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New Sanders Bill Would Tax “Obscene” Pandemic Windfall of Billionaires

The tax would help fund the U.S. recovery from the pandemic and resulting economic collapse.

People participate in a "March on Billionaires" event on July 17, 2020, in New York City.

Sen. Bernie Sanders plans to introduce legislation Thursday that would heavily tax the “obscene wealth gains” America’s billionaires have accumulated during the Covid-19 crisis to help fund the U.S. recovery from the pandemic and resulting economic collapse.

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sanders said “if we taxed 60 percent of the windfall gains these billionaires made from March 18th until August 3rd, we could raise over $420 billion.”

“That’s enough revenue to allow Medicare to pay all of the out-of-pocket healthcare expenses for everyone in America over the next 12 months,” said Sanders. “By taxing 60% of the wealth gains made by just 467 billionaires during this horrific pandemic, we could guarantee healthcare as a right for an entire year.”

According to the latest figures from the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) — groups that have been tracking the wealth gains of the richest Americans since the start of the pandemic — U.S. billionaires have seen their wealth grow by more than $750 billion since mid-March, even as the economy plunged into a deep recession and tens of millions of Americans lost their jobs and health insurance.

“Billionaires & their corporations have received tons of bailout money,” ATF tweeted late Wednesday in support of Sanders’ proposal. “It’s time we ask them to step up and pay it forward.”

Condemning “do-nothing Republicans” for refusing to act, Sanders warned Wednesday that the United States is “currently witnessing what is likely the greatest transfer of wealth from the middle class and the poor to the very rich in the modern history of this country” as the U.S. Congress fails to provide additional relief to workers and the unemployed while continuing to bail out large corporations.

“In the midst of a pandemic, in the midst of an economic meltdown for working families, in the midst of a great struggle regarding systemic racism and police brutality, in the midst of the existential threat of climate change, in the midst of a president undermining democracy and moving us toward an authoritarian government, in the midst of all of that, we are seeing a massive increase in income and wealth inequality and the movement in this country toward oligarchy,” Sanders said.

The Vermont senator went on to list several examples of “morally obscene” billionaire profiteering during the pandemic:

  • While Amazon is denying paid sick leave, hazard pay and personal protective equipment to 450,000 of its workers, Jeff Bezos has increased his wealth by over $70 billion.
  • While U.S. taxpayers are subsidizing the starvation wages at Walmart, our nation’s largest private employer, the Walton family has made over $20 billion during the pandemic and now has a net worth of over $200 billion.
  • While 40 million Americans face eviction, Elon Musk has nearly tripled his wealth over the past four months and now has a net worth of more than $70 billion.
  • While millions of Americans are lining up at emergency food banks because they don’t have enough money to put food on the table, Mark Zuckerberg the founder of Facebook has increased his wealth by more than $37 billion during the pandemic and is now worth over $90 billion.

“At a time of enormous economic pain and suffering, we have a choice to make,” Sanders said. “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.”

Watch the full speech:

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