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American billionaires grew in number and expanded their collective fortunes by $2.1 trillion since Covid-19 sparked a worldwide pandemic nineteen months ago, according to a new analysis unveiled Monday.
"Targeted tax increases on billionaires, including the proposed Billionaire Income Tax, would rebalance the tax code and reduce these glaring abuses in who pays for the services we all depend on."
An overall 70% surge of wealth among the nation's richest individuals since March of 2020 has resulted in approximately 130 new billionaires, found the new report released by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). In a statement, the groups noted that there are now 745 people with "10-figure bank accounts" compared to the 614 that existed when the pandemic first hit.
In total, those 745 billionaires now hold $5 trillion in collective wealth, which the groups note is "two-thirds more than the $3 trillion in wealth held by the bottom 50% of U.S. households."
While ATF and IPS have been tracking the explosive growth of the uber-wealthy throughout the pandemic, the latest figures come as Democrats in Congress continue to negotiate with themselves over the cost and scope of President Joe Biden's 'Build Back Better' agenda which aims to provide expanded Medicare, paid family leave, universal childcare and pre-K, bold climate action, and an expanded childhood tax credit to alleviate childhood poverty and provide a more robust economic foundation for millions of working American families.
According to IPS/ATF:
The great good fortune of these billionaires over the past 19 months is all the more stark when contrasted with the devastating impact of coronavirus on working people. Almost 89 million Americans have lost jobs, over 44.9 million have been sickened by the virus, and over 724,000 have died from it.
To put this extraordinary wealth growth in perspective, the $2.1 trillion gain over 19 months by U.S. billionaires is equal to:
- 60% of the $3.5 trillion ten-year cost of President Biden's Build Back Better plan.
- The entire $2.1 trillion in new revenues over ten years approved by the House Ways and Means Committee to help pay for President Biden's Build Back Better (BBB) investment plan.
At the heart of their latest analysis, said ATF executive director Frank Clemente, is the failure to adequately tax these outrageous and growing fortunes.
"This growth of billionaire wealth is unfathomable, immoral, and indefensible in good times let alone during a pandemic when so many have struggled with unemployment, illness, and death," said Clemente. "For practical and moral reasons, Congress must start effectively taxing the outsized gains of billionaires."
Like other advocates, IPS and ATF are calling for much higher and stricter taxation on the windfall profits of the billionaire class—especially in light of the social needs that the pandemic has made so apparent.
Currently under consideration in Congress is the Billionaires Income Tax (BIT) bill, spearheaded by Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oreg.), chairman of the Finance Committee, which Clemente and Chuck Collins, director of IPS' Program on Inequality and the Common Good, say is the best piece of legislation to target the wealth of the super-rich. As the new analysis notes:
Most of these huge billionaires' gains will go untaxed under current rules and will disappear entirely for tax purposes when they're passed onto the next generation. Under Wyden's BIT, billionaires will start paying taxes on their increased wealth each year just like workers pay taxes on their paychecks each year.
The tax will apply only to taxpayers whose wealth exceeds $1 billion: about 700 households. It will be assessed annually on tradable assets, such as stocks, where the value of the asset is known at the beginning and end of the year. For non-tradable assets, such as ownership in a business or real estate holdings, taxes will be deferred until the asset is sold.
"Billionaires are undertaxed and playing hide-and-seek with their substantial wealth," said Collins. "Targeted tax increases on billionaires, including the proposed Billionaire Income Tax, would rebalance the tax code and reduce these glaring abuses in who pays for the services we all depend on."
In a statement last month following the release of a White House report on the average income tax rate of U.S. billionaires, Wyden said that it's shameful for the nation's wealthiest to pay lower tax rates than most working Americans.
"Billionaires are paying a mere 8 percent tax rate, lower than millions of working Americans," said Wyden.
"It's time for a Billionaire's Income Tax that ensures billionaires pay taxes just like the nurses and firefighters," he added. "Nurses treating Covid-19 patients pay their taxes with every paycheck, and they know it's fundamentally unfair that billionaires and their heirs may never pay tax on billions in stock gains. Instituting a Billionaire's Income Tax would go a long way toward creating one fair tax code, rather than one that's mandatory for working people and another that's optional for the fortunate few."
Berlin's Alte Nationalgalerie museum on Monday handed back and repurchased a painting by French Impressionist Camille Pissarro looted by the Nazis from the collection of Jewish lawyer Armand Dorville.
Representatives of the Dorville family signed an agreement for the museum to return and buy back "Une Place a la Roche-Guyon" ("A Square in La Roche Guyon"), part of the Berlin institution's permanent collection.
"I am very grateful to Armand Dorville's heirs for making it possible for us to purchase the work for the Alte Nationalgalerie and for coming to Berlin especially for this purpose," said Hermann Parzinger, president of the Prussian Cultural Heritage Foundation (SPK), which runs the Berlin museum.
He did not reveal how much the museum had paid for the painting but said the family wanted it to remain on public display and the deal had been achieved in a spirit of "good cooperation".
Painted in 1867, "A Square in La Roche Guyon" was acquired by Armand Dorville in Paris in 1928.
After moving to the south of France, Dorville died in 1941 and his collection was distributed to museums and private collectors.
The family was unable to flee occupied France and most members were killed by the Nazis, who occupied the country from 1940-1944.
Several close relatives of Dorville's brother Charles perished at Auschwitz.
The Alte Nationalgalerie acquired "A Square in La Roche Guyon" from a London gallery in 1961.
The Nazis stole thousands of artworks from Jewish families during World War II and their restitution has been a slow process, involving legal battles, complex searches and some stunning finds.
The art plundered by the Nazi regime was intended to be resold, given to senior officials or displayed in the Fuehrermuseum (Leader's Museum) that Adolf Hitler planned for his hometown of Linz but was never built.
In January 2020, two paintings by Jean-Louis Forain and a third by Constantin Guys were returned to the heirs of Armand Dorville from the collection of Cornelius Gurlitt, the son of a Third Reich-era art dealer.
More than 1,500 artworks were discovered in 2012 in the possession of the Munich pensioner, who died in 2014.
His father, Hildebrand Gurlitt, had worked as an art dealer for the Nazis from 1938.
© 2021 AFP
According to a report from the Wall Street Journal, Microsoft founder and billionaire Bill Gates was admonished against flirting with a female staffer and accused of propositioning one dating back to 2008 when he was still CEO of the tech giant.
The report notes that Microsoft's then-General Counsel Brad Smith and then-Chief People Officer Lisa Brummel were forced to sit down with the executive and tell him his actions were inappropriate and needed to stop immediately.
According to the Journal's Emily Glazer, "Microsoft executives discovered emails between Mr. Gates and a midlevel female employee at the company while Mr. Gates was still an employee at Microsoft and chairman of the board, according to people familiar with the matter. In the messages, the then-married Mr. Gates was flirtatious and propositioned the female employee, the people said."
The report notes that the Microsoft board was notified about the emails that could have resulted in a massive lawsuit, but took no action because there was no physical interactions between Gates and the unnamed employee.
Glazer also reports, "Mr. Gates didn't deny the exchanges, told the executives in hindsight it wasn't a good idea and said that he would stop, the people said," while noting the executive was still married at the time.
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