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US billionaires got $1 trillion richer during Corona

by Jakob Reimann and Bernd Hontschik
A recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies determined that the 647 billionaires in the USA have been able to increase their assets by $960 billion since the beginning of the corona crisis in mid-March by the cut-off date of November 17. A few hundred super-rich Americans* have thus increased their private wealth in eight months by the same amount as 93 countries together generate in a whole year.
US billionaires got $1 trillion richer during Corona
Catastrophic Inequality
By Jakob Reimann
[This article published on 11/26/2020 is translated from the German on the Internet, US-Milliardäre wurden während Corona um 1 Billion Dollar reicher – JusticeNow!.]

A study by the Institute for Policy Studies found that since the beginning of the Corona crisis, the 647 billionaires in the USA have been able to increase their assets by $1 trillion to $3.907 trillion. In total, 33 more people made the leap into the circle of billionaires during the crisis.

The number of people worldwide who tested positive for corona recently broke through the 60 million mark, while the number of people who died of or with corona is approaching 1.5 million. Germany is angry - quite rightly so - about the impudence and Nazi canalization of Jana from Kassel, politicians are discussing whether we may celebrate New Year's Eve with five or ten people, and in southern Bavaria yesterday another slaughterhouse became a Corona hotspot.

With over 13 million cumulative cases and almost 270,000 deaths, the USA alone is at the top of the Corona country table. In his last year in the White House, Donald Trump demonstrated the concentrated incompetence of his government one last time. Unemployment in the states is exploding at a rate not seen since the Great Depression and in the second quarter the U.S. economy shrank by 33 percent, the highest rate since records began. Eight million US-Americans* have fallen into poverty, 30 to 40 million are threatened with being thrown out of their apartments and houses due to corona disease. Suicide rates are rising. Out of this swamp of epidemic, death, poverty and misery, an island of resistance rises up that defies all this. A kind of Gallic village, only the other way around.

$1 trillion for the super-rich

A recent study by the Institute for Policy Studies determined that the 647 billionaires in the USA have been able to increase their assets by $960 billion since the beginning of the corona crisis in mid-March by the cut-off date of November 17. (So today, nine days later, it is fair to assume that the figure has broken through 1 trillion). In total, 33 more people made the leap into this circle of billionaires during the crisis. Cumulative billionaire wealth rose from $2.947 trillion to $3.907 trillion during this period - 33 percent wealth growth in eight months.

To put this $1 trillion into perspective: This value corresponds to the accumulated economic output (gross domestic product) of the "lowest" 93 countries on the globe. A few hundred super-rich Americans* have thus increased their private wealth in eight months by the same amount as 93 countries together generate in a whole year.

"This exploding inequality is largely driven by twelve companies whose profits are at the expense of workers and communities," the study's authors write. These "corporations are symbolic of the greed of large corporations that has been rampant over the past 40 years. Among them are mainly retailers like Walmart, Amazon and Target or food producers like Tyson Foods (see below).

Amazon, in particular, has been repeatedly criticized for its catastrophic, exploitative working conditions. Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos' assets alone increased by $70.7 billion during the pandemic, while at least 20,000 Amazon employees were infected with Covid-19. Bezos now owns 183.7 billion US dollars. The Walton family (Walmart) increased by 48 billion.

The investment giant BlackRock and other private equity companies are also among the main beneficiaries of the pandemic. "Their business model of extreme cost cutting and debt burden to squeeze additional profits is fundamentally incompatible with protecting workers* and communities during a pandemic," the study says. Another record was broken this month: there are now five hundred billionaires in the world. French luxury titan Bernard Arnault joined Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates, Mark Zuckerberg and Elon Musk in this exclusive club. Two years ago, there was only one person there.

John Tyson - right-wing conservative "born-again" Christian and heir to the meat giant Tyson Foods Inc. - was able to increase his fortune during the pandemic "only" by a Spartan 600 million dollars, but an anecdote about his slaughterhouse company symbolically illustrates what this text is supposed to be about.

