The $1.1 trillion in wealth that America's billionaires have collectively gained during ten months of pandemic and economic crisis could fully pay for key relief measures that President Joe Biden proposed in his recently released coronavirus aid package, including the $1,400 direct payments, the increase in unemployment benefits, and the boost to nutrition assistance.
That's one finding of a new report published Tuesday morning by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), progressive organizations whose analysis of wealth data shows that America's 660 billionaires have seen their combined fortunes soar to $4.1 trillion—an increase of nearly 40%—since last March, the approximate beginning of the coronavirus crisis in the United States.
Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, the richest man in the world, and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk have seen their wealth grow by $68.5 billion and $154.6 billion respectively over the past ten months, the new research shows, and more than 40 Americans have become billionaires since the start of the pandemic.
"Billionaires are reaping unseemly windfalls of wealth during the pandemic," Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at IPS, said in a statement. "They benefit from having their competitors shut down or controlling technologies and services we are all dependent on in this unprecedented time. We should tax these windfall gains to pay for recovery."
IPS and ATF released a chart showing how the more than $1 trillion wealth jump billionaires have seen since the start of the coronavirus pandemic could finance all of the aid to the working class that Biden proposed earlier this month:
Spotlighting the absurdity of Republican claims that additional direct relief payments to U.S. households would be too costly, IPS and ATF noted that the pandemic profits of America's billionaires could fund "a stimulus check of more than $3,400 for every one of the roughly 331 million people in the United States."
Frank Clemente, executive director of ATF, said in a statement that billionaires' obscene wealth gains during a crisis that has killed more than 420,000 people in the U.S., permanently eliminated millions of jobs, and shuttered countless businesses bolster the case for a progressive tax plan that forces the richest Americans to finally pay their fair share.
"While we can all rejoice that our nation's response to the terrible pandemic is now in steadier and more caring hands, we can only lament that America's billionaires are not making a meaningful contribution to that national effort, even as their wealth continues to soar," Clemente said. "The Covid crisis is crushing people of color and low-income workers while billionaires who are nearly all white have seen fortunes skyrocket."
"This is why we need the fair-share taxes program Joe Biden ran on, won on, and is now ready to pursue," Clemente added.