Skip to main content

Why are the billionaires always laughing?

Because they know the corporate media will never call bullshit on their bullshit.

Why are the billionaires laughing?

It’s easy to laugh when the corporate press treats you as a glorious success instead of the epitome of a broken social order. Billionaires laugh because they know the corporate media prefers to fawn over them rather than hold them to account.

Today, we ask you to support our nonprofit, independent journalism because we are not impressed by billionaires flying into space, their corporations despoiling our health and planet, or their vast fortunes safely concealed in tax havens across the globe. We are not laughing.

We are hard at work producing journalism for the common good. With our Fall Campaign underway, please support this mission today. We cannot do it without you.

Support Our Work -- Join the small group of generous readers who donate, keeping Common Dreams free for millions of people each year. Every donation—large or small—helps us bring you the news that matters.

People participate in a "March on Billionaires" event on July 17, 2020 in New York City. (Photo: Spencer Platt/Getty Images)

Sanders Bill to Tax 'Obscene' Pandemic Windfall of Billionaires Would Empower Medicare to Cover Every American for One Year

"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."

Jake Johnson

Sen. Bernie Sanders on Thursday introduced legislation that would tax the "obscene wealth gains" America's billionaires have accumulated during the Covid-19 crisis and use the resulting revenue to empower Medicare to cover all out-of-pocket medical expenses for everyone in the United States for a year.

"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."
—Sen. Bernie Sanders

In a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sanders said "if we taxed 60% 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 a fact-sheet released by Sanders' office, the Make Billionaires Pay Act would impose a 60% tax on all billionaire wealth gains between March 18, 2020 and January 1, 2021 and use the funds to cover the out-of-pocket healthcare expenses of all Americans for a full year. The legislation is co-sponsored by Sens. Ed Markey (D-Mass.) and Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.).

"While a record-breaking 5.4 million Americans recently lost their health insurance, 467 billionaires in our country increased their wealth by an estimated $731.8 billion during the pandemic," the fact-sheet reads. "Incredibly, as a result of the Trump tax giveaway to the rich, these billionaires currently pay a lower effective tax rate than teachers or truck drivers."

Under the Sanders proposal, Medicare would cover all out-of-pocket healthcare costs for the tens of millions of people in the U.S. without insurance for a year. For Americans with either public or private insurance, their providers would bill Medicare for all out-of-pocket expenses.

"Everyone has suffered during the pandemic—from lost lives, lost jobs, lost chances—everyone, that is, except America's billionaires," Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said in a statement. "Senator Sanders' bill recognizes that a good chunk of the obscene growth in wealth by the richest Americans during a national emergency should be used to help us all survive and recover."

In his floor speech Wednesday, Sanders warned that the U.S. 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 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:

Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

This is the world we live in. This is the world we cover.

Because of people like you, another world is possible. There are many battles to be won, but we will battle them together—all of us. Common Dreams is not your normal news site. We don't survive on clicks. We don't want advertising dollars. We want the world to be a better place. But we can't do it alone. It doesn't work that way. We need you. If you can help today—because every gift of every size matters—please do. Without Your Support We Simply Don't Exist.

As Sinema Blocks Corporate Tax Hike, Demand Grows for Wealth Tax on Billionaires

"It seems truly unhinged to look at a country full of working people struggling to get by... and decide that it's more important to preserve low tax rates for billionaires and corporations than it is to make significant investments in our families."

Julia Conley ·

Israel Condemned for Designating Palestinian Human Rights Groups 'Terrorist Organizations'

"Labeling effective NGOs 'terrorists' is a textbook way to evade accountability for human rights violations—and an affront to everyone who cares about peace," said Rep. Ilhan Omar.

Kenny Stancil ·

House Progressives Call On Biden to Declare a Climate Emergency—Now

"Your inaction," Rep. Cori Bush warned the president, "is undermining our efforts to deliver good jobs, environmental justice, and a renewable energy future."

Jessica Corbett ·

Despite Politicians and Pundits' Claims, Twitter Finds Algorithm Favors Right-Wing Voices

"So much for Trump's claim that Twitter has an anti-conservative bias."

Brett Wilkins ·

'And Maybe More': Biden Says He's Open to Reforming Filibuster to Win Voting Rights

"It's a simple choice between a free America or one chained by the past," said one advocate. "Our democracy hangs in the balance."

Julia Conley ·

Support our work.

We are independent, non-profit, advertising-free and 100% reader supported.

Subscribe to our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values.
Direct to your inbox.

Subscribe to our Newsletter.

Common Dreams, Inc. Founded 1997. Registered 501(c3) Non-Profit | Privacy Policy
Common Dreams Logo