As we have continued to document, Central Bank "responses" to the Covid pandemic have done little for lower and middle class Americans and continue to disproportionately enrich the already wealthy.
Further evidence of how the Fed's flawed policies work, in action, came from the Institute for Policy studies and Americans For Tax Fairness, who yesterday issued a press release noting that 10 months into the Covid crisis, America's billionaires have seen their wealth rise 40%, or $1.1 trillion.
Using March 18th as a starting point for the pandemic, the release offers up similar stunning numbers to those that we have been covering since 2020.
"Not much has changed for America’s billionaires in the midst of the crisis—except the further swelling of their bank balances," the release says. "The combined fortune of the nation’s 660 billionaires as of Monday, January 18, 2021 was $4.1 trillion, up 38.6% from their collective net worth of just under $3 trillion on March 18, 2020, the rough start of the pandemic."
"At $4.1 trillion, the total wealth of America’s 660 billionaires is two-thirds higher than the $2.4 trillion in total wealth held by the bottom half of the population, 165 million Americans," the release notes.
Among the usual suspects were:
Elon Musk’s wealth grew by over $154 billion, from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $179.2 billion on Jan. 18, a nearly eight-fold increase, boosted by his Tesla stock. The boost in wealth of the SpaceX founder over the past 10 months is more than twice that of any other billionaire. That $154 billion growth in wealth is also about seven times NASA’s $22.6 billion budget in FY2020, the federal agency Musk has credited with saving his company with a big federal contract when the firm’s rockets were failing and it faced bankruptcy.
Jeff Bezos’s wealth grew from $113 billion on March 18 to $182 billion, an increase of 61%. Adding in his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott’s wealth of $55 billion on Jan. 18, the two had a combined wealth of almost a quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to their Amazon stock. If Bezos’s $68.6 billion growth in wealth was distributed to all his 810,000 U.S. employees, each would get a windfall bonus of almost $85,000 and Bezos would not be any “poorer” than he was 10 months ago.
Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth grew from $54.7 billion on March 18 to $92 billion, an increase of over two-thirds fueled by his Facebook stock.
Trying to argue for tax changes, the IPS says that "the $1.1 trillion wealth gain by 660 U.S. billionaires since March 2020 could pay for all of the relief for working families contained in President Biden’s proposed $1.9 trillion pandemic rescue package, which includes $1,400 in direct payments to individuals, $400-a-week supplements to unemployment benefits, and an expanded child tax credit."
While the logic isn't exactly rock solid, as it assumes that no billionaires deserve to be rewarded for many sacrifices and services they have provided to the general public during the pandemic, it is still a stunning visualization of exactly how much wealth has been funneled to the 1% under the guise of "bailing out" main street.
Meanwhile, ordinary Americans have not fared as well as billionaires during the pandemic, the release notes. It says:
Over 25 million have fallen ill with the virus and more than 420,000 have died from it. [Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center]
Collective work income of rank-and-file private-sector employees—all hours worked times the hourly wages of the entire bottom 82% of the workforce—declined by 1% in real terms from mid-March to mid-December, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Over 73 million lost work between Mar. 21 and Dec. 26, 2020. [U.S. Department of Labor]
16 million were collecting unemployment on Jan. 2, 2021. [U.S. Department of Labor]
Nearly 100,000 businesses have permanently closed. [Yelp/CNBC]
12 million workers have likely lost employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic as of August 26, 2020. [Economic Policy Institute]
Some 29 million adults reported between Dec. 9-21 that their household had not had enough food in the past week. From Nov. 25-Dec. 7, between 8 and 12 million children lived in a household where kids did not eat enough because the household could not afford to fully feed them. [Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP)]
14 million adults—1 in 5 renters—reported in December being behind in their rent. [CBPP]
Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, argued: “While we can all rejoice that our nation’s response to the terrible pandemic is now in steadier and more caring hands, 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."
He continued: "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.”
“Billionaires are reaping unseemly windfalls of wealth during the pandemic,” said Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies. “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.“
Our question is: why are people still pushing for old fashioned tax reform when we can just print the money now. Haven't they gotten the memo?