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Billionaire MacKenzie Scott: Pandemic Made the Rich Richer While Wrecking Others; Donating Money Gives Me Hope

Greg Doherty | Patrick McMullan | Getty Images

The coronavirus pandemic has made some of the richest people in the world richer, and one of those people is MacKenzie Scott, the ex-wife of Amazon boss Jeff Bezos.

When the couple divorced in 2019, Bezos transferred 25% of his Amazon stock holdings to Scott. At the time, that left her with a net worth of about $36 billion. Today, thanks to the rise in the price of Amazon stock as Covid-19 kept people housebound and increased demand for e-commerce shopping, Scott's net worth is north of $57 billion, according to Forbes.

And that's after announcing Tuesday that she gave more than $4 billion to 384 charities. Giving the money has given her hope, she said in a blog post on Medium.

"Our hopes are fed by others," Scott wrote.

Scott described some of the ways people have helped those in need during the pandemic, which has not only killed over 307,000 Americans, but left millions unemployed and facing poverty.

"The proliferation of community fridges, COVID relief funds, impromptu person-to-person Venmo gifts, viral debt relief campaigns, and mutual aid initiatives has been swift and uplifting," Scott wrote. "In March, a 19-year-old girl in Chicago sent a group text to her friends suggesting they buy supplies for people in their neighborhood who had lost their jobs. She posted two Google forms — one for people who needed help and another for people with help to give — and by two days later they'd raised $7,000. 'We're really excited,' she said."

"Me too," Scott says.

Scott was also blunt in recognizing how the pandemic has further cleaved America economically.

"This pandemic has been a wrecking ball in the lives of Americans already struggling. Economic losses and health outcomes alike have been worse for women, for people of color, and for people living in poverty," Scott wrote. "Meanwhile, it has substantially increased the wealth of billionaires."

Indeed, according to a report released by Chuck Collins, the Director of the Program on Inequality and the Common Good at the progressive Washington D.C.-based think tank the Institute for Policy Studies, "as of November 17, 2020, the wealth of 647 U.S. billionaires has increased almost $960 billion since mid-March, the beginning of the pandemic, approaching $1 trillion in wealth increases."

Meanwhile, millions of Americans have slipped into poverty — 6 million to 8 million, according to reports from Columbia University, University of Chicago and Notre Dame.

Scott has also committed to The Giving Pledge, a public commitment for billionaires to established by noted philanthropists Bill Gates and Warren Buffett.

"We each come by the gifts we have to offer by an infinite series of influences and lucky breaks we can never fully understand," Scott wrote in May 2019. "In addition to whatever assets life has nurtured in me, I have a disproportionate amount of money to share."

Aware of her own privilege, Scott said on Medium that giving to charitable organizations has sustained her as she has watched millions struggle. And it do the same for others, even for those who are not rich like she is.

"If you're craving a way to use your time, voice, or money to help others at the end of this difficult year, I highly recommend a gift to one of the thousands of organizations doing remarkable work all across the country. Every one of them could benefit from more resources to share with the communities they're serving," Scott wrote Tuesday. "And the hope you feed with your gift is likely to feed your own."

See also:

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2020 just a 'preview' of how bad things can get if we don't fix climate change: Lancet report

Top economists Stiglitz and Piketty: The US needs a wealth tax on millionaires and billionaires

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