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Monday, July 20, 2020

While Texans Lost Jobs During the Pandemic, the State's Billionaires Got 10% Richer

Posted By on Mon, Jul 20, 2020 at 11:03 AM

click to enlarge A homemade closure sign hangs in the window of a downtown San Antonio business. - AIMEE WYATT
  • Aimee Wyatt
  • A homemade closure sign hangs in the window of a downtown San Antonio business.
Nice work if you can get it.

At the same time as COVID-19 decimated jobs and emptied state and local coffers, the wealth of Texas' 56 billionaires rose by a collective $24 billion, or 10.1%, during the first three months of the pandemic, according to a new study by a pair of national tax reform organizations.



As a group, Texas billionaires' valuations jumped from $238.9 billion to $276.3 billion between March 18 and June 17, according to the report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS).

The increase shows how the ultra rich have benefitted from decades of tax cuts, ATF and IPS argue. Meanwhile, 2.9 million Texans filed for unemployment during that time, and both the state and San Antonio are making painful cuts in reaction to budget shortfalls. 

Indeed, the financial gains by the state's billionaires' during that span is four times Texas' projected $5.7 billion budget gap over the next two years, the groups point out.

“It’s immoral that billionaires are getting richer and richer while average Americans are treading water if they are lucky, or drowning, from the economic crash caused by the pandemic,” said Frank Clemente, ATF's executive director.

The report documented gains by two of San Antonio's four billionaires — auto dealer B.J. "Red" McCombs and Kit Goldsbury, developer of the Pearl and former owner of Pace Picante Sauce. During those three months, McCombs' wealth increased 7.9%, hitting $1.51 billion, while Goldsbury's experienced growth of nearly 1%, reaching $1.71 billion.

One other Alamo City billionaire, Kinetic Concepts founder and conservative activist James Leininger, experienced a downturn, his valuation dropping 1.4% to $1.48 billion, according to the report. The study was unable to glean whether H-E-B owner Charles Butt's fortunes rose or sunk during the crisis, just that it was valued at $10.7 billion in mid June.

The favorable tax treatment for U.S. billionaires has even extended into the pandemic, according to the analysis by ATF and IPS.

Federal lawmakers slid a $135 billion tax giveaway primarily targeting wealthy business owners into the $2 trillion CARES pandemic relief package enacted this spring. That benefit to some of the nation's wealthiest individuals was three times the amount the law spent on social safety nets for average Americans, according ATF and IPS.

“Congress needs to urgently provide a major new financial aid package to ensure working families can recover and critical state and local services can keep being provided," ATF's Frank Clemente said. "The package should repeal the huge tax break for millionaires in the first major financial aid law and block any new tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.”

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