Facebook, Amazon chiefs see wealth balloon amid pandemic

Cornelia Mascio
Mag 23, 2020

That marked a 15 percent increase in the total net worth of the nation's more than 600 billionaires between March 18 and May 19 as much of the country was locked down to stop the virus from spreading, according to the report from Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies, two left-leaning think tanks.

The richest five American billionaires dominating highly tech-focused companies in the world - Bezos, Bill Gates, Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett, and Larry Ellison - amassed a fortune of $76 billion.

Elon Musk had among the largest percentage gain of billionaires during the two months, seeing his net worth jump by 48 percent in the two months to $36 billion. Other billionaires who saw their financial portfolio grow include former presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg; tech billionaire Michael Dell; media titan Rupert Murdoch; and Los Angeles Clippers owner Steve Ballmer. "The fortunes of Bezos and Zuckerberg together grew by almost $60 billion, or 14 per cent of the $434 billion total", said the report.

America's billionaires saw their combined net worth soar by $434 billion between March 18 and May 19 while the coronavirus pandemic killed tens of thousands of people and ravaged the US economy, forcing more than 30 million out of work.

"The pandemic has revealed the deadly consequences of America's yawning wealth gap, and billionaires are the glaring symbol of that economic inequality", said ATF's executive director Frank Clemente. Amazon shares rose 38 percent from March 18 to an all-time high of $2,525.45 on Thursday, while Facebook's climbed 61.4 percent in that time to a high of $237.20.

However, not every USA billionaire benefited during the pandemic.

Director of the IPS Program on Inequality and co-author of the Billionaire Bonanza 2020 report Chuck Collins said that the surge in billionaire wealth during a global pandemic underscores the "grotesque nature of unequal sacrifice".

The analysis was based on data from the Forbes billionaires list.

With many states issuing stay-at-home orders in March, a majority of Americans were stuck inside their homes during the COVID-19 pandemic and found themselves relying on technology for needs like online grocery shopping.

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