America’s 20 wealthiest people are worth $732 billion, which means they have more wealth than the 152 million people who make up the least wealthy 50% of U.S. households, according to a report by the Institute for Policy Studies.
To put it in perspective of just what a select group that is, those 20 big spenders could fit in one Gulfstream G650 jet.
The report also found that the “Forbes 400” wealthiest individuals in the U.S. now have a net worth of $2.34 trillion.
Other findings in the report, titled "Billionaire Bonanza: the Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us":
- The wealthiest 100 households now own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the United States. Among the Forbes 400, just two individuals are African American: Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith.
- The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population. Just five members of the Forbes 400 are Latino including Jorge Perez, Arturo Moreno, and three members of the Santo Domingo family.
- With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people.
- The median American family has a net worth of $81,000. The Forbes 400 own more wealth than 36 million of these typical American families. That’s as many households in the United States that own cats.
“We believe that these statistics actually underestimate our current national levels of wealth concentration. The growing use of offshore tax havens and legal trusts has made the concealing of assets much more widespread than ever before,” wrote Chuck Collins, director of institute’s program on inequality and the Common Good, and Josh Hoxie, head of the institute’s project on opportunity and taxation.
The report proposes several solutions to close the growing gap between the ultra wealthy and the rest of the country. These policies include closing offshore tax havens and billionaire loopholes in the tax code that the wealthy exploit to hide their wealth.
“To even more accurately depict our current wealth divide, we need further research into the tax-evading strategies the the super wealthy employ. But we already know enough to know that our current extreme inequality represents a clear and present danger to our social and economic well-being,” wrote the reports’ authors.
“There is a growing concentration of wealth in fewer and fewer hands,” Hoxie, who heads up the Project on Opportunity and Taxation at the institute, told MarketWatch.
“Our report underscores the need for a direct tax on wealth to slow and reverse these dangerous concentrations of wealth," said Hoxie.
“Interest in addressing inequality has increased in recent years, but Congress hasn’t introduced a wealth tax yet,” Hoxie says.
Others argue there is more behind the numbers than just financial wealth.
“Of course, these are not just numbers. Many of the billionaires near the top of the list such as Bill Gates and the founders of Google — Larry Page and Sergey Brin — are doing great things with their wealth. They are trying to make life better and cure diseases. Bill Gates just pledged $1 billion toward a clean energy fund at the Paris Climate Change talks,” Forbes Contributor John Wasik writes.
“But the Billionaire Bonanza report isn’t about the ways these ultra-rich are spending their money. It digs into where the money is all-too-often going: It’s leaving the country, where it can’t be invested in communities, schools, factories or infrastructure.”
“The United States is becoming,” the report states, “as the French economist Thomas Piketty warns, a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power. As a society, we must intervene. We need focused public policies to slow and reverse these trends and protect our democracy and social stability,” the report stated.
As for the Forbes 400 list, it’s not entirely an accurate reflection of the wealthy’s riches, Al Jazeera America reports.
"But the Forbes list is based mostly on disclosures about publicly traded stock, largely ignoring investments in other stocks and bonds as well as many other side businesses owned by those at the top," reported Al Jazeera America's David Cay Johnston, an investigative reporter who won a Pulitzer Prize while at The New York Times.
"Over the years, I have interviewed more than a dozen people whose wealth should put them on the Forbes 400 list, on the basis of public records on file with the Securities and Exchange Commission and at county courthouses, where land title, divorce and other records are often filed. None of these people have ever been mentioned in Forbes, however, in any article," he wrote.
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