Economy

Graphic Stories of America's Huge Wealth Gap

Extreme wealth continues to grow out of control, while inequality worsens for the rest of us.

Photo Credit: Melpomene/Shutterstock.com

Just 70 individuals now own as much wealth as half the world. In the U.S., the richest 40 individuals own as much as half the country, and the 16,000 American households in the top .01% have accumulated an average net worth of over a third of a billion dollars. As extreme wealth continues to grow out of control, inequality worsens for the rest of us, plaguing our country and our world, spreading like a terminal form of cancer. It should be a major news item in the mainstream media. But the well-positioned few are either oblivious to or uncaring about its effect on less fortunate people. 

The data and charts (citations here) come from Forbes, Credit Suisse, and a recent study by Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

1. Just 70 Individuals Own As Much Wealth As Half the World 

Less than a year ago, Oxfam reported that the richest 85 individuals owned as much wealth as half the world. But recently updated calculations reveal that the richest 70 individuals now own $1.842 trillion, more than the poorest half of the world. 

We're drawing nearer to the fulfillment of Charles Koch's dream: "I want my fair share and that's all of it." 

2. Just 40 Americans Own As Much Wealth As Half the United States 

About a month ago it was 43, and a month before that it was 47. Now the richest 40 Americans (The Forbes 40) own a little over $1.092 trillion, about the same, according to calculations based on Credit Suisse data, as the poorest half of the country. 

The national wealth that was created by all of us over many decades is quickly being redistributed to fewer and fewer incomprehensibly rich people. 

One of the causes for this pathological transfer of wealth is revealed in the final image.

3. Stock/Equity Wealth of the Richest 12,000 Households Has Surpassed the Housing Wealth of 108,000,000 Households 

Just 35 years ago, the percentage of national wealth in middle-class housing (net of mortgages) was about seven times more than the percentage of national wealth in equities owned by the .01% (12,000 families). Now middle-class housing is only about half the value of those equities. 

Saez and Zucman report that the total of corporate equities, bonds, and savings deposits owned by the .01% amounted to 2.2 percent of total U.S. household wealth in the mid-1980s, rising to 9.9 percent in 2012. Meanwhile, housing for the bottom 90% dropped from 15 percent of total household wealth to 5-6 percent. Since the bottom 50%, according to the authors, own almost zero wealth, the housing figures pertain to the 50-90% families, which can be described as "middle class." 


Possible solutions are becoming clearer: 

(1) A Financial Speculation Tax to slow down the flow of money to the takers 

(2) Occupy Wall Street, Phase II 

Paul Buchheit is a college teacher, a writer for progressive publications, and the founder and developer of social justice and educational websites (UsAgainstGreed.org, PayUpNow.org, RappingHistory.org)

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