Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Corporate gatekeepers and big tech monopolists are making it more difficult than ever for independent media to survive. Please chip in today.

Bezos tax billboard

A mobile billboard calling for higher taxes on the ultra-wealthy depicts an image of billionaire businessman Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, near the U.S. Capitol on May 17, 2021. (Photo: Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

The Super-Rich Have Taken Almost All of It

The cruelty and greed of the super-rich shows just how detached these corporations and people are from the notion of shared prosperity.

Paul Buchheit

They should pay something back to the society that made their unprecedented wealth possible.

And they should pay for the system of capitalism that has allowed them to get rich simply by being properly positioned to take advantage of the unregulated financial markets.

But, as Charles Koch famously stated a few years back, "I want my fair share—and that's all of it." The wealthiest Americans, especially those who hide their assets and balk at paying higher taxes, have the perfect role model.

Pandemic Profits: The Outrageous Numbers

The numbers to follow come from the Credit Suisse 2021 and 2019 Global Wealth Databooks. Summary here.

From mid-2019 to the end of 2020, U.S. wealth grew by about $20 trillion. The richest 10% (who are roughly speaking America's millionaires) took $15 trillion of that. These massive profits derived largely from passive stock market gains, as the Wilshire Total Market increased by about $10 trillion during that time. Since March 2020 the market capitalization for Super Big Tech alone (Apple, Microsoft, Amazon, Google, Facebook) has more than doubled to $9.5 trillion.

The average millionaire in America gained about $600,000 during that year and a half. The "poorest millionaires" gained about $200,000. The average member of the richest 1% saw their wealth increase from $15 million to nearly $18 million.

The 25,000 very richest Americans (the .01%) each took an estimated $80 million during that time.

On the faintly bright side, the average wealth for the poorest half of American adults increased from $10,000 to $14,000. But less than two percent of pandemic wealth gains went to this struggling half of America.

Taxes May NEVER be Paid on Much of this Enormous Wealth

Conservatives pride themselves in talking about "self-made" millionaires who "made it on their own."

But in a blatant example of a system rigged for the wealthy, the tax code includes a so-called stepped-up provision which allows the super-rich to leave much of their multi-trillion-dollar stock market fortunes to their children with all the accumulated gains magically erased, and thus, in many instances, without a single dollar in taxes coming due.

If daddy and mommy's stock has grown from $100,000 to $1,000,000 over the years, the kids won't pay any taxes on that $900,000 gain, and society's potential revenue is wiped out. As baby boomers age and pass away, more and more privileged children will become accidental millionaires.

Simple Fairness

The U.S. taxpayer paid for 75 years of government research to develop all the technology that a few well-positioned corporations eventually appropriated as their own. Those corporations and their stockholders should be paying society for the unique privilege of being in a position to reap most of the benefits of our parents' and grandparents' successes.

But the very richest Americans seem far removed from the notion of shared prosperity that could have made us a nation to be envied.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

Tax Billionaire Wealth and Pandemic Profits, Says Oxfam, to End 'Inequality That Literally Kills'

"The super-rich have rigged the system with impunity for decades and they are now reaping the benefits," says Oxfam International's executive director.

Jon Queally ·


UN Agency Condemns 'Homophobic and Racist' Monkeypox Reporting

"Stigma hurts everyone," says one ranking UNAIDS official. "Shared science and social solidarity help everyone."

Brett Wilkins ·


'Tax the Rich,' Say Millionaire Activists Protesting at Davos Amid Record Wealth, Inequality

"As someone who has enjoyed the benefits of wealth my whole life I know how skewed our economy is and I cannot continue to sit back and wait for someone, somewhere, to do something," said one demonstrator.

Brett Wilkins ·


Rights Group Urges Civilian Safeguards as Biden Sends Troops Back to Somalia

"A culture of impunity for civilian loss breeds resentment and mistrust among the population and undermines efforts to build a more rights-respecting state," Human Rights Watch's regional director asserted.

Brett Wilkins ·


Australian Progressives Hail 'Greenslide' Amid Big Left Wins and Morrison's Ouster

"People have backed the Greens in record numbers and delivered a massive mandate for action on climate and inequality," said party leader Adam Bandt.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo