wealth inequality

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Study: COVID-19 Exacerbating America’s Massive Wealth Inequality and Racial Divide

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 23/06/2020 - 4:47am in

The United States continues to lift emergency COVID-19 restrictions, even as infection rates continue to climb in many states. June 18 and 19 saw over 33,000 new cases each, among the highest daily totals since the pandemic began. Economically, the pressure for tens of millions has not been lifted at all and new data from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) shows that over 45.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment since the lockdown was announced. An untold number of businesses have permanently shuttered, with entire industries like tourism, sports, education and catering facing uncertain futures. Even the American Pyrotechnics Association requested a bailout, warning that cancellation of July 4 fireworks displays will create mass bankruptcies throughout the industry.

Yet one group that has fared exceptionally well is the world’s ultra-wealthy. Since the shutdown began on March 18, America’s billionaire class has seen their wealth grow by $584 billion, or 20 percent. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, again the world’s richest individual, has added nearly $44 billion to his fortune in the last three months, and is now worth an estimated $156.8 billion, according to the IPS. Some, like Twitter co-founder Jack Dorsey, have more than doubled their wealth.

Chuck Collins, the IPS’ Director the Program on Inequality and the Common Good, told MintPress that this orgy of accumulation cannot continue indefinitely:

These extreme levels of concentrated wealth among billionaires and the racial wealth divide are not sustainable. This gap is fueling economic volatility, a breakdown in civic life, and deep and legitimate anger at an economy rigged in favor of the wealthy.”

 

“The marker of centuries of injustice”

America’s minority communities have been hit especially hard by the pandemic, both medically and economically. Black Americans are dying at almost three times the rate whites are, with Latinos and Native Americans also dying at elevated levels to the rest of the population. This is due primarily down to structural and historic factors, rather than genetics, with centuries of injustice leading to a myriad of economic and medical inequalities making infection and death more likely for certain groups. Minorities disproportionately hold low-paid jobs that are impossible to do from home, leading to economic ruin for many. The IPS’ calculations find that the 640 American billionaires now have a combined wealth of $3.58 trillion — more than the entire collective wealth of 59 million Latinos in the U.S. ($3.49 trillion).

Perhaps even more startlingly, the 12 richest Americans share a combined wealth of $921 billion, equivalent to the home equity wealth of the entire black population — over 17 million households. “We are living in an intense moment in history — a time when major public policy failures and social inequality are revealing themselves after being obscured by a seemingly strong economy,” wrote the IPS.

“This disparity of wealth is the marker of centuries of injustice, running from the chattel slavery, Jim Crow, separate and unequal, predatory lending, and other forms of systematic discrimination in wealth-building opportunities. This history is reflected in real disparities of wealth in bank accounts, property ownership, and other measures of assets,” Collins told MintPress.

The rapidly expanding class and racial wealth gap, where working- and middle-class Americans were offered only a one-time conditional $1,200 check while the super-wealthy were given tens of billions in tax cuts under the CARES Act, coupled with the mass unemployment the coronavirus brought with it, provided the highly flammable backdrop of discontent. In May, the police killing of unarmed black man George Floyd was the spark that engulfed the nation.

“Behind the anger in the streets at police abuse is the awareness that black, brown, and Native people are disproportionately disenfranchised, suffering, and dying in the pandemic. And behind that is the multi-generational racial wealth divide.  White supremacy is the pre-existing condition to the intensity of the response,” Collins added.

 

Rapid measures are needed

The new IPS report lays out a checklist of eight major policy proposals designed to address the problem of rapidly expanding racial and economic inequality. “We cannot repeat these same mistakes. The program to speed our recovery from the pandemic economy must be designed to reduce the racial asset gap, not inflame it. Surging billionaire wealth contrasting with a worsening racial wealth divide undercuts the solidarity and unity required to overcome the health and economic challenges of this pandemic,” they wrote.

The proposals include four rapid measures:

  1. Improving racial data collection,
  2. A congressional “racial wealth audit” of each stimulus package to help understand its impact on each specific community,
  3. An immediate universal guaranteed income,
  4. An expansion of the Postal Service to include banking, as nearly half of black and Latino households are underbanked, leaving them exposed to predatory lenders.

