U.S. richest get richer in pandemic
June 23, 2020 - In just three months, U.S. billionaires’ wealth surged by over $584 billion while 45.5 million Americans filed for unemployment, according to independent think tank the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).
Working with the advocacy group Americans for Tax Fairness the IPS study examines changes in billionaires’ wealth from March 18 -- the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown -- when most lockdowns began. The study relies on the Forbes’ billionaire list, which uses stock-market performance.
“Remarkably, 12 billionaires more than doubled their wealth over the last three months,” said Chuck Collins, one of the study’s co-authors. One of them, Trevor Milton, the founder of Nikola Motor that is building trucks powered by batteries and hydrogen, increased his wealth more than five times, from $1.10bn to $6.89bn.
However, London-based financial journalist Steven Goldstein, writing for MarketWatch, queries the ATF-IPS study.
“A more logical way to think about whether billionaires got richer, or not, is to think about the performance from the February 19 peak in the market,” writes Goldstein. “You then get to see who got richer even in the face of the crippling economic blow.”
Between March 18 and May 19, MarketWatch followed the wealth of the top 50 billionaires using the S&P 500 Index. Cumulatively, the top 50 billionaires lost $232bn between the market’s peak and May 19.
The Walton family, majority owners of Walmart stores were among the losers. Jim, Alice and Rob Walton together lost about $1bn between February 19 and June 22.
The top five billionaires -- Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison -- saw their wealth grow by a total of $108.7 billion between March 18 and June 22.
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