Oxfam Calls for One-Time 99% Tax on Billionaires

Money would be used to expand production of vaccines for the poor, anti-poverty group says
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Jan 17, 2022 3:33 AM CST
Oxfam Calls for 99% Tax on Billionaires to Fund Vaccines for the Poor
File---File picture taken Jan.24, 2022 shows a police security guard on the roof of a hotel ahead of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland.   (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber,file)

(Newser) – Anti-poverty organization Oxfam called Monday for governments to impose a one-time 99% tax on the world's billionaires and use the money to fund expanded production of vaccines for the poor—part of an effort to combat global inequality widened by the coronavirus pandemic, the AP reports. The ranks of the super-rich have swelled during the pandemic thanks to ample financial stimulus that pumped up stocks, the group said. Meanwhile, poor countries have suffered more than their share from COVID-19 because of unequal access to vaccines, which have mostly gone to rich nations, Oxfam said in a report aimed at informing discussions at the World Economic Forum’s online gathering of political and business leaders this week.

"The pandemic has been a billionaire bonanza," Oxfam International Executive Director Gabriela Bucher said in an interview. "When governments did the rescue packages and pumped trillions into the economy and ... financial markets in order to support the economy for all, what happened is a lot of it went into the pockets of the billionaires." Since the pandemic erupted in March 2020, a new billionaire has been minted almost every day. The fortunes of the world's 10 richest men—including Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos, and Bill Gates—more than doubled to $1.5 trillion, making them six times more wealthy than the world's poorest 3.1 billion people, Oxfam said. Meanwhile, 160 million more people have been forced into poverty during the pandemic, Oxfam said.

Vaccine development has been one of the pandemic's success stories but Bucher said they've been "hoarded by the rich countries" seeking to protect pharmaceutical monopolies. Oxfam called for rich countries to waive intellectual property rules on COVID-19 vaccines in an effort to expand their production. A one-off 99% tax on the 10 richest men’s pandemic windfalls could earn more than $800 billion and be used to fund that effort and other progressive social spending, the group said. The money "would be able to pay for vaccines for the whole world, have health systems for everyone," Bucher said. "We would also be able to compensate for the damage of climate change and have policies that address gender-based violence," while still leaving the 10 billionaires $8 billion richer than they were at the start of the pandemic, she added.

(Read more Oxfam stories.)

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