This Is Our Home Too

Wednesday’s protest in New York City to Make Billionaires Pay. Twitter photo.

Because we needed yet more proof of the unconscionable wealth inequity devastating what was once proudly deemed the land of equal opportunity for all, Wednesday saw the release of new research showing America’s 651 billionaire pandemic profiteers have raked in so much wealth – as in, over $1 trillion – during these last, grim, nine months that they could easily give $3,000 stimulus checks to every suffering American and “still not lose a dime of their pre-virus riches.” Even as Congress not only fails to provide vital COVID relief but incomprehensibly threatens to let paid sick and family leave expire, the collective worth of several hundred U.S. billionaires soars past $4 trillion, or nearly double the combined wealth of the bottom half of America’s tired, poor and huddled masses. These discrepancies are perhaps most glaring in New York City, home to arguably the most billionaires in the world and to a growing movement, echoing a global one, to make the rich  pay their fair share of taxes and the cost of our dauntingly hard times. So it was that Wednesday, in a snowstorm, hundreds of activists gathered in Central Park to unfurl a three-block-long, 700-foot scroll condemning their own fat cats’ obscene profits and demanding Cuomo and his cronies #MakeBillionairesPay to support over a million workers struggling to get by  – after which, it was noted, they would still be ahead of the rapacious game.

The crowd represented a coalition of over a dozen groups, including @maketheroadny, Strong Economy For All, Street Vendor Project, Laundry Workers Center, 4TaxFairness, and #FundExcludedWorkers. Essentially demanding feed the poor or eat the rich, they righteously argued the state’s 122 billionaires, whose worth increased by $77 billion in the first four months of the pandemic, could “without blinking” help hundreds of thousands of workers make their rent and feed their families. In a state where the median income is $50,000, it’s estimated 1.2 million workers have been partly or wholly excluded from federal COVID relief; that number includes over 265,000 unemployed undocumented workers who’ve  received zero benefits. The day’s massive scroll laid out those disparities; with one inch representing $100,000, it illustrated how easily a sliver of the profiteers’ riches could fund basics – child care, health care, education – for many. So did their  startling online graphics of billionaire wealth; in one egregious example, Mike Bloomberg, whose $60 billion increased $15 billion in the pandemic, could have given every American a million dollars, and he’d still have saved hundreds of millions of what he spent trying to be president. Profane, in New York and everywhere else across a once-fair land. “This is our home too,” declared one activist. “1.2 million can’t wait.”

lthScrHow can this happen in our state? Without even feeling it these 122 billionaires could #fundExcludedworkers – workers whose income during good times is represented by a tiny dot in comparison to the three block long,street-wide scroll symbolizing the Wealth of NYS billionaires— Deborah Axt (@DebAxt) December 9, 2020

This post was originally published on Radio Free.