Stacks on stacks: Billionaire wealth spiking with COVID

Stacks+on+stacks%3A+Billionaire+wealth+spiking+with+COVID

Cindy Ha, '21

There are countless tragedies to come out of the coronavirus pandemic. Life was changed entirely; lives and jobs were lost, businesses tanked. Millions of Americans have filed for unemployment in the last eight months, over 250,000 people have died, and cases are only increasing. While hundreds of millions of people in America suffer, there are some benefitting from the impact of this global pandemic. 

Despite the financial crisis a large majority of the world is facing, billionaires across the world are seeing tremendous increases in their wealth in 2020. According to the Swiss Bank UBS report, billionaires have increased their collective wealth by over 25% during the last eight months. Notable figures of the infamous one percent that have taken their unnecessarily tremendous wealth to new levels include Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk and Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. While the United States unemployment rate quadrupled, Musk’s fortune increased from 76 billion dollars to 103 billion and Bezos’s from 115 billion to 189. Bezos, who pays minimum wage employees $15, could pay every person in America $15 an hour for 24 hours and would still have a leftover net worth of 80 billion dollars. On July 20, Bezos had seen his Amazon shares rise by 8% and his net worth increase by 13 billion dollars in a single day. On that same day, 6,108 people died due to COVID-19. Increasing wealth from a ridiculous high of 103 billion dollars to an untouchable 189 billion demonstrates greed and greed alone. A thousand lifetimes of extravagant living could not make use of all that money and to have that much during a global crisis is malicious.

Despite the incredibly excessive increases in fortune of the extremely wealthy, they have been philanthropic, to some extent. The UBS report shows that 209 billionaires have donated a total of 7.2 billion dollars from March to June 2020. As a collective, they donated a measly 3.4% of their cumulative net worth as aid for the worst crisis most have seen in their lifetime. The 50 wealthiest people in America have donated less than 0.1% of their combined net worth for coronavirus relief. Roxanne Roberts and Will Hobson of The Washington Post used the median household income for an American to equate billionaire donations to an average American’s donations. According to Roberts and Hobson, Bezos has donated the equivalent of $85 to pandemic relief. A man with billions and billions of dollars donated approximately .08% of his net worth as a pathetic claim to philanthropy. 

Countless people across the world have lost their sources of income, savings, loved ones, and jobs. Yet, despite the tragedy inflicted on countless families, the wealthy continue to amass more and more money, more than anyone should have when, globally, hundreds of millions of people are entering extreme poverty. Jack Kelly at Bloomberg pointed out that, “when millions of unemployed Americans poured their cups of coffee and started searching for jobs online, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos saw his net worth grow by $13 billion.” His prosperity and those of many other billionaires across the globe show that they did not suffer the disastrous effects of this pandemic as the rest of the world did. Instead, their greed continues to grow unchecked as they make more and more money, thriving in a damaged society.