Economy, Americas

US billionaires’ wealth rises $1.1T during pandemic

Cumulative wealth of 660 billionaires in US is two-thirds higher than total wealth held by 165 million Americans

Ovunc Kutlu   | 26.01.2021
US billionaires’ wealth rises $1.1T during pandemic


American billionaires saw their wealth increase by $1.1 trillion, or almost 40%, during the first 10 months of the coronavirus pandemic, according to a report Tuesday. 

The total fortune of the US' top 660 billionaires was $4.1 trillion as of Jan. 18, according to Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

This level was up 38.6% from their collective net worth of just under $3 trillion March 18, the report said.

There have been 46 new billionaires since the beginning of the pandemic when there were 614.

Tesla CEO and SpaceX founder Elon Musk was the billionaire who increased his wealth the most as the electric carmaker's shares skyrocketed. The business magnate's wealth jumped $154 billion, or 628%, to $179.2 billion from $24.6 billion in the 10-month span.

Other names in the top-5 include Amazon CEO and founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates, Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg and investor guru Warren Buffett.

The wealth of America’s 660 billionaires is also 70% higher than the $2.4 trillion in wealth held by the bottom half of the US population, which is 165 million Americans, ATF And IPS said.

In addition, the $1.1 trillion growth in the billionaires' collective wealth could pay for all the relief in President Joe Biden's $1.9 trillion proposed COVID-19 package, they added.

The $1.1 trillion wealth gain could also provide a stimulus check of more than $3,400 for every one of the 331 million people in the US, according to the report.

"We can only lament that America’s billionaires are not making a meaningful contribution to that national effort, even as their wealth continues to soar," ATF Executive Director Frank Clemente said in the report.

"The COVID crisis is crushing people of color and low-income workers while billionaires who are nearly all white have seen fortunes skyrocket. This is why we need the fair-share taxes program Joe Biden ran on, won on and is now ready to pursue," he added.

Chuck Collins, the director of the program on Inequality and the Common Good at IPS, said "Billionaires are reaping unseemly windfalls of wealth during the pandemic."

"They benefit from having their competitors shut down or controlling technologies and services we are all dependent on in this unprecedented time. We should tax these windfall gains to pay for recovery," he added.

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