Advocates of a wealth tax and elephants overpopulate Zimbabwe

in April 26th, 2021

Here's what we emailed out the week of April 26, 2021. Sign up for updates directly in your inbox.

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UN chief joins advocates of a wealth tax for global billionaires

Mon Apr 12

Tax the rich! We’ve heard it before, but one UN chief is pushing to make it happen. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres is advocating for a wealth tax (which is taken on top of regular income or corporate gains taxes) on those who profited during the pandemic. A recent study found that these billionaires got 54% richer over the past year. Guterres believes taxing that wealth will help reduce COVID-heightened global inequality. 

In the U.S., two-thirds of Americans support some sort of wealth tax. Over 80 unions have already sent a letter to President Biden to not only reverse Trump-era tax cuts for the rich, but to add another 10% tax for anyone making more than $2M annually. Biden’s current plan, however, is focused on closing loopholes and increasing corporate taxes over individual income taxes. For reference: 55 of the U.S.’s biggest companies paid $0 in federal tax on $40.5 billion in earnings in 2020.

Still, some are concerned taxing billionaires will just encourage more tax evasion, where the ultra-wealthy hide or off-shore their income and taxable assets. Such crafty tactics already account for $600 billion in uncollected revenue this year alone (learn more about that in our past coverage).  

Some additional resources...

  • For full coverage on the wealth tax proposal, turn to the Associated Press.
  • For the study on billionaires getting richer during the pandemic, turn to CBS News.


Zimbabwe can’t think of an alternative to allowing hunters to pay to hunt their elephants

Mon Apr 19

We’ve heard the uproar against trophy hunters who shoot and kill elephants, but now some African countries are left with no choice but to encourage hunting again. In fact, Zimbabwe plans to sell the right to shoot an elephant, charging hunters up to $70,000 for larger elephants. But why is this happening? In short, overpopulation of elephants in the country is leading to a multitude of problems:

  • Human death and injury. Thousands of complaints have come in from human encounters with these elephants and at least 21 people have died this year alone.
  • Dangerous conditions for the elephants. Overpopulation and climate change has worsened food scarcity. This has already led to over 200 elephant deaths from bacterial infections as they burrow deeper into the soil to try and find food.
  • Agricultural loss. Farmers are suffering from crop loss as elephants search desperately for food in their farms.
  • And there’s limited funds for wildlife management. There's only enough to support about half of the current population, especially with the lack of tourism thanks to the pandemic.

Naturally, this hunt for profit has been met with criticism from environmental groups, but Zimbabwe is asking them to put their money where their mouth is and pay for the additional upkeep needed. In 2019, four southern African nations, home to over 60% of the world’s elephant population, met in Botswana to discuss the options for dealing with elephant overpopulation, including ivory sales and hunting allowances. 

What’s the alternative? It's tough to say, as even non-hunting solutions are controversial. With the sale of ivory stockpiles, opponents worried that even a controlled ivory trade would boost demand and therefore poaching. With the sale of elephants themselves, activists worried about zoos and potential animal cruelty. That said, Angola — which has suffered a harsh decline in their elephant population after Angolans funded their civil war with poached ivory — has shown willingness to purchase and preserve these animals, already dedicating $60 million for building suitable land for them. 

Some additional resources... 

  • For more on Zimbabwe’s hunt-for-profits plan, refer to Bloomberg.
  • For more on why African countries concerns around elephant overpopulation, refer to an older Bloomberg article or Africa Sustainable Conservation News.
  • For more on the elephants who died of bacterial infection, turn to Reuters
  • To learn about Angola’s investment in buying these animals, turn to Bloomberg as well. 

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Art Credit: JGS, Ascii Art Archive

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