A recent study conducted by two American research centers has calculated that in the first two months of the pandemic, that is, starting in mid-March, the 630 richest men in America have seen their fortunes increase for a total of 434 billion dollars . Overall, this group of ultra-powerful holds wealth of nearly $ 3,400 billion, equal to 15% more than at the beginning of the period under consideration.
This elite was not even remotely touched by death, disease and social devastation, but benefited from policies implemented in a timely manner by the government and the monetary authorities of the United States to further enrich themselves. The element that has most favored this process is the Federal Reserve’s decision to massively resume “quantitative easing” programs, that is the virtually unlimited production of money in the form of the purchase of securities, thanks to which about 80 billion are placed on the markets dollars every single day.
The other determining factor is represented by the packages of support to the US economy approved in a bipartisan way by the Congress of Washington, first of all the colossal “CARES Act”, which contains initiatives worth 2.200 billion, mostly intended for large economic and financial interests of the country.
The same study explains how the top five American billionaires – Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg, Warren Buffett and Larry Ellison – saw their overall wealth increase by 19% in two months (75.5 billion). This growth corresponds to more than a fifth of the appropriate total from the 630 super rich Americans. The most consistent slice went to Bezos (Amazon) and Zuckerberg (Facebook), together richer by nearly 60 billion than in mid-March.
Over the same time period, 40 million Americans have lost their jobs, while an estimated 16 million will remain without healthcare coverage guaranteed by the companies they work for. The purely health budget of the Coronavirus emergency is also heavily unbalanced to the detriment of workers, who are forced to resume their activities prematurely exposing themselves to the risk of contagion, and other weaker categories. According to official data, there are almost 1.7 million infected in the United States so far, while the death toll is about to break through 100 thousand.
Precisely the forced return to work, promoted by the Trump administration and by almost all the governors of the American states, in addition to increasing the contagions even more, depends on the one hand on the need to continue to generate profits for Wall Street and large companies and on the other, the inability to guarantee sufficient support for the whole population during the lockdown. The few hundred dollars that went to American workers at best ended quickly and often not even given due to bureaucratic hitches.
Not much has gone to American small businesses. A special fund has theoretically been created for the latter, but the large companies have enjoyed it to a large extent, mainly due to the money management entrusted to the large Wall Street banks, committed to promoting large-scale subsidized loans so that they can collect rich commissions. The fallout from the policies implemented in response to the crisis will also affect lower incomes in another way. The stop to economic activities has made the tax revenues of states and other local authorities plummet, almost completely ignored by the federal government. Without resources, in the near future they will be forced to make new cuts to social programs in many cases already reduced to the bone.
Another critical situation that is about to emerge in the United States is housing. In particular, the moratoriums on evictions decided at the federal and local level are about to expire or will expire in a few weeks, with the result that many of the tenants who have been unemployed or, in any case, without income could find themselves in the middle of a street with their families.
In some states, such as Wyoming or South Dakota, measures have not even been taken to protect tenants in need. Others, however, including California, Florida and Illinois, will end the suspension of evictions already in early June. Many American cities have spent several million dollars in recent weeks to support rental payments, but even then the funds have been a drop in the ocean. The metropolis of Houston, Texas saw the funds allocated to this expenditure item dry up just 90 minutes after the applications were opened.
The local American press is full of news reports of bureaucratic obstacles to accessing assistance funds for the payment of rents. In some cases, then, the measures taken by the authorities only suspended the payments due to the landlords. Once the emergency is over, all the arrears fees will have to be paid by tenants who, for the most part, will still be unemployed or have still seen their revenues drop drastically. Hundreds of lawsuits against insolvent tenants are ready in many state courts and will be considered as soon as the moratoriums expire.
As the study cited at the beginning shows, in these months of emergency the necessary resources could have been found to alleviate the effects of the crisis for all or a large part of the population of the United States, as well as to reduce the risk of contagion. The policies and the ultra-class structure of this country, as well as others in the West, have shown on the contrary how the only timely and effective interventions of the government have favored a new gigantic increase in the wealth of the privileged few.
Also in this panorama, an investigation published this week by New York Times which confirms, with regard to American hospitals, the exact same principle based on the transfer of wealth to people and entities who apparently would need it least.
To cope with the Coronavirus emergency, the US federal government in March had started to allocate tens of billions of dollars to healthcare facilities often overwhelmed by the multiplication of infections. The article from Times once again describes an upside-down reality, in which private hospitals that already have huge capitals, often used for speculative investments, turned out to be the ones that grossed the most.
For example, the Providence Health System group, operating in the health sector and based in the Seattle area, has its own resources equal to something like 12 billion dollars which, “in good years”, produce profits of up to one billion dollars. Nonetheless, this company received $ 509 million from the Washington government to “resist” the Coronavirus tsunami.
The solidity of these institutions does not appear in the least at risk, unlike other structures with very modest means, especially in rural areas of the United States. Twenty healthcare companies with total equity of $ 108 billion, however, have made a total of $ 5 billion in recent weeks. Practically all of these hospitals are aimed at wealthy patients with generous insurance policies and have collected on average twice the public funds allocated to structures that treat mostly low-income patients, covered by the federal Medicaid program or even without any health insurance.