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Billionaires’ wealth soared in 2019 amid US worsening income inequality

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
In this file photo taken on December 21, 2019, Democratic presidential hopeful and former New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg speaks during an event to open a campaign office at Eastern Market in Detroit, Michigan. (AFP photo)

The year 2019 saw the net worth of the world's richest 500 people increase by 25 percent, starkly indicative of worsening income inequality, particularly in the United States.

According to the Bloomberg Billionaires Index, the collective net worth of the 500 wealthiest people on the planet soared by $1.2 trillion in 12 months, totaling $5.9 trillion.

Billionaires in the US alone added $500bn to their wealth, with Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg increasing his wealth by $27.3bn while Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates adding $22.7bn.

Among those who saw their wealth decline in 2019 was Amazon's Jeff Bezos whose wealth worth fell by $9bn, mainly because of his divorce settlement, nevertheless, he remains the world's richest person.

The report has been published amid a Democratic primary campaign in which wealth disparity is a controversial topic.

California hedge fund manager Tom Steyer and former New York City mayor and businessman Michael Bloomberg are two billionaires among the Democratic 2020 contenders.

Bloomberg owns the website that published the report, but his name is not on the list. However, according to Forbes, his net worth is nearly $53.4 billion which means he is the 19th on the list.

A report released earlier this year showed that income inequality in the United States was at its highest point this year since data started being collected over half a century ago.

That report also showed that the 400 richest people in the US owned more than the 150 million people in the bottom 60% of the US. Those 400 richest people had also tripled their wealth since the early 1980s.

The massive income inequality in the US has triggered anxiety among Americans and politicians for years, energizing right-wing populism and the emergence of nationalist leaders like President Donald Trump, and pushing the Democratic Party towards the left.

Income data released by the US Census Bureau early in September showed that upper-income Americans were capturing more of the economy’s gains. The data showed the top 20 percent accounted for 52 percent of household income last year, compared with 49 percent in 1999.

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