Texas billionaires make 24B during pandemic, state 5.7B in the hole

Texas has 56 billionaires who collectively saw their wealth increase by $24 billion or 10.1% during the first three months of the COVID-19 pandemic even as the state’s economy was reeling from a huge spike in joblessness and a collapse in taxes collected, a new report by Americans for Tax Fairness (ATF) and the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS). Three additional newly-minted billionaires joined the exclusive Texas club during the same period.

The $24 billion increase in wealth of the billionaires exceeds the $5.7 billion state budget hole this year due to the pandemic. This trend of billionaire wealth growth dwarfing state revenue declines is similar in nearly half the states, according to a new ATF analysis.

Between March 18—the rough start date of the pandemic shutdown, when most federal and state economic restrictions were in place—and June 17, the total net worth of the state’s 56 billionaires rose from $238.9 billion to $276.3 billion, based on an analysis of Forbes data. Forbes’ annual billionaires report was published March 18, 2020, and real-time data was collected June 17 from the Forbes website.

Fourteen Texas billionaires, including Michael Dell and Richard Kinder, saw their wealth grow by more than 25% during the pandemic period. Over roughly the same time, 2,400,000 of the state’s residents lost their jobs, 96,000 fell ill with the virus and 2,000 died from it.

TEXAS BILLIONAIRES MARCH 18 TO JUNE 17, 2020
Name March 18 Net Worth (Millions) June 17 Real Time Worth (Millions) Wealth Growth in 3 Months % Growth in 3 Months Primary Income Source Industry
Alice Walton $54,400 $53,307 -$1,093 -2.0% Walmart Fashion & Retail
Michael Dell $22,900 $30,090 $7,190 31.4% Dell computers Technology
Stanley Kroenke $10,000 $10,040 $40 0.4% sports, real estate Sports
Jerry Jones $8,000 $8,060 $60 0.8% Dallas Cowboys Sports
Andrew Beal $7,900 $8,798 $898 11.4% banks, real estate Finance & Investments
Ann Walton Kroenke $7,900 $7,770 -$130 -1.6% Walmart Fashion & Retail
Richard Kinder $5,200 $6,646 $1,446 27.8% pipelines Energy
Robert F. Smith $5,000 $5,000 $0 0.0% private equity Finance & Investments
Robert Bass $4,500 $4,830 $330 7.3% oil, investments Energy
Ray Lee Hunt $4,400 $5,012 $612 13.9% oil, real estate Energy
Mark Cuban $4,300 $4,311 $11 0.3% online media Media & Entertainment
Tilman Fertitta $4,300 $4,942 $642 14.9% Houston Rockets, entertainment Food & Beverage
Janice McNair $4,000 $4,007 $7 0.2% energy, sports Sports
Margot Birmingham Perot $4,000 $4,131 $131 3.3% computer services, real estate Technology
David Bonderman $3,700 $3,745 $45 1.2% private equity Finance & Investments
Trevor Rees-Jones $3,700 $3,742 $42 1.1% oil & gas Energy
Dannine Avara $3,600 $5,116 $1,516 42.1% pipelines Energy
Milane Frantz $3,600 $5,116 $1,516 42.1% pipelines Energy
Randa Duncan Williams $3,600 $5,116 $1,516 42.1% pipelines Energy
Scott Duncan $3,600 $5,116 $1,516 42.1% pipelines Energy
Dan Friedkin $3,300 $4,078 $778 23.6% Toyota dealerships Automotive
John Arnold $3,300 $3,285 -$15 -0.5% hedge funds Finance & Investments
Bert Beveridge $3,200 $4,151 $951 29.7% vodka Food & Beverage
John Paul DeJoria $3,100 $3,160 $60 1.9% hair products, tequila Fashion & Retail
Joseph Liemandt $3,000 $3,000 $0 0.0% software Technology
