposal, but it’s a moral one and Congress should be doing all we can to assist Americans struggling right now.”
According to a fact sheet released by the legislators, at least 5.4 million Americans have lost their health insurance during the coronavirus pandemic, while 467 billionaires in the U.S. have increased their wealth by an estimated $731.8 billion. And due to Trump’s tax cuts for the wealthy, these billionaires currently pay a lower effective tax rate than truck drivers or teachers.
The Make Billionaires Pay Act would tax the $731 billion in wealth accumulated by 467 billionaires—the richest 0.001% of America—a from March 18th until August 5th, a period in which 5.4 million Americans recently lost their health insurance and 50 million applied for unemployment insurance. The funds from this emergency tax would be used to cover all necessary healthcare expenses of the uninsured and underinsured, including prescription drugs, for one year.
“The Covid-19 crisis further worsens inequality. While the working class struggles with job and income loss, billionaires’ wealth has already fully bounced back and sometimes greatly surpassed pre-Covid levels,” said Emmanuel Saez, Professor of Economics at the University of California, Berkeley. “So far, the US government has borrowed from the rich to provide relief. It is only fair to also ask for direct contributions from the richest to the Covid-19 relief effort. Senator Sanders’ bill takes a bold and innovative step in this direction, paving the way to make billionaires finally pay a fair share of their enormous gains.”
“As our country faces vast economic and health needs, billionaires continue to display their appetite for greed,” stated Susan Harley, Managing Director of Public Citizen’s Congress Watch division. “The Make Billionaires Pay Act smartly uses our tax code to take on the co-crises of COVID-19 health care disparities and the gaping income inequalities in our nation.”
Sanders emphasized that under this law no one who earns less than $1 billion would pay any additional taxes. He also provided a list of a few prominent billionaires and how much they would be held accountable under the Make Billionaires Pay Act:
- Jeff Bezos, whose wealth has gone up by 63% or $71.3 billion during the pandemic, would pay a one-time wealth tax of $42.8 billion.
- Elon Musk, whose wealth has nearly tripled during the pandemic from $24.6 billion to $70.5 billion, would pay a one-time wealth tax of $27.5 billion.
- Mark Zuckerberg, who is now worth $92.7 billion, up from $54.7 billion, would pay a one-time wealth tax of $22.8 billion.
- The Walton family, the wealthiest family in America, has seen their wealth grow by $21.5 billion would pay a one-time wealth tax of $12.9 billion.