While the COVID-19 pandemic and the economic recession it spawned have taken a huge toll on low and middle-income people across the globe, most members of the very exclusive club frequently referred to as the “super-rich” have been doing just fine, thank you.
In fact, a recent report prepared by veteran policy analyst Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies in collaboration with experts at Americans for Tax Fairness for the website Inequality.org, reveals truly stunning and unprecedented growth in the wealth of this tiny group of individuals.
Moreover, as Collins notes, this contrasts sharply (and even sickeningly) with the harsh pandemic reality that “almost 89 million Americans have lost jobs, over 44.9 million have been sickened by the virus, and over 724,000 have died from it.”
This from the report:
America’s billionaires have grown $2.1 trillion richer during the pandemic, their collective fortune skyrocketing by 70 percent — from just short of $3 trillion at the start of the COVID crisis on March 18, 2020, to over $5 trillion on October 15 of this year, according to Forbes data analyzed by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality (IPS).
Not only did the wealth of U.S. billionaires grow, but so did their numbers: in March of last year, there were 614 Americans with 10-figure bank accounts. Today there are 745.
The $5 trillion in wealth now held by 745 billionaires is two-thirds more than the $3 trillion in wealth held by the bottom 50 percent of U.S. households estimated by the Federal Reserve Board.”
Meanwhile, a recent brief prepared by Emma Cohn of the North Carolina Budget & Tax Center (“Billionaires add trillion dollars to their collective net worth over past year”) reported similar findings:
The past 30 years have seen explosive growth for a small class of the ultra-rich – billionaires.
The most dramatic change, however, has been in the past year. Since the start of the pandemic, when over 20 million jobs were lost in a few short months, billionaires have added over a trillion dollars to their collective net worth, much of it concentrated in the hands of three men.
This isn’t just about three people, though. The entire class has ballooned. In 1990, there were only 66 billionaires in the country, and the wealthiest among them was only worth $5.6 billion. Today, there are more than 600. Elon Musk, the richest man in the world, is worth over $270 billion as of late October.
This expansion of billionaire wealth reflects the dramatic inequality in national household wealth. In April 2021, billionaires together held over $4.5 trillion dollars. The entire bottom 50 percent of Americans were worth just over half that amount, their wealth totaling just over $2.6 trillion.”
Cohn goes on to report that, even within the billionaire class, massive inequality prevails with white males making up the overwhelming majority of the group.
Here are some addition numbers from Collins and Cohn that further illuminate this shameful state of affairs:
$5 trillion – combined wealth of U.S. billionaires as of October 2021
$2.9 trillion – combined wealth of U.S. billionaires prior to the pandemic
$2.1 trillion or 70% – amount of growth this represents
60% – amount of President Biden’s proposed $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan this growth would pay for
745 – number of U.S. billionaires as of October 2021
614 – number in March of 2020
$3 trillion – estimated combined wealth of the bottom 50 percent of U.S. households in October 2021
$607.2 billion – estimated combined wealth of the three wealthiest U.S. billionaires, Elon Musk, Jeff Bezos and Bill Gates
$157 billion – estimated combined wealth of the three wealthiest U.S. billionaires in 2000
$11.6 billion – estimated combined wealth of the three wealthiest U.S. billionaires in 1990
7>1 – ratio of male billionaires to female billionaires in 2020
7 – total number of Black billionaires
8% – effective federal tax rate paid by U.S. billionaires
3.4% – effective federal tax rate paid by the nation’s 25 wealthiest billionaires on a $400 billion increase in their collective fortune between 2014-18
67% – share of Americans that support the $3.5 trillion Build Back Better plan after hearing a description of the plan and that it would be paid for by raising taxes on the wealthy and large corporations