First a sum, which gives the measure of the abyss. During the past twelve months, the fortune of American Elon Musk has grown by $ 5,327 every second, to reach more than $ 200 billion. Between February 2020 and February 2021, the boss of electric cars Tesla did not need half a minute to see his wealth swell by an amount equivalent to the median wealth of a French household (117,000 euros). Admittedly, Elon Musk does not really have this sum: this fortune corresponds to the market value of his participation in the company he founded. But that $ 5,327 per second alone shows that the Covid-19 crisis has not only been synonymous with death, recession and destruction of value. It has also acted as a considerable accelerator of inequalities, allowing many to enrich themselves – involuntarily for some, in all conscience for others.
Like Elon Musk’s, the cumulative fortune of the ten richest people in the world increased by $ 540 billion in 2020, according to the NGO Oxfam [PDF]. The plans to support the economy of Western governments and their central banks have done their work: the trillions spent in the name of “whatever the cost” have had the collateral effect of supporting the markets and therefore profiting. to the richest. At the same time, the most disadvantaged people have been extremely weakened by the Covid-19. In France, poverty indicators have exploded in silence. The number of households receiving RSA crossed the 2 million mark at the end of 2020. The number of French people using food aid has risen from 5.5 million to around 8 million today.
Taxation of the richest
To understand the springs of this unequal machine, increased tenfold by the Covid-19, “the Obs” questioned Esther Duflo, Nobel Prize winner in economics. The eminent specialist in development and the fight against poverty, listened to throughout the world, makes a devastating observation. Yes, it is the poorest who are the sickest from the virus. And yes, they are still the ones who suffer the most from the economic consequences. Faced with this double penalty, Esther Duflo encourages us to show stronger solidarity to avoid “Exclusion errors”. “Trusting the youngest by giving them an income can be productive, she says about the idea of a young RSA. Fearing that social protection will make people lazy is not justified. “
Esther Duflo: “The poor are the biggest losers from the crisis”
Indeed, the debate is only beginning on how to offset the most destructive effects of this systemic crisis. In addition to the extension of social minima, the idea of taxing the richest is making a comeback and could become one of the strong themes of the future presidential campaign. In 2017, Emmanuel Macron had chosen to shrink the ISF and to establish a single rate of levy on capital income to, he said, promote investment and ultimately employment. Three years later, economists are struggling to demonstrate the beneficial effects of the measure. Repairing this “tax misconduct”, as “the Obs” called it on its front page in the fall of 2018, will certainly not be enough to fill the gaps created by Covid-19 in public accounts. But even exceptional, the contribution of the most fortunate could help alleviate the feeling of social injustice, corollary of the rise in inequalities. In the face of the most glaring inequities, symbols are also important.