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The Wealth of Just 12 US Billionaires Now Totals Over One Trillion Dollars

Even during the pandemic, wealth for this oligarchic dozen surged by 40 percent–well ahead of stock market gains

WASHINGTON - The wealth of the nation’s top 12 billionaires has increased to more than one trillion dollars ($1,000,000,000,000) according to research by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

“This is a disturbing milestone in the U.S. history of concentrated wealth and power,” said Chuck Collins, Director, Program on Inequality at the Institute for Policy Studies. “This is simply too much economic and political power in the hands of twelve people. From the point of view of a democratic self-governing society, this represents an Oligarchic Dozen.”

As markets have risen overall since the start of the pandemic, certain individual fortunes have surged significantly over market gains. These 12 billionaires have seen their wealth increase to total $1,015,188,210, as of Thursday, August 13:

Jeff Bezos - $189,490,763

Bill Gates - $114,101,127

Mark Zuckerberg - $95,537,853

Warren Buffett - $80,573,878

Elon Musk - $73,113,798

Steve Ballmer - $71,506,461

Larry Page - $67,404,945

Sergey Brin - $65,609,204

Alice Walton - $62,551,444

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Jim Walton - $62,348,885

Rob Walton - $62,030,872

IPS published its research at Inequality.org with source materials here.

Since March 18, the beginning of the pandemic, this Oligarchic Dozen have seen their combined wealth increase $283 billion, an increase of almost 40 percent. 

Elon Musk has been the biggest pandemic profiteer, seeing his wealth triple from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $73 billion on August 13, an increase of $48.5 billion or 197 percent.

Amazon co-founder Jeff Bezos was worth $189.5 billion on August 13, up $76 billion or 68 percent since March 18.

Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg was worth $95.5 billion on August 13, up $40.8 billion or 75 percent since March 18.

"The total wealth of the Oligarchic Dozen is greater than the GDP of Belgium and Austria combined,” said Omar Ocampo, Researcher for IPS’s Program on Inequality and the Common good. “Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans are unemployed or living paycheck to paycheck, and 170,000 people have died from COVID-19 in the United States,” he said.

During the first stage of the pandemic, between January 1 and March 18, the collective wealth of the Oligarchic Dozen declined by $96 billion. But their wealth quickly rebounded and surpassed their September 2019 Forbes 400 wealth level. The only exception is Warren Buffett who is still $2 billion below his September 2019 wealth but currently worth $80 billion.

March 18, 2020 marked the beginning of the Covid-19 lockdown and historic filings for unemployment – and also the intervention of the Federal Reserve with monetary actions to stabilize markets.

“Philanthropy is not the answer but is instead becoming another extension of private power and interests,” observed Collins. “A number of the Oligarchic Dozen are members of the Giving Pledge, a group of billionaires who promised to give away at least half their wealth before their death. But as an Inequality Brief “Giving Pledge at 10,” by IPS reveals, ten years after beginning the Pledge, their combined wealth has doubled. Among the Oligarchic Dozen, five of the top seven billionaires – Gates, Buffett, Zuckerberg, Ellison, and Musk – have taken the Giving Pledge.

IPS publishes reports on billionaire wealth, including this year’s “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfall, Tumbling Taxes and Pandemic Profiteering.” In partnership with Americans for Tax Fairness, it has been updating the data on U.S. billionaire wealth periodically.  

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Institute for Policy Studies turns Ideas into Action for Peace, Justice and the Environment. We strengthen social movements with independent research, visionary thinking, and links to the grassroots, scholars and elected officials. I.F. Stone once called IPS "the think tank for the rest of us." Since 1963, we have empowered people to build healthy and democratic societies in communities, the US, and the world. Click here to learn more, or read the latest below.

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