The coronavirus has been devastating to America’s economy, to America’s businesses, to America’s entrepreneurs, to America’s farmers and fitness trainers and food servers and file clerks — to blue-collar and white-collar workers alike.
Not all, however, have similarly suffered.
“How billionaires saw their net worth increase by half a trillion dollars during the pandemic,” Business Insider wrote in October.
“U.S. Billionaires Gained $1 Trillion Since The Pandemic Started,” Statista reported in late November.
“Ten billionaires reap $400bn boost to wealth during pandemic,” The Guardian wrote in December.
Half a trillion, $1 trillion, half a billion — what’s a few millions here, a few millions there among billionaires. At that level, it’s just numbers.
Numbers and bragging rights, that is. Numbers and pride. Among the winners: Jeff Bezos of Amazon, whose net worth, Americans for Tax Fairness found, jumped from $113 billion in March to more than $184 billion by December; Bill Gates of Microsoft-turned-vaccine-pusher fame, whose wealth rose from $98 billion to almost $119 billion over the same time frame; and Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook founder, whose pockets grew from almost $55 billion to nearly $105 billion between March and December. Dec. 7, specifically.
Respectively, those are wealth growths of 63%, 21% and nearly 92%.
Meanwhile, on the other side of the railroad tracks, is this: unemployment.
Loss of income.
Despair. Desperation. Suicide.
“U.S. job losses due to COVID-19 highest since Great Depression,” the Center for Infectious Disease Research and Policy reported in May.
“Half of adults who say they lost a job due to the coronavirus outbreak are still unemployed,” Pew Research Center reported in late September.
In April, unemployment in America hit nearly 15%. Between March and June, Americans filed almost 49 million new claims for unemployment checks; by December, jobless claims “rose by 23,000 to 885,000,” the highest level in three months, as Bloomberg wrote.
Certain industries suffered especially hard.
In November, the unemployment rate for mining and oil and gas extraction was 19%; by comparison, the jobless rate for this category was just over 3% a year earlier. Leisure and hospitality unemployment during this same period grew from 4.9% to 15%; the motion picture industry, from 1.6% to just over 8%; construction, from 4.4% to 7.3%.
The shutdowns have proved suffocating.
The government-forced, government-mandated restrictions on supposedly free Americans — the stay-at-home orders, the stay-out-of-work demands, the shut-the-front-door dictates — have all proved devastating.
But not for all.
“Allowing the wealth of a tiny few to explode while hundreds of millions suffer is nothing short of a dereliction of [government] duty,” said Ana Arendar, the head of Oxfam’s inequality campaign, in The Guardian. “Governments need to stop pandering to the richest.”
Arendar is right — but for the wrong reasons.
“A wealth tax,” Arendar went on, “could provide a lifeline for those hit hardest by the pandemic.”
Nope. That’s the wrong message.
A wealth tax sends a message of disapproval for success; a wealth tax is an affront to the free market, capitalistic way.
But so are governors who demand free citizens stop work and sit at home and take stimulus dollars to survive.
That’s just immoral.
Oxford Academic wrote in October that studies linked COVID-19 with “distress, anxiety, fear of contagion, depression and insomnia,” to the possible exacerbation of “psychiatric disorders” from the isolation and from related substance abuses.
“COVID-19 survivors may also be at elevated suicide risk,” the journal also reported. “The COVID-19 crisis may increase suicide rates during and after the pandemic.”
As if financial struggle isn’t difficult enough.
Still, the problem is not with the billionaires, per se. The problem is not with billionaires’ abilities to make more billions, or with billionaires’ abilities to capitalize on current challenges and grow their revenues.
The problem is with a government that thinks it’s OK to tyrannically order free American citizens to stay home, stay out of work, and suffer the fate of financial ruin — all the while shrugging at a billionaire class that profits off the very despair the tyrannical orders created.
Government; it always circles back to government. As Ronald Reagan once famously said, “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” are indeed the nine most terrifying words in the English language.
• Cheryl Chumley can be reached at email@example.com or on Twitter, @ckchumley. Listen to her podcast “Bold and Blunt” by clicking HERE. And never miss her column; subscribe to her newsletter by clicking HERE. Her latest book, “Socialists Don’t Sleep: Christians Must Rise Or America Will Fall,” is available by clicking HERE.