The Billionaire Bonanza Amidst the Pandemic Exposes Greed and Political Cowardice in Washington, D.C. and California

by on September 21, 2020 · 0 comments

in California, Economy, Under the Perfect Sun

By Jim Miller

As the bad news keeps rolling in for ordinary Americans with the pandemic dragging on with no real hope in sight for months at best, and any new economic relief stalled out in Congress with the Republican majority refusing to move on “blue state bailouts,” it is abundantly clear whose interests our leaders in Washington actually care about—not yours.  Indeed, the wrecking crew in the White House and the Senate have never been more openly honest about their disdain for the well-being of the majority of Americans.

When it comes to emergency aid for the suffering, the response from the Republicans is resounding: F**** off and die.

Why should they be worried?  200,000 dead and counting?  Big whoop.  Their real base is doing just fine.  As the Guardian reported last week, the rich have never had it better:

The already vast fortunes of America’s 643 billionaires have soared by an average of 29% since the start of the coronavirus pandemic, which has at the same time laid waste to tens of millions of jobs around the world.

The richest of the superrich have benefited by $845bn , according to a report by a US progressive thinktank, the Institute for Policy Studies.

The report calculated that 643 billionaires in the US had racked up $845bn (£642bn) in collective wealth gains since 18 March, when lockdowns began across the US and much of the rest of the world. The collective wealth of the billionaire class increased from $2.95tn to $3.8tn. That works out to gains of $141bn a month, or $4.7bn a day.

Over the same period, more than 197,000 Americans have died from coronavirus and more than 50m Americans have lost their jobs.

This obscene largesse has, as the article notes, “prompted calls for a windfall tax on super-rich tech titans to help pay for the economic recovery from the pandemic.”  And in places like New Jersey, they have already passed a millionaires tax to partially address the social and economic wreckage brought by our Trump-supercharged plague.  But, thus far, this is an isolated moment of political courage in a solidly blue state.

It would be foolish to expect anything from D.C. at present, but even in the home of the “resistance” here in California, political courage has been hard to find as the Democrats ended the legislative session kicking the budgetary disaster can down the road, whistling in the dark, and praying for help from Congress.

Despite the fact that the money made by California billionaires during the pandemic exceeds the entire Proposition 98 guarantee for schools, only a few brave Democrats such as Rob Bonta with AB 2088 (a wealth tax) and Miguel Santiago with AB 1253 (a millionaires tax)—which fell on deaf ears in both the legislative leadership and the Governor’s office — proposed solutions commensurate with the disastrous problems we face.

While we should be pleased that Governor Newsom and others have endorsed Proposition 15, which closes a corporate property tax loophole to bring in billions of dollars for schools and communities (more on this in a future column), they are essentially leaving it to the voters to do the heavy lifting and hoping the measure can overcome a multimillion dollar corporate assault of televised lies aimed at scaring voters and preserving this unjust scam.

No crazy economic populism talk from California Democrats, no sir.  That might make rich people mad.  Better to risk a budgetary disaster and years of scarcity for education, social services, and all the dire economic consequences that flow from austerity.  This would not be the slightest bit surprising if the Republicans were in charge, but here on the “left coast” the party of FDR has a supermajority.

The take-away: Democrats, your inner New Deal is missing, please check in at Lost and Found to see if anyone can help you find it.

Meanwhile, as the Guardian piece observes:

“The billionaire economy has been turbocharged by policymakers, who are now stalling on relief for the real economy,” said Chuck Collins, director of the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program on Inequality and co-author of the Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report. “The difference is stark between profits for billionaires and the widespread economic misery in our nation. Clearly, the priorities of elected officials in Washington, DC are completely upside down.”

You can say the same thing here in the Golden State where they have no excuses except political cowardice.  And if this doesn’t change, we’ll have hell to pay for years to come.


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