You’ve probably seen by now some of those new — and jaw-dropping — stats on billionaire wealth. Analysts at Inequality.org started the statistical ball rolling this past fall with riveting research on how much the fortunes of America’s super rich have climbed since Covid began crushing the U.S. economy. This week those same researchers have come back with an alarming update.
Since mid-March, the latest numbers show, America’s billionaire fortunes have climbed 38.6 percent, over $1.1 trillion, enough to send “every one of the roughly 331 million people in the United States” a Covid stimulus check of over $3,400.
We know exactly — at least mathematically — why billionaire fortunes are rising so fast: Billionaires own a disproportionately large share of corporate stock. Corporate share values have skyrocketed since Covid entered our lives, and no one has benefited more from that rise than billionaires, many of whom happen to run those corporations whose shares are skyrocketing.
These billionaire top execs, insist their cheerleaders, owe their good fortune to their exceptional talents. Today’s richest corporate titans do their best, naturally, to feed this CEO-as-genius perspective, no one more so than Tesla’s Elon Musk. His electric car company now rates as far and away the most valuable automaker in the world.
Musk has watched his fortune leap from $24.6 billion ten months ago to $179.2 billion last week. Tesla now has a market value higher than the combined value of the world’s other nine carmakers — despite only annually manufacturing a fraction of the cars these other manufacturers are making.
The many Musk fanboys tribute that formidable market value to their hero’s visionary genius. But let’s get real here. Today’s soaring share prices don’t reflect CEO visionary smarts or even high levels of two-feet-on-the-ground executive competence. They reflect the plutocracy-friendly government policies and speculative madness that overtake economies whenever a precious few have accumulated far too much.