billionaires

To profiteers, this pandemic is very good; it hasn’t hurt their profit-making mechanism.

Net worth of US billionaires has soared by $1 trillion – to total $4 trillion – since Pandemic began, a report released on December 8, 2020 by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) said:

“The total net worth of the 651 US billionaires rose from $2.95 trillion on March 18 — the rough start of the pandemic shutdowns — to $4.01 trillion on December 7, a leap of 36%, based on Forbes billionaires. By around March 18 most federal and state economic restrictions in response to the virus were in place. Combined, just the top 10 billionaires are now worth more than $1 trillion.”

The ATF and IPS made a comparison:

“The billionaires’ wealth growth since March is more than the $908 billion in pandemic relief proposed by a bipartisan group of members of Congress, which is likely to be the package that moves forward for a vote in the next week, but has been stalled over Republican concerns that it is too costly.

“The monstrous cash-pile amounts to double the two-year budget gap of all state and local governments, a figure estimated to reach $500 billion thanks to the devastating effects of the economic shutdowns on tax revenues. It even approaches the massive sum the federal government spends on Medicare and Medicaid – $644 billion and $389 billion in 2019, respectively.”

With this report, profit, politics of the ruling classes, and the state come to view.

The report mentions the way the information was collected:

“Forbes’ annual billionaires report was published March 18, and ATF and IPS collected the real-time data on December 7 from the Forbes website. The methodology of this analysis has been favorably reviewed by PolitiFact. The ATF-IPS analysis also looks at wealth growth since February 2019 — the date of Forbes’ immediately previous annual billionaires report published well before the start of the pandemic and resulting market gyrations.”

The report presented a few facts:

“The $1 trillion wealth gain by 651 US billionaires since mid-March is:

It presented another fact:

“At $4 trillion the total wealth of all US billionaires today is nearly double the $2.1 trillion in total wealth held by the bottom half of the population, or 165 million Americans.”

Two comments on the profit-wealth-fact are striking.

Frank Clemente, executive director of ATF said:

“Never before has America seen such an accumulation of wealth in so few hands. As tens of millions of Americans suffer from the health and economic ravages of this pandemic, a few hundred billionaires add to their massive fortunes. Their pandemic profits are so immense that America’s billionaires could pay for a major COVID relief bill and still not lose a dime of their pre-virus riches. Their wealth growth is so great that they alone could provide a $3,000 stimulus payment to every man, woman and child in the country, and still be richer than they were 9 months ago. Joe Biden won a tax-fairness mandate in November. We look forward to working with him and Congress to deliver on that mandate by taxing the massive wealth of these billionaires.”

Chuck Collins of the IPS said:

“The updraft of wealth to the billionaire class is disturbing at a time when millions face eviction, destitution, and loss. Billionaires are extracting wealth at a time when essential workers are pushed into the viral line of fire.”

The report added a few more facts, which help comprehend the grim situation:

“Ordinary Americans have not fared as well as billionaires during the pandemic:

  • Nearly 14.9 million have fallen ill with the virus and 284,000 have died from it. [Johns Hopkins Coronavirus Resource Center]
  • Collective 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 2.3% from mid-March to mid-October, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
  • Nearly 67 million lost work between Mar. 21 and Oct. 7, 2020. [U.S. Department of Labor]
  • 20 million were collecting unemployment on Nov. 14, 2020. [U.S. Department of Labor]
  • 98,000 businesses have permanently closed. [Yelp/CNBC]
  • 12 million workers have lost employer-sponsored health insurance during the pandemic as of August 26, 2020. [Economic Policy Institute]
  • Nearly 26 million adults reported their household not having enough food in the past week between Nov. 11-23. From Oct. 28 to Nov. 7, between 7 and 11 million children lived in a household where kids did not eat enough because the household could not afford it. [Center on Budget & Policy Priorities (CBPP)]
  • 4 million adults — 1 in 6 renters — reported in November being behind in their rent. [CBPP]”

The EPI predicts:

“[W]ithout more federal aid 5.3 million public-sector jobs — including those of teachers, public safety employees and health care workers — will be lost by the end of 2021.”

