Wednesday, January 19, 2022

Hong Kong govt's hamster culling over Covid-19 ignites fury of pet (ANIMAL) lovers

The kill order came a day after a sales employee at Little Boss was reported to be infected with the Delta variant. 
PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Claire Huang
Hong Kong Correspondent

HONG KONG - The mass culling of thousands of hamsters in the city over links to a coronavirus cluster has ignited the fury of pet lovers and anti-cruelty groups, with an online petition gaining traction.

The exasperation and angst of some residents came after the government on Tuesday (Jan 18) announced that it would put down about 2,000 hamsters from the Netherlands, as well as a number of other furry animals such as rabbits and chinchillas.

The authorities made the firm decision in the hope of cutting off Covid-19 transmission from Little Boss, a Causeway Bay pet shop where at least three people have tested positive, leading to fears of greater spread of the virus.

An online petition to stop the mass cull was created and garnered tens of thousands of signatures.

The government's move was heartbreaking for housewife Ashley Lee's two school-going daughters, who have been keeping a hamster since 2020.

"I have really mixed feelings about this issue right now. I can't really say culling is the best option for these little animals," she said, adding that her children have drawn up a plan to keep their pet safe.

"They said visitors are not allowed to touch our hamster any more and they're going to check if the visitors have been vaccinated or not."

Pet owner Shafin Azim, 40, who used to have hamsters and now cats, was shocked and livid.

In a Facebook post, the actor, who has two cats, said: "This is not mercy killing. This is murder. Find a better way - close the shop for a while, wear full protective gear before feeding, test them again.

"Are we culling the humans who are actually spreading this?"

Health officials, who defended the move, said the decision was necessary as the hamsters can excrete the virus and infect other pets and humans.

The kill order came a day after a sales employee at Little Boss, which has 15 branches and a warehouse in Tai Po, was reported on Monday to be infected with the Delta variant of the coronavirus. Some animal samples later tested positive.

A worker from Hong Kong's Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department inside the Little Boss pet store on Jan 18, 2022. PHOTO: BLOOMBERG

Respiratory medicine expert Leung Chi Chiu told The Straits Times that the Delta variant in the pet shop worker had a genomic sequence never seen before in Hong Kong.

Her frequent occupational exposure to a heavily infected horde of hamsters could lead to the "first reported case of what is likely hamster-to-human transmission", Dr Leung said.

He noted that hamsters, like chickens, are raised in herds and pose a hazard not only to those exposed occupationally but also pet owners. So once a human is infected, it could lead to rapid dissemination.

"Testing cannot exclude infection in incubation period, as well as low or intermittent viral shedding. Culling is therefore needed not only to protect the pet owners but also to prevent outbreak in our community," added Dr Leung.

The Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) said it was shocked and concerned over the decision, "which did not take animal welfare and human-animal bond into consideration".

"The SPCA hopes the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department (AFCD) won't take any drastic action before reviewing its approach. The SPCA will liaise with AFCD through different channels and discuss alternative approaches," it said.

MORE ON THIS TOPIC
Hong Kong to cull hamsters after Covid-19 found in pet shop

Officials have ordered all pet shops in the city selling hamsters to shutter temporarily and appealed to families who have bought a hamster from the Little Boss pet store since Dec 22 to hand over their pet for euthanasia.

This has sparked concern from pet lovers that some people will start abandoning their pets, particularly hamsters.

The SPCA urged pet owners not to panic or abandon their pets, and to maintain strict personal hygiene.

Hong Kong officials have been scrambling to stop the spread of Omicron, which is the dominant coronavirus strain in the city, as untraceable cases in the community started popping up in the last three weeks.

Their worries have been compounded on Wednesday as clusters emerged in schools and elsewhere.

Hong Kong added 16 new cases on Wednesday, with seven of them local. This brings the total to more than 12,800 Covid-19 cases and 213 deaths.




Heartbreak as Hong Kong pet owners give up hamsters for Covid cull

AFP - 30m ago


Time was running out for Pudding.

The hamster, a new addition to the Hau family, was to be given up to Hong Kong authorities for culling after rodents in a pet shop tested positive for coronavirus -- leaving Pudding's 10-year-old owner wailing in grief.


© Bertha WANG
People queue to drop off their hamsters at a government facility in Hong Kong

"I don't want to, I don't want to," the boy cried, his head buried in his hands as he crouched next to Pudding's pink cage, according to a video shown to AFP by his father.


© Bertha WANG
Hong Kong has ordered 1,000 animals in a pet shop to be culled along with another 1,000 hamsters in other shops across the city

But the older Hau, who would only provide his last name, said he was worried about his elderly family members who live in the same household.

