A Divided America Enriches Billionaires
October 20, 2020
The COVID-19 pandemic has wrought havoc on every aspect of our country and no one is immune to it, except for one class of Americans: billionaires. While millions of working families struggle without a job, billionaires have seen their net wealth skyrocket during this accelerated time of wealth disparity. They’ve enjoyed an explosion in net worth of nearly a trillion dollars, according to a study by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness. Maintaining that wealth disparity means keeping working families away from the most shocking of truths – our economy is only serving the ultra-wealthy, and it’s become much worse with tax breaks and handouts during the pandemic.
The way to keep people away from that truth is to distract and divide the population. If you can get Americans fearful and fighting amongst themselves, it’s harder to unify and focus on the real problems with our economy. Sparking outrage has become an almost daily occurrence for President Trump and a massive right-wing media apparatus, benefiting the billionaire class they champion. Meanwhile, those manufactured controversies are parroted by a web of anti-worker groups across the country that serve as front groups for the priorities of the uber-rich.
One of Trump’s most egregious attempts to divide our nation was to call the novel coronavirus a Democrat hoax and publicly cast doubt on its severity, while personally aware of the dangerous truth. A right-wing anti-worker network called the State Policy Network took the same tack, with some affiliates declaring COVID-19 no worse than the flu and that fatality numbers were inflated. Trump later moved on to inflaming racism in our country by calling Black Lives Matter a symbol of hate. The ultra-regressive Heritage Foundation shared the sentiment by calling BLM “committed Marxists” and a “destructive movement.” As the election nears, Trump is threatening that a President Biden will destroy the suburbs. Another anti-worker group, “Freedomworks” chimed in that Kamala Harris was “ruthlessly opportunistic” and “wants to end private health insurance.”
None of these things are true, and yet they can set citizens against each other, keeping their eyes off the real problem – structural wealth disparity. What is true are the incredible financial benefits gifted to our nation’s wealthiest companies and citizens while everyone has been distracted. The 2017 tax cut helped billionaires pay a lower tax rate than working families. When the government issued forgivable COVID-relief loans for small businesses, millions of dollars were instead gobbled up by wealthy corporations and even a few of the aforementioned anti-worker groups. Even the recent payroll tax reductions disproportionately benefit the wealthiest. While normal workers might pay $250 less, the top 1% of earners could pocket over $50,000 each in tax dollars that should be going to schools, healthcare, and infrastructure.
On the other end of the spectrum, unionized workers are fighting to unite people and focus on what matters: family income, healthcare, well-funded schools, strong communities, and job safety. The AFL-CIO set out a bold framework for improving all workers’ lives during and after the pandemic. They’re fighting to keep workers employed and protecting the dignity of retirement. They want to protect and expand health insurance for all workers. They’re also committed to keeping frontline workers safe and secure. Unions are the powerful voice of Americans joined together to make our economy work for all of us, not just Wall Street and the billionaires.