A new report will be released Monday which shows how New York billionaires only became richer during one of the biggest crises to strike the city in time immemorial.
Since the COVID-19 pandemic began in March to the end of January 2021, the collective wealth of 120 billionaires leapt by $87.7 billion, or 16.8%, according to Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and Health Care for America Now (HCAN), both of which analyze data from Forbes.
With former Mayor Michael Bloomberg topping the list of billionaires – by making up to $6.89 billion with the timeframe of the analysis – who seized on opportunities presented by the pandemic, others noted that this only represents a rapidly widening wealth gap as up to 450,394 New Yorkers still collected unemployment as of Jan. 9.
With enough collective profits over this period of time to cover the state’s fiscal year 2021 budget gap of over $15 billion, advocates say taking these individuals more is a no-brainer; they could cover this amount six times over and still be filthy rich, ATF and HCAN said in a release.
“Billionaire CEOs have written the rules to supersize their own profits at the expense of our families and communities. It’s no surprise that during this historic crisis billionaires from Bloomberg to Bezos doubled down and took even more as our loved ones and neighbors suffered,” Ivette Alfonso, president of Citizen Action of New York, said. “In New York, Governor Cuomo and state legislators can address the obscene runaway inequality gripping our state by taxing the rich.”
The two organizations also pointed out that while billionaires were feeling none of the pain that every day New Yorkers were suffering, between March and September 2020, 8,731 businesses across the state closed with 4,672 of them being permanent, for which Yelp data was cited.
And Bloomberg was not only one to make big advances while COVID-19 was crippling the world economy. Media mogul Donald Newhouse’s worth went up from $5.8 billion to $16.6 billion while Rupert Murdoch made gains of 39.7% over the last ten months.
Mark Hannay, co-coordinator of Health Care for America Now’s network in New York, urged Governor Andrew Cuomo and the legislature which has a Democratic majority in the assembly and a supermajority in the senate to begin levying funds from the state’s wealthiest residents.
“The COVID-19 pandemic has shown us that New York needs to spend much more on public health and our health care safety net, and to rebuild them after decades of funding cuts,” Hannay said. “If we want to climb out of this pandemic, Gov. Cuomo and the State Legislature must raise new revenues to do so. Those few who’ve handsomely profited during the pandemic are the obvious go-to sources because the rest of us are just struggling to get by.”
But though the political pressure –and perhaps the will – is there among progressives, convincing Cuomo to adopt such a measure has been a formula stacked in favor of billionaires.
Cuomo stated multiple times throughout the pandemic that putting these expectations on the wealthy would only force one of the most mobile demographics in the local economy to simply relocate to where they will not be taxed. For the Cuomo administration, accommodating billionaires in choosing New York to live and do business is simply a matter of being competitive against other states has been a long-standing policy.