This billionaire wealth growth represents two-thirds of the $1.9 trillion cost of Biden’s pandemic rescue plan, which has been attacked by the GOP as too expensive. No Republican voted for the measure as it made its way through Congress.
There have been 43 newly minted billionaires since the beginning of the pandemic, when there were 614. As billionaire wealth soared over 78 million lost work between March 21, 2020, and Feb. 6, 2021, and 18 million were collecting unemployment on Feb. 13, 2021.
There are other startling matchups of the pandemic wealth growth of individual U.S. billionaires and components of Biden’s bill meant to help millions of Americans cast into crisis by the virus.
- Musk, founder of Tesla Motors and Space-X, saw his wealth skyrocket $142 billion since March, or 567 percent—enough to solo fund the bill’s support for farmers, small businesses, and other industries ($108 billion) and for bars and restaurants ($25 billion). He would still be $9 billion richer than he was when the Covid-19 shutdowns began last year.
- Bezos, founder of Amazon, had wealth growth of $67 billion, or 59 percent, the last 12 months—which could fund the assistance the ARP provides to renters and homeowners ($42 billion) and to veterans ($17 billion). He would still pocket an $8 billion pandemic profit.
The ARP contains many forms of pandemic relief, including $1,400 payments for 60 percent of Americans. The $1.3 trillion wealth gain by U.S. billionaires since March 2020 could pay for a stimulus check of more than $3,900 for every one of the roughly 331 million people in the United States. A family of four would receive over $15,600. Republicans in Congress resisted sending families stimulus checks most of last year, claiming we could not afford them.
Credit: Center for American Progress Action Fund
Under current tax law, none of the billionaires’ $4.2 trillion in wealth will be taxed during their lifetimes, unless the underlying assets are sold at a gain. Thanks to a weakened estate tax and aggressive estate-tax dodging by the rich, much of the money will also escape taxation when passed onto the next generation.
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) and colleagues in the House have introduced the “Ultra-Millionaire Tax Act” to reap some revenue from huge fortunes that otherwise sit untaxed year after year. The tax rate would just be two cents on the dollar (2 percent) for people with wealth between $50 million and $1 billion and just three cents on the dollar (a total of 3 percent) for wealth above $1 billion.