Pandemic fuels stunning growth in the wealth of the super-rich

U.S. needs a special one-time wealth tax to fund services, ease widespread suffering

One probably shouldn’t be surprised, but it’s still stunning to learn just how handsomely the super-rich have been faring in recent months at the same moment that millions of Americans are struggling to find enough to eat.

This is from a recent post by Chuck Collins of Inequality.org:

US Billionaire Wealth Up $850 billion Since March 18th; Global billionaires up $1.5 trillion

The combined wealth of U.S. billionaires increased by $850 billion since March 18th, 2020, the beginning of the pandemic, an increase of over 28 percent.

On March 18, 2020, U.S. billionaires had combined wealth of $2.947 trillion.  By October 8th, their wealth has surged to $3.8 trillion ($3.798 billion to be exact).

The stock market has been going up and down in recent weeks with billionaires holding steady.  On September 18, total billionaire wealth was $845 billion. Billionaires have seen huge gains over the last six months as millions of Americans have lost their jobs, health and savings, if not their lives.

At the global level, billionaires are big winners during the Covid-19 pandemic. According to a recent UBS report, the roughly 2,189 global billionaires now have $10.2 trillion. This is an estimated increase of $1.5 trillion during the pandemic looking at both UBS and Forbes billionaire data from 2019.

This updates our Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report that looked at “pandemic profiteers” and put forward a number of policy recommendations. One new recommendation is for an emergency pandemic billionaire wealth tax to fund urgent health care and state and local aide.

And this is from an essay that Collins and Frank Clemente of Americans for Tax Fairness published this summer:

It is time to levy an emergency wealth tax on billionaire profiteers and direct the funds to offset the cost of the nation’s health-care costs.

Independent Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders—backed by Democratic Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand of New York and Ed Markey of Massachusetts—has introduced the Make Billionaires Pay Act to recapture over half the extreme wealth gains made by billionaires during the pandemic. The bill proposes a one-time, 60% tax exclusively on billionaires’ gains between March 18 and the end of this year. It would raise about $420 billion, based on the increased wealth of the country’s billionaires as of Aug. 5.

…Even with the new tax, billionaires would still have an estimated $310 billion in gains during the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.

As Collins and Clemente note in conclusion:

COVID-19 has caused an unprecedented health and economic crisis that no one should be excessively profiting from. Yet many billionaires are making huge hauls during a time of suffering and sacrifice.

In the past, our leaders took action to curb such profiteering in times of crisis.
During World War II, Sen. Harry Truman held congressional hearings on war profiteering, exposing the ways some corporations grabbed profits during wartime sacrifice. Under President Dwight Eisenhower, the U.S. levied an excess profits tax on companies profiteering during the Korean War.

Today, the choice is stark: Do we enable 500 or so billionaires to further concentrate wealth and power during a pandemic, or do we tax the gains of these billionaires to improve the health and welfare of our country?

How we face this extraordinary inequality is the ultimate test of what kind of country we are and what we will become.

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