Bruce Murphy
Back in the News

Meet the Pandemic Profiteers

Menard, Hendricks, Kohler among top 100 plutocrats getting richer during pandemic.

By - Mar 23rd, 2021 02:16 pm

John Menard Jr. Photo by Travisvanvelzen (Own work) [CC BY-SA 4.0 (], via Wikimedia Commons

John Menard Jr. Photo by Travisvanvelzen (Own work) (CC BY-SA 4.0), via Wikimedia Commons

The rich are different. Even more so during a pandemic. 

A new report by the Americans for Tax Fairness and the Institute for Policy (IPS) Studies shows that in the year since the COVID-19 pandemic hit America, the very wealthy did fabulously, thank you, while many Americans suffered economic hardship.

The report found “the combined wealth of the nation’s 657 billionaires increased more than $1.3 trillion, or 44.6%, since the pandemic lockdowns began.” Over that same period, between March 21, 2020, and Feb. 20, 2021, almost 80 million Americans lost work and 18 million were collecting unemployment as of Feb. 27, 2021.

”There are 43 newly minted billionaires since the beginning of the pandemic,” the report found, bringing the new total to 657.  

At the very top of the top were 15 billionaires who saw their combined wealth grow by $563 billion or 82%. They were led by Elon Musk ($137.5 billion richer, a 559% increase), Jeff Bezos ($65 billion, 58%) and Mark Zuckerberg ($47 billion, 86%).

“The pandemic profiteers are extracting windfalls of wealth during a time of widespread suffering for the majority of people,” said Chuck Collins of the IPS. Much of the new wealth — 43% — was driven by gains in the technology industry, which benefitted from having their Main Street competition shuttered and our increased dependence on online technologies,” Collins noted.

Compared to the very top dogs, Wisconsin’s pandemic profiteers were far behind, though it was still a very lovely year for them. John Menard, Jr., owner of the Menards home improvement stores chain, saw his net worth increase by $2.7 billion in the past year, up 24%, increasing his total net worth to $14.2 billion.  

Herbert Kohler, Jr., head of the Kohler Co. plumbing fixtures manufacturer, saw his wealth increase by $3.9 billion, up 66%, increasing his net worth to $9.8 billion.  

Diane Hendricks, owner of ABC Supply, a wholesale distributors of roofing, siding and windows, saw her wealth increase by $1.1 billion, up 16%, increasing her net worth to $8 billion. 

All three were listed among the wealthiest 100 Americans.

Judy Faulkner, owner of the booming, Madison-based, medical-record software provider, Epic, may soon be joining them. She saw her wealth explode by 120% in one year, a net worth increase of $3 billion, to a total of $5.5 billion.

Also on the list of Wisconsin billionaires: SC Johnson heirs Helen Johnson-Leipold, S. Curtis Johnson and H. Fisk Johnson, who each saw a 9% increase in net worth, to $3.6 billion each, and James Cargill II, the Cargill food and beverage company owner, whose wealth grew by 33% in the last year, increasing his net worth to $3.6 billion. 

All told, Wisconsin saw the wealth of its billionaires grow by 32% or $12.5 billion. All but three states, Nevada, Idaho and West Virginia, saw the net worth of their uber-wealthy grow in the last year. 

The $1.3 trillion increase in wealth for these 657 billionaires would have been enough to pay for 68% of the $1.9 billion Biden stimulus plan, while still leaving all of them as members of America’s top 1%. 

“Billionaires are living in a different world from the rest of us,” said Frank Clemente, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “It’s time we bring them down to earth and make them pay their fair share of taxes like the rest of us.”

That is the goal of the wealth tax proposed by Democratic Sen. Elizabeth Warren. And the administration of President Joe Biden is now considering a $3 trillion infrastructure and jobs plan that would be financed through tax increases on corporations, investors and rich Americans.  

More about the Coronavirus Pandemic

Read more about Coronavirus Pandemic here

One thought on “Back in the News: Meet the Pandemic Profiteers”

  1. Duane says:

    The Federal Reserve has stated that US net worth reached a record $130T last year, up $12T from the year before. The top ten percent owned $86T of that wealth, the bottom 50 percent owned less than $3T. It is amazing that the Fed’s monetary policy is never mentioned in discussions of income inequality. For example, the Fed Funds Rate has been set at historically low rates for over two decades. The Fed claims it can do this because inflation is low. But what kind of inflation are you talking about? Certainly not asset price inflation. US net worth in the year 2000 was $44T with the top ten percent owning about $27T of it. This compares to the aforementioned $130T of current wealth with the top ten percent owning the $86T. So there is definitely inflation but it is the type of inflation the Fed could care less about. (Since Fed induced asset price inflation benefits the wealthy almost exclusively. Then the wealthy can funnel money into our political system which will result in politicians telling us the economy is good because the stock market is booming).

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