Government Should Raise Taxes on ‘People Like Us’: U.S. Millionaires on Covid19 Recovery
The coronavirus pandemic has caused a severe global economic crisis — the worst since the 1930s depression, according to the IMF — which has left governments around the world scrambling to provide basic resources to socio-economically disadvantaged communities around the world. Now, U.S. millionaires — 83 of them, including philanthropist and filmmaker Abigail Disney — are asking the American government to tax them more, in order to secure funding that will help bridge the widening wealth gap caused by the Covid19 pandemic.
In an open letter published Monday, they said, “millionaires like us have a critical role to play in healing our world… No, we are not the ones caring for the sick in intensive care wards. We are not driving the ambulances that will bring the ill to hospitals. We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door,” adding, “But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis.”
The group, part of a larger organization called Patriotic Millionaires, concedes that the coronavirus crisis cannot be solved by charity, “no matter how generous.” For a longer, sustainable funding source, the government must put in place a legal tax framework that can permanently fund the U.S.’s health infrastructure, schools and other social support measures.
“Unlike tens of millions of people around the world, we do not have to worry about losing our jobs, our homes, or our ability to support our families,” they write. “So please. Tax us. Tax us. Tax us. It is the right choice. It is the only choice. Humanity is more important than our money.”
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The Patriotic Millionaires, who proudly call themselves “traitors to their class,” have been operational since 2010, and have consistently lobbied against tax cuts for the super-rich, citing severe income inequality as one of their primary motivators to put the fight against poverty in front of what is perceived to be their economic interests, in many open letters that came before. One of the group’s most vocal members, Disney, has gone up against the CEO of the Walt Disney Company, Bob Iger, calling the amount on his hundreds-of-million-dollar bonus packages “insane,” even as ground workers on Disneyland parks struggle to make ends meet while advocating for higher, fairer pay for them.
Increasing taxes would bring in more revenue for Covid19 recovery, and has enjoyed support from some leftist liberals in the U.S., but is likely to be a deeply fraught political battle at a time of uncertainty in the U.S. In India, too, a similar idea has taken root among some, with the coronavirus pandemic. A group of 50 tax officers from the Indian Revenue Service are calling for a one-time only, coronavirus tax of 4% on people with an income of 10 lakh rupees or more, and called for a longer-term higher tax on people who make 1 crore or more, and a permanent wealth tax on those who make 5 crores or more.
“In times like these, the so-called ‘super rich’ have a higher obligation towards ensuring the larger public good,” the officers said in a paper. Soon after, however, the Income Tax department shut the officers down, stating on their Twitter that the officers’ views were not synonymous with those of the department.
At the end of the day, fixing the pandemic-induced economic crisis might require a more radical approach that doesn’t just involve a temporary policy change, but also a wider mindset one. As Disney, who was born into immense privilege, said in an interview with the New Yorker, coming face to face with the world’s economic realities felt “fucking awful,” adding “despair would be easier if I were less comfortable. But, if I were to lose my hope, where does that leave the people around me?”