AOC Delivers Sarcastic Response to Report That U.S. Billionaires Got $434bn Richer During Pandemic

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez has hit out at the inequality in the U.S. that has allowed the country's richest to vastly increase their wealth during the coronavirus pandemic while tens of millions of Americans lose their jobs.

The New York congresswoman responded to a report saying billionaires in the U.S. saw their wealth rise by $432 billion between March 18 and May 21, an increase of 15 percent.

According to the report, conducted by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies based on Forbes' data, Amazon owner Jeff Bezos saw his wealth grow by $34.6 billion in the months since the COVID-19 lockdown guidelines started to be implemented across the country.

Facebook's Mark Zuckerberg saw his wealth rise by $25.3 billion during the same period, with former Microsoft CEO Steve Balmer seeing his jump by $12.8 billion.
During the same time period, 38.6 million Americans signed for unemployment as businesses were forced to close during the outbreak.

"Really great system we got here," Ocasio-Cortez tweeted sarcastically while sharing a link to the report.

"Can't imagine why anyone would question how beneficial or sustainable it is for the working class."

Ocasio Cortez, a self-described democratic socialist, has often spoken out about the wealth divide in the U.S., previously describing inequality as a "preexisting condition" in terms of how people from lower-income backgrounds are disproportionately affected by the pandemic.

She also backed Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders for the Democratic presidential candidacy before he suspended his campaign. Sanders had promised to cut the wealth of billionaires in half over the next 15 years by bringing in a tax on extreme wealth, targeting the top 0.1 percent of households.

Speaking to ABC, Ocasio-Cortez described how the outbreak of the virus has shown how underappreciated essential workers are.

"To me, an essential worker is any person in this country that is helping keep the lights on and helping us live day by day," she said.

"The great irony of essential workers is that they have typically been underpaid, under-recognized and under-valued in our economy, and if there's one thing that this crisis shows us it's that our essential workers deserve so much more."

According to the report, entitled "Billionaire Bonanza 2020," the mega-rich of the world usually bounce back quickly after a market crash.

After the 2008 financial crisis, it reportedly took billionaires less than 30 months to return to their pre-meltdown levels. Between 2010 and 2020, the wealth of billionaires in the U.S. proceeded to increase by more than 80 percent.

The report notes that the wealth of some billionaires is increasing as a direct result of other markets suffering. Bezos' wealth surge, described as an "unprecedented dynamic in the history of modern markets," arrived as hundreds of thousands of small businesses closed amid the pandemic, giving Amazon and its delivery service the opportunity to increase its market share.

Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla and Space X, saw his wealth grow by $11.8 billion in the last two months. He was asked directly by New York City Mayor Bill DeBlasio to bring in more specialist medical equipment to help combat the virus.

SpaceX responded by partnering with Medtronic, to help increase their capacity to produce ventilators, while engineers at Tesla are working on creating prototypes from used car parts.

"This is the tale of two pandemics, with very unequal sacrifice," said Chuck Collins, co-author of the report. "While some are seeing their wealth increase by billions, others are suffering.

"We are not all in the same boat as long as billionaires are cruising in their yachts, and most Americans are simply trying to keep their heads above water."

Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez
Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-NY) speaks during a press conference with Rep. Andy Levin (D-MI) about their new bill called the EV Freedom Act on Capitol Hill on February 6, 2020 in Washington, DC. Samuel Corum/Getty