Rich Get Richer During Crisis

Image credit: Jericho via Wikimedia Commons

According to a report published by Oxfam on January 16, the richest people have gotten even richer during the years of the COVID-19 pandemic. From 2020-2021, the richest one percent of the world’s population have received 63 percent – almost two-thirds – of all new wealth. The bottom 90 percent only gained 10 percent of all new wealth during that period. The world’s billionaires have had their collective wealth increase by $2.7 billion per day, while inflation has decreased the real wages of 1.7 billion workers around the world.

The wealthiest people and corporations are reaping huge profits as the rest of us suffer through the crisis of the pandemic and its economic effects. Food and energy companies saw their profits more than double in 2022, paying $257 billion to shareholders. At least 50 percent of the increase in prices in rich countries is due to corporate price profiteering. Governments spent trillions of dollars of public money as economic stimulus during the pandemic, but even most of that ended up mostly in the pockets of the wealthy.

Meanwhile, the rich are hardly paying any taxes: the centibillionaire Elon Musk paid a true tax rate of 3.2 percent, while another centibillionaire, Jeff Bezos, paid less than one percent. More generally, tax rates for the top tax brackets have decreased since 1980, and taxes on income types that favor the rich (such as capital gains, dividends, and inheritance) are generally lower than regular income from jobs.

The governments have shown themselves to make economic policy in the interests of the rich, letting them get richer while everyone else suffers. We cannot depend on the servants of the rich to solve economic equality or to fix the crises they have proven unable to fix.