At a time when it seems the whole country is losing—whether it’s jobs, homes, or health—American billionaires continue to win. They’ve been getting richer (and richer, and richer) even as millions of Americans face financial ruin. Now, roughly six months into the pandemic, billionaires have seen their collective wealth grow by $845 billion.
Throughout the pandemic, the progressive think tank Institute for Policy Studies has been tracking this widening wealth gap, and its latest data breaks down those massive wealth gains. The country’s 643 billionaires have gotten $845 billion richer, for a new collective net worth of $3.8 trillion—a 29% increase since March 18, when American billionaires had a total net worth of $2.95 trillion. According to the think tank, that works out to monetary gains of $141 billion a month, $32 billion a week, or $4.7 billion a day.
That wealth increase is in stark contrast to both the average American’s personal finances and the financial state of municipalities across the country. Since March, more than 50 million Americans lost their jobs, and nearly 14 million are still unemployed. Those still employed have been hit, too. From mid-March to mid-August, the collective work income of regular private-sector employees—which the institute explains as all hours worked multiplied by the hourly wages of the entire bottom 82% of the workforce—has fallen by 4.4.%, per Bureau of Labor Statistics data.
Nationwide, city and state budgets are facing staggering deficits: New York City predicts a $9 billion revenue drop after COVID-19 forced the closure of thousands of businesses; California as a whole faces a $54 billion deficit. All told, state budgets will have a cumulative $555 billion shortfall over fiscal years 2020 to 2022, according to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities.
But amid all this loss, the stock market has continued to do well, which is what is driving the billionaires’ success—and proof of the dissonance between Wall Street and the realities for everyday Americans. The Institute for Policy Studies has been proposing ways to close that wealth gap, from a fair tax system to an Emergency Charity Stimulus. On Thursday, the State of New Jersey took steps to do just that. Lawmakers there reached a deal for a millionaires tax—raising the rate from 8.97% to 10.75% on earnings over $1 million—as a way to address the fiscal crisis wrought by the pandemic. That tax is expected to generate an estimated $390 million this fiscal year, according to the New York Times, though that’s still far short of the state’s budget shortfall—estimated to be more than $10 billion.
Correction: The headline of this story has been updated to reflect that the billionaires are $845 billion richer.