While a few have pledged small percentages of their fortunes to fight the virus, most have held fast to their wealth.
By J.C. Pan
New Republic (5/7/20)
Earlier this week, public health researchers projected that one in four Americans would experience hunger and food insecurity in the coming months as a result of the economic crash and mass unemployment set off by the pandemic. Even now, up to 71 percent of people who applied for unemployment benefits haven’t yet received them, and food bank lines are overextended, with car lines stretching for miles in some cases. In the new economic downturn, which so far shows every sign of approaching or even surpassing the Great Depression in severity, the poverty rate in the United States could reach levels not seen in over half a century.
“The bills are still coming. I’m approaching $2,000 in debt,” Angi Hampton, a newly unemployed hospitality worker, told The New Republic last month. “As soon as this is over, that’s going to be three months of rent, three months of phone bill, and you’ve been out of work.” There is a disaster unfolding—and more disaster coming—for millions of people across the country.
Yet over a span of three weeks in March and April—right as hospitalizations and deaths were climbing sharply in the U.S.—the country’s billionaires managed to increase their combined net worth by about 10 percent. According to a report from the Institute for Policy Studies, during the same period that more than 22 million people lost jobs, the wealth of America’s billionaires rose by an astonishing $282 billion. “Already, the combined wealth of U.S. billionaires is higher than a year ago, according to our study,” institute scholar and study co-author Chuck Collins wrote. “At least eight of these billionaires have added another $1 billion to their wealth during the pandemic.” Among the billionaires who have gotten richer since the Covid-19 crisis began are a number of health care industry investors, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, and, of course, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos. …