While the pandemic shutdown is an economic tragedy for millions across the country, it’s turning out to be a financial bonanza for the richest handful of Americans, who have added $434 billion to their collective fortunes in the last two months, CNBC reports.
The staggering numbers come from a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies’ Program on Inequality and the Common Good, based on Forbes data for the nation’s more than 600 billionaires from March 19 to May 19. According to the study, the billionaires’ net worth rocketed by 15 percent during that period, lead by the country’s largest and most tech-forward companies.
Amazon’s Jeff Bezos and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg led the pack, with Bezos adding $34.6 billion to his money pile and Zuckerberg topping his off with an extra $25 billion.
Meanwhile, at least seven Amazon warehouse workers have died of COVID-19, even after whistleblowers criticized the company for failing to notify employees when their colleagues began testing positive for the virus. And Zuckerberg announced Thursday that 50 percent of his employees could soon be working remotely, but noted that he would “adjust” the salary of anyone who moves out of high-priced areas like Silicone Valley.
“There’ll be severe ramifications for people who are not honest about this,” Zuckerberg warned.
Also riding the coronavirus gravy train are Elon Musk, whose value jumped by 48 percent to $36 billion during Safer at Home; and Bezos’s ex, MacKenzie Bezos, who received Amazon stock in the divorce and has seen her worth leap by a third, to $48 billion.
Because the study includes the stock market’s initial crash and it’s rapid rebound, it doesn’t reflect that some of the mega-rich have actually lost money on the year as a whole. Warren Buffet, for instance, is down by $20 billion, while Bill Gates saw his fortune lose $4.3 billion.
Bezos and Zuckerburg, however, are still golden, with Bezos gaining $35.5 billion for the year and Zuckerberg up by $9 billion.
More traditional billionaires—especially those in travel, hospitality, and retail—took a more traditional beating in the wake of the global crisis. Ralph Lauren lost $100 million and now has only $5.6 billion to show for himself, while hotel mogul John Pritzker will have to make do with a paltry $2.56 billion after losing $34 million.
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