"I have no choice -- the government made it sound so serious," he told AFP, shortly before entering a government-run animal management centre to submit Pudding.

He was among a steady trickle of Hong Kong pet owners arriving outside the facility on Wednesday afternoon to give up their unsuspecting furry friends.

Hong Kong on Tuesday ordered 1,000 animals in a pet shop to be culled, along with another 1,000 hamsters in other shops across the city.

Authorities also urged owners to turn in any hamsters purchased after December 22 to be put down.

The decision comes after the discovery of Covid-positive hamsters in the store. Authorities said an employee had contracted the Delta variant -- now rare in the territory -- and they ordered the cull as a "precautionary measure".

- 'Process my emotions' -


Like mainland China, Hong Kong adheres to a staunch "zero-Covid" policy, intolerant of even the merest appearance of the virus in the population of more than seven million.

But the government's latest target appears especially harsh, and swift rebukes from outraged animal lovers have pinged across social media pages.


© Bertha WANG
Cheung, 32, is part of an online community of Hong Kong hamster owners who have volunteered to foster any abandoned due to the cull policy

The mood Wednesday among parents waiting to give up their pets for "humane disposal" was more forlorn.

"It began as something happy, we bought (the hamster) so the kid can have some company," a father, who provided only his surname Tsui, told AFP.


© Provided by AFP
Authorities remove hamsters from a pet shop in Hong Kong after an employee and a customer handling hamsters tested positive for coronavirus. The city will cull hundreds of the animals after some were found to have Covid, officials said Tuesday, as the city tries to maintain its strict "zero-Covid" strategy.

"Now it has come to this."

He and his wife had gifted "Marshmallow" -- a grey twitchy-nosed hamster scurrying through plastic tubes -- to their five-year-old son.

"It feels like I'm ending a life," Tsui said, adding that he did not dare break the news of Marshmallow's fate to his son.


"I need to process my own emotions before I know what to say to my kid."

He added he was disappointed the government did not offer alternatives, such as teaching people how to properly quarantine their pets.

- 'Save as many as we can' -


Hong Kong's hamster hunt has led activists and animal lovers to fret over pets being dumped on the streets en masse for fear of contracting the virus.

Cheung, 32, is part of an online community of Hong Kong hamster owners who have volunteered to foster any abandoned due to the policy.

"It's devastating. I couldn't sleep last night, because I really love small animals," he told AFP, providing only his last name over fears about criticising the government's policy.

Hong Kong already has a problem with overwhelmed first-time pet owners deserting their furry companions, and Cheung said the numbers are likely to spike after the policy.

His own two-year-old hamster, Ring, is safe for now, and may soon be joined by others.

"We want to save as many as we can," he said.

hol/dhc/axn

Stop the Government from Wrongfully Euthanising Little Boss’ Small Pets

23,721 have signed. Let’s get to 25,000!

Soren LEE started this petition to Hong Kong SPCA and 


Over 2000 pets at risk for euthanasia.

Over 2000 lives on the brink of being lost.

On 18th of January, 2022, upon a staff member from Little Boss transmitting COVID-19, a hamster tested positive for the illness. The government has now decided that their optimal solution to this is to test all of the animals in the shop at the time and all of the pets that were purchased before December 22nd, and euthanise them whether or not they test positive.

Every pet owner knows that their pet’s lives are just as important as their own, yet the Hong Kong government fails to see that they, the very upholders of law, are on the dangerous path to the murders of many lives that are barely any different to ours. They fail to recognise that the lives of animals are not subjects for their selfish development, and that the act of testing the pets for scientific research and euthanising them regardless of whether they test positive or not is heartless and cruel. Just like humans, these pets could be quarantined and isolated rather than killed off mercilessly, yet authorities insisted on trading over 2000 lives for the sake of “public health needs”.

Therefore, we are asking you to lend a hand by signing this petition to support this cause. A pet is an owner’s best friend, and due to the government’s orders, thousands of people could unjustifiably lose their dearest companions. With your help, we can successfully convince the government that their decision is unjust and brutal, and you could help save dozens of animals in loving homes and happy lives.

Petition · Stop the Government from Wrongfully Euthanising Little Boss’ Small Pets · Change.org

Experts warn more protected areas won’t save biodiversity.


Setting aside at least 30 percent of both land and oceans as protected zones is the cornerstone target of the so-called global biodiversity framework to be finalised in May at UN negotiations in Kunming, China.

© Provided by The South African

Agence France-Presse 

But a report by more than 50 top experts said the draft plan still falls far short of what is needed.