More facts are there as it said:

“The stock market surge and lock-down economy have been a boon to tech monopolies and helped create four U.S. ‘centi-billionaires’. Jeff Bezos, Elon Musk, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg are now each worth more than $100 billion. Prior to this year, Bezos had been the only US centi-billionaire, reaching that peak in 2018. Bezos and other billionaires have seen particularly astonishing increases in wealth between March 18 and Dec. 7:

  • Jeff Bezos’s wealth grew from $113 billion on March 18 to $184 billion, an increase of 63%. Adding in his ex-wife MacKenzie Scott’s wealth of $60 billion on that day, the two had a combined wealth of almost a quarter of a trillion dollars thanks to their Amazon stock. If Bezos’s $71.4 billion growth in wealth was distributed to all his 810,000 U.S. employees, each would get a windfall bonus of over $88,000 and Bezos would not be any “poorer” than he was 9 months ago.
  • Elon Musk’s wealth grew by nearly $119 billion, from $24.6 billion on March 18 to $143 billion, a nearly five-fold increase, boosted by his Tesla stock. SpaceX founder Musk has enjoyed one of the biggest boosts in net worth of any billionaire. That $119 billion growth in wealth is more than five times NASA’s $22.6 billion budget in FY2020, the federal agency Musk has credited with saving his company with a big federal contract when the firm’s rockets were failing and it faced bankruptcy.
  • Mark Zuckerberg’s wealth grew from $54.7 billion on March 18 to $105 billion, an increase of 92%, fueled by his Facebook stock.
  • Dan Gilbert, chairman of Quicken Loans, saw his wealth rocket by 543%, from $6.5 billion to $41.8 billion, the second biggest percentage increase of all the billionaires.

The facts cited are from the country considered land of honey and milk, land of liberty, and land of opportunities. There’re sky-high opportunities: “Anyone can go to any length.” However, in real terms, those opportunities are for the few; while the rest pass their whole life only with a dream of a happy life. The jingle of “Dream” is circulated widely, in a planned way. But, now, that jingle doesn’t appeal as part of the mainstream media regularly tells: “American Dream” is now a shattered piece to those millions who once kept trust on that dream.

The facts cited above are from one of the advanced capitalist economies. The question is: what happens in other lands where the rich dominate? There, in those rich-dominated lands, the scene is more or less the same: The rich gain a whole while the ordinary persons languish in a difficult life, a life full with adversities, hurdles impossible to jump over. For them, no dream, nothing to hope; just everyday’s struggle to survive, and being silent witness of the loot by the rich. In some of those lands, similar facts surface on very few occasions, and in others, similar fact almost-never surfaces. These lands are designated as “democratic”, and “with free elections” as these are in the world system that the rich own. But the information essential for ascertaining character of the relevant economy and state are difficult to access. The ordinary persons, the men and women on streets, the ordinary taxpayers are not even aware that such information is required to know the economy, the power, and condition of life of the exploiters and of the exploited although it’s the taxpayers’ money that’s used by the exploiters to loot; and a part of the taxpayers’ money is also looted. All in these loots, the exploiters’ ruling machine is used – a coverage of law and legitimacy. But, this fact isn’t exposed to the ordinary taxpayers that include beggars, blind and lame, on streets also.

In this pandemic-period, this exposure is an opportunity to know an exploitative economy, a fact of mindless money gathering. A dig in other lands can also bring out to light similar facts of loot. The more similar facts/information will come out to public view, the more ordinary taxpayers will question: How an economy makes a few “fortunate” and super-“fortunate” while “maintaining” millions in misfortune, keeping millions in a world of uncertainty-hunger-unemployment-no/inadequate health care/public education tied to the exploiting system? What’s the mechanism? Shouldn’t the mechanism, the mechanism “benefitting” a few exploiters and keeping the rest “dumb-fool”-exploited, be identified and dissected? What’s the mechanism of profiteering by a few and the rest’s being powerless to question that mechanism?

Farooque Chowdhury writes from Dhaka, Bangladesh.


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