Photo by: NJO/STAR MAX/IPx 3/14/20 Bill Gates steps down from Microsoft Board to focus on philanthropy. STAR MAX File Photo: 6/7/09 Bill Gates and Martina Navratilova at the French Open. (Paris, France)

Alan Macleod,

A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies found that, while tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, America’s ultra-wealthy elite have seen their net worth surge by $282 billion in just 23 days. This is despite the fact that the economy is expected to contract by 40 percent this quarter. The report also noted that between 1980 and 2020 the tax obligations of America’s billionaires, measured as a percentage of their wealth, decreased by 79 percent. In the last 30 years, U.S. billionaire wealth soared by over 1100 percent while median household wealth increased by barely five percent. In 1990, the total wealth held by America’s billionaire class was $240 billion; today that number stands at $2.95 trillion. Thus, America’s billionaires accrued more wealth in just the past three weeks than they made in total prior to 1980. As a result, just three people ­– Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet – own as much wealth as the bottom half of all U.S. households combined.

The Institute for Policy Studies’ report paints a picture of a modern day oligarchy, where the super-rich have captured legislative and executive power, controlling what laws are passed. The report discusses what it labels a new “wealth defense industry” – where “billionaires are paying millions to dodge billions in taxes,” with teams of accountants, lawyers, lobbyists and asset managers helping them conceal their vast fortunes in tax havens and so-called charitable trusts. The result has been crippled social programs and a decrease in living standards and even a sustained drop in life expectancy – something rarely seen in history outside of major wars or famines. Few Americans believe their children will be better off than they were. Statistics suggest they are right.

Billionaires very theatrically donate a fraction of what they used to give back in taxes, making sure to generate maximum publicity for their actions. And they secure positive coverage of themselves by stepping in to keep influential news organizations afloat. A December investigation by MintPress found that Gates had donated over $9 million to The Guardian, over $3 million to NBC Universal, over $4.5 million to NPR, $1 million to Al-Jazeera, and a staggering $49 million to the BBC’s Media Action program. Some, like Bezos, prefer to simply outright purchase news organizations themselves, changing the editorial stance to unquestioning loyalty to their new owners.

The spike in billionaire wealth comes amid an unprecedented economic crash; 26.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last five weeks, and that number is expected to continue to rise dramatically. While the super-rich are holed up in their mansions and yachts, the 49-62 million Americans designated as “essential workers” must continue to risk their lives to keep society functioning, even as many of them do not even earn as much as the $600 weekly increase in unemployment benefits the CARES act stipulates. Many low paid workers, such as grocery store employees, have already fallen sick and died. The mother of one 27-year-old Maryland worker who contracted COVID-19 and died received her daughter’s last paycheck. It amounted to $20.64.

Amazon staff, directly employed by Bezos, also risk their lives for measly pay. One third of all Amazon workers in Arizona, for example, are enrolled in the food stamps program, their wages so low that they cannot afford to pay for food. The vast contrast in the effect that COVID-19 has had on the super wealthy versus the rest of us has many concluding that billionaires’ wealth and the poverty of the rest of the world are two sides of the same coin: that the reason people working full-time still cannot afford a house or even to eat is the same reason people like Bezos control more wealth than many countries. Bezos’ solution to his employees’ hunger has been to set up a charity and ask for public donations to help his desperate workers.

The majority of millennials, most of them shut out from attaining the American dream, already prefer socialism to capitalism, taking a dim view of the latter. The latest news that the billionaire class is laughing all the way to the bank during a period of intense economic suffering is unlikely to improve their disposition.

About the Author

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

Source: MintPress News

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  1. “Bezos’ solution to his employees’ hunger has been to set up a charity and ask for public donations to help his desperate workers”.

    That’s how far it has come, that the person who causes devastating conditions for his people, thinks of a campaign to let donations and charity of others to help out and solve it.

    Sometimes I wonder, how generations of wealthy families have grown such a mind-frame with ignorance about the living conditions of less wealthy people. To better understand it, I’ve read almost all the work of Charles Dickens.

