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Just Take Rich People’s Money

A simple and fun way to pay for the coronavirus response

There is a lot of angst floating around right now about the economic impact of the coronavirus shutdown. Some people are justifiably terrified about the tens of millions of newly unemployed Americans, many of whom could be plunged into poverty. Some are sounding worried notes about the eventual size of the deficit after all of this is over. Some are dumbasses like this guy, who would have you believe that the only people who are pushing this whole “mass death is bad” agenda are rich spinster types who don’t have starving children wailing in the corner:

A true hero.

Some are state and local politicians, who are warning about sweeping budget cuts and crippled services unless they get some more money in the coffers.

(There is also the small, astroturfed, extremely out of touch, far-right-linked anti-lockdown “protest movement” currently being willed into existence by the unholy alliance of Fox News and the more credulous sections of the “objective” media, but the less said about them the better.)

Fortunately for all the concerned citizens out there, the answer to all of these problems is at hand: just get money from rich people.

Worried about mass unemployment? Do what other countries are doing and pay to keep people in their actual jobs, and fund it by taxing the rich.

Worrying about deficits is stupid, but still: tax rich people (you can start by reversing the Trump tax cuts) and see the deficit shrink.

Trying to avoid some nasty budget cuts in your state and local government? Rich people can help! At least 72 of the 400 richest people in America live where I am writing this, in New York, where Gov. Andrew Cuomo has already instituted cuts. I bet Mike Bloomberg’s cash could fund some stuff.

This is not crazy fantasy-land thinking. Every politician around seems to love comparing the coronavirus fight to wartime. The top tax rate at the height of World War II was 94 percent, and FDR wanted it to be 100. As late as 1981 the top tax rate was 70 percent. We have done this before and still been a super-rich and powerful country. And there is a ton of money to collect: those aforementioned 400 richest people have more collective wealth between them than 150 million of their fellow citizens.

Because this is 21st century America, rich people are instead probably going to get off scot- free. Cuomo, for instance, proudly pushed through his austerity budget package without raising anyone’s taxes at all, and congressional Democrats are too busy crafting terrible legislation to advocate soaking the rich. By this time next year, the deficit hawks will be screaming, just like they did after the financial crash, and President Biden will probably be getting around to those Social Security cuts he’s spent so many decades craving. Oh well.

Pictured: Bill and Melinda Gates, rich people whose money can be taken. Screenshot via ABC News.