Jul 21, 2020
Days before the expiration of federal unemployment benefits is expected to bring about a wave of evictions, food insecurity and widespread economic pain for millions of Americans, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos--the world's richest person--added $13 billion to his personal wealth on Monday.
"In ONE DAY Jeff Bezos made well over 4,000 times what the average American earns in their ENTIRE LIFETIME," tweeted Maura Quint, executive director of Tax March.
While the coronavirus pandemic of 2020 has led to an historic increase in unemployment and a new reliance on food banks and SNAP benefits for millions of Americans, Bezos is among the elite set of American billionaires who have seen their net worth skyrocket since the pandemic began. With many people forgoing shopping trips and buying products online instead--often using Amazon--the wealth of the company's CEO has grown by $74 billion since the beginning of the year and now sits at approximately $189 billion.
Such exponential growth in an individual's wealth "should not be legal," tweeted People for Shahid, a grassroots group working to elect democratic socialist Shahid Buttar to replace House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in November's general election.
As the Working Families Party pointed out on Twitter, Republicans in Congress are currently pushing to end the $600-per-week boost in unemployment benefits which helped keep millions of Americans out of poverty in the first months of the pandemic.
\u201cIn a few days, people are going to lose the $600 a week unemployment insurance lifeline that has kept them and their families afloat.\n\nYesterday, Jeff Bezos' net worth went up by $13 billion in one day.\u201d— Working Families Party \ud83d\udc3a (@Working Families Party \ud83d\udc3a) 1595335179
Despite the success of the expanded unemployment benefit--which was passed as part of the CARES Act in March as 10 million people lost their jobs in the days after the public health crisis was declared a national emergency, forcing the closure of businesses across the country--President Donald Trump said Monday in a private meeting that the benefit should never have been offered.
The pandemic has also ushered in a crisis of housing insecurity, with nearly a third of Americans missing their mortgage or rent payments in June. Twenty percent of renters didn't pay their rent on time in May and 31% weren't able to in April.
As Common Dreamsreported Monday, the Supplemental Nutritional Assistance Program (SNAP) also saw unprecedented growth in demand this spring, and proved successful in providing a safety net for laid off and furloughed workers. Republicans are planning to cut the expansion of aid through the program as well as allowing unemployment benefits to expire.
While Amazon reported $13.9 billion in income in 2019, Bezos' company managed to pay just $162 million in federal taxes last year--a 1.2% tax rate despite the United States' 21% federal tax rate for corporations. The previous two years, according to the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy, Amazon paid $0 in federal income tax.
After seeing Bezos' huge single-day increase in wealth, Patriotic Millionaires, which advocates for reducing inequality on behalf of wealthy individuals, repeated their perennial demand to "tax the rich."
Grassroots group People for Bernie wrote that Bezos "stole," rather than earned, $13 billion in a single day.
\u201cJeff Bezos stole $13 billion today. \n\nThat\u2019s more than the GDP of about 50 countries. In one day. To a single man\n\nJeff Bezos has added $61.4 billion to his net worth this year.\n\nAmazon also cut $2/hour hero pay for its 400,000 warehouse workers & doesn't give them paid sick time\u201d— People for Bernie (@People for Bernie) 1595294378
While setting a new record on Bloomberg's Billionaires Index, the group wrote, Bezos' company also cut a $2 per hour temporary raise given to warehouse employees when the pandemic began and in May Amazon reportedly told workers its paid sick leave policy doesn't apply to its warehouses.
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