The slaughterhouse of profit

According to the company profile, Tyson Foods processes about 20 percent of the beef, poultry and pork consumed in the USA. In Waterloo, Iowa, Tyson operates the largest pork slaughterhouse in the USA and employs 2,800 people there. At the beginning of the pandemic, when slaughterhouses became Corona hotspots, as in Germany, Tom Hart, the plant manager of the Waterloo facility, had an idea: He opened an in-house betting pool for the managers and supervisors of the facility, where bets were placed on how many of the Tyson employees would be infected with Corona. The pool was "cash only" and ran according to the "Winner-Takes-All" principle: a considerable sum of money was collected for the winner of these human bets.

In the end, there were at least 1,000 infections in the Waterloo slaughterhouse alone. By May, a total of 4,600 people tested positive and 18 deaths had been recorded by Tyson. The conditions in the Tyson slaughterhouses were in part even more catastrophic than we know from Tönnies in Germany. Employees complained several times about the inadequate hygiene standards, and even the sheriff of Black Hawk County, Sheriff Tony Thompson, declared already at the beginning of the pandemic that the conditions in the Waterloo slaughterhouse had "shaken him to his core", but the management refused to close the plant.

The family of a deceased man therefore filed a lawsuit against Tyson Foods for "gross negligence and [...] wanton disregard for occupational safety". Court documents indicate that as early as March, the Waterloo facility supervisors were ordered by their superiors to cover up the existence of "confirmed cases" or "positive tests" at the Waterloo facility and to deny reports of such cases. One supervisor is said to have told the employees that "they have a responsibility to keep working to ensure that Americans do not starve.”

The Tyson anecdote is a burning lens on capitalism in the Corona era and is symbolic of countless cases all over the world: the highest leadership is amassing astronomical wealth through criminal machinations. In order to squeeze out even the last profits, occupational safety is trampled underfoot and the people who create these riches in the first place are deliberately put in danger of their lives. The board of directors has only deepest contempt for these people.

The Corona once again exposes the inhumanity of our cannibalistic world order, in which greed is the highest and ultimately only ideal and human lives are sacrificed on the slaughterhouse of profit.

Jakob completed his master's degree in biochemistry in Dresden in the summer of 2014 and then worked at the Faculty of Natural Sciences at An-Najah National University in Nablus, Palestine. He conducted research on the impact of chemical industrial plants on the environment and human health in the West Bank. He then lived as a freelance journalist and author in Israel and various countries in Eastern Europe and the Balkans and is now back in Dresden.

I do not see blooming landscapes
"We reject the double standards towards Russia" -
"NATO and USA have lost the war in Afghanistan" - in conversation with Emran Feroz

JusticeNow! stands for the unconditional demand for justice. Here and now, for every human being. Not just for a few and not only in 100 years. Capitalism as we know it is based on war and plunder. It is directed against man and nature and therefore anything but sustainable. It has to be deconstructed step by step and replaced by an order that allows all people to live together on equal terms. In a just world there can be no above and no below, only through a solidary coexistence real justice can be achieved. This is what JusticeNow! stands for - non-violent, non-regulated.

Harald A. Irmer at Der Wilde Westen - USA steal Iranian oil and sell it for 40 million dollars
Bernhard Trautvetter at "We reject the double standards towards Russia" - in conversation with Alexander Neu

Corona continues to tear open the social divisions!
[This 2020 union bulletin is translated from the German on the Internet,]

The Corona crisis is a social challenge. Financial aid cushions some hardships, but people with low incomes hardly profit from it. Thus, the social divide in the country is further aggravated. The #schlaglicht 43/2020 from Lower Saxony therefore calls for a courageous labor market and social policy that addresses the structural problems.

When Christmas is just around the corner, the year draws to a close. It was all about Corona. For more than ten months, the pandemic has been the defining constant in people's lives. When it all began, some voices were raised to say that the pandemic would have an egalitarian effect. After all, the virus stops at no one and everyone is therefore equally faced with difficulties. So, is Corona the great equalizer? Not at all!

