Walt Disney Co. heiress Abigail Disney and more than 80 other wealthy individuals have signed an open letter asking the U.S. and other countries to raise taxes on the rich “immediately” and “permanently” to pay for aid needed to help poorer citizens get through the coronavirus pandemic.
“The problems caused by, and revealed by, Covid-19 can’t be solved with charity, no matter how generous,” the group, dubbed Millionaires for Humanity, said in a letter. “Government leaders must take the responsibility for raising the funds we need and spending them fairly.”
Their solution: “Tax us. Tax us. Tax us. It is the right choice. It is the only choice.”
The letter comes as the U.S. and other countries offer direct financial aid and implement other fiscal measures to help workers who have lost their jobs and businesses that were shuttered by the coronavirus. Although millions of American workers have been rehired as businesses reopened in recent weeks, unemployment stood at 11.1% in June – more than a percentage point higher than the peak jobless rate during the Great Recession.
With an extra $600 in weekly unemployment benefits set to end the week of July 25, as many as 23 million U.S. families face the risk of eviction if they can’t pay their rent. Hunger is also on the rise, with U.S. food banks reporting unprecedented demand. Around the globe, 500 million people could be pushed into poverty by the coronavirus crisis, according to anti-poverty group Oxfam.
Among the other notable individuals who signed the open letter include former BlackRock managing director Morris Pearl, movie director Amy Ziering, Disney heir Tim Disney, “Four Weddings and a Funeral” director Richard Curtis, venture capitalist William Janeway and Ben & Jerry’s Ice Cream co-founder Jerry Greenfield.
Their plea comes two years after the massive Tax Cuts and Jobs Act went into effect, which slashed U.S. corporate taxes and also provided generous cuts to many wealthy Americans. The middle class saw fewer benefits than the rich, the Congressional Budget Office said last year.
“Unlike tens of millions of people around the world, we do not have to worry about losing our jobs, our homes, or our ability to support our families,” the letter noted. “We are not fighting on the front lines of this emergency and we are much less likely to be its victims.”
The Millionaires for Humanity effort is linked to a group that has for years advocated for higher taxes on the rich, Patriotic Millionaires. The latter group’s most visible member has been Abigail Disney, who last year gained attention for her stand on higher pay for Disney workers.
Disney has argued that workers who clean bathrooms at the company’s theme parks shouldn’t struggle to make a living wage when then-Disney CEO Robert Iger took home $64 million in 2018. In her view, Iger’s pay was “insane” while workers said they were unable to make ends meet.
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