Commentary, COVID-19

Pandemic fuels stunning growth in the wealth of the super-rich

U.S. needs a special one-time wealth tax to fund services, ease widespread suffering

One probably shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s still stunning to learn just how handsomely the super-rich have been faring in recent months at the same moment that millions of Americans are struggling to find enough to eat.

This is from a recent post by Chuck Collins of Inequality.org:

US Billionaire Wealth Up $850 billion Since March 18th; Global billionaires up $1.5 trillion

The combined wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by $850 billion since March 18th, 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, an increase of over 28 percent.

On March 18, 2020, U.S. billionaires had combined wealth of $2.947 trillion.  By October 8th, their wealth has surged to $3.8 trillion ($3.798 billion to be exact).

The stock market has been going up and down in recent weeks with billionaires holding steady.  On September 18, total billionaire wealth was $845 billion. Billionaires have seen huge gains over the last six months as millions of Americans have lost their jobs, health and savings, if not their lives.

At the global level, billionaires are big winners during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a recent UBS report, the roughly 2,189 global billionaires now have $10.2 trillion. This is an estimated increase of $1.5 trillion during the pandemic looking at both UBS and Forbes billionaire data from 2019.

This updates our Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report that looked at “pandemic profiteers” and put forward a number of policy recommendations. One new recommendation is for an emergency pandemic billionaire wealth tax to fund urgent health care and state and local aide.

And this is from an essay that Collins and Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness published this summer:

It is time to levy an emergency wealth tax on billionaire profiteers and direct the funds to offset the cost of the nation’s health-care costs.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders—backed by Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Ed Markey of Massachusetts—has introduced the Make Billionaires Pay Act to recapture over half the extreme wealth gains made by billionaires during the pandemic. The bill proposes a one-time, 60% tax exclusively on billionaires’ gains between March 18 and the end of this year. It would raise about $420 billion, based on the increased wealth of the country’s billionaires as of Aug. 5.

…Even with the new tax, billionaires would still have an estimated $310 billion in gains during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

As Collins and Clemente note in conclusion:

COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented health and economic crisis that no one should be excessively profiting from. Yet many billionaires are making huge hauls during a time of suffering and sacrifice.

In the past, our leaders took action to curb such profiteering in times of crisis.
During World War II, Sen. Harry Truman held congressional hearings on war profiteering, exposing the ways some corporations grabbed profits during wartime sacrifice. Under President Dwight Eisenhower, the U.S. levied an excess profits tax on companies profiteering during the Korean War.

Today, the choice is stark: Do we enable 500 or so billionaires to further concentrate wealth and power during a pandemic, or do we tax the gains of these billionaires to improve the health and welfare of our country?

How we face this extraordinary inequality is the ultimate test of what kind of country we are and what we will become.

Commentary

Don’t miss Thursday’s Crucial Conversation: Forecasting the 2020 election with Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling

If you’re looking for the latest scoop on what to expect in two weeks when America finally tallies the votes in the hotly contested 2020 election, be sure to join us Thursday, October 22 at 12:00 noon for a very special (and virtual) Crucial Conversation

Forecasting the 2020 election with Tom Jensen of Public Policy Polling

Click here to register.

Tom Jensen is the Director of Public Policy Polling and one of the nation’s most experienced and accomplished pollsters. He has overseen thousands of polling projects, covering everything from Presidential and Senate races to County Commissioner and School Board races all over the country. He is the voice behind PPP’s popular Twitter account, which has more than 100,000 followers.

Click here to register.

Don’t miss this very special event.

When: Thursday October 22 at 12:00 noon.

Where: Online; pre-register from the comfort of your home, and remember to social distance!

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Questions?? Contact Rob Schofield at 919-861-2065 or [email protected]

Defending Democracy, News

Agreement reached on fixing absentee ballots with errors

Image: NC State Board of Elections

After a great deal of litigation and public debate, it appears that we now know what the deal will be for absentee ballots that contain errors on the envelopes in which they’re returned.

As WRAL.com reports:

The State Board of Elections will go back to its old way of dealing with absentee ballots mailed in without a witness signature: The voter will have to fill out a new ballot and get a signature for his or her vote to count.

The decision came over the weekend, and Attorney General Josh Stein’s office informed one of the two courts overseeing various lawsuits filed over the procedure, and a handful of others, that the policy shift would take effect Monday.

And this is from Raleigh’s News & Observer:

Voters whose absentee ballots have problems with their envelopes can now expect contact from board of elections offices in order to fix their ballots by Election Day.

And less than 24 hours after North Carolina added new guidelines on handling those problems, the N.C. Court of Appeals ruled that ballots could be collected through Nov. 12 if they were postmarked by 5 p.m. Nov. 3, Election Day.

