To combat inequality and climate change, we need a wealth tax
As the election begins, Canadians are faced with two competing, complex challenges: reducing the growing divide between the rich and the poor, and averting the devastating effects of climate change.
At first glance, these threats appear disparate and unconnected. But the declining fortunes of working-class Canadians and rising inequality are intertwined with the growing threat of climate change.
As the fortunes of the 1% grew, so too has income inequality. The corporate imperative to increase profits meant less money was available for workers. Loopholes and tax shelters have allowed the rich to dodge taxes, increasing their wealth and sapping resources from public services like healthcare.
The need for ever-expanding profits have pushed corporations to further exploit our planet, resulting in ever-expanding greenhouse gas emissions, declining environmental standards, and the destruction of our forests, lakes and oceans. As most research shows, it is disproportionately massive corporations that are responsible for most climate emissions.
It is impossible to separate climate change from the growth in inequality and declining fortunes of workers.
All of this illustrates why wealth tax is such an important tool: it’s a simple, understandable and popular idea that will reduce inequality and help combat global warming.
The details of a wealth tax vary by political leader and country, but the idea is simple: the assets of the super-rich should be taxed by a few percentage points each year.
By taxing the fortunes of the oil billionaires whose companies polluted our planet and the CEOs who refuse to pay a living wage, we go after the people who caused both the destruction of our planet and the growing income gap between workers and the rich.
Pollution pricing is a good first step that tackles both inequality and the climate crisis. Those who contribute to global warming should pay for it. But it doesn’t go far enough. We not only need to change behaviour but account for the historical cost levied upon us by billionaires seeking to extract ever bigger profits.
To reduce income inequality, we need to redistribute wealth away from the 1% towards expanding healthcare, reducing childcare expenses, universal pharmacare and free post-secondary education.
To fight climate change, we need a Green New Dal that funds a massive investment in green technology a just transition for workers away from oil and gas, and a massive expansion of clean energy.
All of this will cost money and who better to pay for it than the richest few that caused the mess in the first place?
A report by the non-partisan Parliamentary Budget Officer explains just how effective such a measure would be. They estimate that over ten years, a wealth tax would generate over $70 billion dollars. A report analyzing Elizabeth’s Warren wealth tax showed billionaires would’ve lost half their wealth if such a tax had been in place since 1982.
Not only is it good policy, but a wealth tax is also overwhelmingly popular. Our polling at North99 showed that 67% of Canadians support a wealth tax on those individuals with over $50 million in assets. A majority of Canadians in almost every demographic and political party support it.
The time for a wealth tax is now. If we want to fund our social services, reduce inequality, and pay for massive fight to prevent climate change, a wealth ax on the richest Canadians must be part of the solution.