Finance

Sanders pushes for 95 percent tax on corporate ‘windfall’ profits

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) arrives for a hearing to discuss President Biden's budget request for FY 2022 on Tuesday, June 8, 2021.
Greg Nash

Senate Budget Committee Chairman Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) on Tuesday made a push for a bill that seeks to levy a 95 percent tax on windfall profits of companies that bring in more than $500 million in revenue annually.

Sanders highlighted reports detailing higher profits made by companies like Exxon Mobil and Tyson Foods during the pandemic.

“Is it appropriate that during this pandemic, during the war in Ukraine, during all of this instability, that this be a moment in which large corporations continue to enjoy huge profits?” Sanders said in opening remarks during a Budget Committee hearing on inflation.

The legislation introduced by Sanders would apply to companies’ profits that are in excess of their average profit level seen in the five years leading up to the pandemic, according to a a summary provided by his office.

Ahead of the midterm elections, a number of Democrats have pinned blame on corporate greed for rising costs, as inflation rates have hit heights not seen in four decades

Sen. Lindsey Graham (S.C.), the ranking Republican on the committee, called the idea of a windfalls profit tax “a disaster” and blamed inflation on Biden administration policies such as the $1.9 trillion coronavirus relief package that passed Congress last year without GOP support.

“We’re trying to get our economy back on its feet after dealing with COVID throughout the world, and what I would say is that the best cause for inflation lives in the policy choices of this administration, more than any single thing,” he said.

Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-Iowa) also accused Democrats of “misdiagnosing the cause of inflation,” arguing “the current focus on so-called corporate greed risks taking us down the failed road of the 1970s-style price controls and windfall profits tax.”

Robert Reich, a former Labor secretary and leading figure on the left, pointed to oil companies in arguing that a windfall profits tax “is exactly what is needed right now.”

“When oil companies, for example, are showing, as they are, historical profits, they are making huge amounts of money. They are raising prices at the pump at the same time. They don’t need to raise those prices,” Reich testified.

“A large portion of that money is going to executives and major investors, so you want a windfall profits tax that stops them from doing that and actually rebates that money to consumers,” he added.

The hearing arrives as inflation has emerged as a key campaign issue ahead of the coming midterm elections, with Republicans and Democrats taking opposing positions on how to address rising prices.

At the close of the hearing on Tuesday afternoon, Sanders reiterated focus “on inflation taking place at the same time as we’re seeing record breaking profits.”

“We’re seeing record-breaking levels of stock buybacks. We’re seeing high dividends. We are seeing and living through a moment in American history where the people on top are doing phenomenally well, while working people are struggling,” Sanders said.

Updated at 6:04 p.m.

Tags Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders Chuck Grassley Inflation Lindsey Graham Lindsey Graham Robert Reich Windfall tax

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