While the global COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating for most people in the world, for a select group of people it has been a boom time: billionaires. That group has seen their wealth skyrocket by a combined $5.5 trillion since the beginning of the pandemic, according to data from Oxfam, the Fight Inequality Alliance, the Institute for Policy Studies, and the Patriotic Millionaires. And it’s those groups that are now calling for a one-time tax on billionaires to help stem the devastating health and economic impact of the pandemic on the rest of the people on the planet.
The groups are calling for a one-time 99% tax on the wealth that billionaires accumulated during the pandemic, which would raise $5.4 trillion, which in turn would cover the cost of fully vaccinating every person on the planet while also cover giving a $20,000 cash grant to everyone on the planet who has become unemployed during the pandemic.
If a 99% tax on billionaires’ pandemic wealth gains seems like a lot, Oxfam and the other groups point out that even after the one-time tax, the world’s 2,690 billionaires would still be $55 billion richer than before the pandemic ravaged the globe.
And as the chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, Morris Pearl, points out, a one-time tax on the wealthiest has a long history of precedent: “After World Wars I and II, one-off wealth taxes were levied in European countries and Japan to fund reconstruction. France, for example, taxed excessive wartime wealth gains at a rate of 100% after the Second World War. More recently, following the global financial crisis of 2008, countries including Iceland introduced temporary wealth taxes to help refill public coffers.”
The groups also point out that billionaires’ wealth has increased more over the past 17 months than during the last 15 years combined, and since the outbreak of the pandemic the world has minted 325 new billionaires.
“Billionaire Jeff Bezos could personally pay for enough vaccines for the whole world, yet he would rather spend his wealth on a thrill ride to space. COVID-19 is turning the gap between rich and poor into an unbridgeable chasm,” Max Lawson, Oxfam International’s global inequality policy lead, said in a release calling for the creation of a one-time wealth tax. “The obscene levels of wealth gained from the pandemic by a handful of mega-rich individuals should immediately be taxed at 99%―enough to fully vaccinate everyone on Earth and help millions of workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19. Only with this kind of radical and progressive policy making will we be able to fight inequality and end poverty.”