Since the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis in March, over 45 million Americans have filed for unemployment. Millions of others who have kept their jobs have faced dangerous working conditions, cut hours, or slashed wages. Total household wealth has fallen by more than $6.5 trillion.
But throughout this unprecedented economic disaster, billionaires and corporate investors continue to get richer. Since March, the few hundred billionaires in the U.S. have seen their wealth increase by over 20%, or more than $550 billion. The S&P 500, which at one point looked poised for a substantial decline, has already rebounded to December 2019 levels, and is only a few percent below its all-time high.
In any crisis, it’s inevitable that some groups will end up doing better than others. But this extreme concentration of gain in the midst of widespread suffering is bad for all of us. Millions of taxpayers submit their returns on 2020’s delayed Tax Day, July 15, but we should consider how the federal government can use our tax code to address this problem. One solution? It could take a page out of its historical playbook and implement an excess profits tax similar to what the U.S. had in World Wars I and II.