News Release

“Pandemic Profiteering” and Escalating Economic Inequality


CHUCK COLLINS, chuck at; also via Bob Keener, bobk at
Collins is co-author of the just-released study “Billionaire Bonanza 2020: Wealth Windfalls, Tumbling Taxes, and Pandemic Profiteers,” which found: “Between January 1, 2020 and April 10, 2020, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest 170 billionaires saw their wealth increase by tens of millions of dollars. Eight have seen their net worth surge by over $1 billion.”

He is with the Institute for Policy Studies and co-edits In a just-published piece on CNN Business: “Billionaires are getting even richer from the pandemic. Enough is enough,” Collings writes: “Extreme wealth inequality is America’s ‘preexisting condition.’ And unless we act intentionally — with ambitious public policies aimed at reversing inequality — the pandemic recovery will supercharge our existing inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity. …”There are huge disparities in who suffers from the resulting economic fallout [of the pandemic].”Columbia University researchers project that poverty rates in the United States could soon reach their highest levels in half a century. Yet as my colleagues and I track in a new report for the Institute for Policy Studies, the wealth of America’s billionaires actually increased by nearly 10 percent over just three weeks as the COVID-19 crisis took hold. …

“Already, the combined wealth of U.S. billionaires is higher than a year ago, according to our study. At least eight of these billionaires have added another $1 billion to their wealth during the pandemic.

“Among these ‘pandemic profiteers’ are Zoom CEO Eric Yuan and Steve Ballmer, former CEO of Microsoft, which owns Skype and Teams. Both Yuan and Ballmer are profiting off the boom in videoconferencing.

“But no one has benefited as handsomely as Jeff Bezos of Amazon, who has seen his wealth skyrocket by $25 billion since January 1 as homebound customers lean heavily on online shopping, grocery delivery and streaming. This wealth surge for one individual — greater than the entire GDP of Honduras — is unprecedented in the history of modern markets.”

Collins writes that congressional action so far has meant “ordinary households got a one-time $1,200 check. People earning over $1 million, however, could receive an average tax windfall of $1.6 million, according to analysis released by two congressmen.

“It doesn’t have to be this way.

“Instead, Congress should design stimulus bills to put more money in the pockets of ordinary people. An initial six-month universal basic income of $1,500 a month per adult, for households with incomes under $70,000, would reduce economic stress and destitution and boost struggling local communities.”