Thai Lee $3,000 $3,000 $0 0.0% IT provider Technology
Drayton McLane, Jr. $2,700 $2,667 -$33 -1.2% Walmart, logistics Fashion & Retail
Robert Rowling $2,500 $3,863 $1,363 54.5% hotels, investments Service
George Bishop $2,400 $2,053 -$347 -14.5% oil & gas Energy
Brian Sheth $2,200 $2,200 $0 0.0% investments Finance & Investments
Jeffery Hildebrand $2,200 $2,942 $742 33.7% oil Energy
Kelcy Warren $2,200 $3,249 $1,049 47.7% pipelines Energy
Bill Austin $2,100 $2,543 $443 21.1% hearing aids Manufacturing
Gerald Ford $2,100 $2,142 $42 2.0% banking Finance & Investments
H. Ross Perot, Jr. $2,000 $1,720 -$280 -14.0% real estate Real Estate
Sid Bass $1,900 $2,470 $570 30.0% oil, investments Energy
Edward Bass $1,800 $1,958 $158 8.8% oil, investments Energy
Lee Bass $1,800 $1,544 -$256 -14.2% oil, investments Energy
Todd Wagner $1,800 $1,812 $12 0.7% online media Media & Entertainment
Christopher Goldsbury $1,700 $1,713 $13 0.8% salsa Food & Beverage
Leslie Alexander $1,700 $1,704 $4 0.2% sports team Sports
Ray Davis $1,700 $1,980 $280 16.5% pipelines Energy
James Leininger $1,500 $1,479 -$21 -1.4% medical products Healthcare
Kenny Troutt $1,500 $1,525 $25 1.7% telecom Telecom
Billy Joe (Red) McCombs $1,400 $1,511 $111 7.9% real estate, oil, cars, sports Diversified
David Booth $1,400 $1,885 $485 34.7% mutual funds Finance & Investments
Leo Koguan $1,400 $1,400 $0 0.0% IT provider Technology
Paul Foster $1,400 $1,527 $127 9.1% oil refining Energy
Stephen Winn $1,400 $1,702 $302 21.6% real estate services Real Estate
W. Herbert Hunt $1,400 $2,035 $635 45.4% oil Energy
Darwin Deason $1,300 $1,336 $36 2.8% Xerox Service
Jim Crane $1,300 $1,316 $16 1.2% logistics, baseball Sports
Farris Wilks $1,200 $1,228 $28 2.3% natural gas Energy
Timothy Headington $1,200 $1,374 $174 14.5% oil & gas, investments Energy
Dan Wilks $1,100 $1,075 -$25 -2.3% natural gas Energy
Fayez Sarofim $1,100 $1,421 $321 29.2% money management Finance & Investments
Charles Butt & family N/A $10,700 N/A N/A supermarkets Fashion & Retail
Donald Horton N/A $1,574 N/A N/A homebuilding Real Estate
John Goff N/A $1,037 N/A N/A real estate Real Estate
TOTAL $238,900 $276,255 $24,044 10.1%

Sources: All data is from Forbes and available here.
March 18, 2020, data is from the Forbes World’s Billionaires List: The Richest in 2020.
June 17, 2020 data was taken from Forbes real-time estimates of worth that day.

Among other COVID-19 victims are the 27 million Americans who may lose their employer-provided healthcare coverage. Low-wage workers, people of color and women have suffered disproportionately in the combined medical and economic crises because of long-standing racial and gender disparities. Billionaires are overwhelmingly white men.

Over the same three-month period, the nation’s 600-plus billionaires saw their combined wealth increase by $584 billion or 20%—rising from $2.948 trillion to $3.531 trillion, based on the groups’ analysis of Forbes data. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve reported that as of the week of June 10, total U.S. household wealth had shrunk by $6.5 trillion during the first three months of the year.

The three richest Americans, Jeff Bezos, Bill Gates and Mark Zuckerberg, saw their combined wealth jump by $87 billion, or 38%, 11% and 58%, respectively. The total number of billionaires grew from 614 to 643.

