Two million New Yorkers have already lost their jobs because of the economic crisis triggered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and layoffs of CUNY faculty and staff, school teachers, health care workers, and local government workers have already begun. New York State and City workers will be next on the chopping block.
Hundreds of thousands of additional job cuts will further devastate our economy and our ability to provide essential services in a time of need.
Working people, poor people and people of color have been hardest hit by the pandemic. They are getting sick and dying in disproportionate numbers, and layoffs have fallen most heavily on lower-wage and precarious workers. Meanwhile, the wealth of billionaires and ultra-millionaires has been largely protected — and in many instances has grown significantly.
A new paper by the Public Accountability Initiative documents this growth in inequality in great detail: “While pre-existing structural inequities have caused the disease and its side effects to devastate New York’s working-class communities and communities of color, the state’s billionaires have increased their wealth substantially over the course of the pandemic.”
Even before COVID-19, New Yorkers urgently needed major increased public investment in health care, public education from pre-k through higher education, housing, mass transportation and many other fundamental services. That means new revenue raised by taxes on high wealth.
Washington has the responsibility and fiscal resources to aid the states to respond to the unprecedented huge costs and losses brought on by the pandemic. Whatever we do in New York must not be seen as implying that the federal government is in any way relieved of its responsibility. But we must be prepared to deal with federal failures to respond.
The overwhelming majority of New Yorkers will not be affected by our proposals to raise taxes on high wealth. Working and poor New Yorkers rely heavily on public services to help them survive day-to-day. They are over-taxed and under-served because our tax system does not demand enough from ultra-wealthy New Yorkers.
Times like these require shared sacrifice. In every economic downturn for the last 90 years, our state government has asked the wealthiest to pay more in taxes in order to meet the needs of all the people.
We must do so again, relying on these basic principles of fairness:
During the current crisis, New York’s leadership has confronted the pandemic with an approach rooted in honesty and compassion. As we deal with the economic crisis engendered by the pandemic— and the great public needs that long preceded the pandemic — these same values must come to the forefront. And we must remember our progressive roots as a state unafraid to do what’s right — even if that’s a politically tough choice — for its citizens.
Ultra-millionaires and billionaires should not be the only constituency held harmless in this crisis. We are all in this together, and sacrifice must be shared.
We the undersigned are clear: We will not allow state budget cuts without raising revenue from those who can most afford to pay more.