Escalating Inequality: Top Richest Men have more than Doubled their Wealth During Pandemic Op-Ed
Updated: Feb 27, 2022
The Facts: by Finn Does
With the COVID-19 epidemic came a global distraction to other important issues, dangerous to the stability and sustainability of the environment and humanity itself. Since the beginning of the pandemic, inequality, climate negligence, racism, and extreme disproportionality between privileged and impoverished have grown significantly. These interconnected issues are exacerbated by COVID-19, as millions have lost their jobs and income—and governments have overlooked climate as a concern, directing effort on maintaining stable economies and COVID rates.
As the U.S. economy dwindled throughout the pandemic, the government fed an estimated $16 trillion into the market in hopes to restore previous levels—the majority of which has fallen into the bank accounts of billionaires. Billionaires have profited from the pandemic and its financial setbacks for smaller competitors.
Oxfam studies showed that 99% of the world population takes a pay cut while the top 10 incomes grow by $1bn a day. Additionally, the organization proposed that by 2030, 3.3 billion people will be living on less than $5.50 per day.
As inequality increases, so does access to affordable healthcare, clean water, and nutritious food, among others. People living in developing countries—particularly nations grappling with the long-term legacies of colonization are two times as likely to die of COVID-19—and its accompanying complications as people living in wealthier regions. Additionally, McKinsey Global Institute conducted research showing that lower-income groups, particularly women, people of color, and marginalized communities are also disproportionately affected by the pandemic. This is a result of poor surroundings and environment, exacerbated by climate-induced problems such as rising sea levels in coastal communities, droughts, and irregular weather patterns, which lead to crop depletion and famine. The same study proposed that approximately 3.4 million black Americans would be alive today if their life expectancy was equivalent to that of wealthy populations.
Millions of Americans have fallen into poverty during the pandemic, due to gentrification, unemployment, resource depletion—all while society’s top elite expand their wealth to insurmountable figures.
Just recently, Elon Musk the CEO of Tesla and SpaceX became the world's wealthiest man, surpassing Jeff Bezos, the CEO of Amazon in January of 2021. His allotted net worth reaches far into the nona (nine) digits, currently averaging $294.2 billion according to a Forbes report.
Meanwhile, as the globe's richest men run their corporations using fossil fuels, and continue to expand their “economic growth” (so brilliantly put by Greta Thunberg in a 2019 UN conference), inequality results in an allotted 21,000 deaths each day (according to the World Economic Forum).
Billion-dollar corporations like Amazon and JPMorgan Chase advertise far-off dates and pledge unachievable promises to be “net-zero carbon emissions by 2040,” and “carbon neutral by 2050—all while they invest in fossil fuel companies. Only two examples of the many companies following in their footsteps.
The Opinion: by Giovanni Ocon and Finn Does
These past three years have taught us all something. I’ll keep as direct, in saying the world has changed even more than it already had in the past twenty years. Even as the climate crisis intensified, the rich reaped on the world’s suffering, and I write this article I’ve noticed a pattern, especially when it comes to the world’s collective consciousness. People are seeking something deeper, something much deeper than the empty promise of consumerism and nationalist rhetoric. For any human crisis to be solved, the people must band together and fight the opposing factor in achieving a better world - injustice. As the fact report mentioned, the top bracket has benefited from global suffering throughout the existential crisis that is climate change. Although it’s hard to tell- and many activists have tried throughout this decade we know that change comes from finding injustice and destroying it, as one.
Billionaires try to make themselves look good in the public eye, so they can pass by as acceptable while they neglect to make a positive impact on the climate. The world's top richest men show no sign of sharing their fortunes, despite being able to make up for it in very little time—instead preferring to add to their hoards.
Inequality will continue to escalate if structural policies and laws are tailored to benefit billionaires and their network of corporations. To reduce inequality, laws shouldn’t be founded based on wealth, race, gender, sexuality, or personal gain, but for the betterment of humanity and the climate.
What will the “deep promise” be? If we band together as one, as humanity, many of the most fundamental problems - economic inequality, institutional racism, climate crisis, despotism - and their intersection can be solved if we band together.
As we see our planet die before our own eyes, ask yourself this: If I see injustice, how can I fight it? What am I doing to help those around me? Our common humanity - and our ultimate resource in fighting the existential problems is banding together - seeking a better future for the planet, one without injustice.
Contributors: Finn Does and Giovanni Ocon