The four longer-term policies to address the problem include:

  1. Medicare-For-All,
  2. An expansion of affordable housing, both to rent and to buy,
  3. A federal jobs guarantee with a guaranteed living wage, helping the country transition to a more green economy
  4. The creation of “baby bonds”: a scheme where all newborn children are provided with a government-managed endowment accessible when they reach adulthood.

The IPS also suggests that progressive taxation, including a millionaire surtax, a financial transaction tax, and tougher estate and wealth taxes on the super rich would improve the functioning and cohesion of society. A 10 percent surtax on the top 0.2 percent of the U.S.(those with incomes over $2 million per year), they calculate, would net around $636 billion over the next ten years. They also call for the shutting down of offshore tax havens, where an estimated $32 trillion is hidden globally.

While COVID-19 is often spoken about as if it is a thing of the past, the rate of infections is increasing in 23 states, some almost exponentially, sparking fears of the dreaded “second wave.” Given what happened during the previous shutdown, if another one is to occur, it will likely be the poorest and most vulnerable communities who suffer the most.

Feature photo | Dr. Ala Stanford administers a COVID-19 swab test on Wade Jeffries in the parking lot of Pinn Memorial Baptist Church in Philadelphia, April 22, 2020. Stanford and other doctors formed the Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium to offer testing and help address heath disparities in the African American community. Matt Rourke | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Podcast: Pandemic Profiteering – How Billionaires Are Looting American Taxpayers

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Wed, 10/06/2020 - 12:49am in

Welcome to MintCast, the official MintPress News podcast hosted by Mnar Muhawesh. MintCast is an interview podcast featuring dissenting voices, independent researchers, and journalists the establishment would rather silence.

In this episode, we are joined by MintPress News senior staff writer, Alan MacLeod. MacLeod covers everything from socioeconomic inequality, the oligarch class in Western nations, U.S. foreign policy in the Global South, and press freedom. He is also the author of “Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent.

Since April, he has uncovered how COVID-19 came to be a boon for the ultra-wealthy, reporting that America’s billionaires, including Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Warren Buffet, Michael Bloomberg and others, accrued more wealth in the first three weeks of the lockdown than they made in total prior to 1980. Billionaire wealth surged by $484 billion in just three months, while a record 40 million Americans filed for unemployment.

This economic phenomenon, the largest radical transfer of wealth out of the hands of taxpayers and into the hands of billionaires, was the largest taxpayer bailout of the wealthy in American history.

As MacLeod reported,

In the last 30 years, U.S. billionaire wealth soared by over 1100 percent while median household wealth increased by barely five percent. In 1990, the total wealth held by America’s billionaire class was $240 billion; today that number stands at $2.95 trillion. Thus, America’s billionaires accrued more wealth in just the past three weeks than they made in total prior to 1980.”

While the pandemic and subsequent lockdown turned the world upside down for working-class people, forcing upon them school closures, long lines at the grocery store, empty shelves, panic buying, record unemployment, and miles-long bread lines, little media attention was given to the Billionaires buying islands and land where they could enjoy life in first-class bunkers built to withstand a nuclear war.

If anything, the coronavirus has lifted the veil to expose the growing inequality in the United States, an unfortunate reality in the world’s richest country.

Macleod leaves us with a salient statistic, explaining that while Amazon owner Jeff Bezos makes $1 million every three minutes, “Amazon staff, directly employed by Bezos, also risk their lives for measly pay. One-third of all Amazon workers in Arizona, for example, are enrolled in the food stamps program, their wages so low that they cannot afford to pay for food.”

Alan MacLeod joins MintCast to explain all of this and how the coming economic crash that is expected to contract the economy by 40 percent will only advance the interests of America’s ultra-wealthy and increase their wealth even further.

America already faces a reality in which less than one thousand billionaires influence policies that ensure more tax obligations for the working class to the benefit of ultra-wealthy oligarchs. Corporate media ensures this reality by presenting billionaires in a positive light, often as philanthropists who run charitable organizations. Yet, in reality, they are little more than big fish eating off of the hard work of the working class.

