(via the American Federation of Teachers)
While many Americans struggle to make it through the economic crisis created by the pandemic, billionaire wealth has soared, according to the Institute for Policy Studies. From about March 18 to now, the wealth held by billionaires has increased by $434 billion. The top five U.S. billionaires—Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison—saw their wealth grow by a total of $75.5 billion, or 19 percent.
Americans for Tax Fairness—a campaign of more than 420 national, state and local organizations that have united in support of a more equitable tax system—identified those tax breaks. AFTF also launched an online petition and letter-writing campaign to demand that Congress repeal $135 billion in tax breaks for millionaires and billionaires that was included in the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security Act that was signed into law in March.
“How can lawmakers say there isn’t money for education programs and the raises for teachers and school employees,” asks Texas AFT President Zeph Capo, “when the top billionaires have somehow added to their wealth?” The federal government must step in, he says.
In mid-May, House Democrats passed the Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act, new stimulus bill, that would provide $3 trillion in relief. The HEROES Act would support families, protect frontline healthcare and other essential workers, and sustain public education, public safety, healthcare and the U.S. Postal Service. Additionally, the HEROES Act fully repeals the “millionaires giveaway” in the CARES Act.
AFT President Randi Weingarten lauded members of the House in a statement saying, “This is a crisis unlike any we’ve ever experienced, and it requires a response unlike any we’ve ever imagined. Thanks to the U.S. House of Representatives for rising to the occasion to meet the needs of the American public as we attempt to recover from the devastation of COVID-19, rebuild and reopen safely. We hope the Senate follows suit.”
The HEROES Act would provide $500 billion to help states, $375 billion in fiscal relief to local governments, and $40 billion to tribal and territorial governments to deal with the effects of the public health emergency. The bill provides stabilization funds for public education, including resources for K-12 and higher education institutions. The comprehensive legislation offers broad supports needed to reopen and restart the American economy.