Since Pandemic Began U.S. Billionaires' Net Worth Jumps $931 Billion, or Nearly One-Third, as Working Families Suffer
Meanwhile State & Local Government Services Face Deep Cuts as Congress Prioritizes Confirmation of Anti-ACA Supreme Court Justice Over Passing an Overdue Coronavirus Financial Aid Package
The collective wealth of America's billionaires has jumped by $931 billion, or nearly one-third, since mid-March, roughly the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, even as the U.S. economy was reeling from a huge spike in joblessness and a collapse in taxes collected, according to a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
The total net worth of the nation's 644 billionaires has risen from $2.95 trillion on March 18 to $3.88 trillion on October 13 (see spreadsheet of all billionaires ), or 31.6%, based on Forbes billionaires data. This new data from IPS and ATF may be found here and updates ongoing research by IPS begun with the report, Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes and Pandemic Profiteers .
March 18 is the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were put in place. Forbes' annual billionaires report was published March 18, 2020, and the real-time data was collected October 13 from the Forbes website. This analysis was recently favorably reviewed by PolitiFact . The ATF-IPS analysis also looks at wealth growth since February 2019, well before the start of the pandemic and the previous date of Forbes' annual billionaires report.
Despite growing needs and economic hardship caused by the pandemic, President Trump and U.S. Senate Republicans have refused to pass another financial aid package to help working families and to maintain state and local public services. Instead, they have opted to focus on expediting the confirmation of a new Supreme Court justice before the election.
Needless to say, ordinary workers did not fare as well as billionaires during the pandemic:
- Nearly 8.2 million fell ill with the virus and 220,000 died from it [ Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center ]
- ollective work income of rank-and-file private-sector employees--all hours worked times the hourly wages of the entire bottom 82% of the workforce-- declined by 3.5% from mid-March to mid-September, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
- Nearly 62 million lost work between Mar. 21 and Sept. 19, 2020 [ U.S. Department of Labor ]
- 25 million were collecting unemployment on Sept. 19, 2020 [ U.S. Department of Labor ]
- 98,000 businesses have permanently closed [ Yelp/CNBC ]
- 12 million have lost employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic as of August 26, 2020 [ Economic Policy Institute ]
- 22 million adults reported not having enough food in the past week between Sep. 2-28, including 14 million with children in the household. [ Center on Budget & Policy Priorities, CBPP ]
- 1 in 6 renters reported being behind on September rent payments, including 12%of Colorado renters. [ CBPP ]
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While Latimer has said Israel will be a "big issue" but "not the whole issue," one observer predicted that the contest "is going to be the ugliest Democratic proxy war of the 2024 cycle."
After visiting Israel last week, Westchester County Executive George Latimer on Monday filed paperwork to launch a primary challenge against Democratic New York Congressman Jamaal Bowman , a critic of the Israeli government and its devastating war on the Gaza Strip.
The 70-year-old county executive, who previously served in the New York State Senate and Assembly, has been openly considering a run for the 16th Congressional District—which Bowman has represented since 2021, after successfully primarying former Democratic Rep. Eliot Engel.
Latimer suggested to The Washington Post early last month that if he ran against Bowman, "it might be that this becomes a proxy argument" between "the left and the far left." He later told Politico that Israel would be a "big issue" but "not the whole issue," and his campaign would focus on his record as "the most progressive" county official in the state.
Bowman is the fourth "Squad" member to face a serious primary challenger for 2024, joining Reps. Cori Bush (D-Mo.), Summer Lee (D-Pa.), and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.). They are all among the eight progressives who in October voted against a bipartisan House resolution expressing unconditional support for Israel's government as it waged war on Gaza.
The four of them also support a resolution demanding a cease-fire in Gaza. While the number of House members calling for a cease-fire has grown to more than four dozen as Israeli forces have killed thousands of Palestinians over the past two months, as The Intercept highlighted last week, "a closer look at some lawmakers' statements raises questions about whether they are truly pushing for an end to the violence."
Latimer does not support a cease-fire. As Politico reported on his trip:
The county executive and former state lawmaker said that his time with Israelis, such as meeting with President Isaac Herzog, taught him that there is "no animosity directed toward the Palestinian people."
"There's people that are protesting that they're pro-Palestine, as if the Israeli position is anti-Palestinian," he said in an interview while waiting to board his return flight at Ben Gurion Airport.
"There wasn't a 'let's go get those bastards' kind of mindset," he said. "The anger and fear is directed at Hamas as the terrorist organization that runs the country and that's a differentiation you don't often pick up."
