Their fair share
The Covid-19 pandemic has hit the country hard, in terms of both individual stress and government budgets. When businesses must be shuttered for emergencies such as this, workers and their employers aren’t the only ones to suffer. Loss of business means loss of taxes, and for the state of Washington, the outlook through 2023 is a lack of tax revenue resulting in an $8.8 billion deficit.
What does this deficit mean to the average Washingtonian? First, it means that 40.000 government workers have been furloughed. These are not money grubbing freeloaders. These are ordinary, middle class working people providing services that the rest of us depend on, now joining the ranks of the unemployed. Furthermore, there is a government hiring freeze, so that many unemployed people have fewer options for finding a job. Beyond this, budget cuts are inevitable, with higher education, especially community colleges and technical schools, being at the top of the list for hundreds of millions of dollars worth of cuts. Early education, too, is likely to suffer, which will have repercussions in the future. This will be followed by losses to social services, such as nursing homes and mental health providers. Cuts such as these will hurt the well being of our state for years to come.
So how can we avert this looming specter of shortfalls and a decreased standard of life in our state? While many people are wondering how to pay the rent or feed their family, there are rich people in Seattle that are overloaded with cash they can’t possibly spend. They are getting rich from the Covid pandemic because they are internet moguls, and as smaller businesses crumble, they grow ever wealthier. Yes, this is America, the land of opportunity, where capitalism reigns supreme. But where do we draw the line for how rich is too rich when profits are made through the suffering of our citizens?
Jeff Bezos has made in the realm of $75 billion this year, enough to pay the state deficit almost 10 times over. He gave his workers a $2 raise during the first two months of the pandemic, and then took it away after that. Meanwhile, he is busy building a giant clock in a mountain. Does this sound right? If this is the American way, I am ashamed of it. Bezos only ever donates a tiny portion of his profits to charity, and can’t even bring himself to help his own employees through hard times. If Washington were to impose one time wealth tax on the ultra rich of Washington state, we could help the small businesses that are not going to survive, we could provide jobs for the unemployed, we could continue to provide higher education, as well as early education opportunities, and provide the social services that our aged and infirm population have come to depend upon. Alternatively, we could impose a windfall profit tax on the super rich who have profited from the Covid situation. When one day’s profit for some of these individuals could cover a yearly deficit for the entire state, how could it be so wrong? This is not socialism, it is justice. If the government of our state sinks further into debt, everyone suffers. There will be fewer employed people spending money and more businesses will go under, even as the wealth becomes concentrated in the hands of a few of the wealthiest individuals. Washington must act soon; we have merely to look at the giant clock on the mountainside and see that, for many of us, time is running out.