Why we cannot have effective pandemic relief without a wealth tax
© Getty Images

Oxfam has released their annual inequality report revealing that the COVID-19 crisis caused global inequality levels to skyrocket over the last year. According to the report, the richest 1,000 people in the world have already entirely recouped all of their losses from early last year, while experts predict that the world’s poorest will take nearly a decade to recover from the pandemic’s economic effects.

Some have said that death and disease are great levelers, reducing everyone to the same status no matter their class, wealth, or background. This pandemic has proven that notion to be unequivocally false. Inequality and COVID-19 are inextricably linked, and if we are to have any hope at fully recovering from this pandemic, the Biden administration must directly attack economic inequality with the same fervor it directs at the disease itself.

In the United States, your odds of catching or dying of COVID are inextricably linked to your income level, with the poor significantly more likely to die from the disease. At one point, the death rate for poor neighborhoods in New York, my home, was more than 2.5 times that of richer neighborhoods in the city. There are no visible signs of the pandemic inside my apartment on Park Avenue.


Even if you avoid catching the disease, your wealth and income level have played a massive role in how comfortable your life has been over the last year. Low-income workers have been significantly more likely to lose their jobs than higher-paid workers. And while almost every income group took a hit in March, the rich have largely weathered the storm and come out the other side.

For us wealthy folks living off of our investments, the economic crisis is over. We may be inconvenienced by having to spend a little more time in our homes than we’d like, but economically we’re just as secure as we ever were. In fact, I and many of my friends are actually richer today than we were at the beginning of the year. In a year that has been full of incomprehensible levels of human suffering and hardship, my investment account is doing better than ever.

Only the poor are still struggling. While employment for everyone making over $60,000 a year is actually higher than it was last January, it’s still down over 25 percent for those in the bottom third of income earners.

The Oxfam report now indicates that this disparity will continue for years to come. Our country was already facing an inequality crisis in the years before COVID-19 hit. We can’t afford to let it get even worse. The Biden administration must take the unequal impact of this pandemic into account and propose bold changes that will enable working Americans to be first-class members of our society, and not worry about the millionaires and billionaires and business owners who are doing just fine.

Every town in America is facing a crisis trying to raise tax money from the very citizens who have lost their jobs to pay for nurses, teachers, emergency medical technicians and everyone else who is protecting us and our children from this deadly virus. We can’t just depend on people who work for a living to supply all of the money. We need to get the rich to pay up too. Those of us who have seen our wealth this year eclipse what we had pre-pandemic — but do not pay a penny of taxes on that huge increase — need to pay our fair share.

It’s high time our wealth was taxed. Our country cannot continue to lean on middle class Americans to foot the bill. These Americans are often the ones laboring on the front line of this crisis while paying an exorbitant amount on taxes. It is time for those of us who have enormous wealth in stocks and bonds and companies, even more so than before the pandemic, to pay a tax on our wealth. Our nation demands it.

Morris Pearl is chair of the Patriotic Millionaires and former managing director at BlackRock.