The U.S. is hanging on the precipice of economic collapse, with around 25 million Americans slated to be kicked off extended coronavirus pandemic uninsurance later this week and the White House mulling tax cuts and screw you as a replacement. But every cloud has an obscene silver lining: world’s richest man and ghoulish Amazon overlord Jeff Bezos is doing great!
According to a Bloomberg estimate, Jeff Bezos saw his estimated net wealth surge by $US13 ($19) billion to $US189.3 ($270) billion on Monday. That’s the largest single-day increase in the history of the news agency’s eight-year-old Billionaires Index. Much of that increase was simply the reversal of a sudden decline in tech company stock last week (Microsoft rose 4.3 per cent on Monday, while Tesla rose 9.5 per cent). However, Amazon stock is up around 73 per cent year to date — fuelled by increased online shopping and demand for cloud services, i.e. the pandemic — and Bezos’s personal hoard has surged $US74.4 ($106) billion since the start of 2020. During that same period Amazon’s awful treatment of its underpaid, overworked armies of warehouse workers and contractors has largely not changed and in some ways gotten worse, “bonus” payments to staff notwithstanding.
A study released this April by the Institute for Policy Studies found that 34 of the nation’s wealthiest 170 billionaires “have seen their wealth increase by tens of millions of dollars” during the pandemic, including Bezos, Tesla/SpaceX CEO Elon Musk, Zoom founder Eric Yuan, former Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer, and Silicon Valley real estate mogul John Albert Sobrato. The report noted that “the Jeff Bezos wealth surge is unprecedented in modern financial history and varies greatly day by day,” with the $US25 ($36) billion Bezos racked up between Jan. 1 and April 15 far exceeding the GDP of Honduras ($US23.9 ($34) billion in 2018).
The report also warned that the nation’s billionaires will likely emerge from the pandemic as though nothing happened “or even see a major surge,” in part because their overall tax burden as a percentage of their wealth plummeted by 79 per cent from 1980 to 2018.
(While tech magnates have done well, study co-author Chuck Collins told Gizmodo that the billionaire class is likely to lose money as a whole during the pandemic. He added that it is all but certain they will “bounce back much faster than everyone else — and the equity market as a whole, thanks to the big winners.”)
Bloomberg noted that Bezos’s former spouse Mackenzie Bezos, who separated from the Amazon CEO last year amid a labyrinthine dick pic scandal, saw her net wealth rise by around $US4.6 ($7) billion on Monday. That places her as the 13th richest person in the world and its second richest woman, shortly behind L’Oréal heiress Françoise Bettencourt Meyers. She, unlike her former husband, has signed the Giving Pledge to donate most of her wealth over the course of her life.
Musk has posted similarly depraved gains on skyrocketing Tesla stock this year, with the Bloomberg Billionaire Index showing he is up $US46.9 ($67) billion to $US74.5 ($106) billion total year to date. Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg is up $US14.8 ($21) billion to $US93.1 ($133) billion, while Ballmer is up $US18 ($26) billion to $US76.1 ($109) billion.