American billionaires richer by USD 434 billion under lockdown

Updated: May 24, 2020, 07:55 IST | Agencies | New York

"The surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the grotesque nature of unequal sacrifice," said Chuck Collins, director of the IPS Program on Inequality and co-author of the Billionaire Bonanza 2020' report

Mark Zuckerberg
Mark Zuckerberg

As millions of US citizens lost their jobs in the Covid-19 pandemic, nations billionaires saw their net worth jump $434 billion in the first two months of pandemic, led by Amazon Founder and CEO Jeff Bezos ($34.6 billion) and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($25 billion).

The top five US billionaires - Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Oracle's Larry Ellison - saw their wealth grow by a total of $75.5 billion, or 19 per cent.

"America's billionaires bound far ahead financially even as the rest of America was locked down during the first two months of the coronavirus pandemic," according to the report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies � Programme on Inequality (IPS).

"The surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the grotesque nature of unequal sacrifice," said Chuck Collins, director of the IPS Program on Inequality and co-author of the �Billionaire Bonanza 2020' report.

"While millions risk their lives and livelihoods as first responders and front line workers, these billionaires benefit from an economy and tax system that is wired to funnel wealth to the top," Collins added.

Between March 18 and May 19, the total net worth of the 600-plus US billionaires jumped by $434 billion or 15 per cent, based on the group's analysis of Forbes data.

During that same approximate period, more than 38 million working Americans lost their jobs, nearly 1.5 million Americans fell ill with the virus and almost 90,000 died from it.

The billionaires' worth rose from $2.948 trillion to $3.382 trillion in the period.

"Together, the top five captured 21 per cent of the total wealth growth of all 600-plus billionaires in the last two months. The fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg together grew by nearly $60 billion, or 14 per cent of the $434 billion total," said the report.

In March there were 614 billionaires on the Forbes list, and 630 two months later, including newcomer Kanye West at $1.3 billion.

Among other Covid-19 victims are the more than 16 million Americans who have likely lost employer-provided healthcare coverage.

"Low-wage workers, people of color and women have suffered disproportionately in the combined medical and economic crises. Billionaires are overwhelmingly white men," the report mentioned.

Decades of tax cuts for the rich have fueled the growth of billionaires and their wealth.

"The pandemic has revealed the deadly consequences of America's yawning wealth gap, and billionaires are the glaring symbol of that economic inequality," said Frank Clemente, ATF's executive director.

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