Financial aid only insufficiently cushions social imbalance

Of course, politicians have used their massive financial power to fight the economic crash and cushion the social hardships. Many jobs and companies were saved through short-time work benefits and economic aid. And yet there is still an enormous imbalance - especially in terms of income: Those who had to make ends meet even before the crisis with a small budget are now losing out again. The student who has lost his mini-job and can no longer pay the rent. The stage artist who has lost her livelihood without performing. The employees in the catering trade, who can barely support themselves due to the company closures.

The crisis hits poorer people twice
The latest data show the full extent: the lower the income, the more often people are affected by financial losses in the course of the pandemic. Every second household with a monthly net income of less than 900 euros had suffered losses by June. In the income group between 1,500 and 2,000 euros net, it is still well over a third. By contrast, only one in four households with an income of over 4,500 euros has suffered losses (see graph). Poorer people are also doubly penalized: not only do they lose income more often. Their losses are also significantly higher. Corona continues to tear open the social rifts!
Chart "Households with losses due to Corona according to net monthly income DGB

Those affected include, in particular, employees in precarious employment relationships. This includes above all temporary work and mini-jobs. In addition, there are also freelancers, solo self-employed and the entire hospitality industry. Surprisingly, however, the findings are only limited: these people are often on the fringes of the labor market. There, there is insufficient protection through social insurance or collective agreements. Effective protection against drastic income losses is therefore hardly possible.

Ensuring social peace through good labor market and social policy
The fact is that the gap between incomes has widened as a result of the Corona crisis. This not only leads to individual hardship. It also endangers social peace. The answer to this can only be a great moment in labor market and social policy. This includes both improved social benefits and sufficient bridging assistance. The minimum wage must urgently be raised to 12 euros, and social insurance must be compulsory for mini-jobs from the first cent. For permanently higher wages, collective bargaining coverage must also be strengthened politically. Otherwise the social consequences become chronic in the new year!

A vaccine will not solve the problem
by Bernd Hontschik

The majority of medical professional associations and two virologists in Germany are demanding hygiene concepts instead of going out.
Editor. Surgeon and publicist Bernd Hontschik is an occasional guest author of Infosperber.
[This article published on Nov 6, 2020 is translated from the German on the Internet,]

When members of my generation hear the sentence: "Swallow vaccination is sweet", they immediately think of the continuation: "Polio is cruel". In the 1960s, the oral polio vaccination succeeded in reducing the incidence of polio by 99 percent within only four years. There are now many vaccinations against infectious diseases. What is a vaccination actually?

When our organism is confronted with foreign substances, the immune system is activated and forms antibodies. These attack the foreign substance and render it harmless. Most of the time, those affected do not even notice anything. But in the case of major attacks and correspondingly considerable defensive measures of the immune system, this leads to illness, in the worst case to death.

With a vaccination the immune system is tricked, so to speak. One makes dangerous pathogens harmless or kills them completely and uses them as a vaccine. The immune system also recognizes these no longer dangerous, inoculated invaders and forms antibodies. This is the principle of immunization, stored in a kind of immune memory that can be immediately recalled and activated in case of a new attack by the same pathogens. Depending on the pathogen, such immunity can last only a short time or even a lifetime.

The current pandemic has triggered frantic activity around the world to develop a vaccine. About 250 vaccines are being researched, about fifty of which are already in the first stage of clinical trials. Since the coronavirus is associated with hundreds of thousands of deaths and millions of cases of disease, the usual steps in vaccine development and testing are being compressed into the shortest possible time frame. Vaccine development typically takes four to five years.
However, the vaccine against the coronavirus Sars-CoV-2 is expected to be ready by the end of this year or at the beginning of next year at the latest. The distribution battle has already begun. That makes me suspicious.

Only part of the research is working with dead vaccine, i.e. with inactivated viruses. Other, partly novel concepts are emerging: mRNA-based vaccine, dead vaccine with genetically engineered virus antigen (nanoparticle technology), RNA-based vaccine (with self-propagating RNA), DNA-based vaccine, subunit vaccine (genetically engineered trimeric spike protein), dead vaccine with genetically engineered protein antigen, vaccine with genetically engineered bifidobacteria.
The knowledge about these new methods is still very limited. You have to be extremely deeply involved with the matter to understand it. I am not. Nevertheless, I can see that with some of these vaccines interventions in the human genome are being made. This makes me suspicious.

