Sen. Bernie Sanders, D-Vt., said that the U.S. will tax “billionaires’ outrageous pandemic wealth” incurred between the months of March and August – a period when 50 million Americans applied for jobless aid.
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“We are going to tax Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg, and the other billionaires' outrageous pandemic wealth accumulation so we can provide health care to all our people,” Sanders said in a tweet Saturday.
Sanders co-sponsored the Make Billionaires Pay Act that impose a one-time 60 percent “windfall” tax on $731 billion accumulated by 467 billionaires, over the six month period.
"At a time of enormous economic pain and suffering, we have a fundamental choice to make,” Sanders said in a statement Thursday.
“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,” Sanders said.
The legislation put forward in coordination with Sens. Ed Markey, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., would raise $427.1 billion, which the senators say is enough to cover all Medicare expenses for every American over the next 12 months.
Medicare for All is a policy that Democrats believe has become increasingly urgent as 5.4 million American’s lost health insurance coverage during the coronavirus pandemic.
“As more than 160,000 Americans have lost their lives and millions more have lost their jobs, it is unconscionable that the super-wealthy are getting even richer in the midst of this crisis," Markey said in a statement Thursday.
"Despite overwhelming need, Republicans continue to look for any excuse under the guise of deficit reduction to cut vital support programs like jobless aid and health insurance for the most vulnerable,” he added.
The bill would leave $310.1 billion in wealth gains for the 1% of Americans incurring the tax, which would remain in effect until Jan. 2021.
The bill also singled out America’s wealthiest to show what they would be taxed under this act.
Jeff Bezos, the owner of Amazon and the wealthiest man in the world, would pay a one-time tax of $42.8 billion. Elon Musk, whose wealth has reportedly tripled during the pandemic, would be expected to pay $27.5 billion. And Marc Zuckerberg, co-founder of Facebook, would pay $22.8 billion in taxes.
Musk responded by tweeting a meme critical of Sander's plan Friday.
“As a result of Trump’s tax giveaway to the rich, these billionaires currently pay a lower effective tax rate on average than teachers or truck drivers,” the senator’s statement read.
The bill would not affect anyone that has a net value or assets equal to less than $1 billion following March 18.
“Requiring billionaires to pay their fair share will help support workers and families dealing with job losses, food insecurity, housing instability and health care,” Gillibrand said. “Not only is this a common-sense proposal, but it’s a moral one and Congress should be doing all we can to assist Americans struggling right now.”
MarketWatch reported that the senator’s start date of March 18, when the federal government largely entered lockdown, is slightly illogical because investors were showing signs of concern in February - when the pandemic was picking up in China and had officially made its way to the U.S.
The publication also noted that though billionaires still made money, they likely lost roughly 12 percent of the billions they would have otherwise made, had it not been for the pandemic.
Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk and Marc Zuckerberg could not be reached for immediate comment.