This program is 100 percent listener supported! You can join the hundreds of financial sponsors who make this show possible by becoming a member on our Patreon page.

Subscribe to this podcast on iTunes, Spotify and SoundCloud. Please leave us a review and share this segment.

Mnar Muhawesh is founder, CEO and editor in chief of MintPress News, and is also a regular speaker on responsible journalism, sexism, neoconservativism within the media and journalism start-ups. 

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Media Elite Denounce Looting Even as Billionaires Reap Record Profits from Taxpayer-Funded Bailouts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 30/05/2020 - 6:55am in

The extrajudicial killing of African-American man George Floyd by Police Officer Derek Chauvin sparked a storm of protests both in Minneapolis and across the country. These have included large peaceful demonstrations, but also arson, destruction of property and looting. Police have abandoned multiple precincts in the face of overwhelming popular rage.

The Reverend Martin Luther King Jr. consistently argued that looting is the language of the unheard and oppressed, a physical manifestation of their marginalization. However, many in the establishment, particularly on the right, have not interpreted the events as such, and appear scandalized by them. 

Fox News host Tucker Carlson condemned the uprising as “a form of tyranny” and “oppression.” Referring to the suffocation of George Floyd, Carlson said police brutality was “bad;” “But none of it was nearly as bad as what you just saw. The indiscriminate use of violence by mobs is a threat to every American,” he said, calling for something to be done. President Trump was even more forthright, suggesting that the National Guard be sent in to open fire on “thugs” and “looters.” “When the looting starts, the shooting starts,” he tweeted from both his personal and White House accounts. 

Yet a new and updated report from the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) reveals that the looting in Minneapolis pales into insignificance compared with the enormous wealth American’s billionaire class has managed to accrue during the pandemic. In the ten weeks since the nationwide lockdown first began, the group calculates that billionaires have increased their wealth by $485 billion – equal to 16.5 percent. This half-trillion-dollar rise, for Chuck Collins, Director of the IPS’ Program on Inequality and the Common Good, is something close to looting the whole economy.

“The wealthy are economically distancing from the rest of society. Worse, some are pandemic profiteering, looting government stimulus programs and taking advantage of market monopolies,” he told MintPress News. 

The enormous explosion in wealth, even amidst a pandemic that has caused the economy to collapse, businesses to close, and demand to dwindle, is down in no small part to the passing of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, one of the greatest upwards transfers in wealth in history. While the bill, passed in late March, includes a check of up to $1,200 for most Americans, the vast majority of the benefits go to the ultra wealthy. 

A report from the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT), a nonpartisan congressional body, found that almost 82 percent of the tax breaks and other financial benefits go to those already earning over $1 million per year. In contrast, less than three percent will go to the great majority who earn under $100,000 annually. The loopholes around capital gains tax will especially benefit the richest few hundred Americans. The JCT also projects that the tax cut will add almost $170 billion to the deficit over the next ten years. 

Some of the biggest winners in the last few weeks, according to the IPS, include Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos (up over $34 billion in two months), Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg (up over $25 billion) and Microsoft’s Bill Gates, who increased his already enormous fortune by $8 billion. Meanwhile, Elon Musk, whose California Tesla car plant was closed for months, has seen his net worth increase by almost 50 percent, to over $36 billion. Even in the last week, America’s billionaires’ fortunes have increased by $50 billion.

At the same time, unemployment has surged to over 40 million, and food banks across the country are inundated with customers desperate for anything they can get. Around one third of renters in the United States failed to pay their rent in April and May. 

“When the wealth of billionaires surges at the same time that tens of millions lose their lives and livelihoods, it undermines the solidarity required for us to pull together and help one another during a pandemic,” Collins added. 