“We’re in the middle of a biodiversity crisis, with a million species at risk of extinction,” lead author Paul Leadley, a professor at Paris-Saclay University, told AFP.


“There’s good evidence that we will fail again to meet ambitious international biodiversity objectives if there’s too much focus on protected areas at the expense of other urgent actions.”

The plan, under negotiation by nearly 200 nations, sets a score of targets for 2030 — and aims by 2050 to reverse biodiversity loss and be “living in harmony with nature.”

The world failed almost entirely to reach a similar set of 10-year objectives set a decade ago at UN talks in Aichi, Japan.

“We keep trying to treat a critically ill patient with plasters — that has to stop,” said Leadley.

Echoing a similar warning issued by the UN’s science advisory panel for climate change, Leadley and his colleagues said reversing the damage done to nature will require “transformative change” in society, starting with the way we produce and consume food.

MULTIPLE DRIVERS

Policymakers must also realise that all the drivers of extinction — habitat loss and fragmentation, over-hunting for food and profit, pollution, the spread of invasive species — must be tackled at once.

“Biodiversity loss is caused by multiple direct drivers in nearly all cases, meaning that actions on only one or a few will be insufficient to halt continued loss,” the report said.

Climate change is also rapidly emerging as a major threat to many animal and plant species on land and in the oceans, outpacing their ability to adapt.

Limiting global warming to 1.5 degrees Celsius above preindustrial levels — “essential” for protecting nature — is not adequately reflected in the draft targets, the authors say.

Earth’s surface has already warmed 1.1C, enough to unleash a crescendo of climate-enhanced storms, heatwaves, droughts and flooding.

And it works both ways, the report warns: “Protecting and restoring biodiversity are key to achieving the climate mitigation and adaptation goals of the Paris Agreement.”

NATURE-BASED SOLUTIONS


As with climate, there’s no time to lose.

“The sooner we act the better,” said co-author Maria Cecilia Londono Murcia, a researcher at Humboldt Institute in Colombia.

“Time lags between action and positive outcomes for biodiversity can take decades.”

The report also takes the draft treaty to task for not spelling out how goals will be achieved and enforced.

Targets are all well and good, it suggests, “but it is how these targets are implemented … that will determine success.”

Other targets set for 2030 include:

– reducing by 50 percent the rate at which alien species are spreading across the globe;

– reducing nutrients such as fertiliser leaching into the environment by at least half, and pesticides by at least two-thirds;

– eliminating the discharge of plastic waste;

– using nature-based solutions to cut greenhouse gas emissions by at least 10 billion tons of CO2 or its equivalent;

– reducing subsidies that harm biodiversity by at least $500 billion (440 billion euros) per year.

“For every euro we spend globally to help biodiversity, we spend at least five on things that destroy it,” said co-author Aleksandar Rankovic, a researcher at the Paris Institute of Political Studies.

Nations will gather in Geneva in March for technical meetings ahead of the crunch talks in April and May.

By Laure FILLON

© Agence France-Presse

Also read: Global warming will continue no matter what we do, new study finds

Consumers Spent $2.3B on TikTok in 2021, Up 77 Percent

Consumers Spent $2.3B on TikTok in 2021, Up 77 Percent

(Michele Ursi/Dreamstime.com)

By    |   Tuesday, 18 January 2022 06:45 PM

Users of the video-sharing app TikTok, which Beijing-based technology company ByteDance owns, spent $2.3 billion on the platform last year, according to Sensor Tower.

But before the breakout of the COVID-19 pandemic in October 2019, Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg met with then-President Donald Trump to warn of the threat TikTok posed to national security and U.S. businesses. A year later, Trump signed an executive order demanding that ByteDance divest itself from its U.S. operations.

More recently, under President Joe Biden, Trump's executive order was rescinded and replaced with Biden's own executive order calling for an evaluation of ''threats through rigorous, evidence-based analysis.'' In light of the app's pervasive use across the United States, however, it is unclear what framework the Biden administration has or will establish to combat security threats.

TikTok saw a 77% increase in user spending to $2.3 billion in 2021, up from $1.3 billion in 2020. The spending included transactions made on the heavily censored Chinese iOS version, Douyin.

In addition, Sensor Tower data showed that the United States was the second-largest spender on the app behind China.

But in light of security concerns, TikTok, which has surpassed Facebook with 3 billion installations, has argued in an August 2020 lawsuit that it has ''not and has never been offered in China,'' arguing that it was unfair for the Trump administration to issue an executive order to ban the app.

But according to Breitbart's reporting, ''six current and former TikTok employees'' say ''the firm was still largely under the influence of ByteDance's Beijing headquarters. Four current and former staffers told Business Insider that discussions relating to TikTok's products often require calls with employees at ByteDance's China HQ and final product decisions are regularly made in Beijing.''