“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, executive director of Americans for Tax Fairness. “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. 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.”

“The Senate is standing by as U.S. billionaire wealth surges and the assets of ordinary Americans implode,” said Chuck Collins of the Institute for Policy Studies and co-author of Billionaire Bonanza 2020. “Senate inaction is not an option in the face of this pandemic and the economic toll it is taking on working Americans and our communities.”

Decades of tax cuts for the rich have fueled the growth of billionaires and their wealth. And even in the midst of the greatest national emergency since World War II, tax handouts to the wealthy have continued—most recently in the form of a $135 billion handout slipped into the $2 trillion CARES pandemic relief law enacted in late March. It primarily benefits millionaire business owners and costs three times more than the law spends on social safety net programs and exceeds the amount expended on hospitals and public health.

The House HEROES Act passed in May would repeal this tax break that is giving an average tax cut of $1.6 million this year to 43,000 millionaires and billionaires, according to the Joint Committee on Taxation (JCT). That big payout contrasts sharply with the one-time stimulus checks of up to $1,200 that have helped 159 million people under the CARES Act. Closing this tax loophole and making it permanent would raise $246 billion per the JCT, which could be used for a new major pandemic financial relief and recovery package.

As the U.S. Senate begins consideration of the next coronavirus aid legislation, a broad coalition of more than 230 organizations, including Texas groups, is urging repeal of the Millionaires Giveaway tax cut for wealthy business owners. Twenty-four senators support legislation (S. 3640) to repeal the giveaway, but Senators John Cornyn (R) and Ted Cruz (R) have not joined them. The repeal effort in the House was led by Rep. Lloyd Doggett (D) of Texas.

Rather than respond to growing needs from increasing numbers of unemployed people, new patients, and overburdened local and state agencies, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has been slow-walking legislative action on another major relief measure such as the HEROES Act, especially one that would provide a major cash infusion to state and local governments that have lost huge amounts of tax revenue but must by law balance their budgets. Instead, McConnell has suggested that states file for bankruptcy.

The HEROES Act would greatly benefit Texas during this economic crisis by providing immediate relief and laying the groundwork for a more robust economic recovery, including:

All of the above data is available in one table here.

State residents will also get their fair share of the following other assistance provided by the HEROES Act should it become law:

  • Extension through the end of the year of the $600 per week in enhanced unemployment benefits that are expiring at the end of July.
  • Renewal and increase in direct assistance checks to individuals and families: $1,200 per each adult and child, up to $6,000 per household.
  • $100 billion to protect renters and homeowners from evictions and foreclosures.

Increased support from the federal government directly to states through these provisions is the best way to avoid state cuts to jobs and services that would worsen the impact of the pandemic and prolong the recession the country is experiencing.

Economists warn that delayed action on more funding to states, unemployment benefits, and safety net services will have dire consequences for recovery, could lengthen and deepen the recession and curtail job growth for the next decade. Moreover, coronavirus cases are back on the rise in over a dozen states where the re-opening process has increased risk of exposure, furthering jeopardizing the economy.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell has cited rising deficits in delaying immediate consideration of new pandemic relief legislation, but so far has not proposed rolling back the $135 billion Millionaires Giveaway in the CARES Act. Rather, McConnell’s key priority for the next relief package has been to provide legal immunity to employers by limiting workers’ rights in court to sue bosses who put their safety at risk or neglect COVID protocols.

Polling shows that half of Americans have been personally economically impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic — losing their job or having their hours cut back. Congress must provide help by working with local and state elected officials and agencies to ensure workers, families and small businesses get the resources they need to make it through the pandemic and mitigate the harmful consequences of the economic slow-down.

State residents can’t afford excuses from Congressional leaders who prioritize tax giveaways for the rich and corporations over the basic needs of average people or more delays that will double down on prolonged pain for millions.

-Americans For Tax Fairness