While many among the elite may be aghast at the scenes of low level looting in Minneapolis, the enormous siphoning off of public funds to further enrich billionaires has gone largely unnoticed. A mountain of sociological studies on wealth inequality have shown that it has a corrosive effect on social cohesion, with the more unequal a society gets, the less likely people are to see themselves as participants in a community, viewing others as threats. More unequal societies also commonly favor more repressive policing tactics like the ones seen in Minneapolis this week. Although many might not realize it, the enormous looting by billionaires and the petty looting by protestors in Minneapolis might have more in common than first meets the eye.  

Feature photo | A man carries items past a burned out Auto Zone store near the Minneapolis Police Third Precinct, May 28, 2020, after a night of rioting and looting as protests continue over the death of George Floyd. Jim Mone | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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“Germ-Ridden Masses” – How America’s Wealthy Elite Describe the Rest of Us

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 28/05/2020 - 4:34am in

Many of the world’s super wealthy are trying to wait out the COVID-19 pandemic on their luxury yachts. But how to get to them without interacting with the public and catching the virus themselves? Such are the difficult quandaries only billionaires have to deal with. Fortunately, financial news outlet Bloomberg has solved the big question of the current era. A new company, it excitedly informs its readers, offers chartered private jets from your location to the Mediterranean island of Malta, without the need to “risk exposure to the germ-ridden masses.” New York-based reporter Suzanne Woolley, who has recently penned articles such as “How to arbitrage your U.S. taxes for difficult economic times” and “Where to invest $1 million right now,” notes that aviation company VistaJet allows its clients to reserve its freshly sanitized jet to take them to Malta. “Lest anyone be worried that the island nation itself is germ-ridden,” she writes, the World Health Organization has praised it for its capable fight against the coronavirus.

One big problem, however, is where your yacht is. The article explains that “if your yacht is moored in Antibes [France] or Porto Cervo [Italy], you’re out of luck,” taking for granted that anyone reading does own one, also suggesting that now would be the perfect time to shop for a Maltese passport, as the island, an E.U. member state, levies no income or capital gains taxes on that earned abroad, and there is no estate tax on the island. All you need is $1.3 million in cash or property.

The article’s tone, especially twice describing the general public, even of Malta, one of the richest states in the world, as “germ ridden masses,” highlights the increasing gap between the world’s super wealthy and the rest of us, and the contempt and disgust the haves feel for the have-nots. In April, Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi was met with a storm of criticism after posing in front of her enormous refrigerator costing tens of thousands of dollars, revealing her penchant for deluxe ice cream at $12 per tub. For many, the centi-millionaire and wife of one of California’s richest men telling others how to survive lockdown while residing in a mansion was a Marie Antoinette-like moment of pure ignorance.

Since the lockdown began, America’s billionaires have seen their wealth balloon by $434 billion according to the Institute for Policy Studies, even as the economy crashes and nearly 40 million Americans have been made unemployed. Among the biggest winners from the worldwide suffering has been Michael Bloomberg himself, owner of the eponymous news network. The former Mayor of New York has added $12.3 billion to his net worth in the last two months, increasing his fortune by over 25 percent. Bloomberg spent around $1 billion on his recent failed presidential run, amassing only 43 delegates before pulling out. Regardless, his big money media campaign flop pales in comparison to the fortune he has reaped thanks to the Trump administration’s CARES Act, perhaps the largest wealth transfer in human history, in which 82 percent of the tax savings will be enjoyed by those who earn over $1 million per year.

The winners from the CARES Act – America’s billionaires – have also chosen New Zealand as a convenient destination to avoid a pandemic. A new company is doing a roaring trade designing and installing nuclear bunkers in remote areas of the Pacific nation’s South Island. They are designed so that even locals are unaware they are there. Prices begin at $2 million for the simplest designs but can rise to over $11 million, depending on the level of luxury desired.

Increasingly, journalists at establishment publications come from and represent the one percent that they claim to be holding to account. A study published in the Journal of Expertise found that editors and writers for The New York Times, Wall Street Journal and The New Republic were actually slightly more likely than billionaires to have attended an elitist institution like Harvard University or the Columbia School of Journalism, where attendance costs well over $100,000 per year. As the study concluded: “Elite journalists resemble senators, billionaires and World Economic Forum attendees in terms of educational attainment.” This elitism begins to seep into writing, hence the inability to understand political movements like those around Donald Trump or Bernie Sanders, or the temptation to casually demonize human beings as “germ-ridden masses” in news reporting.

