Billionaires' Pandemic Profits Alone Could Cover Cost of Biden's Build Back Better Plan

Billionaires saw their profits soar during the coronavirus pandemic—so much so that their gains alone could fund the entirety of President Joe Biden's latest framework for his Build Back Better social spending bill, and with a significant amount of change leftover.

This past week, the White House unveiled a new proposed framework for Democrats' proposed reconciliation bill, which would provide substantial funding for a range of new social programs as well as attempt to curb the worst impacts of climate change. The new price tag comes in at about $1.75 trillion, a large sum that is still significantly less than the more than $2 trillion billionaires have gained during the pandemic.

The 745 billionaires in the U.S. now have a combined wealth of more than $5 trillion, up from just below $3 trillion as of March 18, 2020, according to an analysis of Forbes data by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies Program on Inequality. To be more precise, billionaires saw their combined profits soar by about $2.1 trillion since lockdowns were implemented last year to curb the spread of COVID-19.

Tax the Rich
Billionaires' COVID-19 pandemic profits alone could fund the entirety of President Joe Biden's proposed $1.75 trillion Build Back Better social spending bill. In this photo, an activist with MoveOn calls for increased federal taxes on the wealthy and big corporations on May 17 in Houston, Texas. Bob Levey/Getty Images for MoveOn

Tesla CEO Elon Musk, Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Oracle co-founder Larry Ellison and Google co-founder Larry Page—the nation's five wealthiest billionaires—alone are now worth nearly $780 billion. That's more than double the combined approximately $358 billion the top five U.S. billionaires were worth in mid-March of last year.

Despite the massive amount of profit billionaires saw in 2020, and significant public support for increasing taxes on these extraordinarily wealthy members of society, there Democrats' proposed tax targeting this group appears currently to be dead in Congress. Senator Ron Wyden, an Oregon Democrat, released a plan that would have taxed billionaires $23.8 percent on their capital gains. But Senator Joe Manchin, a moderate West Virginia Democrat, almost immediately rejected the idea.

In the evenly split 50-to-50 Senate, even one member of the Democratic Caucus opposing a key portion of the legislation will prevent its passage. Instead, Democrats are now proposing a different series of tax increases on corporations and the wealthy.

Meanwhile, polling has shown widespread support for taxing billionaires and the wealthy. A survey conducted by Vox and Data for Progress from October 8 to 12 found that 71 percent of Americans backed the idea of raising taxes on the wealthiest 2 percent of the population to fund the Build Back Better plan. Even 50 percent of Republicans back the proposal, as did 86 percent of Democrats.