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Argentina Approves Tax on Millionaires to Fund COVID-19 Recovery

Senators passed a bill imposing a tax of at least 2 percent on individuals with assets worth more than $2.45 million.

Argentinian Vice President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner sings the national anthem before leading a virtual session of the Argentine Senate in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on December 4, 2020.

Lawmakers in Argentina on Friday approved a new one-time levy on the country’s richest citizens to raise money to address the devastating health and economic consequences of the ongoing coronavirus crisis.

Senators passed the bill, which imposes a tax of at least 2% on individuals with assets worth more than $2.45 million, by a margin of 42 to 26, Reuters reported Saturday.

Government revenue has declined amid the Covid-19 outbreak and resulting lockdown measures, and proponents of the legislation — dubbed the “millionaire’s tax” — hope it will generate $3.7 billion for the pandemic recovery process.

“This is a unique, one-time contribution,” said Senator Carlos Caserio, a member of the committee responsible for the bill, according to a statement on the Senate’s website, Bloomberg reported Saturday.

“We’re coming out of this pandemic like countries come out of world wars, with thousands of dead and devastated economies,” Cesario added.

According to the BBC, the funds will be used to pay for medical supplies, emergency aid for small and medium-sized businesses, financial support for students and social programs, and natural gas development.

“We must find points of connection between those who have the most to contribute and those who are in need,” said Senator Anabel Fernandez Sagasti.

While Argentina is unique for having passed a coronavirus-specific wealth tax to confront the current crisis, people in other countries are clamoring for similar measures, although most politicians have so far opposed such efforts.

As Christo Aivalis explained in Jacobin on Friday, there is “massive support” for a tax on Canada’s super-rich, but 90% of the country’s parliamentarians last month voted against a proposal to establish one.

“A policy supported by nearly 80% of Canadians cannot muster 10% of the vote in the national parliament,” Aivalis pointed out, arguing that this demonstrates how politicians in the North American country are “just as much in thrall to big money as their U.S. counterparts.”

“There is no reason U.S. billionaires should hold more than $1 trillion in wealth while food lines stretch for miles and millions are on the brink of eviction. Tax the rich.”
— Robert Reich

A recent poll conducted last week by the New York Times and Survey Monkey found that two-thirds of the U.S. electorate support a tax hike on individuals with annual incomes of more than $400,000.

In August, Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) and Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) introduced a Senate version and a House version of the Make Billionaires Pay Act, legislation that would establish a 60% tax on the wealth increases enjoyed by billionaires between March 18, 2020 and January 1, 2021 in order to pay for all medical expenses for every person in the U.S. for a year.

Unlike their counterparts in other wealthy countries, millions of Americans have lost healthcare coverage since the pandemic began.

Months after Sanders and Omar introduced their bills to tax a portion of the wealth amassed by U.S. billionaires during the pandemic, the Institute for Policy Studies found in late November that the nation’s 650 billionaires had collectively gained more than $1 trillion since March, as Common Dreams reported.

“There is no reason U.S. billionaires should hold more than $1 trillion in wealth while food lines stretch for miles and millions are on the brink of eviction,” tweeted Robert Reich last week. “Tax the rich.”

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