Billionaires Increased Their Wealth By 27% During A Pandemic And A Recession
When money decides if you live or die.
I read not too long ago that billionaire wealth had increased by 27% during the course of the pandemic. This is an astonishing figure in the context of a deep recession. Just this last month alone, more than 800,000 initial claims for unemployment benefits were filed. At the beginning of the pandemic, more than 6 million claims were file in one month. And prior to the pandemic, 221,000 claims were filed in January. How is it that during this time, billionaires increased their wealth by so much? Is that what Trump meant when he says he built the greatest economy the world has ever seen?
That’s like getting a raise of 27% in less than a year. Hiring freezes about. Wage freezes abound. Where I work, there are no raises, no 401k matches, no promotions, and no hiring, all just to keep from laying people off. But the CEO is a billionaire and he increased his wealth during the pandemic.
Somehow I doubt he suddenly got to be more efficient, more effective than everyone else. Through the wonder and sanctity of contracts, laws, and compensation consultants, some people are accumulating wealth at an astounding rate, and they’re not actually producing more than they were before the pandemic. I don’t know anyone who got a 27% raise during the pandemic, but the billionaires got one.
If the pandemic has shown us anything, it has shown us that in America, money is what decides if you live or die. Early on in the pandemic, we saw people being buried by the hundreds in New York in plain wooden boxes. Isn’t interesting that they weren’t cremated instead? I guess the sight of rows of boxes filled with the dead was more dramatic, but those people had no next of kin, and we didn’t really know who they were. At least we can be sure they were poor.
In this pandemic, health insurance was a big factor in whether or not someone lived or died. Another factor was that most of the people dying at the hands of the coronavirus were over 65 and overweight. Huh. Who do we know who fits that demographic? Oh, yeah. Donald Trump.
Last Friday, Trump gave public notice that he had COVID. Since then he’s been in hospitals, receiving the best of the best in American healthcare. He has what we could call, Universal Healthcare. He fits the demographic too, except for that part about being poor. He’s not poor, but he’s getting free healthcare. Considering the amount of healthcare he has received, and his proactive treatment of the disease, he is very likely to survive. It’s almost like he has real confidence in the health care system. This is a man who wants to abolish Obamacare and he's prancing around without a mask.
Meanwhile, tens of millions of Americans have no health insurance. When they lost their jobs, they lost their health insurance. You know, the private plan that Biden says so many of us like. Sure, COVID treatment is covered as a result of recent legislation, and that means you get universal healthcare if you have the coronavirus and you’re sick. But after the virus passes, many of the people who were sick are still sick with debilitating chronic diseases as a result of the damage done by the virus. Those people will still need help.
America is the only industrialized country in the world that does not guarantee healthcare as a right. That means if you don’t have enough money, you’re more likely to die as a result of disease than if you had money. Is that who we are? I can see the scene in the emergency room, “Sorry. Your card was declined. Please have a seat over there while you die. We’ll take it from there.”
What we’re seeing is a result of the public policy written by the wealthiest people in the country. How do we know this? Because of a study on over 1800 issues over 20 years that showed that where there was a wealthy interest backing a public policy choice, the odds of that policy choice being made law increased significantly. From the study:
Multivariate analysis indicates that economic elites and organized groups representing business interests have substantial independent impacts on U.S. government policy, while average citizens and mass-based interest groups have little or no independent influence.
Economic elites? You mean, billionaires? Yeah, that would be them. And don’t forget the non-governmental organizations that billionaires fund. We like to call them “charitable organizations” but those NGOs spend time writing papers that government officials read after the dinner party with the billionaires. It’s all so…reciprocal, and there’s no quid pro quo, mind you. That would be illegal.
If you’re wondering how we got here, that study tells us where to find the trail. If you’re wondering how to get out, Larry Lessig has a plan. You might remember him as the one time politician who ran for president in 2016 and is still a professor at Harvard. He worked with an interesting group of people to write the Citizen Equality Act. The purpose of that legislation was to create greater voter access to the polls and to get big money out of politics. Notice that the mainstream press did not pick up on that news. But you can learn more about Lessig’s ideas here and here.
The pandemic made a stark contrast of the extreme inequality in America. Our healthcare outcomes are a direct reflection of the distribution of wealth and Donald Trump is willing to risk his life to prove that point. America has some of the greatest healthcare on earth, but that doesn’t mean squat if you don’t have the money to gain access to it.