Wealth of US billionaires soared 55% during pandemic, accelerating inequality
In the last 14 months of the pandemic, millions of Americans have lost their jobs, their health and their wealth – and nearly 600,000 lost their lives. At the same time, America’s billionaires and the super-rich have seen their wealth soar to democracy-distorting levels.
Between March 18, 2020 and April 15, 2021, the combined wealth of American billionaires increased by $ 1.6 trillion, an increase of 55%, according to a common analysis by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies.
The concentration of wealth is astounding. There are now over 700 billionaires in the United States, with a total wealth of $ 4.56 trillion, up from $ 2.9 trillion in March 2020. In perspective, the combined wealth of the bottom half of all households Americans, including 165 million people, is $ 2.4 trillion in total wealth, according to the Federal Reserve.
A third of billionaires’ wealth gains since 1990 have occurred in the last 14 months of the pandemic. Between 1990 and April 2021, the combined wealth of US billionaires grew 19-fold, from $ 240 billion in current dollars to $ 4.56 trillion in April 2021.
- Elon muskElon Reeve Musk Night fire at Tesla gigafactory site in Germany under investigation Bitcoin price drop provides a lesson for Schumer policymakers under pressure from Democrats and GOP over Chinese bill MORETesla’s wealth increased by $ 125 billion, from $ 24.6 billion on March 18, 2020 to $ 149.2 billion on May 14, 2021, a six-fold increase, boosted by Tesla stock.
- Jeff Bezo’s wealth grew from $ 113 billion to $ 183 billion in the same period, an increase of almost 60%.
- Mark ZuckerbergMark Elliot ZuckerbergTech giants face increasing pressure from activist shareholders Democrats ask Facebook to drop ‘Instagram for kids’ plans US billionaire’s wealth soared 55% during pandemic, accelerating inequalities PLUSS wealth grew from $ 54.7 billion to $ 109 billion, fueled by its ownership of Facebook.
- Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth increase by more than 500%, from $ 6.5 billion in March 2020 to $ 35.8 billion on May 14, 2021.
Such concentrated levels of wealth and power harm our market economy and threaten our democracy. For example, many of these billionaires control powerful companies capable, especially during the pandemic, of consolidating their market share and monopoly power over large swathes of the US and global economy. Amazon, Walmart and Target have all benefited from effectively shutting down their competition on Main Street under the artificial economic conditions of the pandemic.
The rich don’t always profit during times of economic adversity. In the aftermath of the Great Recession of 2008, American billionaires saw their fortune decline with everyone. It was not until almost four years later, in September 2012, that the total wealth of Forbes 400 are above pre-Great Recession levels in 2007.
While some increases in billionaires’ assets reflect the overall rise in stock markets, the largest gains reflect their stakes in powerful companies that have profited from the temporary monopoly and home isolation conditions created by the pandemic. Online retail, restaurant and food delivery apps, telemedicine, big pharma, gaming, and video conferencing have all reaped bargains from the unusual pandemic economy. Of the 56 or so new billionaires who emerged in 2020, many are associated with IPOs in companies like DoorDash, AirBnB and Snowflake.
These inappropriate inequalities are the backdrop for a debate over who should pay for trillion-dollar COVID-19 stimulus packages and other proposed investments in public infrastructure, green energy investments, healthcare , affordable housing and poverty reduction.
Around the world, countries are considering wealth taxes on soaring billionaire assets as a single source. Argentina and Bolivia both plan to raise or create new wealth taxes to help finance the economic recovery. The UK has established a commission explore a wealth tax.
The times of war and crisis in the United States historically led to the institution of more progressive tax systems, including the “Conscription of wealth” pay the price of war. In 1862, the United States established an inheritance tax to help pay for the Civil War – and inheritance and estate levies appeared during the Spanish American War and World War I, only to be codified as 1916 with permanent federal income and inheritance taxes.
Pandemic inequalities may explain the popularity of proposals to restore progressive taxes on the income and wealth of the very rich. Polls indicate huge popularity for President BidenJoe Biden Bill Who Would Require Asian-American History Classes in Illinois Schools Heads to Governor’s Office Five Things to Know About New UFO Spotlight Biden shows little desire to reverse the policies of Trump in Cuba MOREproposals to ensure that global corporations and the wealthy – those with incomes over $ 400,000 – pay their fair share.
In 2020, 55 profitable Fortune 500 companies paid no taxes, despite profits of more than $ 40 billion. Biden’s plan would ensure that these companies pay their fair share by raising the corporate tax rate from 21% to 28%, still well below the 35% rate by 2017. It would end tax breaks that encourage perversely to move jobs overseas. .
For these proposals to be successful, lawmakers must shut down the hidden wealth system for the super-rich. Biden proposes to invest $ 80 billion over the next decade in law enforcement to ensure that multimillionaires and billionaires cannot gamble with their taxes.
In the future, it is likely that we will emerge from the pandemic as a more unequal society. Households that were economically precarious at the start of the pandemic – with little or no financial reserves – are even more financially precarious. When the moratoriums on evictions end, our communities will face epidemics of evictions and foreclosures.
We’re also likely to see further consolidation of big business, as the big fish gobble up the small fish – and the main street businesses are unable to compete with the expanding mega-companies. Lawmakers and the President must be vigilant and encourage antitrust and antimonopoly actions to protect competition and discourage mergers and acquisitions.
As we emerge from the pandemic, we must prioritize efforts to rebuild main street commerce and support the most vulnerable workers who have risked their health by providing essential services during the pandemic. We need to make bold public investments paid for by taxes on global corporations and the wealthiest households that have reaped pandemic windfalls.
Our shared recovery is an opportunity to reduce inequalities and protect democratic institutions from concentrations of wealth that distort democracy.
Chuck Collins is the Director of the Inequalities Program at the Institute for Policy Studies where he co-edits Inequalities.org. He is the author of the new book, “The Wealth Hoarders: How billionaires pay millions to hide billions. “