In June, CNBC reported that ''the Biden administration had asked the court to postpone action around [a] government dispute with TikTok over the ban as it reviewed the situation. White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the time that a [Committee for Foreign Investment in the U.S] review of TikTok was ongoing.''

It is unclear if the review is ongoing.

Felony charges are first in fatal crash involving Tesla Autopilot

Driver was using partially automated driving in incident that killed two people

California prosecutors have filed two counts of vehicular manslaughter against the driver of a Tesla on Autopilot who ran a red light, slammed into another car and killed two people in 2019.

The accused appears to be the first person to be charged with a felony in the US for a fatal crash involving a motorist who was using a partially automated driving system. Los Angeles County prosecutors filed the charges in October, but they came to light only last week.

The driver, Kevin George Aziz Riad, has pleaded not guilty. Mr Riad, a limousine service driver, is free on bail while the case is pending.

The misuse of Autopilot, which can control steering, speed and braking, has occurred on numerous occasions and is the subject of investigations by two federal agencies.

The filing of charges in the California crash could serve notice to drivers who use systems like Autopilot that they cannot rely on them to control vehicles.

The criminal charges are not the first involving an automated driving system, but they are the first to involve a widely used driver technology. Authorities in Arizona filed a charge of negligent homicide in 2020 against a driver Uber had hired to take part in the testing of a fully autonomous vehicle on public roads. The Uber vehicle, an SUV with the human backup driver on board, struck and killed a pedestrian.

By contrast, Autopilot and other driver-assist systems are widely used on roads across the world.

An estimated 765,000 Tesla vehicles are equipped with it in the US alone.

In the Tesla crash, police said a Model S was moving at a high speed when it left a freeway and ran a red light in the Los Angeles suburb of Gardena and struck a Honda Civic at an intersection on December 29, 2019. Two people who were in the Civic, Gilberto Alcazar Lopez and Maria Guadalupe Nieves-Lopez, died at the scene.

Mr Riad and a woman in the Tesla were admitted to hospital with non-life threatening injuries.

FILE - In this March 23, 2018 file photo provided by KTVU, emergency personnel work a the scene where a Tesla electric SUV crashed into a barrier on U.S. Highway 101 in Mountain View, Calif.  Tesla says, Saturday, March 31,  the vehicle in a fatal crash last week in California was operating on Autopilot, the latest accident to involve self-driving technology. The automaker says the driver, who was killed in the accident, did not have his hands on the steering wheel for six seconds before the crash. Tesla says its Autopilot feature, which can keep speed, change lanes and self-park, requires drivers to keep their eyes on the road and hands on the wheel to take control of the vehicle to avoid accidents. (KTVU via AP)

The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration and the National Transport Safety Board have been reviewing the widespread misuse of Autopilot by drivers, whose overconfidence and inattention have been blamed for multiple crashes, including fatal ones. In one crash report, the latter agency referred to its misuse as “automation complacency".

The agency said that in a 2018 crash in Culver City, California, in which a Tesla hit a firetruck, the design of the Autopilot system had “permitted the driver to disengage from the driving task”. No one was hurt in that crash.

Last May, a California man was arrested after officers noticed his Tesla moving down a motorway with the man in the back seat and no one behind the steering wheel.

Teslas that have had Autopilot in use also have hit a motorway barrier or tractor-trailers that were crossing roads. The NHTSA has sent investigative teams to 26 crashes involving Autopilot since 2016, involving at least 11 deaths.

Since the Autopilot crashes began, Tesla has updated the software to try to make it harder for drivers to abuse it. It has also tried to improve Autopilot’s ability to detect emergency vehicles.

The families of Lopez and Nieves-Lopez have sued Tesla and Mr Riad in separate lawsuits. They have alleged negligence by Mr Riad and have accused Tesla of selling defective vehicles that can accelerate suddenly and that lack an effective automatic emergency braking system. A joint trial is scheduled for mid-2023.

Lopez’s family, in court documents, alleges that the car “suddenly and unintentionally accelerated to an excessive, unsafe and uncontrollable speed”. Nieves-Lopez’s family further asserts that Mr Riad was an unsafe driver, with multiple moving infractions on his record, and couldn’t handle the high-performance Tesla.

Separately, the NHTSA is investigating a dozen crashes in which a Tesla on Autopilot ran into several parked emergency vehicles. In the crashes under investigation, at least 17 people were injured and one person was killed.