But the extremely rapid approval of a vaccine against the corona virus Sars-CoV-2 will not be able to stop the worldwide pandemic. Even if it should be possible to produce a genetically safe vaccine within a year, it is still an illusion that it would then be possible to provide vaccine doses for eight billion people on this earth.

One would actually have to look for a concept to live with the virus. Everything else is a dead end. On past Wednesday the National Association of Statutory Health Insurance Physicians together with 53 medical professional associations and the virologists Streeck and Schmidt-Chanasit called for curfews to be made superfluous with good hygiene concepts, for commandments to be used to take the population along instead of patronizing them with bans, and for endangered population groups to be given special protection without isolating them.

There is hardly more medical expertise in our country. But it does not receive any attention. Sixteen prime ministers* and one female chancellor know better. I don't recognize my state: The city of Menden in North Rhine-Westphalia wants to barrack fellow citizens who do not comply with the quarantine regulations in a gym. An SPD health expert wants to violate the basic right to inviolability of the home. A green prime minister - and not only him - calls for denunciation. The city of Essen even had an extra - meanwhile withdrawn - online form for denunciations on its homepage. All this leaves me saddened.
10 opinions
More and more I get the impression that governments and authorities are not primarily concerned with fighting the pandemic, but rather with introducing an electronic vaccination card or electronic identity. All those who have been vaccinated and can prove it with a corresponding app on their cell phone will be allowed to travel again, attend major events and will no longer have to wear masks.
This app could then of course be used for general surveillance.
Hopefully this is a conspiracy theory.
Mathias Wyss, on November 6, 2020

Gerhardus Lang, on November 6, 2020
Thank you. I could observe that the consumption of alcohol, due to its disinhibiting effect, makes protection concepts quickly forgotten. After the third beer, some people speak of a deception and an economic-political move, as if there were no pathogen. We already know the problem from HIV. According to our experience in our counselling work, about 75% have become infected with HIV under the influence of alcohol. (HIV displacer) I have the impression that this is strongly hidden in the media. The human being has a right to intoxication and relaxation. But to make a holy cow out of alcohol is irresponsible in my opinion. Besides, alcohol has an immune-suppressing effect from a certain degree, which can promote infections. This topic also belongs in a hygiene concept, unfortunately prevention is difficult when it comes to alcohol. Not always, but all too often.

Urs P. Gasche, on November 6, 2020
The fact that a vaccination is suddenly to be launched on the market in one year instead of three to four years does not necessarily increase confidence.
The problem is made much worse by another circumstance:
In many countries today, the strategy is to keep the number of infections as low as possible. This goes far beyond the goal of avoiding overburdening hospitals. This strategy is extremely expensive in economic terms. And it really only makes sense if a safe and effective vaccine is available in the foreseeable future. Otherwise, this strategy will only prolong the pandemic.
This means that in many countries a very high stake is placed on the fact that this vaccine will soon be available.
Now it is a well-known pattern of human behavior that one tends to tunnel vision when pursuing a goal with the utmost ambition. Obstacles, dangers and weaknesses in your strategy are then easily overlooked. In concrete terms, there is a high risk that the approval of a vaccine will be pushed forward even though the vaccine does not actually meet the requirements. Simply because the vaccine must not be allowed to fail.
It would really be desirable for the authorities to make a serious effort to come up with a plan B: what to do if the vaccine fails?

Daniel Heierli, on November 6, 2020
Dr. Hontschik is of course right in everything that he and the majority of German medical professional associations have published. But they are not elected, and the representatives of the people who have to undergo this procedure know better from their own experience: we, the citizens, are in the majority too selfish to follow these reasonable recommendations. The irony is that as long as the principle of competition is raised to the top of the podium by the same politics and the economy, cohesion will not work. Our great teachers already knew this thousands of years ago: If we humans would listen to commandments instead of prohibitions, we would not have to be afraid of the virus or other dangers.

Michel Mortier, on November 6, 2020
That would certainly be a good idea.
But that is not what they (the political and economic complex around Big Data and Big Pharma) are concerned about. They are concerned with control and the expansion of power.
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