THE NEUTRAL ZONE
On May 21, Americans for Tax Fairness partnered with the Institute for Policy Studies to publish a study that claimed American billionaires increased their cumulative wealth by $434 million while much of the country dealt with an economic blow caused by the pandemic.
The study has since gained significant traction, with an article published by CNBC earning nearly 455,00 total social media engagements in 24 hours. A May 22 article from Market Watch counters that claim, arguing that the study was flawed due to the fact that it did not collect data from the start of the pandemic. The study started on March 18 and concluded on May 19. The Market Watch piece has garnered just 98 social media engagements since its publication.
An analysis by the Washington Post acknowledged the “splashy result” the original report caused. While the study did begin taking metrics in the lowest point of the market crash, The Post argues that the overall message was accurate, pointing to billionaire CEOs like Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerburg, and Elon Musk who benefited from massive gains during the pandemic while their employees lost benefits and worked in harm’s way.
US billionaires got $434 billion richer during the pandemic, according to report – Business Insider – 5/22/20 In total, the roughly 600 US billionaires saw their wealth grow from $2.948 trillion to $3.382 trillion within the past two months. […] “The pandemic has revealed the deadly consequences of America’s yawning wealth gap, and billionaires are the glaring symbol of that economic inequality,” Americans for Tax Fairness executive director Frank Clemente said in the report, which advocates for closing tax loopholes for the wealthy.
No, America’s billionaires didn’t get $434 billion richer during the pandemic — quite the opposite, in fact – MarketWatch – 5/22/20 The study, picked up by media outlets including CNBC and Forbes, examines billionaires’ wealth between March 18 — the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place — and May 19. It relied on the Forbes’ billionaire list, which itself is built around stock-market performance. […] Think about that in the market context. The pandemic did not start March 18 (nor, of course, had it ended on May 19), and certainly market concerns about the pandemic did not start March 18. Far from it.
Analysis | The Finance 202: Some billionaires are profiting off pandemic, while low-income Americans bear brunt of it – Washington Post – 5/22/20 The billionaire study produced a splashy result, since it begins measuring that class’s wealth gains from the point the stock market bottomed out. Looking at the full year, some of the richest Americans have seen their wealth shrink, as CNBC’s Thomas Franck notes: Warren Buffett has lost $20 billion; Bill Gates has shed $4.3 billion.
Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez on Twitter, 5/21/20: Really great system we got here. Can’t imagine why anyone would question how beneficial or sustainable it is for the working class
Chris Manning on Twitter, 5/21/20: Let me point out how this article is being used to mislead people by @AOC The timeline for this supposed “wealth gain” is from the bottom of the recent market drop 3/18 to 4/19. Of course AOC will leave off that fact. YTD tells a very different story
Geoffrey Woo on Twitter, 5/22/20: Clickbait headline: “American billionaires got $434 billion richer during the pandemic” Or the alternate headline: “Stock market crashed 30% in March and stock prices have recovered now in May. American billionaires got back to basis.”