Updated: January 18th 2022, 5:07 PM
Millionaires call on governments worldwide to ‘tax us now’

Group of 102 wealthy people say tax would help tackle gulf between rich and poor

Gemma McGough, a British entrepreneur and founding
 member of Patriotic Millionaires UK. Photograph: PA


Rupert Neate 
Wealth correspondent
THE GUARDIAN
Wed 19 Jan 2022 

More than 100 members of the global super-rich called on Wednesday for governments around the world to “tax us now” to help pay for the pandemic response and tackle the gulf between rich and poor.

The group of 102 millionaires and billionaires, including Disney heiress Abigail Disney, said the current tax system is rigged in their favour and needs to be rewritten to make taxation fairer for hard-working people and restore trust in politics.

“As millionaires, we know that the current tax system is not fair,” they said in an open letter published on Wednesday. “Most of us can say that, while the world has gone through an immense amount of suffering in the last two years, we have actually seen our wealth rise during the pandemic – yet few if any of us can honestly say that we pay our fair share in taxes.”

The super-rich signatories, who brand themselves as “patriotic millionaires”, called for the introduction of “permanent wealth taxes on the richest to help reduce extreme inequality and raise revenue for sustained, long-term increases in public services like healthcare”.

“Restoring trust requires taxing the rich,” they said in the letter, published as world leaders and business executives meet for a virtual Davos World Economic Forum. “The world – every country in it – must demand the rich pay their fair share. Tax us, the rich, and tax us now.”

The group, which also includes Nick Hanauer, a venture capitalist who made an almost $1bn fortune from an early bet on Amazon, said an annual “wealth tax” on those with fortunes of more than $5m (£3.7m) could raise more than $2.52tr.

That would be enough, they said, to “lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty; make enough vaccines for the world and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for all the citizens of low and lower-middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).”

The proposed tax would see those with more than $5m pay 2%, rising to 3% for those with more than $50m and a 5% rate for dollar billionaires.

Taxing the UK’s wealthiest 119,000 people at these rates would raise an estimated £43.7bn, a year, according to an analysis by campaign groups Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and the Patriotic Millionaires.

The signatories said this would be enough to:


Pay for the Health and Social Care Levy twice over every year – eliminating the need to raise national insurance on working people.


Cover the salaries of an additional 50,000 new nurses.


Pay for the permanent increase of universal credit.


Build 35,000 affordable houses and retrofit the UK’s draughtiest homes to reduce the cost of energy bills and help fight the climate crisis.

Gemma McGough, a British entrepreneur and founding member of Patriotic Millionaires UK, said:

“At a time when simply living will cost the average household a further £1,200 a year, our government cannot expect to be trusted if it would rather tax working people than wealthy people. If they do anything in the next few months, they should do this: rather than raising national insurance, tax the rich – tax us – instead.”

Jenny Ricks, global convenor at the Fight Inequality Alliance, said: “The insane reality is that while billions face a daily struggle to survive during this pandemic, billionaire-wealth is spiralling out of control. This cannot be right. The multiple crises we face from vaccine inequality to climate breakdown have a vice-like grip on people’s lives that is not letting up. For years Davos has shown us the elites cannot and will not end the virus of inequality they have helped to create and built their fortunes on the back of.”

Tax on America’s wealthiest households could erase half of country’s out-of-pocket health costs, report finds
Half of Americans delay or skip medical care because of growing costs

Alex Woodward
New York

The combined wealth of American billionaires increased by $2 trillion over the course of the Covid-19 pandemic, when the collective fortunes of the nation’s wealthiest households topped more than $5 trillion.

A report from the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam and Patriotic Millionaires found that 3.6 million global households worth more than $5m have a combined wealth of more than $75 trillion.

An annual wealth tax applied to the world’s wealthiest people would raise $2.52 trillion a year – or more than $3.6 trillion a year with a more progressive tax structure – on household wealth over $5m, according to the report.

In the US, an annual wealth tax – with rates at 2 per cent over $5m, 3 per cent over $50m and 5 per cent over $1bn – would raise more than $928bn, the report found. A more progressive annual wealth tax at 10 per cent on wealth over $1bn would raise more than $1.3 trillion.

Such revenue “could raise the government’s health budget by a third or it could eliminate half of US households’ out-of-pocket health costs,” according to the report.

A progressive tax rate on the world’s wealthiest people “would be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the whole world, and deliver universal health care and social protection for all the citizens of low and lower middle-income countries,” impacting 3.6 billion people, according to the report.


“Wealth inequality has been supercharged by the pandemic, creating an unprecedented global concentration of wealth and power,” report co-author Chuck Collins with the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report.

