Bill Gates and Elon Musk. Susan Walsh/AP; Joshua Roberts/Reuters; Axel Schmidt/Getty Images
The total wealth of US billionaires rose $1.3 trillion amid the pandemic, the ATF and IPS said.
This could fund two-thirds of Biden’s $1.9 trillion COVID-19 rescue plan.
The momentum for measures that address wealth inequality has grown during the pandemic.
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American billionaires have earned so much money during the pandemic that they could fund two-thirds of President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 relief package using profits generated in the last year, a report shows.
The combined fortune of American billionaires rose around $1.3 trillion, or 44%, from March 2020 to March 2021, Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) said.
This increase is equivalent to two-thirds of the $1.9 trillion cost of Biden’s pandemic rescue plan, which he signed into law Thursday.
The total jump in wealth for Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Tesla CEO, Elon Musk, and Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg during the pandemic would fund almost all of the relief plan’s supplemental $300 weekly unemployment benefits for the next six months, the groups said.
The groups based their analysis on Forbes data.
As of Wednesday, the US’ 657 billionaires were worth a combined $4.2 trillion, the ATF and IPS said. Under current tax laws, none of this would be taxed during their lifetimes, unless the underlying assets are sold at a gain, they said.
Momentum for measures that address wealth inequality, such as through a wealth tax, has grown during the pandemic as the world’s billionaires have grown richer while other people sunk into unemployment.
Argentina became the first country to respond to the pandemic with a one-off “millionaire tax.” Fewer than one in 100 earners will pay the tax, which the government hopes will raise $3.78 billion to help pay for its pandemic response.
Earlier this month, Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts proposed an Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act for the US. This would apply an annual 2% tax on individual net worth between $50 million and $1 billion, or 3% on net worth above $1 billion.
The ATF and IPS said if the tax had been in place in 2020, US billionaires would have paid a combined $114 billion.
The number of billionaires in the US increased 7% during the pandemic, the groups said. Musk alone increased his wealth by $141.6 billion, or nearly seven-fold, over the last 12 months.
During this time period, Americans have made more than 80 million filings for unemployment benefits.
Biden is addressing some of the economic fallout of the pandemic through his relief plan, which includes $1,400 stimulus payments for most taxpayers and an expansion of the child tax credit.
Not a single Republican in either chamber of Congress voted for the package, saying it was unnecessary and too expensive.
“The relief package will ease some of the suffering, but it is temporary,” Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality at IPS, said. “We also need to permanently address the underlying economic conditions that the pandemic exposed.”
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