As of Wednesday, there have been over 5.7 million confirmed COVID-19 cases, with 354,762 reported deaths.

Feature photo | Former Democratic presidential candidate Mike Bloomberg pauses as he speaks to supporters about the suspension of his campaign, and his endorsement of former Vice President Joe Biden for president, in New York, March 4, 2020. Eduardo Munoz Alvarez | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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Study: Coronavirus Has Been a Massive Boon for America’s Billionaires

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 16/05/2020 - 3:30am in

America’s billionaires have seen their wealth increase by 12.5 percent during the COVID-19 lockdown period. The Institute for Policy Studies (IPS), a Washington, D.C.-based think tank, released a study Thursday showing that, in the eight weeks between March 18 and May 14, the country’s super wealthy have added a further $368.8 billion to their already enormous fortunes. 

Among the more famous big winners during the pandemic include Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, who adds $21 billion to his net worth (a 38 percent increase). Failed Democratic presidential contender Michael Bloomberg is up $10 billion as well, meaning he has recouped ten times as much as he lost in his big money political campaign that went nowhere. Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates has increased his fortune by around $6 billion as well. 

All this comes at the same time that the economy has undeniably imploded for working people. A record 36 million Americans have filed for unemployment insurance, with millions more losing their employer-based healthcare plans, and around a third of the country not paying its rent. Schools, factories, offices, and other businesses remain shuttered. The Trump administration has promised to provide $1,200 to every citizen, but it will be months before everyone receives their check. As a result, there has been an explosion in the use of food banks, as desperate citizens line up for hours in the hopes of receiving a box of food. 

The study, based on figures from Forbes’ annual global billionaire survey, found that Amazon CEO and world’s richest individual Jeff Bezos was the biggest winner during the period of crisis, adding a massive $30 billion to his wealth. If he continues at the current rate, Bezos will become the world’s first trillionaire by 2026, with other oligarchs not far behind. This is possible primarily because of the hyper-exploitation of his workforce; Amazon warehouse employees are infamously forced into wearing adult diapers or peeing in bottles, unable to take bathroom breaks. The company’s own data shows that one-third of its Arizona employees depend upon food stamps to make ends meet. In Pennsylvania, it is the state’s nineteenth largest employer but fifth most common for those receiving SNAP benefits. Bezos’ workers have been organizing amid a pandemic that puts their lives at risk, but instead of providing them with living wages and proper protective equipment, he has given his employees at Whole Foods supermarkets with new uniforms proclaiming that they are heroes. 

“When billionaires like Jeff Bezos see their wealth surge by tens of billions, as they command their underpaid, vulnerable and unprotected workers into the viral line of fire, we should rise up to demand accountability,” Chuck Collins, Director of the Program on Inequality for the IPS told MintPress News, noting that Bezos is on track to amass “a level of concentrated wealth and power that even the greatest kings and oligarchs could never have imagined.”

Even Tesla CEO Elon Musk has seen his wealth balloon by $11.3 billion, despite the fact that his California car plant has been closed for weeks. How could this be? One explanatory reason is the billionaire bonanza that is the Coronavirus Aid Relief and Economic Security (CARES) Act, passed last month. A nonpartisan congressional body found that 82 percent of the tax benefits will go to those earning over $1 million per year, with exponentially more for the ultra wealthy elite. In contrast, less than three percent goes to the great majority of us who earn less than $100,000 per year. Safe in the knowledge that billionaires will not have to bear the brunt of the costs of the pandemic, their wealth has shot up. “Rising billionaire wealth during a pandemic reveals a level of unequal sacrifice that is unseemly and immoral,” Collins added. 

Of course, the money is not coming from nowhere. It is certainly not coming from billionaires’ hard work. It is coming from us: from our pockets and those of the global poor, who will be forced to pay for the virus and the huge tax cuts later. The fact that billionaires’ wealth is rising so rapidly in a period of economic collapse is a sign that the rich’s wealth is barely even connected to productive forces anymore and has more to do with how much wealth one can take from public coffers.

