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Amid Covid-19 and Nationwide Protests, America's Billionaires Got $79 Billion Richer Over the Last Week

"Surging billionaire wealth juxtaposed with the suffering and plight of millions undermines the social solidarity required for us to recover together in the years ahead."

Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos gestures during an event in New Delhi on January 15, 2020. (Photo: Sajjad Hussain/AFP via Getty Images)

An analysis released Thursday by the Institute for Policy Studies finds that the combined wealth of U.S. billionaires surged by $565 billion between March 18 and June 4—the same period in which 42.6 million Americans filed jobless claims.

Over just the past week, according to IPS, the collective net worth of America's billionaires rose $79 billion as mass layoffs caused by the coronavirus crisis continued across the country. The U.S. Department of Labor announced Thursday that 1.9 million Americans applied for unemployment benefits last week, meaning that nearly 25% of the U.S. workforce is now either receiving unemployment insurance or waiting for approval.

Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at IPS, said in a statement that "in a turbulent week in the life of the nation, these statistics remind us that we are more economically and racially divided than at any time in decades."

"Our moral, economic, and physical health as a society depends on building a post-pandemic economy that works for everyone, not just the billionaire class," said Collins. "Surging billionaire wealth juxtaposed with the suffering and plight of millions undermines the social solidarity required for us to recover together in the years ahead."

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Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, has seen his wealth grow more than any other billionaire in the U.S. since mid-March even as his employees continue to protest low wages and hazardous workplace conditions. On Monday, Amazon ended a $2-an-hour hazard pay increase for warehouse employees.

IPS listed the 14 U.S. billionaires who have seen the largest gains in wealth since March 18:

  • Jeff Bezos—up $36.2 billion
  • Mark Zuckerberg—up $30.1 billion
  • Elon Musk—up $14.1 billion
  • Sergey Brin—up $13.9 billion
  • Larry Page—up $13.7 billion
  • Steve Ballmer—up $13.3 billion
  • MacKenzie Bezos—up $12.6 billion
  • Michael Bloomberg—up $12.1 billion
  • Bill Gates—up $11.8 billion
  • Phil Knight—up $11.6 billion
  • Larry Ellison—up $8.5 billion
  • Warren Buffett—up $7.7 billion
  • Michael Dell—up $7.6 billion
  • Sheldon Adelson—up $6.1 billion

In a blog post on Thursday, Collins addressed criticism that the IPS analysis is "only capturing the recovery in billionaire wealth that plummeted in the proceeding weeks in late February and early March."

"It is true, the market has done better since then," wrote Collins. "But a large segment of the U.S. billionaire class is beating the market. And we stand by our analysis that it is newsworthy and meaningful that billionaire wealth is accelerating while others are experiencing job losses, declining savings, debilitating illness, and death."

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