“Taxing the world’s wealthiest one-tenth of 1 per cent would raise substantial revenue for public investments in health and social protection and for a greater global response to the most urgent crises of our time,” he said. “During 2021, we witnessed the epidemic of Covid-19 and wealth-hiding, and it’s time to reverse course.”

Nearly half of US adults say it is difficult to afford out-of-pocket health costs not covered by their insurance providers, according to the Kaiser Family Foundation.

Half of all US adults report delaying, skipping or putting off entirely some form of treatment – including regular checkups, dental and vision care, or going to the hospital – because of the cost, and nearly 30 per cent have not taken their medicine within the last year because of the price of prescription drugs, the report found.

In the US, there are nearly 1.5 million people with a net worth of $5m or more, with a total combined wealth of $28 trillion.

US billionaires own half a billion more in wealth than the bottom 60 per cent of the country, the report found.

Topping the list is Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, whose wealth climbed from $24.6bn in 2020 to $294.2bn in November 2021.

Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, who moved to an “executive chairman” role at the retail giant last year, saw his pre-pandemic wealth surge from $113bn to $192 by mid-October.

Microsoft’s Bill Gates grew his wealth by $34.4bn, from $98bn to $132.4bn.

An annual billionaires list compiled by Forbes in 2021 found that the world’s wealthiest people have amassed more than $13 trillion combined, growing by 30 per cent from the previous year.

A vast majority of the hundreds of people on the Forbes list are wealthier today than they were two years ago, at the onset of the global health emergency and an economic fallout that left millions of people jobless in the months that followed and magnified issues of wealth inequality.

In a report published on Monday, Oxfam found that the 10 richest men in the world doubled their fortunes during the pandemic – with their wealth increasing from $700bn to $1.5 trillion between March 2020 and November 2021.

Meanwhile, the incomes of approximately 99 per cent of people around the globe fell during that same time, and more than 160 million people have been forced into poverty, according to Oxfam.

Legislative attempts to raise taxes on the wealthiest American households have languished as Congress mulls Joe Biden’s social spending packages.

One proposal from US Senator Ron Wyden would impact taxpayers with more than $1bn in assets or more than $100m in income for three consecutive years to raise $557m over 10 years.

A majority of Americans believe the nation’s billionaires should pay a wealth tax, according to polling from The Hill-Harris X.

Report: Taxing the World’s Richest Would Raise US $2.52 Trillion a Year

A new joint report from Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam, and Patriotic Millionaires details what can be funded by simply taxing the rich.


BLOGGING OUR GREAT DIVIDE
JANUARY 18, 2022

by Chuck Collins

Anew analysis, “Taxing Extreme Wealth,” by the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam, and Patriotic Millionaires found a shocking rise in global wealth among the world’s richest people despite deepening inequality during the Covid-19 pandemic.

The analysis, “Taxing Extreme Wealth: An annual tax on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires: What it would raise and what it could pay for,” published on January 19 by the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam, and Patriotic Millionaires found that globally:

3.6 million people have over $5 million in wealth, with a combined wealth of $75.3 trillion, according to data commissioned for this study from Wealth-X.

183,300 households own over $50 million, for a combined wealth of $36.4 trillion, according to Wealth-X data.

There are 2,660 billionaires with a total combined wealth of $13.76 trillion. (Drawn from Forbes on November 30, 2021).

An annual wealth tax applied to the world’s richest would raise U.S. $2.52 trillion a year (with a graduated rate structure: 2 percent tax on wealth over $5 million; 3 percent on wealth over $50 million; 5 percent on wealth over $1 billion.)

A more steeply progressive wealth tax would raise U.S. $3.62 trillion a year (with graduated rates of 2 percent on wealth starting at $5 million; 5 percent on wealth over $50 million; and 10 percent on wealth over $1 billion.)

READ THE REPORT
Taxing Extreme Wealth

An annual tax on the world’s richest would be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the whole world, and deliver universal health care and social protection for all the citizens of low and lower middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).

This new global billionaire wealth analysis comes on the heels of a new Oxfam International report based on World Bank data that shows that while 99 percent of the world’s workers earned less money in 2021, the world’s ten wealthiest men more than doubled their fortunes. Meanwhile, global protests around the world are set to coincide with the World Economic Forum’s ‘State of the World’ online meetings.

In the US, roughly 750 U.S. billionaires have seen their wealth increase over $2 trillion since March 2020 for a combined wealth of over $5 trillion, according to previous research by the Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies. And there are over 63,500 individuals with wealth over $50 million with combined assets of $12.8 trillion, according to the new report, Taxing Extreme Wealth. An annual wealth tax would raise $928 billion a year, enough to eliminate half of household out-of-pocket health expenses in the U.S.

