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A demonstrator holding a sign during a protest on January 5, 2021 in Manhattan.

A demonstrator holding a sign during a protest on January 5, 2021 in Manhattan. (Photo: Erik McGregor/LightRocket via Getty Images)

719 Billionaires Now Own Four Times More Wealth Than Poorest 165 Million Americans Combined

"Congress should act to restore taxes on the wealthy and limit further democracy-distorting concentrations of wealth and power."

Jake Johnson

After seeing their fortunes surge during the deadly coronavirus pandemic, America's 719 billionaires are now collectively worth $4.56 trillion—making them over four times wealthier than the roughly 165 million people in the bottom half of U.S. society combined, according to a new analysis by the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness.

"It's not just during the pandemic—billionaires have been running up the score on average Americans for decades."
—Frank Clemente, Americans for Tax Fairness

The two groups found that the wealth of U.S. billionaires grew by $1.62 trillion—55%—between March 18, 2020 and April 12, 2021, a period in which millions lost their jobs and more than 500,000 Americans lost their lives to Covid-19.

The 165 million people at the bottom of the wealth distribution, meanwhile, collectively own around $1.01 trillion, far less than the nation's hundreds of billionaires.

IPS and ATF note that in 1990, "the situation was reversed"—adjusted for inflation, the bottom 50% owned $380 billion in combined wealth while the nation's 66 billionaires owned $240 billion.

"It's not just during the pandemic—billionaires have been running up the score on average Americans for decades," said ATF executive director Frank Clemente. "The way to reverse this trend is by making sure the wealthy, and the corporations they own, start paying their fair share of taxes."

Citing Forbes wealth data, the new analysis shows that the U.S. now has six "centi-billionaires," people worth $100 billion or more:

  • Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos ($197 billion)
  • Tesla and SpaceX founder Elon Musk ($172 billion)
  • Microsoft founder Bill Gates ($130 billion)
  • Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg ($113.5 billion)
  • Berkshire Hathaway CEO Warren Buffett ($101 billion)
  • Oracle founder Larry Ellison ($101 billion)

"This pandemic billionaire wealth surge is a grotesque milestone after three decades of wealth steadily flowing to the top," Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality at IPS, said in a statement. "Congress should act to restore taxes on the wealthy and limit further democracy-distorting concentrations of wealth and power."


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