Billionaires Exploit the Pandemic as they Continue to Grow Richer

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Ernesto Garcia

Billionaires became $637 billion richer during the U.S. lockdown between mid-March and mid-May. Billionaires like Mark Zuckerberg, Jeff Bezos, Eric Yuan, and Steve Ballmer saw drastic increases to their wealth during the same timespan as the Coronavirus Pandemic.

On the other hand, more than 36 million people have lost their jobs. Sultana freshman Jasmine Gregg displayed strong opinions as she stated, “I feel like it’s just not right because people who are not in the upper class are struggling to pay bills, rent, and some can’t even afford groceries. Yet these people are gaining more by doing nothing.”  The 1% have it easy while the vast majority is struggling, leaving people feeling this is unfair.

Senior Sara Fulkerth also argued that “very few of the high wealthy people give back to their community and just focus on making their net worth bigger than it already is.” 

Billionaire Mark Zuckerberg and his wife did donate $1.9 billion which went to their Chan Zuckerberg Foundation for education, housing, science, and improving the criminal justice system. Jeff Bezos also pledged $2 billion and said he plans to use the charity to support homeless families and launch education programs in underserved communities.  However, the money they have donated is only a small fraction of what they have earned during the pandemic.

It is important to note that during times of upheaval, supply and demand changes as what is considered necessary fluctuates.  This creates opportunities for businesses to make more money if they can offer the services people consider essential.  Most billionaires have been seeing gains because of their online platforms. Freshman Tiffany Farrias suggested “online shopping obviously got a lot of business because of everything shutting down, so I think that’s reasonable.”

In the first eight months of 2020 $497 billion was generated in online sales.  The Institute for Policy Studies’ “Billionaire Bonanza 2020” revealed that on March 18, U.S. billionaires had a combined $2.947 trillion. Currently, they now have a combined $3.316 trillion. Furthermore, during this summer, 14 new Americans became billionaires. 

This is especially frustrating considering a study between 1980 and 2018 showed the tax obligations of these billionaires have decreased 79%.  Because their taxes are so low, many feel that the 1% are not contributing their fair share and that their wealth is not benefitting the American people the way it should. 

While many aspects of 2020 are uncertain due to the chaos of the pandemic, one thing we can be sure of is that billionaires will continue to amass wealth.