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"Walmart, which pays its CEO nearly 1,000 times more than its average worker, would pay up to $855 million more in taxes."
Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont on Wednesday unveiled legislation that would hike taxes on large corporations that pay their CEOs over 50 times more than the median worker, an effort to combat the decades-long trend of skyrocketing inequality in the United States.
Under the Tax Excessive CEO Pay Act (pdf), the "corporate tax rate would increase by 0.5% for those companies reporting a [CEO-to-median-worker pay] ratio of 50 to 1, and grow to a rate of 5% for those companies reporting a ratio of 500 to 1 or higher," according to a summary of the proposal released by Sanders' office.
"The bill also requires the Treasury Department to issue regulations to prevent tax avoidance, including against companies that increase the use of contractors rather than employees," the summary notes. "Pay-ratio data for privately held corporations would also be made public, just as publicly held corporations are required to make public under current law."
In a statement, Sanders warned that the United States is "moving toward an oligarchic form of society where the very rich are doing phenomenally well, and working families are struggling in a way that we have not seen since the Great Depression" due to the coronavirus pandemic and resulting economic crisis.
"At a time of massive income and wealth inequality," Sanders said, "the American people are demanding that large, profitable corporations pay their fair share of taxes and treat their employees with the dignity and respect they deserve. That is what this legislation will begin to do."
The Vermont senator's new legislationco-sponsored in the Senate by Sens. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.) came as he presided over budget committee hearing Wednesday that will focus primarily on wealth and income inequality.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the wealthiest person on the planet, declined Sanders' invitation to attend the hearing, which also featured testimony from an Amazon employee who works at the Bessemer, Alabama fulfillment center that's currently in the middle of a closely watched and potentially groundbreaking union drive.
"I intend to talk about the most important issues facing working families," Sanders told the Wall Street Journal ahead of the hearing. "Right now, I happen to believe that this country is on its way to an oligarchy."
According to Sanders' office, the new legislation would bring the federal government around $150 billion in revenue over a decade if current corporate pay patterns continue.
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