Billionaires Have Made an Absolute Killing During the Pandemic. The Number Is Staggering.

President Trump thinks he is delivering the average American a winning hand right now—despite a cratering economy, mass unemployment, and no clear plan to fight the cause of all this calamity, the coronavirus. At a Monday afternoon press conference at the White House, Trump went so far as to say that “carpenters and policemen and farmers”—millions of ordinary Americans—are “the ones that benefit by having a good stock market, probably more than anybody else.”
Probably more than anyone else? That’s absurd on its face (only 55 percent of Americans report owning stocks, a number that correlates with higher household income, among other things.) But it’s even more disconnected from reality when you collect the receipts: This pandemic period has been a bonanza for billionaires, for whom Trump’s brutalist coronavirus denial and inaction have reaped untold rewards, as our new video infographic above shows.
This cadre of 643 Forbes-certified billionaires grew their collective wealth by an estimated $685 billion, from mid-March through early-August of this year. That’s according to a fresh analysis of Forbes’ Real-Time Billionaires Data by Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy Studies. To be clear, that’s just the increase in wealth. In total, the richest 0.00019 percent of the US population—which includes household names like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, and Bill Gates—hold $3.6 trillion in combined wealth, as of August 5, 2020.
In February, we visualized the eye-popping fortune of then–Democratic presidential candidate Michael Bloomberg in a viral video on the night of his first debate. We’ve supersized that animation to explore this even-larger $685 billion figure. Watch our video above to dive into the mind-bending pool of newly generated wealth, while the death toll from COVID-19 continues to soar past 160,000 Americans.
Take the United States Postal Service. As Trump attacks the beleaguered institution, its yearly revenues of $71.1 billion are just a fraction of the wealth increase of these few hundred Americans. The cost of hiring 50,000 teachers nationwide ($30 billion) pales in comparison to the new wealth sloshing around the investment accounts of the ultra-wealthy. And while not every single billionaire gained money over these months, it’s safe to say that their paper losses don’t hit home in the same way that job losses have unmoored 16.3 million Americans currently unemployed.
Countries around the world have rebounded from lockdown and brought the coronavirus under control. But not the US. While Americans wait on a stalled Congress to take action, and endure empty presidential promises of relief via highly controversial—and potentially unconstitutional—executive orders, it’s the ultra-wealthy who are feeling like a billion bucks.