For the first time in US history, the combined wealth of the nation’s top 12 billionaires has surpassed US$1 trillion (AU$1.39 trillion), new data revealed.
And it’s all thanks to the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw these billionaires’ wealth soar by nearly US$300 billion, or 40 per cent, according to an Inequality.org report.
“This is a disturbing milestone in the US history of concentrated wealth and power,” co-authors Chuck Collins and Omar Ocampo said.
“This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people.”
Who are these 12 people?
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos (US$189.4 billion)
Microsoft founder Bill Gates (US$114 billion)
Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg (US$95.5 billion)
Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett (US$80 billion)
Tesla founder Elon Musk (US$73 billion)
Former Microsoft CEO and businessman Steve Ballmer (US$71 billion)
Business magnate and investor Larry Ellsion (US$70.9 billion)
Google co-founder Larry Page (US$67.4 billion)
Google co-founder Sergey Brin (US$65.6 billion)
Walmart heiress Alice Walton (US$62.5 billion
Walmart heir Jim Walton (US$62.3 billion)
Walmart heir Rob Walton (US$62 billion)
During the first stage of the pandemic, the collective wealth of these 12 billionaires actually declined by nearly US$100 billion, but this quickly turned around.
Musk was described as the biggest pandemic profiteer, after his wealth surged from US$24.6 billion on 18 March to US$73 billion on 13 August - a 197 per cent jump.
Zuckerberg saw his wealth increase by 75 per cent.
The only exception is Warren Buffett, who is still $2 billion below his March 2019 wealth, but is currently worth $80 billion.
With filings for unemployment benefits in the US at a historical high, the inequality gap has never been greater.
“While some are seeing their wealth increase by billions, others are suffering,” Collins said in a previous report.
“We are not all in the same boat as long as billionaires are cruising in their yachts, and most Americans are simply trying to keep their heads above water.”
And if these billionaires’ tax obligations aren’t monitored and increased, the repercussions could be dire.
“If this inequality isn’t treated with both short and long-term tax reforms and oversight, America’s ‘pre-existing condition’ of extreme inequality could overwhelm not only our economy, but our democracy itself.”
Some of the world’s richest have called for the US government to tax them more in a petition called Millionaires for Humanity.
“We are not restocking grocery store shelves or delivering food door to door. But we do have money, lots of it. Money that is desperately needed now and will continue to be needed in the years ahead, as our world recovers from this crisis,” the undersigned millionaires stated.
The signatories urged government leaders to “raise the funds the nation needs and spend them fairly”, but it came with a hefty warning.
“Our interconnectedness has never been more clear. We must rebalance our world before it is too late. There will not be another chance to get this right.”
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