Rich getting richer update: Billionaires increase wealth by $931B since mid-March

COVID-19

(© Andy Dean – stock.adobe.com)

The death of small business in the COVID-19 era has been to the benefit of America’s billionaires, who have seen their collective wealth increase by $931 billion since mid-March, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies.

The total net worth of the nation’s 644 billionaires has risen from $2.95 trillion on March 18 to $3.88 trillion on October 13 (see spreadsheet of all billionaires), or 31.6 percent, based on Forbes billionaires data.

March 18 is the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were put in place. Forbes’ annual billionaires report for 2020 was published March 18, and the real-time data was collected Oct. 13 from the Forbes website.

“Sadly, the Gilded Age is here again,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “We have extraordinary gains in wealth by a small sliver of the population while millions suffer, this time from the ravages of the pandemic, much of which could have been avoided. In the short-term we need a robust pandemic relief package that meets the urgency of the moment, not Sen. McConnell’s skinny bill that offers political cover.

“In the long-term we need major reform that taxes the extraordinary wealth of the billionaires and millionaires and uses that wealth to create an economy that works for all of us,” Clemente said.

“With Mitch McConnell’s Senate paralyzed with inaction, U.S. society is kicking into inequality overdrive, with wealth surging up to U.S. billionaires,” said Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of Billionaire Bonanza 2020, a report looking at pandemic profiteering and billionaire wealth. “The juxtaposition between surging billionaire wealth and the imploding livelihoods of ordinary Americans is grotesque and unseemly.”

Other findings from the ATF/IPS analysis:

  1. The total wealth of all U.S. billionaires—$3.88 trillion today—is nearly double the $2.1 trillion in total wealth held by the bottom half of the population, or 165 million Americans.
  2. Collective work income of rank-and-file private-sector employees—all hours worked times the hourly wages of the entire bottom 82 percent of the workforce—declined by 3.5 percent from mid-March to mid-September, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
  3. Nearly 62 million lost work between March 21 and Sept. 19, 2020 [U.S. Department of Labor]
  4. 25 million were collecting unemployment on Sept. 19, 2020 [U.S. Department of Labor]
  5. 98,000 businesses have permanently closed [Yelp/CNBC]
  6. 12 million have lost employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic as of Aug. 26, 2020 [Economic Policy Institute]
  7. 22 million adults reported not having enough food in the past week between Sep. 2-28, including 14 million with children in the household. [Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, CBPP]
  8. 1 in 6 renters reported being behind on September rent payments. [CBPP]

Some billionaires have seen a particularly astonishing increase in wealth:

  • Jeff Bezos’s wealth grew from $113 billion on March 18 to $203 billion on Oct. 13, an increase of 80 percent. Adding in his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott’s wealth of $65.7 billion on that day, and the two had a combined wealth of more than a quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to their Amazon stock.
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth grew from $54.7 billion on March 18 to $101 billion on Oct. 13, an increase of 85 percent, fueled by his Facebook stock.
  • Elon Musk’s wealth grew from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $92.8 billion on Oct. 13, an increase of 277 percent, boosted by his Tesla stock.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by 656 percent, to $49.2 billion from $6.5 billion 7 months earlier.

Story by Chris Graham


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