Imagine that you were granted one wish, and that wish were that America got to watch a real-world Hollywood switcheroo involving Jeff Bezos and an Amazon warehouse worker. And now hold onto that pleasant thought so you can stomach this news: According to a new Oxfam study, the spare change that the world’s top ten billionaires picked up since March 2020 is “more than enough to prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty because of the virus.”
Not only has the Oxfam study found that the top 1,000 billionaires have, on average, recovered nearly all of their pre-pandemic wealth, but as has been reported endlessly, the top of the top have hoovered up tens of billions more than their previous highs. The Bloomberg Billionaires Index shows that Elon Musk’s wealth has nearly quintupled from an all-time high of $41 billion in February, to a current sum of $202 billion. Jeff Bezos has increased his wealth from a pre-pandemic high of $164 billion to $192 billion, and Bill Gates from $120 billion to $133 billion. In October, Swiss Bank attributed much of the rise in fortunes to the stock market boom.
Oxfam’s study stresses the fact that wealth inequality is disproportionately punishing Black people, women, Indigenous peoples, and marginalized populations throughout the world. At the same time, a few people, mostly white men, are profiting from those problems. Here are just a few typical findings (emphasis mine):
- “[Billionaires’] total wealth now stands at $11.95tn, which is equivalent to what G20 governments have spent in response to the pandemic.”
- “In September 2020, Jeff Bezos could have paid all 876,000 Amazon employees a $105,000 bonus and still be as wealthy as he was before the pandemic.”
- The increased wealth of the richest 10 billionaires “is more than enough to prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty because of the virus.”
- “Worldwide sales of private jets soared when commercial travel was banned.”
- “A catastrophic loss of income without any protection has led to an explosion in hunger. It was estimated that at least 6,000 people would die every day from COVID-19-related hunger by the end of 2020.”
While some have made substantial donations, selective philanthropy doesn’t solve the problem that they’re sitting on more money that a handful of nations. Oxfam warns that it could take over a decade for the rest of us, and particularly the poorest, to recover.