Since declaring war in retaliation for a Hamas-led attack on October 7, Israel has killed nearly 15,900 Palestinians in Gaza and wounded another 42,000 in airstrikes and raids, according to health officials in the besieged enclave. At least hundreds of those killings have come after the seven-day pause in fighting that ended late last week.
Responding to Latimer's filing on Monday,
's Alex Sammon
, "There it is: after weeks of unnecessary hemming and hawing (during which he stockpiled an extra helping of cash from the Israel lobby), George Latimer is challenging Jamaal Bowman, aiming to [replace] one of the party's rising stars as a 70-year-old white freshman congressman."
It was Sammon who
in mid-November that the lobby group American Israel Public Affairs Committee (AIPAC) is set to "spend at least $100 million in 2024 Democratic primaries, largely trained on eliminating incumbent Squad members" including Bowman, Bush, Omar, Lee, and Reps.
(D-Mich.), who had a U.S. Senate candidate
an offer of $20 million if he instead primaried her, the only Palestinian American in Congress.
Ocasio-Cortez's 2024 campaign said in a Monday email that "AIPAC's top recruit to challenge Jamaal Bowman officially filed his candidacy" and asked supporters to "please chip in right now to help us defend Jamaal and our progressive values."
Along with stressing his support for a cease-fire in Gaza, her campaign pointed out that Bowman is "his district's first Black representative" and "one of the only members of Congress with actual experience working in public education."
Monday that while Latimer "is preparing a video announcement over the next 24 hours and will formally launch his campaign by Wednesday," he is not Bowman's only challenger—Democratic "Dobbs Ferry investment banker Martin Dolan also plans to run."
While the contest is considered a test of whether politicians can survive criticizing Israel, some observers noted Monday that in March 2021, as many elected officials—including Bowman and Ocasio-Cortez—
then-Democratic New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo to
about his Covid-19 pandemic response and sexual misconduct allegations, Latimer said the claims should be taken seriously but also drew a comparison to Emmett Till, which he later
Who wins the next primary for New York's solidly Democratic 16th District could depend on an effort to replace the GOP-friendly map drawn by a court-appointed expert for the 2022 election cycle.
City & State
last month that a new order could mean "the Independent Redistricting Commission—which is
led by Latimer's deputy, Ken Jenkins
—will have the opportunity to change the boundaries."
"The district currently includes much of Westchester and a sliver of the northern Bronx and is home to many Jewish voters who have turned against Bowman," the outlet explained. "Should the district lines change, it will change the dynamics of the race."
"Progressives reject Republicans' cynical attempt to imperil the lives of people seeking safety to pass this supplemental funding bill," said leaders of the Congressional Progressive Caucus.
The U.S. Congressional Progressive Caucus said Monday that most of its 103 members would oppose an emergency spending package for Ukraine, Israel, and Taiwan that empowers the Republican House majority to undermine protections for asylum-seekers, reinstate Trump-era travel bans, and implement other anti-immigrant policies.
"As Congress returns this week to consider the president's emergency supplemental funding request for international aid and increased border funding, Republicans are still trying to force their anti-immigrant policies into the legislation," CPC Chair Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.), Deputy Chair Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.), and Whip Greg Casar (D-Texas) said in a statement . "Progressives are clear: We will not play this game."
President Joe Biden requested the $106 billion "national security" spending package in October after Israel launched its retaliatory—and many experts say genocidal—war against Gaza and amid a battlefield stalemate in Russia's 20-month invasion of Ukraine.
Politico congressional reporter Burgess Everett reported Monday that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has moved for a Wednesday vote on the package, even though he knows it is likely to fail.
"His hope: That the prospect of defeat is enough to make both sides get serious about a deal," Everett wrote.
Schumer said on the Senate floor Monday that "the step I am taking tonight will ensure the process for the supplemental moves forward, and that hopefully disagreements on immigration do not prevent us from doing what we must do to protect America's security."
Republicans in both chambers of Congress are pushing to condition any additional U.S. aid to Ukraine upon what GOP lawmakers call "border security" measures meant to stop migrants including people legally seeking asylum from entering the United States.
As Common Dreams reported Friday, Senate Republicans, backed by House Speaker Mike Johnson (R-La.), are working to include provisions of the Secure the Border Act —which calls for hiring more U.S. Border Patrol agents, continuing construction of the border wall, and other policies—as part of the broader funding package. GOP lawmakers also want to strip $14.3 billion in funding from the Internal Revenue Service as part of the deal.