Feature photo | A protester carries a sign that reads “Unionize Amazon Tax Bezos,” while riding a bike during a car-based protest, May 1, 2020, at the Amazon Spheres in downtown Seattle. Ted S. Warren | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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World’s Super Rich Buying Pandemic Escape Mansions in New Zealand

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 12/05/2020 - 2:45am in

Instead of paying $24,000 for a haircut or spending $120,000 on a banana duct taped to a wall, the world’s super wealthy have found a new commodity to purchase: pandemic bunkers in New Zealand. A number of the planet’s richest people, including billionaire co-founder of Paypal Peter Thiel, have, amidst a growing global pandemic, escaped to the country and bought luxury bunkers designed to withstand even nuclear explosions. LinkedIn CEO Reid Hoffman describes the practice as “apocalypse insurance.”

Isolated in the far “corner” of the Southern Hemisphere, more than 1,000 miles from Australia, the sparsely populated island country has long been a destination of choice for those worried about the potential of a catastrophic event, like a war, nuclear attack, or an uprising. The country’s temperate climate and remarkably stable society make it a particularly safe choice in the event of such an occurrence.

The country has been among the least affected by the deadly coronavirus, logging fewer than 1,500 cases and only 21 deaths. The government of Jacinta Arden initiated extensive lockdown measures even before the pandemic had truly hit her nation, and has been widely praised as one of the most capable responses in the world. Like the U.S., New Zealand is in the process of re-opening, but unlike the U.S., the virus has been almost eliminated. From a high of 146 new cases on March 28, the total number of new infections for the previous week was in single digits. Prime Minister Arden declared the country was already “halfway down Mount Everest” last week. In contrast, there have now been around 1.4 million confirmed positive American cases, with over 80,000 deaths.

Although the government of New Zealand has passed laws meant to disincentivize the foreign buying of domestic properties, the practice continues. The new range of luxury private bunkers are dug deep underground in the countryside and are covered with earth, the point being that even neighbors will have no idea that they are there, let alone the general public. Prices tend to start around $2 million and can reach up to $11 million for units that include luxury bathrooms, gun ranges, and swimming pools. All feature large water tanks and air filtration systems intended to block out even the most harmful of radioactive particles. Thiel himself chose instead to buy a bizarre-looking, $4.7 million home replete with a secure panic room. Other Silicon Valley executives are renting luxury condominiums at a fraction of the price they pay in San Francisco, all while working from home.

For those without the budget of the super wealthy, Vivos, an American company, is developing a 5,000 person shelter network on a former military base in South Dakota, with prices starting at $35,000 plus an additional 99-year land lease costing $1,000 per year. Their tagline is “affordable bunkers to survive the apocalypse.” Today, a handful of billionaires who control more wealth than the bottom half of humanity combined could easily fit inside even the smallest of the shelters on offer.

Global inequality continues to rise year on year, to the point where the top one percent now hold significantly more wealth than the bottom 99 percent. Mark Blyth, an economist at Brown University, has long told the world’s super rich that they simply cannot continue holding this level of wealth indefinitely. Referencing the ultra-wealthy area of Long Island, he said, “The Hamptons is not a defensible position. It’s a low-lying beach. Eventually people will come for you.”

It appears that the billionaire class, rather than giving away some of its wealth, is attempting to find a technological fix to this problem. “Obviously the coronavirus is making people realize how vulnerable we all are, but what people are really concerned about is the aftermath,” said Vivos’ founder, “They don’t want to have to defend their homes when the gangs of looters or marauders show up.”

As of Monday, the current worldwide total of confirmed COVID-19 infections stands at 4.22 million, of which 284,834 have died.