    In the almost 5 years living in Britain, for the first time in my life, I’ve experienced how society has strict divisions between the classes so that none of them is informed or in communication with each other.

    I’ve met a British woman, born of a wealthy family, who told me that money was a subject never discussed. Asking financial support within her family was not done, not even when she lost her son through suicide and couldn’t afford to pay rent for her house anymore, which she shared with her son. This is an example of how rigid the mind of rich people is.

    My last landlord in Britain was a wealthy man, the only son of a mother who was abandoned by the father. There was money, oh yes, plenty of it, the house was like a museum, an antique shop also and I lived in that house as housekeeper and gardener.

    In the days we stayed in the house, he lives in France, through the 2 years I’ve lived in that house, I’ve learned how a man of 54, a spoiled only child, sent to the most strict and expensive boarding school in Britain at the age of 7, had lost his natural ability to share and show his empathic side, his feelings, and kept his face under control. Most of the time.

    In his actions, he showed a perceptive and kind attitude, at times, by providing food and dinner. Also, he gave me a photo-camera, in a casual way, as compensation for the misery I endured with his son’s binging habit in the house.

    In conversations with him, I noticed how his mind frame was fully conditioned following the rules of the British class system. His opinions about the stupidity and laziness of poor people forced me to keep my flames of fury under control and yet express my views too.
    Which left me breathless at times, shaking inside.

    He showed me how emotional immaturity, combined with an absence of living through trying times, plus a highly unconscious attitude toward his own reasoning and motives, create an unawareness and ignorance for which the blind spot is huge.

    These people live in their own world, and their unconsciousness is serving them. A wise old friend of mine in Britain, told me once, when I shared my experiences with this man, “These people are in essence bullies, they always think that their point of view is right. You need to treat them with respect and clarity of a different opinion. In the end, they will begin to respect you for that. That’s how they learn.”

    I believe that I’ve managed to achieve just that, with my former landlord. The very first time, when he visited the house with his 7 children, we were in the kitchen, engaged in a lively conversation. Someone made a humorous remark and we all laughed heartily. Except for the father.

    While I laughed, I turned around and stood face to face with him. The laugh froze on my face, for his piercing eyes in that serious face held Antarctic energy. I’ve never in my life experienced masculine energy so strong as in this man.

    I often felt that his presence in the room caused icicles to grow on the outer layer of my aura. It was hard work, but a valuable experience in learning how to be me in that condition. I learned that past life experience was triggered in that experience, offering me a new choice. In essence, it was a healing encounter, although he had no clue, on a personal level. The humor in how we humans relate to each other, at times, is priceless.

    My confidence, at a later age, was a great help, while watching the British culture in all its complexity and in its self-proclaimed showing up with the conundrum of drama and inhibition. “We’re a motley bunch” they’re used to say about themselves. “Quite mad”.

    I hope that the day of reckoning, for Britain, won’t show up with more suffering for those who already suffer much. More weight should be placed on the other scale, I believe.
    If it takes the breaking of hearts, it should happen in those who say “My home is my castle” living with a wide moat around it and the bridge up.

  2. it is a marvel to me,,,the US is trillions of Dollars in Debt yet the piglet have an increase
    in wealth that already amount into the millions or billions ????,,,,and that within a month???

    • Hello elga konietzny, yes, isn’t it mind-boggling? There’s no authority stopping this, so far.
      That “piglet” in your comment reminds me of the book “Animal Farm” by Aldous Huxley.
      In that book, it’s explained in a sublime way, how the rich get wealthy and the poor get poor, while accepting their living conditions due to psychological manipulation by pigs.

      That book would be great teaching material, for teeners in the classroom, and adults who’ve never read that book. In Britain, this book flies over the counter now, in bookshops.

  3. The empires were never eternalized! These empires of the current world will also fall. The empires of today will not leave anything to humanity, they are useless, empty, miserable, ignorant.
    They left the human species with no possibility of evolving for a long time, but everything will change soon. The beings who control these empires and others will have two choices; change and collaborate with the evolution of humanity or they will have to be removed from this planet … otherwise it would not make sense, God would be a lie!


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