Pandemic Profiteers: America’s Billionaires’ Wealth Surges Amid COVID-19

As the domestic unemployment rate soars past 20%, America’s billionaires are experiencing a wealth surge of nearly 10%. According to a report published by the Institue for Policy Studies (IPS), between March 18 and April 10, 2020, the wealth of the U.S. billionaire class rebounded by $282 billion. Collectively, the American billionaires have added more than $308 billion to their pockets since the start of the pandemic. 

The whole world is witnessing the staggering economic impact of the COVID-19 outbreak. As businesses struggle to navigate these uncertain times, a ghastly number of 26 million Americans have filed for unemployment benefits. The unemployment rate in the United States spiked amid the ongoing pandemic from the lowest in half a century to the highest since World War II, comparable to the Great Depression.

COVID-19 cases around the world

In the photo: COVID-19 cases around the world. Photo Credit: Unsplash.

As the majority of the U.S. lives paycheck to paycheck, the 2020 billionaire bonanza has once again reminded us of the unfair wealth game in America as well as other countries in which the wealth gaps are as large as the GDP of some small countries. 

Between January 1 and April 10 this year, 34 of the nation’s wealthiest billionaires have seen their wealth increase by tens of millions of dollars, according to IPS’s report. Among the top pandemic profiteers are Jeff Bezos, the founder and CEO of Amazon (AMZN), Elon Musk, the CEO of Tesla (TSLA) and founder and CEO of SpaceX, and Eric Yuan, the founder and CEO of Zoom (ZM). 

As Amazon strives to meet the skyrocketing demand in a stay-at-home world, Jeff Bezos has added $24 billion to his own wealth since the coronavirus pandemic began. Meanwhile, Eric Yuan has grown his fortune by $4 billion over the past three months, as videoconferencing app Zoom became ubiquitous. After partnering with medical device company Medtronic to produce ventilators, SpaceX has brought Elon Musk $8.1 billion in less than a month. 

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On a positive note, living under public scrutiny, billionaires are pressured to give their wealth back to society. All of these three pandemic profiteers have joined the global effort to combat the pandemic and helped meet demand from the growing coronavirus. 

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Even in ordinary times, food insecurity in American households is an important problem, and unfortunately COVID-19 is amplifying that stress significantly. Non-profit food banks and food pantries rely in large part on surplus food from a range of food businesses. For example, many restaurants donate excess food. But during this time of social distancing, restaurants are closed, and many other normal channels of excess food have also shut down. To make matters worse, as supply is dwindling, demand for food bank services is going up.⁣ ⁣ Today, I want to support those on the front lines at our nation’s food banks and those who are relying on them for food with a $100 million gift to @FeedingAmerica. Feeding America will quickly distribute the funds to their national network of food banks and food pantries, getting food to those countless families who need it.⁣ ⁣ Feeding America is the largest non-profit focused on food security. Millions of Americans are turning to food banks during this time. If you want to help, the link to Feeding America is in my bio. They’d be excited and grateful for donations of any size.

A post shared by Jeff Bezos (@jeffbezos) on

For the past few weeks, Jeff Bezos has donated $100 million to American food banks to alleviate food shortage for a growing number of out-of-work Americans who are losing their jobs to the ongoing pandemic. Upon the direct request of New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio on Twitter, Elon Musk has donated hundreds of ventilators to hospitals in New York City and across New York state. At the same time, Eric Yuan has donated thousands of medical masks to hospitals in China, in addition to providing free accounts of his videoconferencing software by request to K-12 schools around the world.

As daunting as the widening wealth gap seems, we should at least recognize that the existing system which perpetuates the wealth of the one percent has also immersed them in eternal social pressure.

EDITOR’S NOTE: The opinions expressed here by columnists are their own, not those of — In the Featured Photo: Monopoly. Featured Photo Credit: Suzy Hazelwood
About the Author /

Corinne Ren is a junior at Oberlin College majoring in Philosophy and Comparative Literature focusing on Philosophy of Technology and cross-cultural communication. She writes articles on topics of globalization, technology, and business. She is inspired by applied philosophy in technological entrepreneurship and practical intelligence in the emerging global markets.

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