Bernie Sanders Renews Call For A Billionaire Tax—This Time To Fund Medicare During The Coronavirus Pandemic

TOPLINE

In a Tuesday op-ed in The Guardian, former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders renewed his call for a tax on the ultra-wealthy to fund Medicare as the coronavirus continues to widen the wealth gap and take an “obscene” toll on America’s poorest citizens. 

KEY FACTS

Sen. Sanders (I-Vt.) cited analysis from Americans for Tax Fairness, a proggressive advocacy group, showing that a 60% tax on wealth gains of 467 billionaires in the United States would raise more than $420 billion.

That’s enough, Sanders says, to pay the out-of-pocket healthcare costs of every American for an entire year. 

Last week, Sanders introduced the Make Billionaires Pay Act along with Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

The bill would implement that tax retroactively from March 18 until August 5th, and use the funds collected to cover the necessary healthcare costs of the uninsured and underinsured for a year through the Medicare program. 

Under that proposal, billionaire Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (currently worth $189 billion, according to Forbes) would pay $42.8 billion, Elon Musk (worth $68 billion) would pay $27.5 billion, and Mark Zuckerberg (worth $97 billion) would pay $22.8 billion, Sanders says.

Crucial quote

“At a time of enormous economic pain and suffering, we have a choice to make,” Sanders wrote. “We can continue to allow the very rich to get much richer while most everyone else gets 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.”

Big number

$731.8 billion. That’s how much 476 billionaires in America increased their wealth since the Federal Reserve began taking action to backstop the stock market in March, Sanders says. That was right as the stock market bottomed out, and as it recovered, so did billionaires’ net worths. 

Key background

The coronavirus pandemic has not impacted all Americans equally. Those on the lower end of the income spectrum—who tend to work in the industries hit hardest by the virus, in retail stores and restaurants, for instance—have been more likely to lose their jobs than those who earn more and can work from home. Lower-income households are also more likely to fall behind on student debt, according to Brookings. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, poverty and unequal access to healthcare has also meant that certain racial groups, like Black Americans, have been hit harder by the virus than others. 

Further reading

Here’s What The Racial Wealth Gap In America Looks Like Today (Forbes

Five Big Ideas To Narrow The Racial Wealth Gap (Forbes)

We Looked At How The Stock Market Performed Under Every U.S. President Since Truman — And The Results Will Surprise You (Forbes)

Mnuchin Says White House Is Willing To Put ‘More Money On The Table’ For Next Stimulus Bill (Forbes)

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