Everyone has to sacrifice in these tough times — except the 1 percent

Why is nobody in the political world talking about the need for the billionaires to pay their fair share in this massive crisis?

The governor told us last night that Californians all have to work together to prevent a greater public-health disaster. He said that “we are all learning to appreciate each other a little more.”

This is the same message we are getting from political leaders across the country, at every level of government. These are going to be tough times; we are all going to have to learn to live differently. There will be sacrifices.

The governor wants us all to work together — but he hasn’t asked the billionaires to sacrifice any of their wealth.

The president has compared this to a war.

I’m not saying these are bad messages. And over the next few months, there may be some dramatic changes as our society comes to understand that ideas that once seemed radical actually make perfect sense.

A year ago, the concept of a basic annual income wasn’t even remotely part of our national discussion. Today, both parties are talking about it seriously. That’s a good thing.

A year ago, only a few political leaders like Sen. Bernie Sanders were talking about the importance of a robust public health system with essential services available to all. Today, politicians and news media outlets are at least discussing the idea that the current private-sector-driven health-care system might not be up to the task at hand. The state of California is (more or less) taking over some hospitals, like Seton Medical Center, that were ready to close.

Some members of the SF Board of Supes are talking about how the city needs to take over, if necessary, vacant housing and hotel rooms for vulnerable homeless populations.

Profound social change is sometimes driven by crises. Out response as a city, a state, a nation, and a global community to this outbreak could shape our political agenda for the next few years.

And there’s one item that is entirely missing.

Nobody – nobody – is talking about the concept that the very, very rich in our society, who are still doing exceptionally well, should have to pay their fair share to handle the current crisis and the lengthy recovery.

Bill Gates as of today is worth $98 billion. Jeff Bezos has a net wealth of $111 billion. The stock market is tanking, and millions of people are seeing their 401K plans plummet in value, but the 1 percent are doing just fine, thank you.

Congress is debating a bail-out for the airline industry. Sen. Elizabeth Warren is at least saying that it ought to come with strict conditions. There are talks of “bailing out” the working class, of helping people get unemployment benefits, meager as they are.

But unless I am missing something, there is absolutely no discussion at the federal, state, or San Francisco city level about emergency legislation raising taxes on the very rich to pay for all of the massive expenses that will be required to keep people alive and eventually rebuild the economy.

The White House and Congress are ready to borrow $1 trillion or more. Our kids are going to have to pay that back. The economy is going to need massive changes to rebound from what looks to be months of Great Depression-level inactivity.

When is anyone going to talk about the most critical economic issue in the room?

When is anyone going to say that the US economy won’t survive this crisis without a wealth tax, a major increase in the tax rate on high incomes, and a change in the corporate and capital-gains tax policies? Why do so many of us have to suffer lost wages, business failures, and financial agony while a small sector of society doesn’t have to sacrifice anything at all?

The stock market is going to come back, over time – and very rich people who have spare money to buy stocks today at bargain prices are going to do very well when that happens. And they will pay lower taxes on their earnings than most of the rest of us.

If Trump wants to talk about war, let me remind him (and anyone else who’s listening): During World War Two, “shared sacrifice” meant that the people making lots of money paid a marginal tax rate of more than 80 percent. Companies that made money off the war (in this case, we are probably talking about Big Pharma) paid stiff excess profits taxes. The government supported unionization of major industries so that the wealth was more equally shared.

I have not heard Joe Biden, our presumptive Democratic candidate, say a word about making the top 1 percent share the sacrifice. I haven’t heard that from Speaker Nancy Pelosi. Or from Gov. Gavin Newsom. Or from Mayor London Breed.

This is so profoundly bad I don’t even know what to say.