Top 10 US billionaires got $1 billion richer every day of pandemic

Top 10 US billionaires got $1 billion richer every day of pandemic
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos/Twitter

The 10 wealthiest billionaires in the U.S. have added roughly $1 billion to their collective fortune every day—or around $12,600 per second—since the beginning of the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed millions of people across the globe and thrown countless lives into chaos.

The billionaire wealth update comes courtesy of the progressive advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), which released an analysis Wednesday estimating that the combined net worth of the 10 richest people in the U.S. has more than doubled since March 2020, reaching $1.35 trillion this week.

"The pandemic has been very good to American billionaires, especially the top 10," said ATF executive director Frank Clemente, who noted that billionaires' pandemic profits will likely not be taxed because they consist largely of unrealized capital gains.

Sen. Ron Wyden's (D-Ore.) proposal to subject the unrealized capital gains of the mega-wealthy to taxation has gone nowhere in Congress.

"Their obscene rise in wealth—all of it potentially untaxed—stands in stark contrast to the lot of America's working families, who've struggled through almost two years of a health crisis and economic uncertainty including most recently, rising prices," Clemente said. "Chairman Wyden's Billionaires Income Tax would better align the fortunes of America's richest of the rich with the needs of average Americans."

ATF's analysis is the latest in a series of new studies highlighting the extent to which the coronavirus pandemic has accelerated the decades-long trend of soaring wealth inequality in the U.S. and worldwide.

Earlier this week, as Common Dreams reported, Oxfam International released an analysis showing that the 10 richest men in the world have doubled their combined wealth since the pandemic began. Meanwhile, the anti-poverty group noted, "the incomes of 99% of humanity are worse off because of Covid-19."

On Tuesday, a coalition of progressive organizations including the Fight Inequality Alliance and the Institute for Policy Studies estimated that a modest annual wealth tax on global millionaires and billionaires would raise $2.52 trillion dollars a year, enough money to lift 2.3 billion people out of poverty.

In an open letter published Wednesday morning, a group of more than 100 rich individuals voiced support for such a tax, warning that "history paints a pretty bleak picture of what the endgame of extremely unequal societies looks like."

"For all our well-being—rich and poor alike—it's time to confront inequality and choose to tax the rich," reads the letter, which was addressed to political and economic elites. "If you don't, then all the private talks won’t change what's coming—it's taxes or pitchforks. Let's listen to history and choose wisely."

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