As the common person lost jobs and the place of their economic strata went down, the ever-rising wealth of billionaires went up compared to last year, the same period. The coronavirus pandemic contributed its share in this boom of their wealth.
This comes at a time when, economic stimulus pumped money to the hands of all Americans, even the super-rich, while 26 million people lost their jobs due to the economic crisis caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The billionaire class simultaneously added $308 billion to their wealth, only in four weeks, reported The Guardian.
A new report from the think tank Institute for Policy Studies said that between March 18 and April 22, "the combined wealth of America's billionaires increased by $282 billion — nearly a 10 percent increase," which it called 'pandemic profiteering.'
"The net worth of eight American billionaires — the 'pandemic profiteers' — surged by over $ 1 billion [each] in 2020," reads the report. That includes Jeff Bezos, his ex-wife MacKenzie; Eric Yuan, Zoom's founder; Steve Ballmer, former Microsoft chief; and Elon Musk, head of Tesla and SpaceX.
Bezos wealth - Unprecedented in modern financial history
Jeff Bezos' wealth in particular estimated –"unprecedented in modern financial history,"– as of April 15, surged by $25 billion since the year's beginning. This sums up to more than the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of Honduras.
Also, the report says that since the beginning of the year up till April 10, 34 among the 170 billionaires of the US witnessed an increase of their wealth tens of millions of dollars.
The report further highlights, almost 7 percent 'real increase' in US' wealth was pocketed by 400 wealthiest households, between 2006 and 2018. Also, the tax obligations of US's billionaires, decreased 79 percent, that too between 1980 and 2018.
In the $349 billion stimuli meant for hard-hit small businesses, almost 150 public companies bagged not less than $600 million forgivable loans.
Chuck Collins, director, program on inequality and the common good from the Institute for Policy Studies who is a co-author of the new report, commenting on the findings said, "Heads we win, tails you lose," the coronavirus pandemic had exposed US fault lines that widened gap between super-rich and others.
Economic rules favored the super-rich
This comes at a time when there were global protests after the mounting dissatisfaction of the people over the already ailing economic conditions, losing hopes in their leaders. Report from Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) says novel coronavirus outbreak temporarily interrupted surging protests from 2019.
The rules guiding the economy were "tipped in favor of asset owners against everyone else," Collins said, while there is a situation where the bottom 90 percent of US households still, has not recovered from the previous recession.
In a survey by Initiative on Global Markets (IGM) saw more than 90 percent agreed (as weighted by each expert's confidence) that with the lockdown, low-income workers above the poverty line will suffer a relatively bigger hit to their incomes than the upper strata of the society, even after accounting for all government support schemes.
Dean Emeritus of the MIT Sloan School of Management, Richard Schmalensee who strongly agreed said "Undocumented workers, who can't get unemployment [benefits], are particularly at risk"
Collins expressed surprise and shock in how quickly the billionaires turned pandemic into profit, he has been studying inequality for 25 years.