A German Jesuit has floated the idea of a wealth tax to cover the costs of COVID-19, saying “strong shoulders can do more than others”.

– Learn lessons from the GFC

Nuremberg Jesuit Jörg Alt, an expert in tax justice, spoke April 4 in an interview with KNA about the need to learn lessons as a society from the mistakes made in the 2007-2008 global financial crisis.

The burdens of that economic downturn were distributed unequally, Alt said, insofar as they were imposed equally on all taxpayers.

The priest said the idea of a wealth tax is nothing new in Germany, but had actually been implemented after the Second World War in the so-called Equalisation of Burdens Law of 1951.

That Law represented an attempt to redistribute wealth to those who had lost everything in the war from those lucky enough to have held on to property and other assets.

The legislation was also designed to provide restitution to families who had been the victims of Nazi expropriation and to those who had been forced into emigration.

Such a special levy is more likely to be accepted in times of crisis, such as the COVID-19 pandemic, which in Germany as of this Sunday had claimed over 100,000 infections and 1,575 mortal victims.

“It is all the more important that it happens now”, urged Jesuit Alt.

– “You could collect 70 to 100 billion euros with this instrument”

Offering details as to how the coronavirus capital levy could function, Alt said it should be collected from the richest citizens on the basis of both private and business assets.

The duty should be flexible enough to be collected over the space of years, so as not to overburden taxpayers, the Jesuit added, saying however: “You could collect 70 to 100 billion euros with this instrument”.

– Other Catholics tackle the challenges of the COVID-19 recovery

Jesuit Alt’s idea of a wealth tax is not the only brave economic proposal for recovery from the COVID-19 that has been put forward by Catholic voices in recent days.

Portuguese priest Lino Maia called on banks to return the public help they received in order to stay viable after the GFC, as Catholics in Austria also broached the idea of an Unconditional Basic Income to shield citizens from the economic recession to come with the coronavirus.

French Jesuit economist Father Gaël Giraud, meanwhile, has said that “Central bank money is useless” to overcome the COVID-19 recession “if it is not used to buy masks, respirators, intensive care beds and to give more resources to hospitals”.

Catholic groups in Europe have also directed a plea to lawmakers to “put people’s health first” amid the coronavirus pandemic, “no exceptions”, and to “provide economic relief directly to the people”, among other demands.

Pope Francis for his part, in the meantime, has cautioned governments that to put the economy before citizens during the outbreak would be “viral genocide”.

The pontiff has also warned business that the pandemic should not be used as an excuse to lay workers off, since “every man for himself’ thinking isn’t the answer” to guarantee the COVID-19 economic recovery.

More on Novena on the economic ‘day after’ of COVID-19:

4/4: Santa Marta Mass: Pope hits out at COVID-19 profiteers, reflects on virus of temptation

Youth promise Pope redoubled efforts on “economy of relationships” in wake of COVID-19

On COVID-19, Church development network urges Brussels: “Now is the time for Europewide solidarity”

23/3: Pope prays in Santa Marta Mass for economic victims of COVID-19, urges “perseverance and courage”

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PhD in ancient Jewish/Christian history and philosophy. University ethics lecturer with 4 years' experience in religion journalism.