Report: Pa.’s billionaires more than doubled their wealth during pandemic | Thursday Morning Coffee

The Keystone State’s 17 billionaires have seen their wealth rise by $33B, or 116%, since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, a new report has found

August 26, 2021 7:17 am

Good Thursday Morning, Fellow Seekers.

Mirroring national trends that saw such bold-face names as former Amazon boss Jeffrey Bezos, who saw their wealth soar during the worst public health crisis in a century, Pennsylvania’s exclusive billionaire class also grew richer amid the COVID-19 pandemic, a new report by a coalition of advocacy groups shows.

The state’s 17 billionaires more than doubled their wealth during the pandemic, watching it grow by $33 billion, or 116 percent, from $28.4 billion in March 2020 to $61.4 billion through Aug. 17 of this year, the analysis showed.

The report calls on members of Pennsylvania’s congressional delegation to support the $3.5 trillion budget resolution now before lawmakers on Capitol Hill, and pay for it by taxing the wealthiest Americans and corporations.

The document “shows why we need the entire state congressional delegation to support President [Joe] Biden’s Build Back Better Plan being debated in Washington right now,” Antoinette Kraus, the executive director of the Pennsylvania Health Access Network, one of the groups behind the report, said in a statement.

Biden’s proposal will “invest $3.5 trillion in working families and our communities by making the rich and corporations pay their fair share of taxes. It will provide the funding we need to create thousands of good-paying jobs in Pennsylvania and help people afford healthcare, eldercare, childcare, education, housing and more,” Kraus continued.

Other organizations involved in the report include Americans for Tax FairnessHealth Care for America Now, and the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center.

Below, a look at the wealthiest Pennsylvanians, and how their wealth grew during the pandemic.

(Source: Forbes Magazine, 2020 & 2021/Americans for Tax Fairness)

According to CBS News, the world’s 2,365 billionaires saw an eye-watering $4 trillion boost to their wealth during the first year of the pandemic, citing an analysis by the Program on Inequality at the progressive Institute for Policy Studies.

The world’s wealthiest individuals saw their fortune increase by 54 percent, even as millions of people were thrown out of work, losing health coverage and other benefits as the pandemic raged, the analysis showed.

“Between March 18, 2020, and March 18, 2021, the wealth held by the world’s billionaires jumped from $8.04 trillion to $12.39 trillion, according to the IPS’ analysis of data from ForbesBloomberg, and Wealth-X,” CBS News reported.

As is the case with the Pennsylvania report, the release of that data in March of this year prompted calls for the nation’s wealthiest people, who saw their taxes dramatically cut during the prior Trump administration, to shoulder a greater financial burden through a wealth tax.

In their statement, the Pennsylvania advocates note that if a wealth tax proposed by U.S. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., had been in effect in 2020, “the nation’s billionaires alone would have paid $114 billion for that year — and would pay an estimated combined total of $1.4 trillion over 10 years.”

Despite polling data showing public support for increased taxes on the wealthy, some experts believe it could have the opposite of its intended effect by harming the growth prospects of lower income people, or by encouraging the wealthy to off-shore their interests to shelter them from increased taxation, CBS News reported.

“A wealth tax would have a negative impact on the economy. It would reduce national income, discourage saving and encourage consumption,” among other downsides, Tax Foundation economist Erica York wrote in a March blog post. according to CBS News.

President Joe Biden speaks at a Mack Trucks assembly plant in Lower Macungie Twp., Pa., on Wednesday, 7/28/21 (Screen Capture)

The data the Pennsylvania groups released Wednesday showed that U.S. billionaire wealth grew by 62 percent, or by $1.8 trillion, during the pandemic, rising from $2.95 trillion in March 2020 to $4.77 trillion through Aug. 17. The group counts 708 billionaires in the United States.

Taxing that wealth would pay for more than half of Biden’s 10-year, $3.5 trillion package, they argued.

“It’s time Pennsylvania billionaires and big corporations step up to the plate and pay their fair share,” Jeff Garis, who coordinates the Pennsylvania Budget & Policy Center’s “99% Pennsylvania Campaign,” said in a statement.

