They made enough money to send a $3,000 stimulus check to every single person in the country.
The 651 billionaires in the United States have seen their collective wealth grow by $1 trillion since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March, according to a new study released on Wednesday. That's enough money to be able to send a $3,000 stimulus check to every single person in the country.
The study from Americans for Tax Fairness — which advocates for progressive tax reform — comes as Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell continues to block coronavirus relief to help the neediest Americans, as he wants the package to be less generous.
Instead, McConnell's offer included a tax break for businesses to write off their work meals — known colloquially as the "three-martini lunch" tax break.
Economists doubt the tax break would meaningfully inject cash into the economy, as people are not forgoing meals in restaurants over the cost but rather the danger of eating indoors during a deadly global pandemic.
The Democratic-controlled House, meanwhile, has passed multiple coronavirus relief bills that would directly benefit low-income and laid-off workers by authorizing another round of stimulus checks and reinstating a $600 weekly unemployment insurance boost.
Unemployed workers received that $600 boost for a few weeks at the start of the pandemic, which economists say staved off a worse economic collapse than the country already experienced. But Republicans let it expire this summer over their anger that some workers earned more from unemployment than from their previous jobs.
Ultimately, the coronavirus has exacerbated already stark inequities in the United States.
As billionaires accumulated more wealth, 8 million low-income Americans fell into poverty. And if Congress doesn't act, 12 million more unemployed workers are at risk of losing their unemployment assistance just after Christmas.
In its report, Americans for Tax Fairness urged Congress to pass more relief, saying that "without a federal fiscal relief package, workers will face even greater loss of jobs and services than they have already suffered."
"As tens of millions of Americans suffer from the health and economic ravages of this pandemic, a few hundred billionaires add to their massive fortunes. Their pandemic profits are so immense that America’s billionaires could pay for a major COVID relief bill and still not lose a dime of their pre-virus riches," Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness, said in a statement.
"Their wealth growth is so great that they alone could provide a $3,000 stimulus payment to every man, woman and child in the country, and still be richer than they were 9 months ago. Joe Biden won a tax-fairness mandate in November. We look forward to working with him and Congress to deliver on that mandate by taxing the massive wealth of these billionaires," he added.
Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.