Well-Being Prevention & Cures

Wealth tax on billionaires’ pandemic profits would vaccinate every adult on Earth

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Story at a glance

  • The world’s billionaires accrued $5.5 trillion since the beginning of the pandemic.
  • A 99 percent tax — totaling $5.455 trillion — on pandemic-era gains could fund worldwide vaccines with enough cash remaining to offer $20,000 to all unemployed workers.
  • The author’s analysis estimates vaccinating the world’s adult population would cost around $70 billion.

A one-time tax on the billionaires’ collective wealth earned during the pandemic could finance vaccines for all adults across the globe, according to a new report

Drawing on data from Forbes, analysts from Oxfam, the Fight Inequality Alliance, the Institute for Policy Studies and the Patriotic Millionaires, found the world’s billionaires accrued $5.5 trillion since the beginning of the pandemic. A 99 percent tax — totaling $5.455 trillion — on pandemic-era gains, they suggest, could fund worldwide vaccines with enough cash remaining to offer $20,000 to all unemployed workers.

The authors note even after the tax, the world’s 2,690 billionaires would still see an average of $37 million in gains from pandemic-era earnings. 


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“The surge in global billionaire wealth as millions of people have lost their lives and livelihoods is a sickness that countries can no longer bear,” Morris Pearl, former managing director at BlackRock and chair of the Patriotic Millionaires, said in the report’s release. 

“Rich people getting endlessly richer is not good for anyone. Our economies are choking on this hoarded resource that could be serving a much greater purpose,” Pearl added. “Billionaires need to cough up that cash ball ― and governments need to make them do it by taxing their wealth.”

The author’s analysis estimates vaccinating the world’s adult population would cost around $70 billion — at $7 per shot. Meanwhile, according to the report, giving $20,000 to all unemployed workers would cost $4.4 trillion. 

“COVID-19 is turning the gap between rich and poor into an unbridgeable chasm,” Max Lawson, Oxfam International’s Global Inequality Policy lead, said in the release. “The obscene levels of wealth gained from the pandemic by a handful of mega rich individuals should immediately be taxed at 99 percent ― enough to fully vaccinate everyone on Earth and help millions of workers who lost their jobs due to COVID-19.”

“Only with this kind of radical and progressive policy making will we be able to fight inequality and end poverty,” Lawson concluded. 


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Currently, around 31 percent of the world has received at least one dose of a coronavirus vaccine, while 16 percent is fully vaccinated. Yet only 1 percent of populations in low or middle income countries are partially vaccinated. 


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