The nastiest word in former presidential contender Senator Elizabeth Warren’s lexicon may have been billionaire. She wanted to tax them exorbitantly so that government could better spend their (former) money.
Yet private charity—much from maligned billionaires—is rising to the occasion to help us combat the coronavirus outbreak.
A project funded by Microsoft billionaire Bill Gates and his foundation, for example, is developing something innovative: home testing kits for the virus. You swab your mouth and send it to a lab. Here is how it would work:
Results, which should be available in one to two days, will be shared with local health officials who will notify those who test positive. Via online forms, infected people can answer questions about their movements and contacts, making it easier for health officials to locate others who may need to be tested or quarantined, as well as to track the virus’ spread and identify possible hot spots.
The people working on the project don’t know exactly when the kits will be available but are working with the goal of launching as quickly as possible.
The Gates Foundation is joining with Mastercard’s Impact Fund and London-based Wellcome to designate $125 million to fight the outbreak. Obviously, the coronavirus requires a massive and coordinated response from government. But private charities are also crucial.
But what about the idea that we should tax these billionaires out of existence? That government could better use their vast resources?
Bad idea, argues the Wall Street Journal editorial headlined “Private Wealth to the Rescue:”
Private wealth broadly benefits society in ways government spending couldn’t, even if the rich were to pay more in taxes.
Former Federal Reserve Vice Chairman Alan Blinder argues that the best economic stimulus is more test kits—only when we can test for the virus will consumers feel confident about going out and keeping the economy going.
Blinder makes some other points with which the Trump administration and readers of this blog would disagree.
But it’s hard to deny that at-home testing kits, properly used, would be an economic stimulus.