A confidant of the Pope’s has backed a tax on the rich, saying “there are people who have more than enough”.

– “Pope Francis has spoken of a universal basic wage… and that implies a redistribution of wealth”

Víctor Manuel Fernández, the archbishop of La Plata in Argentina who has enjoyed Pope Francis’ friendship, trust and collaboration for over two decades, told Argentinian radio station Infocielo May 14 that he was in favour of a government measure to levy an extraordinary tax on wealthy Argentinians to raise public funds to face the coronavirus pandemic.

“Pope Francis has spoken of a universal basic wage that ensures that everyone has income to live, at least in minimum conditions, and that implies a redistribution [of wealth]”, explained Fernández, the former rector of the Pontifical Catholic University of Argentina on Cardinal Bergoglio’s recommendation.

The Church “has always talked about inequality”, the La Plata archbishop went on, insisting that “that doesn’t mean denying the vocation of the entrepreneur, [which is] a legitimate vocation and what’s needed in society to increase wealth – making use of creativity to generate new wealth – because what is not produced is not distributed”.

– “There’s a huge margin to contribute to society”

For Fernández, the Church’s defence of a universal basic income and the redistribution of wealth that would involve is realistic, and has nothing to do with do-goodism.

“Sometimes people make fun of us, because they say that we support an impossible distributism; they say if it isn’t produced, it can’t be distributed. But that’s obvious and nobody denies that the businessman has to have his earnings. It’s part of the rules of the operation of a society”, Fernández acknowledged.

But he went on to argue that “obviously, inequality is huge in the country and in the world and, therefore, it is totally legitimate to consider a tax for people who have more than enough and that, in addition, would not affect them at all in the operation of their companies”.

“It’s not about the businessman losing or about [the tax] affecting the operation of his companies, because that would be a vicious circle: if the company does poorly, it will have to fire people and that’s another problem… but there’s a huge margin to contribute to society”, Fernández affirmed.

– COVID-19 worsens economic outlook for Argentina

The Argentinian government has proposed a tax of 2% on Argentinians with assets of over 200 million pesos (about 2.7 million euros, or nearly 3 million US dollars), in a sliding scale of up to 3.5% for people with wealth of more than 3 billion pesos.

The measure could see some 12,000 millionaires contribute to efforts to stem the COVID-19 tide in the country, which as of this Sunday had infected over 7,700 people and killed 363.

The Pontifical Catholic University’s Social Debt Observatory is forecasting that poverty levels in Argentina could rise as high as 45% in the wake of the pandemic, with the International Monetary Fund also calculating that the country’s Gross Domestic Product could shrink by up to 5% this year alone.

Next on Novena:

13/4: Prophetic: Pope rages against “economic power”, “idolatry” of money; proposes universal basic wage

6/4: Powerful: Pope, in Santa Marta Mass: “If I ignore the poor, the Lord will ignore me on the Day of Judgment” – full text

6/2: Pope agitates for global economic reform: “A rich world can and must put an end to poverty”

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