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Protestors march across the Brooklyn Bridge holding a sign to "tax the rich" on March 5, 2021 in New York City.

Protestors march across the Brooklyn Bridge holding a sign to "tax the rich" on March 5, 2021 in New York City. (Photo: David Dee Delgado/Getty Images)

$1.3 Trillion 'Pandemic Profits' of US Billionaires Could Pay for Two-Thirds of Biden Covid Relief Plan

"These obscene gains of wealth during a pandemic prove that our economy is clearly designed for billionaires to profit, while millions suffer."

Jake Johnson

With conservative deficit-scolds in Congress already beginning to gripe about the need to "pay for" a forthcoming infrastructure package, a new analysis released Thursday morning by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies offers up a major possible funding source: America's 657 billionaires.

"It's been a full year now of illness, unemployment, and insecurity for tens of millions of Americans—but 12 months of incredible wealth growth for the nation's billionaires."
—Frank Clemente, Americans for Tax Fairness

According to the groups' latest breakdown of national wealth data, the collective net worth of U.S. billionaires has soared by a staggering $1.3 trillion since the coronavirus pandemic began last March, bringing their total combined fortunes to $4.2 trillion as of Wednesday. Forty-three new billionaires were created during the same time span in which more than 520,000 people in the U.S. died of Covid-19 and tens of millions lost their jobs in the pandemic-induced economic collapse.

American billionaires, meanwhile, have done so well that their "pandemic profits" alone could finance two-thirds of the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that President Joe Biden is expected to sign into law on Friday, ATF and IPS note. Driving home their point, the groups add that the $1.3 trillion billionaire wealth gain could "pay for a stimulus check of more than $3,900 for every one of the roughly 331 million people in the United States."

"It's been a full year now of illness, unemployment, and insecurity for tens of millions of Americans—but 12 months of incredible wealth growth for the nation's billionaires," said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. "President Biden and Democrats in Congress came to the rescue with a major plan that benefits working families. Now they need to turn their attention to a bold long-term jobs and investment plan that also reforms the tax code so the wealthy and corporations start paying their fair share and everyone can benefit."

Now that the overwhelmingly popular American Rescue Plan has cleared both chambers of Congress, lawmakers are beginning to turn their attention to a potentially even larger package—possibly as big as $4 trillion—centered around climate and infrastructure.

The prospect of another massive spending bill, as Politico reported Wednesday, centrist Democrats such as Sens. Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.) and Jon Tester (D-Mont.) "are ready to pump the brakes," demanding that "at least some of the next big bill... be paid for" rather than financed by debt, as some economists are advocating.

In their new report, AFT and IPS point out that Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-Mass.) "Ultra-Millionaire Tax" plan—which proposes a 2% annual levy on household wealth over $50 million and a 1% annual surtax on wealth above $1 billion—would raise $3 trillion in revenue over 10 years.

"America's billionaires alone would owe $114 billion for last year if Warren's wealth tax had been in place and $1.4 trillion over 10 years," the groups noted.

In an interview with Axios earlier this week, Manchin suggested that he would be open to funding an infrastructure package with tax hikes. "He talked up an array of tax increases," according to Axios, "including raising the corporate tax rate from the current 21% to 25% 'at least,' and repealing 'a lot of' the Trump tax cuts for the wealthy."

Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.)—chair of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and a leading sponsor of the "Ultra-Millionaire Tax" in the House—urged Manchin to support the wealth tax proposal as part of the nascent infrastructure plan.

"It would generate $3 trillion," Jayapal wrote. "Let's tax the ultra-rich and fund the critical infrastructure our country needs."

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