US Billionaires’ Wealth Grew By $931 Billion This Year
The COVID-19 pandemic has seen thousands of Americans losing their jobs and struggling to make ends meet. But as the poor get poorer, America’s ultra-wealthy have only got richer.
According to recent data America’s 614 billionaires have increased their wealth by a total of $931 billion since the virus took hold in the country in March.
While the US economy has tanked over the past 9 months, threatening jobs and livelihoods of average Americans, the stock market has actually rallied since March, generating billions of dollars for shareholders and CEOs. Ironically, many billionaires have directly benefitted from the negative impacts of the pandemic. Tech companies like Microsoft, Google and Zoom all increased their profits thanks to remote working, while e-commerce entrepreneurs have seen sales sky-rocket during lockdown.
USA Today identified the 30 billionaires who profited the most during the pandemic, including some familiar faces like Elon Musk, Mark Zuckerberg and Jeff Bezos, whose $90.1 billion growth in wealth accounts for almost 10% of the total increase enjoyed by American billionaires this year.
Unfortunately, this success has come at a price. With restaurants and independent shops unable to cope with the loss of foot traffic, small business owners are increasingly finding it difficult to compete with the funds and resources of larger corporations. Walmart, the country’s largest retailer, saw profits up by 45% this year, while Amazon said its 70% profit increase was driven by ‘Prime members [shopping] with greater frequency and across more categories than before the pandemic began.’
And while these companies employ millions of American workers, the wealth they’ve enjoyed since March isn’t necessarily trickling down to their employees. Amazon committed to a pay rise and pandemic bonuses for its warehouse workers this year, but staff are continuing to protest over low pay and unfair treatment. DoorDash, a food delivery company, saw its owners make billions after the company went public earlier this month, while its gig economy workers and partner restaurants complained of unsafe working conditions and unreasonably high fees.
Other companies that have profited during the pandemic have seen large scale outbreaks of coronavirus in their warehouses and factories, raising questions over whether enough is being done to protect retail and production workers from the virus.
UBS has warned that ‘looking ahead to the next decade, investors face a world that is more indebted [and] more unequal’. So while a few hundred billionaires are set to see their wealth grow and grow, for everyday Americans, the economic impact of the pandemic is likely to be felt for years to come.
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