Wealth

Pandemic Billionaires: America's Richest are Now $2 Trillion Richer than Russia's GDP

This data brings about mixed reactions.
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In a time of political, social, and health-related turmoil, one group of people is benefiting from the changes brought about by this pandemic year: America’s richest.

According to the Institute for Policy Studies and Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF), the collective wealth of the U.S.’s 651 billionaires increased by over 30 percent or $1 trillion, from $2.95 trillion in March to $4.01 trillion in December.

In pesos, that would be P192 trillion—we doubt that even the central bank has even seen so many zeros.

To put that massive amount of money into perspective: America’s billionaires are collectively richer than the entire GDP of Russia. Russia, the biggest country in the world. Putin’s Russia. Let that sink in. They're also richer than: Germany, the U.K., and France.

According to the ATF, just one quarter of their collective wealth, roughly $1 trillion, could provide $3,000 stimulus checks for 300 million Americans.

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"Never before has America seen such an accumulation of wealth in so few hands," said Frank Clemente, ATF's executive director. "Their pandemic profits are so immense that America's billionaires could pay for a major COVID relief bill and still not lose a dime of their pre-virus riches.”

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As for the world’s billionaires, including tycoon-rich China and Russia, they have seen their wealth reach a record $10.2 trillion, which is more than the GDP of Japan and Germany—combined.

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If we zoom into the world’s 20 richest people, only two have seen a decrease in their wealth since the pandemic began. Majority have seen a growth of over at least $4 billion each. Elon Musk has seen the biggest jaw-dropping growth of $119 billion thanks to his stocks in Tesla. The world’s richest man, Jeff Bezos, is still the world’s richest with $182 billion. And 14 Americans occupy the top 20 spots on Bloomberg’s real-time billionaire rankings.

The same can’t be said for the wealthiest Filipinos who have experienced big blows to their corporations, stocks, and personal wealth.

Despite this, the tech billionaires are proving the most “resistant” to pandemics, lockdowns, and recessions. And it’s pushing the discourse on the morality of holding such massive riches.

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It’s a contentious topic in a world dominated by capitalism. In the U.S. alone, there’s a fierce debate on greater taxes for the wealthy. Meanwhile, in Argentina, the government has passed a law taxing its country’s richest individuals to pay for virus measures, including vaccines for millions.

There is wealth, and then there is wealth—so big that you can power small countries or feed an entire nation. And the question of what to do with it will be debated for a long while.

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Anri Ichimura
Staff Writer, Esquire Philippines
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