The pandemic has shone a spotlight on how inequality kills. As inequalities in income, wealth and access to health care have accelerated, the world’s most economically precarious people have suffered far more than their fair share of death and economic loss.
As a new Oxfam report points out, inequality contributes to the deaths of more than 21,000 people each day. And make no mistake — the pandemic is making inequality worse. Oxfam reports that 99% of the world’s workers earned less money than they would have if the pandemic hadn’t happened. Meanwhile, the world’s 500 richest people saw their wealth increase by $1 trillion last year. And here in the US, the combined wealth of our 745 billionaires has increased by over $2 trillion since the pandemic began.
These extreme inequalities are the preexisting condition that made our society more vulnerable to disease and undermined a robust global public health response. But sometimes the medicine is found alongside the disease. This unprecedented global concentration of wealth has launched a global movement to tax the wealth of the richest individuals to fund health care.
According to a new report published by Fight Inequality Alliance, the Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and Patriotic Millionaires, a small, annual wealth tax on the world’s wealthiest billionaires and multi-millionaires could raise over $2.5 trillion each year. (That’s based on a graduated rate structure of a 2% tax on wealth over $5 million, 3% on wealth over $50 million, and 5% on wealth over $1 billion.)