It is time to levy a wealth tax on the world’s multi-millionaires and billionaires. This is not to simply raise revenue to vaccinate the world and invest in robust public health systems. But a wealth tax that is intended to save democracy from the extreme concentrations of wealth and power.

Chuck Collins directs the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies, where he also co-edits Inequality.org



What could a global tax on wealth of $5 million-plus pay for?


A new study finds that a wealth tax could provide the funding to vaccinate the entire world (just for starters).



01-18-22
7:01 PM
THE NEW CAPITALISM

Around the world, there are 3.6 million people who each have more than $5 million in wealth. More than 2,600 of those people are billionaires, with a total combined wealth of $13.76 trillion. If there were an annual wealth tax on these individuals, a new report says, it could raise $2.52 trillion a year—enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough COVID-19 vaccines for the entire world, and deliver universal healthcare and social protection for everyone in low- and lower middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).

That figure comes from a new global wealth analysis using data from a consortium that includes the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam, and Patriotic Millionaires. The wealth tax they propose would be a graduated rate structure, the report says, with a 2% tax on wealth of $5 million and above, 3% on $50 million and above, and 5% on $1 billion and above.

A more steeply progressive wealth-tax structure—2%, 5%, and 10%, respectively—would raise $3.62 trillion a year, per the report. In the U.S. alone, there are 1.4 million individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more, for a combined total of $28 trillion. The cost of vaccinating the entire world against COVID-19 has been projected at $27.8 billion; providing universal healthcare and social protections to low- and lower middle-income countries could cost another $440.8 billion.

These overall numbers are just an estimate, the report warns, as actual wealth-taxation levels would be specific to each country. Still, it’s an example of how a wealth tax—an initiative supported by politicians including senators Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders, and increasingly by members of the public (71% of American voters saying they support a tax on extreme wealth)—could raise the money to fund social protections and reduce poverty worldwide.

It would also reduce the total number of multimillionaires and billionaires, the numbers of which have grown exponentially during the pandemic, as wealth inequality has surged. Despite accounting for just 0.002% of the population, those who have $50 million and above currently hold 6.33% of all global wealth. In the U.S., billionaires own half a billion more in wealth than the entire bottom 60% of U.S. society.

This report, which uses data from Forbes and Wealth X, builds on another Oxfam report from earlier this week that found that the world’s 10 wealthiest men (including Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, and Warren Buffet) have more than doubled their fortunes since the pandemic began.

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Olivia Alperstein in the U.S. | olivia@ips-dc.org | +1 (202) 704-9011

Annie Thériault in Peru | annie.theriault@oxfam.org | +51 936 307 990

Sam Quigley in the US| sam@patrioticmillionaires.org | +1 (317)752-9150

Meriame Yassi in the UK | media@fightinequality.org | +44 (0)7944 658488

new analysis published on January 19 by the Fight Inequality Alliance, Institute for Policy Studies, Oxfam, and Patriotic Millionaires found that globally:

  • 3.6 million people have over $5 million in wealth, with a combined wealth of $75.3 trillion. (Wealth-X)
  • 183,000 individuals own over $50 million, for a combined wealth of $36.4 trillion. (Wealth-X)
  • There are 2,660 billionaires with a total combined wealth of $13.76 trillion. (Forbes, November 30, 2021).
  • An annual wealth tax applied to the world’s richest would raise US $2.52 trillion a year (with a graduated rate structure: 2 % tax on wealth over $5 million; 3 % on wealth over $50 million; 5 % on wealth over $1 billion.)
  • A more steeply progressive wealth tax would raise US $3.62 trillion a year (with graduated rates of 2 % on wealth starting at $5 million; 5 % on wealth over $50 million; and 10 % on wealth over $1 billion.)

An annual tax on the world’s richest would be enough to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty, make enough vaccines for the whole world, and deliver universal health care and social protection for all the citizens of low and lower middle-income countries (3.6 billion people).

This new global billionaire wealth analysis comes on the heels of a new Oxfam report based on World Bank data that shows that while 99 percent of the world’s workers earned less money in 2021, the world’s 10 wealthiest men more than doubled their fortunes. Meanwhile, global protests around the world are set to coincide with the World Economic Forum’s ‘State of the World’ online meetings.

This latest rise in global wealth stands in stark contrast to loss of lives and jobs during the pandemic, which has pushed tens of millions more people into poverty and further increased inequalities, particularly in poorer nations around the world.

Read a summary of key highlights from the analysis here.