“It’s time that lawmakers prioritize working people by rewarding work not wealth and closing huge tax loopholes,” Garis continued, adding that Biden’s “plan levels the playing field and ensures that everyone in America, not just the rich and corporations, can get a fair shot at a good-paying job, affordable health care and a real opportunity at a better future.”

The Democratic administration’s plans won’t “raise taxes on anyone earning under $400,000, meaning that 99% of Americans and 97% of small business owners won’t pay any more in taxes while the rich and corporations will finally pay a fairer share,” Garis concluded.

Pennsylvania State Capitol Building. (Capital-Star photo by Cassie Miller.)

Our Stuff.
Hamstrung by a Republican-authored constitutional amendment limiting his emergency powers, Gov. Tom Wolf is now asking for the GOP-controlled Legislature to require masks in K-12 schoolsMarley Parish and Stephen Caruso report.

With overdose deaths at a three-year high, Pennsylvania’s opioid disaster declaration ended WednesdayGov. Tom Wolf said the state’s fight against the epidemic isn’t over, Marley Parish reports.

The U.S. Interior Department will make significant steps toward restarting its leasing programs for onshore and offshore oil and gas development in the coming months, the Biden administration said in a court filing. National Correspondent Jacob Fischler has the details.

The results of an independent investigation into the University of Pennsylvania Museum’s handling of human remains of members of the Black revolutionary group MOVE, killed in a 1985 bombing, attempted to clear Penn Museum and its leadership of any fault, our partners at the Philadelphia Tribune report.

On our Commentary Page, Janice Ellis, a columnist for our sibling site, the Missouri Independent, wonders if America is experiencing a different kind of civil war. And when you send hungry kids home from school with a backpack full of food on the weekend, their test scores go up, a Lycoming College expert writes.

The delta variant has been spreading to more children | Getty Images

Officials in the Central Bucks Schools have voted down a mask mandate, the Inquirer reports.

Officials in the North Allegheny Schools abruptly ended a meeting when attendees refused to comply with a federal restraining order mandating masks, the Post-Gazette reports.

Officials in the Pennridge Schools have pressed pause on a diversity initiative, prompting the NAACP to call it ‘a slap in the face,’ WHYY-FM reports.

Despite some frustrationsErie County Schools intend to comply with a countywide mask mandate, GoErie reports.

Harrisburg has one of the nation’s largest populations of Bhutanese refugeesPennLive reports (subscriber exclusive).

A majority of respondents to a recent Franklin & Marshall College poll support redistricting reformLancasterOnline reports (paywall).

Spotlight PA runs down the latest on a proposed forensic investigation of Pennsylvania’s election results (via the Morning Call).

WITF-FM explains how you can lend a hand with Haitian earthquake relief efforts.

States are hiring ‘cyber-navigators’ to help them deal with foreign election threats, reports.

Chris Deluzio, the policy director of the University of Pittsburgh’s Institute for Cyber Law, has launched a Democratic candidacy for the 17th Congressional DistrictPoliticsPA reports.

U.S. immigration officials are requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for most green card applicants, Roll Call reports.

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What Goes On
9 a.m., Uniontown, Pa.: House State Government Committee
10 a.m., Media, Pa.:House Consumer Affairs Committee

What Goes On (Nakedly Political Edition)
12 p.m., Lebanon Country Club: Golf outing for state Sen. Chris Gebhard, R-Lebanon. Admission runs $1,000 to $7,500.

Gov. Tom Wolf has no public schedule today.

You Say It’s Your Birthday Dept.
Happy birthday to my old pal, Rob Woodfork, of WTOP-AM, in Washington, D.C, who celebrates today. Congratulations, and enjoy the day, sir.

Heavy Rotation
Here’s some new music from U.K. dance collective Rudimental, featuring M.J. Cole and Josh Barry. It’s ‘Remember Their Names.’

Thursday’s Gratuitous Soccer Link
The Guardian runs down the latest in football transfer rumors, including Liverpool’s moves to line up more attackers.

And now you’re up to date.

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John L. Micek

A three-decade veteran of the news business, John L. Micek is the Pennsylvania Capital-Star's former Editor-in-Chief.