Billionaires made $3.9 trillion during the pandemic — enough to pay for everyone’s vaccine

Image
In this June 6, 2019, file photo Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos speaks at the the Amazon re:MARS convention in Las Vegas. John Locher/AP
  • An Oxfam report found billionaires’ wealth increased by $US3.9 trillion between March 18 and December 30, 2020.
  • The increase for the world’s 10 richest billionaires could pay for everyone to get vaccinated and stay out of poverty.
  • The report recommends wealth taxes as one step toward a better world.
  • Visit Business Insider’s homepage for more stories.

A new report from Oxfam found that the world’s billionaires didn’t just recoup losses from the coronavirus: Their collective wealth increase could pay for the entire world’s vaccinations and prevent anyone from falling into poverty.

“The increase in the wealth of the 10 richest billionaires since the crisis began is more than enough to prevent anyone on Earth from falling into poverty because of the virus and to pay for a COVID-19 vaccine for all,” the report said.

Worldwide, billionaires saw their wealth increase by $US3.9 trillion between March 18 and December 31, 2020. While billionaires saw initial losses at the start of the pandemic — like millions of others around the globe — the report says they had recovered all losses by November.

Meanwhile, recovery for those at the bottom could take up to a decade; the report also estimates that between 200 million to 500 million people may have fallen into poverty during 2020.

American billionaires have already seen huge gains throughout the pandemic

Insider reported in December that American billionaires had seen their net worths grow to $US4 trillion throughout the pandemic; at the time, the top 10 richest billionaires were worth over $US1 trillion — a little more than half the value of President Biden’s proposed stimulus package. Those gains were more than the cost of sending a $US3,000 stimulus check to every American.

In recent months, 8 million Americans have fallen into poverty,Insider’s Ayelet Shaffey reported.

Worldwide, Oxfam reports that the collective worth of billionaires is $US11.95 trillion — “which is equivalent to what G20 governments have spent in response to the pandemic.”

One possible solution: a wealth tax

The Oxfam report lays out “five steps towards a better world.” One of them is implementing wealth taxes and cracking down on tax dodging.

They cite Argentina’s wealth tax, which, as Insider’s Josh Zitser reported, is a one-time tax on the super-rich in order to pay for coronavirus equipment and supplies.

Wealth taxes as a concept have been gaining popularity throughout the pandemic; as Insider’s Joseph Zeballos-Roig reported in April, the International Monetary Fund (which had previously advocated for tax cuts) said governments should consider taxing their wealthiest residents for much-needed revenue.

“The coronavirus crisis must mark a turning point in the taxation of the richest individuals and big corporations,” the Oxfam report said. “We must look back on this crisis as the moment when we finally started to tax the rich fairly once more — the moment that the race to the bottom ended and the race to the top began.”