Read the full breakdown for billionaire wealth in specific countries and regions via individual fact sheets

Key highlights from United States analysis:

    • There are 1,436,275 individuals with a net worth of $5 million or more, with wealth totaling $28 trillion.
    • There are 63,505 individuals with $50 million or more with a combined wealth of $12.8 trillion.
    • Between 2016 and 2021, the number of individuals with wealth over $50 million increased from 37,140 to 63,505 with combined wealth increasing from $8.4 trillion to $12.8 trillion, a gain of 51.84 %, adjusted for inflation.
    • There are 740 U.S. billionaires with wealth totaling $5.1 trillion. Throughout the pandemic (beginning in mid-March 2020), the wealth of the U.S. American billionaire class increased $2 trillion.
  • The richest billionaire owns more wealth than the bottom 40 % of U.S. society.
  • U.S. billionaires own half a billion more in wealth than the bottom 60 % of U.S. society.
  • An annual wealth tax in the United States would raise $928.39 billion a year (with rates at 2 % on wealth over $5 million, 3 % on wealth over $50 million and 5 % over $1 billion). This revenue could raise the government’s health budget by a third or it could eliminate half of U.S. households’ out of pocket health costs.
  • more progressive wealth tax would raise $1.34 trillion (with rates at 2 % on wealth over $5 million, 5 % on wealth over $50 million and 10 % over $1 billion).

The five richest people in the United States, as of November 30, 2021, are:

  1. Elon Musk, $294.2 billion
  2. Jeff Bezos, $202.6 billion
  3. Bill Gates, $137.4 billion
  4. Larry Ellison, $125.7 billion
  5. Larry Page, $122.8 billion

“The insane reality is that whilst billions face a daily struggle to survive during this pandemic, billionaire wealth is spiraling out of control. This cannot be right, said Jenny Ricks, Global Convenor of the Fight Inequality Alliance. “For years Davos has shown us the elites cannot and will not end the virus of inequality they have helped to create. We now have the rare opportunity to create the economy and society we want but this requires deep system change rather than a rehash of the status quo. That’s why it’s time for wealth taxes on the super rich that could raise an eye watering $2.52 trillion a year globally and pay for a People’s Recovery Plan.”

“Wealth inequality has been supercharged by the pandemic, creating an unprecedented global concentration of wealth and power,” said Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of the report. “Taxing the world’s wealthiest one-tenth of 1 percent would raise substantial revenue for public investments in health and social protection and for a greater global response to the most urgent crises of our time. During 2021, we witnessed the epidemic of COVID-19 and wealth-hiding, and it’s time to reverse course.”

“There is no defending a system that endlessly inflates the wealth of the world’s richest people while condemning billions to easily preventable poverty. We need deep, systemic change, and that starts with taxing rich people like me,” said Morris Pearl of the Patriotic Millionaires.

Spokespeople and lead authors of the report are available for comment or interviews.

To reach IPS experts, contact Olivia Alperstein at olivia@ips-dc.org or +1 (202) 704-9011.

To reach Oxfam experts, contact Annie Thériault at annie.theriault@oxfam.org or +51 936 307 990.

To reach Fight Inequality Alliance experts, contact Meriame Yassi at media@fightinequality.org +44749 44658488

To reach Patriotic Millionaires experts, contact Sam Quigley at sam@patrioticmillionaires.org or +1 (317) 752-9150.

About the Fight Inequality Alliance

Fight Inequality Alliance is a growing global movement organizing to counter the excessive concentration of power and wealth in the hands of a small elite. We are building a just, equal and sustainable world. We unite a wide range of social movements, grassroots and community based organizations, civil society organizations, trade unions, artists and individual activists from across the world.

About the Institute for Policy Studies

For nearly six decades, the Institute for Policy Studies has provided critical research support for major social movements and progressive leaders inside and outside government and on the ground around the United States and the world. As the United States’ oldest progressive multi-issue think tank, IPS turns bold ideas into action through public scholarship and mentorship of the next generation of progressive scholars and activists.

About Oxfam

Oxfam is a global movement of people who are fighting inequality to end poverty and injustice. We are working across regions in about 70 countries, with thousands of partners, and allies, supporting communities to build better lives for themselves, grow resilience and protect lives and livelihoods also in times of crisis.

Because we want lasting solutions, we fight the inequalities that keep people locked in poverty and injustice, we tackle not the symptoms but the systems, and we campaign for genuine, durable change.

About the Patriotic Millionaires

Members of the Patriotic Millionaires are high-net worth Americans, business leaders, and investors who are united in their concern about historic levels of inequality and the destabilizing concentration of wealth and power in America. The mission of The Patriotic Millionaires organization is to build a stable, prosperous, and inclusive nation by promoting public policies based on the “first principles” of equal political representation, a guaranteed living wage for all working citizens, and a fair tax system.

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