Search icon


24th Mar 2021

US billionaires’ wealth grew by $1,300,000,000,000 during lockdown

Danny Jones

The world has enough billionaires but billionaires never have enough

In a year when most economies, industries and people in general have been put under added financial strain due to the coronavirus pandemic, a few have gone by unscathed.

In fact, for a select few American billionaires, they’ve only got richer. Trigger warning: it’s a sickening amount.

According to a study from the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans For Tax Fairness, throughout lockdown, the combined wealth of a number of US billionaires has gone up by nearly $1,300,000,000,000. That’s $1.3 trillion for those who find it too dizzying to look at all those zeros.

To put things into context, despite already being billionaires, their collective cash has increased by 44.6 percent since the first lockdown began back in March 2020. Even more stark is the fact that while there were 614 billionaires prior to the pandemic, there are now 43 more. That’s 43 people that have made colossal amounts of money in one of the worst economic years on record.

Among those 657 billionaires, the top 15 earned over half a trillion – an 82% bump in the space of a year. All the names you’d expect are in that list: Elon Musk ($137.5 billion, 559% richer), Jeff Bezos ($65b, 58%) and Mark Zuckerberg ($47b, 86%). They made all that of that in a year dominated by people losing their livelihoods or lives full stop. How?

Of course, companies like Amazon have only benefitted from the pandemic and cascades of lockdowns all around the globe: people need more stuff delivering than ever and Prime subscriptions have likely only gone up. The definitely real human, Zuckerberg, will barely have been affected at all; people still sit on their phone as much if not more than they have always done.

As you can see, Musk made the most – apparently, people really need self-driving cars that occasionally spontaneously combust when facing a global health crisis. It’s easy, of course, to be so flippant and sarcastic when faced with these kinds of numbers simply because they are so ridiculous. How can anyone possibly have this much money?

More importantly, how can someone continue to horde such excessive wealth – so much that you’d never find a way to spend it all in two lifetimes – in a period when so many have so little. Countries are scrambling to get their hands on Covid vaccines, they are borrowing billions from their own banks (make sense of that) just to keep economies afloat.

Entire industries have shut down; people have been on furlough or out of work completely for over a year and nurses still aren’t getting fucking paid enough. What’s even more worrying is that so many of these numbers revolve mainly around American billionaires – just think how much money is actually out there.

The Executive Director of Americans for Tax Fairness, Frank Clemente, said that while millions continue to suffer (relatively speaking), “billionaires are living in a different world from the rest of us. It’s time we bring them down to earth and make them pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us so we can create an economy that works for everyone”.

No one is expecting some utopia where everyone earns the same amount of money – that just isn’t going to happen.

However, we certainly expect people to pay their taxes, not somehow manage to get tax breaks when you’re already so rich that you’d barely notice the money coming out.

Moreover, it might be foolish to expect something so idealistic and paragon-like from people who continue to show they are motivated by nothing other than self-gain, but you’d think you would’ve heard more about billionaires donating even a portion of their wealth to help those less fortunate during a global pandemic.

Akon is literally helping power Africa (an entire continent) and he’s not even remotely on the same level of wealth as these individuals. They can do better – they certainly shouldn’t be casually making more money whilst so many others suffer