American billionaires saw their collective net worth increase to $5 trillion during the pandemic, according to a new study from the Institute for Policy Studies.
US billionaires gained about $2.1 trillion in wealth since the pandemic began in March 2020.
That represents a 70% increase from their pre-pandemic net worth of just under $3 trillion.
All told, billionaire net worth increased to around $5 trillion between March 2020 and October 2021.
The number of billionaires in the United States also increased from 614 to 745.
The wealth held by those 745 individuals is more than 60% higher than the total wealth held by the bottom 50% of American households.
Rich get richer amid mass struggle:
The wealth boost came as countless people endured financial hardship during the pandemic.
Nearly 89 million people lost their jobs as a result of the virus and more than 40 million have been infected. More than 700,000 Americans have died from the virus.
Some billionaires were especially successful during the pandemic.
Amazon founder Jeff Bezos’ fortune grew by 70% to $192 billion.
But Tesla founder Elon Musk rocketed past Bezos on the richest person list with his net worth growing by 800% to $209 billion.
Google founders Sergei Brin and Larry Page saw their combined worth grow by 137% from $100 billion at the start of the pandemic to $237 billion in October.
Calls for billionaire tax:
The study lends additional data to bolster calls to tax the uber-wealthy.
Most of these billionaires’ gains will “go untaxed under current rules and will disappear entirely for tax purposes when they’re passed onto the next generation,” according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
Sen. Ron Wyden has introduced a bill that would create a billionaire tax that would only apply to about 700 households. The tax would apply annually to tradeable assets like stocks, funds, and derivatives and tax non-tradeable assets when they are sold.
“On average, billionaires pay an effective federal income tax rate of about 8 percent when the increased value of their stock is counted,” the Institute for Policy Studies said, noting that billionaires pay lower tax rates because most of their wealth comes from investments rather than a salary and a capital gains tax rate that is much lower than the income tax rate.