Money

The Case for a Wealth Tax

All throughout the coronavirus crisis, the rich have been accidentally making the argument that they need less money as soon as possible.
April 3, 2020, 4:57pm
Screen Shot 2020-04-03 at 12
Source: Twitter

Should the United States have a wealth tax? It’s hard to say—one could really make a case either way. On one hand, we’re a country where the richest 400 people own more wealth than the bottom 60 percent. On the other hand, we’re a country where during the coronavirus pandemic, the rich have stepped up to buy special medical treatment for themselves, hoard groceries, and spread out to vacation houses across the country.

But really no need to ask us. Over the past three weeks the rich have made a strong case for a wealth tax one that would actually seize their hoarded sumsall on their own. Here are a few of the things they’ve been saying and doing:

Rich people on whether or not we should make people go back to work:

“We’ll gradually bring those people back and see what happens. Some of them will get sick, some may even die, I don’t know,” said [former Wells Fargo CEO Dick] Kovacevich, who was also the bank’s chairman until 2009. “Do you want to suffer more economically or take some risk that you’ll get flu-like symptoms and a flu-like experience? Do you want to take an economic risk or a health risk? You get to choose.”

On whether coronavirus panic is “dumb” or “smart”:

On fleeing to rich people enclave, the Hamptons, via The New York Post:

The Springs resident says her friend, a nurse out here, reported that a wealthy Manhattan woman who tested positive called tiny Southampton Hospital to say she was on her way and needed treatment.

The woman was told to stay in Manhattan.

Instead, she allegedly got on public transportation, telling no one of her condition. Then she showed up at Southampton Hospital, demanding admittance.

On "i am saving lives, literally, w my tweets":

On testing and medical treatment:

A billionaire investor said it would be easy to get his hands on a test if he wanted one, but that the real scramble among the elite in New York is for reserving a hospital bed. The billionaire, who has personal connections to a major New York hospital, said he’d only pull strings for family or his best friend.

On hoping that “everybody is staying safe”:

On saying “please make me one” to ventilator manufacturers during a nation-wide shortage:

“I’ve gotten calls from people with obviously a lot of money saying, please make me one,” [Clarence] Graansma [a Canadian biomedical technologist] said. “I say no. That’s not why I’m doing this. We’re trying to rush these ideas out for all the people in crisis. When you’re very sick, your lungs get really stiff. Those are the people who need us.”

On needing your veal parm:

On essential Hamptons renovations:

Another friend, John Nocera (no relation), whose family-owned company builds houses in the Hamptons, said that ever since the coronavirus hit New York City, he’s been getting all kinds of repair and renovation requests — the kind people usually make when they move out here for the summer. Although not all of them are like that.

“One woman called and asked if I could install a tennis court right away,” Nocera said. “She said that she was afraid the coronavirus was going to cause tennis camp to be canceled, so she needed a tennis court so her kids could play.”

On Lloyd Blankfein:

On doing basic household tasks now:

“I haven’t quite figured out how to use the vacuum cleaner yet, but that should happen,” said [Gary] Vura, a managing director at Guggenheim Securities. “I’m probably doing more of that than I used to. It feels fine.”

On more basic household tasks:

And even more basic household tasks:

On rich Manhattanites paying limo drivers to get their mail delivered to the Hamptons:

That is, until Mark Vigliante relented to their requests to have his fleet of limo drivers do it for them. Vigliante is the president of M&V Limousine Limited as well as Hampton Luxury Liner, a high-end bus service that typically shuttles people back and forth between the city and the beaches of Long Island. But at the request of his wealthy clientele, his drivers started making runs from Manhattan to the Hamptons, so the rich could open their packages, bills, letters, and junk mail themselves.

On Republican senators selling their stocks before the market crashed:

But Burr and Loeffler did virtually nothing to protect the health and safety of their constituents or of Americans in other states. (Burr went so far as to co-write an article for FoxNews.com bragging about the country’s readiness.) Here’s what the two senators did instead: They sold large amounts of their personal stock holdings, cashing in before the market sharply declined, as the severity of the virus became apparent to everyone.

On pressing needs, via the Upper East Side Mommas Facebook group:

On the new luxury bunker real estate market:

Then there’s the linchpin of the Hamptons economy: real estate. I asked a friend who operates at the high end of the market whether it would suffer because of the crisis. Actually, he said, the coronavirus was likely to be great for business.

“I’ve got clients who have been looking for a place a couple of years,” he said. “Now they’re coming to me and saying, ‘I messed up. My wife is furious with me. I should have bought that house two years ago. Now I have to rent some crappy place for five months for $200,000.’” He continued: “People with money are going to want luxury bunkers. That’s what we have here: luxury bunkers.”

On “people in the village”:

Charles Stevenson, an investor who was the longtime board president at a Park Avenue co-op that’s home to several billionaires, has been staying in Southampton. “I don’t feel concerned at the moment -- it’s not near me right now,” Stevenson said. “If people in the village have coronavirus, I’d get out of here.” He’d fly to Idaho and close himself off in a cabin, he said, and his family could join him if they wanted. “That becomes a personal choice of theirs.”

On whatever the hell this was:

On cancelling drive-through coronavirus testing because of NIMBY residents, via The Darien Times:

UPDATE: Darien’s drive-through testing has been canceled, according to a tweet from First Selectman Jayme Stevenson. The testing was to start Thursday. Some neighbors expressed complaints with the location of testing so close to their home on social media.

And an honorable European mention: On wealthy Parisians and the biggest leek, via The New York Times:

If they weren’t kite surfing, the Parisians were hoarding. At a bakery in a neighborhood called L’Épine, one Parisian left with 20 baguettes in her arms. At an organic supermarket, another Parisian stocked up on organic cat food, and yet another filled a shopping cart with $325 worth of groceries. Locals and Parisians fought over the fresh vegetables that were delivered at 10 a.m.

“They jostled my supervisor of fresh vegetables in trying to create a path from the first leek to the biggest leek,” said Isis Reininger, the manager of the supermarket.

Do you have a tip about how the rich are handling coronavirus? Fill out this form or reach out on Signal at (310) 614-3752 and VICE will be in touch.

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