"House Republicans are trying the same strategy that continues to fail: Hold Congress hostage to force their cruel, extreme, and unworkable agenda because they can't pass it through the regular legislative process," the CPC leaders said Monday. "This is the strategy that brought us to the brink of economic default and two government shutdowns. Proposed policies would destroy our U.S. asylum system and endanger immigrant lives while making the situation at the border worse, not better."
The lawmakers continued:
Progressives have fought for decades in Congress to advance a comprehensive immigration policy that would uphold U.S. and international law, respect the humanity and dignity of those seeking refuge in this country, and strengthen the U.S. economy. We have passed commonsense legislation with bipartisan majorities. Our members are prepared to work with any colleague who wants to advance thoughtful, holistic, and relevant reforms to create a roadmap to citizenship, increase the efficiency of our asylum system, and more—but this extortion is not going to work.
"Progressives reject Republicans' cynical attempt to imperil the lives of people seeking safety to pass this supplemental funding bill," the trio added. "We call on our Senate Democratic colleagues to stand up for immigrants and the allied communities who sent us to Congress and show Republican extremism for what it is by moving forward an aid package without new anti-immigrant policies."
"I don't want their money," one woman who lost a son to the opioid crisis said of the Sackler family. "I want them in prison."
At the U.S. Supreme Court on Monday, families whose loved ones are among the tens of thousands of Americans who have died of opioid use disorder each year over the past two decades rallied to push the nine justices to reject a proposed bankruptcy plan that would give the former owners of Purdue Pharma legal immunity—with many joining the U.S. Justice Department in arguing that the company should not be released from accountability for the opioid epidemic.
Purdue Pharma filed for bankruptcy in 2019, as the number of Americans killed by opioids hit 50,000 and the OxyContin manufacturer faced thousands of lawsuits alleging its aggressive marketing of the addictive painkiller had fueled the rising death toll.
The company agreed to settle the lawsuits for $10 billion, with the Sackler family—which oversaw Purdue when OxyContin was introduced and flooded communities across the U.S.—contributing $4 billion. In exchange, the Sacklers would be shielded from future lawsuits.
The bankruptcy plan—which now includes $6 billion from the Sacklers following a push from lawsuit plaintiffs—has been approved by state and local governments, tribes, and families and individuals who would be entitled to money.
But the U.S. Trustee Program, a watchdog at the Justice Department, has joined some families in arguing that the Sacklers should not be shielded from liability for the opioid crisis.
"No Sackler immunity at any $$," read
held by a woman outside the Supreme Court on Monday, while another said, "My dead son does not release Sacklers."
The issue at hand in the case, Harrington v. Purdue Pharma , is whether it is legal to give a third party—the Sackler family—legal immunity in a bankruptcy case even though they themselves have not declared bankruptcy, also known as nonconsensual third-party release.
A lawyer for groups and individuals told the court that families and governments are highly unlikely to get any more out of Purdue and the Sacklers than the money the company and family have offered as part of the deal.
The plan would include $161 million in a trust set aside for Native American tribes and $700 million to $750 million in a trust for families and individuals who were able to file claims, with payouts expected to range from about $3,500 to $48,000. Governments would use the money to set up addiction treatment centers and other programs to mitigate the opioid crisis.
"Forget a better deal—there is no other deal," lawyer Pratik Shah told the Supreme Court on Monday.
Curtis Gannon, representing the U.S. Trustee Program, noted that the Sackler family already showed that a "better deal" could be possible when it offered $6 billion for the plan instead of $4 billion. The Justice Department is advocating for a new settlement that would not include nonconsensual third-party releases, saying the current bankruptcy deal violates federal law.
"We do hope there is another deal at the end of this," said Gannon.
on the case, in which a ruling is expected next summer. Justice Ketanji Brown Jackson noted that appeals courts do not allow bankruptcy plans that take away the rights of alleged victims to sue parties that have not declared bankruptcy.
Outside the court, Alexis Pleus, who lost her son to opioid use disorder, told Aneri Pattani of KFF Health News that many families, including hers, will not be entitled to money under the current deal because they are required to provide records such as the original opioid prescription.
Beth Macy, author of the book
Monday morning that while some families "are divided" about whether the bankruptcy plan and payouts should move forward, as the U.S. Trustee Program "has pointed out, only 20% of the families who were eligible to vote on [the proposal], even voted."
"I don't want their money," Jen Trejo, whose son Christopher was prescribed OxyContin at age 15 and died of an overdose when he was 32, told Pattani. "I want them in prison."