By Rodney Reynolds
NEW YORK (IDN) — A group of over 100 millionaires and billionaires from nine countries published an open letter January 19 to government and business leaders, calling for permanent annual wealth taxes on the very richest to help reduce extreme inequality and raise revenue for sustained, long-term increases in public services like healthcare.
These super-rich signatories are joining a growing chorus of voices around the world calling for greater taxation of the richest in light of record COVID-19 wealth gains at the top of society—gains that have seen the ten richest men more than double their fortunes to a staggering $1.5 trillion dollars. The worlds’ 2,660 billionaires now have wealth around the same size as the Chinese economy.
According to a new analysis by the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and the Patriotic Millionaires, a wealth tax starting at just 2 per cent annually for millionaires and rising to 5 per cent annually for billionaires could generate $2.52 trillion a year. This would be enough to:
lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty,
make enough vaccines for the world, and
deliver universal healthcare and social protection for all the citizens of low- and lower-middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).
The letter says that while the world has gone through an immense amount of suffering in the last two years, the richest have seen their wealth rise during the pandemic and very few—if any—are paying their fair share in taxes. The group urges governments to “tax us, the rich, and tax us now”.
The analysis found that globally:
— 3.6 million people have over $5 million in wealth, with a combined wealth of $75.3 trillion.
—.183,000 people own $50 million or more, with a combined wealth of $36.4 trillion.
—.2,660 billionaires have a total combined wealth of $13.76 trillion.
The group published their letter during the World Economic Forum’s weeklong Davos Agenda, during which participants are expected to discuss critical global challenges and solutions. It says unless heads of state and government and CEOs acknowledge the “simple, effective solution staring them in the face—taxing the rich,” people around the world “will continue to see their so-called dedication to fixing the world’s problems as little more than a performance”.
Prominent signatories include American film producer and heiress Abigail Disney, Danish-Iranian entrepreneur Djaffar Shalchi, an American entrepreneur and venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, and Austrian student and heiress Marlene Engelhorn.
Morris Pearl, former managing director at Blackrock and chairperson of the Patriotic Millionaires said: “There is no defending a system that endlessly inflates the wealth of the world’s richest people while condemning billions to easily preventable poverty. We need deep, systemic change, and that starts with taxing rich people like me.”
Gemma McGough, British entrepreneur and founder of the Patriotic Millionaires UK said: “A common value most people share is that if something’s not fair then it’s not right. But tax systems the world over have unfairness built-in, so why should people trust them? They are asked to shoulder our shared economic burden again and again, while the richest people watch their wealth, and their comfort, continue to rise. For all our well-being—rich and poor alike—it’s time we right the wrongs of an unequal world. It’s time we tax the rich.”
The letter was circulated by the Patriotic Millionaires in the US and UK, Tax me Now, Oxfam and Millionaires for Humanity, and warns that “history paints a pretty bleak picture of what the endgame of extremely unequal societies looks like”.
Calculations are based on the most up-to-date and comprehensive data sources available. Data on the richest individuals is from Wealth-X and figures on billionaires come from Forbes’s Billionaires List (30 November 2021). Download the methodology note and factsheet. Download Oxfam’s report Inequality Kills. [IDN-InDepthNews – 19 January 2022]
Photo: A boy sits amid scenes of destruction in Macomia town after it was hit by tropical cyclone Kenneth, which made landfall in Cabo Delgado province in Northern Mozambique, on 25th April 2019. Credit: Tommy Trenchard/Oxfam
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