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‘Pandemic profiteers’: Billionaires’ wealth surges 10% as coronavirus crisis worsens

Billionaires' wealth surges 10%. Source: Getty
Billionaires' wealth surges 10%. Source: Getty

While more than 20 million Americans lost their jobs and employment rates worldwide grew, the combined wealth of the US’ billionaires has grown a whopping 10 per cent, new reports show.

Between 1 January 2020 and 10 April 2020, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest 170 billionaires saw their wealth increase by tens of millions of dollars.

In fact, eight of them have seen their net worth surge by over US$1 billion, including: Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Tesla CEO Elon Musk and Zoom founder Eric Yuan.

While the stock market crash on 12 March initially saw Bezos’ net worth drop to US$105 billion, the Amazon founder’s wealth grew by a whopping US$25 billion overall - to put that into perspective, that’s larger than the Gross Domestic Product of Honduras (US$23.9 billion).

Musk, who dubbed the pandemic “dumb” saw his net worth grow by US$5 billion, while social distancing measures saw Yuan’s video conferencing app increase his worth by more than US$2.5 billion.

“Billionaire wealth has grown astoundingly over the last few decades — and, for some ‘pandemic profiteers,’ even more dramatically since the COVID-19 crisis — even as billionaire tax obligations have plummeted,” the report stated.

Billionaires fuelling inequality

Co-author Chuck Collins said the coronavirus pandemic created “very unequal sacrifice”.

“This is the tale of two pandemics,” he said.

“While some are seeing their wealth increase by billions, others are suffering. 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 while billionaires might be donating money to good causes, they’ve also seen their tax obligations reduce significantly as a result.

“We shouldn’t be distracted and bamboozled by billionaire charity,” said Collins. “As a class, they have used their considerable political clout over the decades to reduce their tax obligations, shifting expenses onto the rest of us.”

Those tax obligations have reduced by a whopping 79 per cent since 1980, the report found, and billionaires’ share of America’s wealth has grown 7 per cent since 2006 as a result.

And the repercussions of this could be dire, the report found.

“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.”

The report recommended the nation enact an ‘Excess Profits Tax’, to discourating profiteering around the basic needs of life, and also establish a ‘Pandemic Profiteering Oversight Committee’ to keep tabs on appropriated funds.

The report also suggested the nation crack down on wealth hiding, and a wealth tax, which was proposed by Senator Elizabeth Warren during her presidential campaign.

Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club.
Yahoo Finance Breakfast Club.