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As 26 Million Americans File Unemployment, Nation’s Billionaire Class Gets Richer

As 26 million people have filed their unemployment claims, U.S. billionaires’ wealth increased 10% or $282 billion more since the beginning of March. Their new combined net worth is $3.229 trillion.

By April 15, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, whose company Amazon received $24 billion bailout, had seen his net worth increase to $25 billion. Eric Yuan, the Zoom CEO and founder,  saw his wealth increase up to $2.58 billion.

“We’re reading about benevolent billionaires sharing .0001% of their wealth with their fellow humans in this crisis, but in fact they’ve been rigging the tax rules to reduce their taxes for decades—money that could have been spent building a better public health infrastructure,” says Chuck Collins, director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the Institute for Policy Studies and coauthor of the new report, titled “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers.”

Collins and his coauthors refer to Forbes’s annual World’s Billionaire List, as well as daily trackers from both Forbes and Bloomberg.

Forbes used March 18 as the snapshot for billionaire wealth, arguing that the pandemic had cost the billionaires some of their riches.  But, a few weeks later, the story had changed. 

“We started to immediately look at it and realize, even three weeks later, the story was changing quickly,” Collins says. “Their story was, ‘Hey, the pandemic is really affecting even the billionaires; their wealth is down from last year globally and in terms of the U.S.’ What we found was, wait three weeks and they’ve now surpassed last year’s collective wealth and now they’re surging to new heights.”

It took billionaires less than 30 months to restore their pre-meltdown wealth, which then exceeded pre-2008 levels. By mid-2019, the middle class had yet to recover its 2007 net worth.

Jeff Bezos, the world’s richest person, along with his ex-wife MacKenzie Bezos, gained the most through April 16. Amazon shares increased 18% and on Thursday closed at their highest levels ever. Jeff and MacKenzie Bezos are worth $145 billion and $47 billion, an increase of $20.3 billion and $7.1 billion for the week, respectively.

Alice, Jim, and Rob Walton, the children of Walmart founder Sam Walton, each saw their net worths climb approximately $3.8 billion. The siblings are worth close to $174 billion ––$58 billion each.

Elon Musk, who holds an 18.5% stake in Tesla shares, enjoyed a $1-billion jump in their total net worth. Tesla shares have increased 73% since the beginning of the year.