The deadline extension approval is still pending before the U.S. Court of Appeals.

WRAL also reports that:
Other problems can be fixed by just having the voter fill out an affidavit/certification. Those include if the voter didn’t initially sign the ballot’s voter certification, if he or she signed in the wrong place, if the witness signed but failed to print his or her name as well, or if the witness did not print his or her address on the ballot envelope.
Unfortunately, a fix sought by voting rights advocates that would have allowed people to swear via affidavit that they are who they say they are if there is a problem with a witness signature — a safety provision that all five members of the Board of Elections agreed to earlier this year — is not a part of the final agreement. That said, there appears to be grounds for optimism that virtually all of the several thousand North Carolinians with absentee ballot errors will get a chance to have their votes counted.
This continues to be a developing story.
Commentary

The best editorial of the weekend: Everyone stay calm

It’s tempting right now to let one’s emotions run wild. The combination of a hotly-contested, high-stakes election and an unrelenting global pandemic will do that. All across the nation, Americans are worried about what the next few weeks hold and even whether there might be violence in the election’s aftermath.

As a spot-on editorial in the Winston-Salem Journal this past weekend explained, however, it’s a time for everyone to “keep calm and vote.”

First, the editorial rightfully spotlights the outrageous and un-American behavior of a handful of right-wing extremists who threaten violence if President Trump loses the election:

Among them are members of the white supremacist fight club Proud Boys, who reportedly took Trump’s suggestion earlier this month to “stand back and stand by” to heart.

During a Trump rally in Staten Island last week, a Proud Boy member was recorded saying, “If Trump doesn’t get reelected, there’s going to be a riot. If he doesn’t get elected, this is when you’re going to see a civil war. My recommendations to anyone, stock up on ammo, get your guns.”

Members of other right-wing groups like Oath Keepers and Three Percenters have expressed their willingness to pull out their weapons if Trump doesn’t score a clear victory. They portray themselves as patriots and their opponents as traitors — but, like Trump, they fail to produce any evidence of the voter fraud they claim.

Next it blasts Trump for inciting this troubled crowd:

It’s irresponsible for Trump to make outrageous claims about Biden cheating when he knows that outliers like these will hear his message — and he knows that many of them have access to weapons.

It’s also irresponsible for Trump to encourage his supporters to go to the polls and “watch very carefully.” Some will be tempted to make a ruckus anytime they see a voter who doesn’t look like they think he or she should.

Finally, after pointing out that while left-wing violence does occur, it’s clear — according to the FBI and Department of Homeland Security — that “right-wing white supremacist violence is the most persistent and deadly domestic terror threat facing the country,” the editorial concludes on this responsible note:

If violence occurs, here or elsewhere, some here may be tempted to panic.

Please don’t. Let’s remain calm through this whole process. After the election, wait. We may not see the last shoe drop on Nov. 3. Just wait.

And to those who are listening to Trump’s divisive and dangerous rhetoric and giving it any credence: At this point, you should really know better.

Click here to read the entire editorial.

News

Former NC lawmaker charged with assaulting a poll worker

Gary Pendleton – Image: Wikipedia

Reporter Amy Gardner of the Washington Post and formerly of Raleigh’s News & Observer is reporting that former North Carolina state representative and Wake County commissioner Garry Pendleton was charged with assaulting a poll worker this morning. According to the story, Pendleton was attempting to serve as a Republican poll observer in Wake Forest.

This is from Gardner’s story:

In an interview, Pendleton said he became angry at the polling site’s chief judge after he was told he could not enter the premises until polls opened at 8 a.m. Pendleton said he had been allowed in at a different voting center at 7 a.m. Thursday, the first day of in-person voting in North Carolina.

When the election judge stepped in front of him to block his entry, he said he pushed him away.

“I really got upset about it, and I said, ‘Well, what are you doing up in there that you don’t want us to see?’” Pendleton said.

According to Gardner’s story, Pendleton said that partisan tensions surrounding this year’s hotly contested election may have contributed to the conflict. The story goes on to note, however, that this is no excuse for physical assault:

Gary Sims, Wake County elections director, said partisan tensions are “no excuse” for assaulting a poll worker.

Sims said while it’s true that a Democratic-controlled board appoints poll workers, they include Republicans, Democrats and unaffiliated voters.

Pendleton was charged with a Class 3 misdemeanor, he said, and he is ineligible to serve as a poll watcher for the remainder of the year.

Pendleton represented Wake County in the General Assembly from 2015-2017. He served as a member of the Wake County Board of Commissioners in the 1990’s.

Click here to read the entire Washington Post story.