These U.S. Billionaires Saw Their Wealth Increase During the Coronavirus Pandemic, New Report Says

The novel coronavirus pandemic has hit the U.S. economy hard with jobless claims topping 30 million in the past six weeks. The rich, however, continue to get richer.

A report released by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a think tank based in Washington, D.C., revealed that billionaire wealth not only rebounds from economic crashes but also profits in times of uncertainty.

Analyzing data from Bloomberg and Forbes independent billionaire indexes, the "Billionaire Bonanza 2020" report said the collective wealth of U.S. billionaires has rebounded by $282 billion during the peak of the lockdown from March 18 to April 10.

After a decline in total wealth from 2019 to 2020, dropping from $3.111 trillion to $2.974 trillion, by April 10 "their wealth had surged to $3.229 trillion, surpassing the 2019 level."

The report reiterated the aftermath of the economic crisis of 2008: billionaire wealth tends to rebound from market crashes, and typically at a faster rate than the rest of the economy.

But some of the billionaires do more than rebound. Eight billionaires have seen gains of over $1 billion this year, according to the IPS.

At the top of the list is Amazon's Jeff Bezos, who's wealth has grown $25 billion this year, as of April 15. No one has benefited from the coronavirus pandemic as much as the CEO of the world's second-largest retailer. Amazon's dominance over the e-commerce business has swelled demand for warehouse workers, who have protested the company's health and safety policies especially during the crisis.

"The closure of hundreds of thousands of small businesses is giving Amazon the opportunity to increase its market share, strengthen its place in the supply chain, and gain more pricing power over consumers," the IPS report said.

Jeff Bezos IAF
Jeff Bezos speaks at the 70th International Astronautical Congress In Washington, D.C. on October 22, 2019. Mandel Ngan/AFP

Elon Musk of Tesla and SpaceX has also profited during the pandemic with an increase in wealth of $5 billion. After New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio tweeted for Musk's help to fill the city's gap in medical equipment, SpaceX partnered with Medtronic, a medical device company, to increase production of ventilators and Tesla began working on prototypes from used car parts.

Zoom founder Eric Yuan came fourth on the list after Bezos' former wife MacKenzie, who owns a 4 percent stake in Amazon. The videoconferencing platform surged in popularity as social distancing measures were put in place, becoming the host of work meetings, university lectures and family gatherings. The IPS report said more people have used Zoom in the first months of 2020 than in all of 2019. Up $2.58 billion, Yuan's company has also recently faced scrutiny for their privacy and security problems.

Other billionaires on the list include Steve Ballmer, the owner of the Los Angeles Clippers, and Rocco Commisso, the founder of Mediacom Communications.

In the past three decades, billionaire wealth in the U.S. has soared 1,130 percent. This number is more than 200 times the growth of U.S. median wealth over the same period.

At the same time, tax obligations of American billionaires has shrunk. The report claimed it has decreased 79 percent between 1980 and 2008.

The number of billionaires in America has grown from 66 in 1990 to 615 in 2020, with their collective wealth totaling $2.947 trillion this year.

As the disparity in wealth continues to grow, the IPS recommended the establishment of a Pandemic Profiteering Oversight Committee to monitor the stimulus package and institution of excess profits taxes.