Feature photo | Atlas Survival Shelters owner Ron Hubbard shows a shelter made of galvanized corrugated pipe at his plant in Montebello, Calif. Damian Dovarganes | AP

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in ReportingThe GuardianSalonThe GrayzoneJacobin MagazineCommon Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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America’s Super-Rich See Their Wealth Rise by $282 Billion in Three Weeks of Pandemic

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Tue, 28/04/2020 - 3:18am in

A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies found that, while tens of millions of Americans have lost their jobs during the coronavirus pandemic, America’s ultra-wealthy elite have seen their net worth surge by $282 billion in just 23 days. This is despite the fact that the economy is expected to contract by 40 percent this quarter. The report also noted that between 1980 and 2020 the tax obligations of America’s billionaires, measured as a percentage of their wealth, decreased by 79 percent. In the last 30 years, U.S. billionaire wealth soared by over 1100 percent while median household wealth increased by barely five percent. In 1990, the total wealth held by America’s billionaire class was $240 billion; today that number stands at $2.95 trillion. Thus, America’s billionaires accrued more wealth in just the past three weeks than they made in total prior to 1980. As a result, just three people ­– Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates and Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffet – own as much wealth as the bottom half of all U.S. households combined.

The Institute for Policy Studies’ report paints a picture of a modern day oligarchy, where the super-rich have captured legislative and executive power, controlling what laws are passed. The report discusses what it labels a new “wealth defense industry” – where “billionaires are paying millions to dodge billions in taxes,” with teams of accountants, lawyers, lobbyists and asset managers helping them conceal their vast fortunes in tax havens and so-called charitable trusts. The result has been crippled social programs and a decrease in living standards and even a sustained drop in life expectancy – something rarely seen in history outside of major wars or famines. Few Americans believe their children will be better off than they were. Statistics suggest they are right.

Billionaires very theatrically donate a fraction of what they used to give back in taxes, making sure to generate maximum publicity for their actions. And they secure positive coverage of themselves by stepping in to keep influential news organizations afloat. A December investigation by MintPress found that Gates had donated over $9 million to The Guardian, over $3 million to NBC Universal, over $4.5 million to NPR, $1 million to Al-Jazeera, and a staggering $49 million to the BBC’s Media Action program. Some, like Bezos, prefer to simply outright purchase news organizations themselves, changing the editorial stance to unquestioning loyalty to their new owners.

The spike in billionaire wealth comes amid an unprecedented economic crash; 26.5 million Americans have filed for unemployment over the last five weeks, and that number is expected to continue to rise dramatically. While the super-rich are holed up in their mansions and yachts, the 49-62 million Americans designated as “essential workers” must continue to risk their lives to keep society functioning, even as many of them do not even earn as much as the $600 weekly increase in unemployment benefits the CARES act stipulates. Many low paid workers, such as grocery store employees, have already fallen sick and died. The mother of one 27-year-old Maryland worker who contracted COVID-19 and died received her daughter’s last paycheck. It amounted to $20.64.

Amazon staff, directly employed by Bezos, also risk their lives for measly pay. One third of all Amazon workers in Arizona, for example, are enrolled in the food stamps program, their wages so low that they cannot afford to pay for food. The vast contrast in the effect that COVID-19 has had on the super wealthy versus the rest of us has many concluding that billionaires’ wealth and the poverty of the rest of the world are two sides of the same coin: that the reason people working full-time still cannot afford a house or even to eat is the same reason people like Bezos control more wealth than many countries. Bezos’ solution to his employees’ hunger has been to set up a charity and ask for public donations to help his desperate workers.

The majority of millennials, most of them shut out from attaining the American dream, already prefer socialism to capitalism, taking a dim view of the latter. The latest news that the billionaire class is laughing all the way to the bank during a period of intense economic suffering is unlikely to improve their disposition.

Feature photo | Bill Gates Bill Gates and Martina Navratilova at the French Open in Paris, France. Photo | NJO | STAR MAX | IPx

Alan MacLeod is a Staff Writer for MintPress News. After completing his PhD in 2017 he published two books: Bad News From Venezuela: Twenty Years of Fake News and Misreporting and Propaganda in the Information Age: Still Manufacturing Consent. He has also contributed to Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, The Guardian, Salon, The Grayzone, Jacobin Magazine, Common Dreams the American Herald Tribune and The Canary.

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