Fun Facts About Rich People: Walmart Heirs Own More Wealth Than Bottom 40% of Americans; the Wealthy Give Less to Charity Than the Poor

In 2010, the Waltons’ share equaled the entire bottom 41.5 percent of families.

I was watching Bill Maher and his guests last Friday calling the American people morons because they don't want the government to cut programs they value. All the wealthy people on the panel went on and on and on about how those idiotic Americans refuse to make sacrifices for the greater good because they're just sooooo stupid. 

Ok, I'll agree to live in penury in my old age but I think these people should be forced to join me:



Bernie Sanders says Walmart heirs own more wealth than bottom 40 percent of Americans

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, tweeted a startling statistic to his followers on July 22, 2012: "Today the Walton family of Walmart own more wealth than the bottom 40 percent of America."

Sanders speaks and writes frequently about wealth distribution in the U.S., a hot-button issue among liberals and a rallying cry of the Occupy Wall Street Movement.

The Waltons, of course, are members of the proverbial 1 percent. But are they really sitting on that much wealth? We decided to check it out.

First, what is wealth?

In economics, wealth is commonly measured in terms of net worth, and it’s defined as the value of assets minus liabilities. For someone in the middle class, that could encompass the value of their 401(k) or other retirement accounts, bank savings and personal assets such as jewelry or cars, minus what they owe on a home mortgage, credit cards and a car note.

It does not include income -- what people earn in wages. For that reason, someone who earns a good salary but has little savings and owes a lot of money on their house would have a negative net worth.

In fact, because so many Americans invest in real estate to buy a home, middle-class wealth has been one of the biggest casualties of the housing-driven recession.

From 2007 to 2010, typical families lost 39 percent of their wealth, according to the Federal Reserve’s Survey of Consumer Finances, done every three years. In 2007, the median family net worth was $126,400. In 2010, it was $77,300, according to the survey.

Six members of the Walton family appear on the Forbes 400 list of the wealthiest Americans. Christy Walton, widow of the late John Walton, leads the clan at No. 6 with a net worth of $25.3 billion as of March 2012. She is also the richest woman in the world for the seventh year in a row, according to Forbes. Here are the other five:

No. 9: Jim Walton, $23.7 billion
No. 10: Alice Walton, $23.3 billion
No. 11: S. Robson Walton, oldest son of Sam Walton, $23.1 billion
No. 103: Ann Walton Kroenke, $3.9 billion
No. 139: Nancy Walton Laurie, $3.4 billion

That’s a grand total of $102.7 billion for the whole family.

Sylvia Allegretto, a labor economist at the Center on Wage and Employment Dynamics at the University of California-Berkeley, compared the Waltons’ cumulative net worth with that of the overall population, as cited in the Survey of Consumer Finances. (She used the Waltons’ wealth from 2010, which was valued at $89.5 billion.)

Allegretto found that in 2007, the wealth held by the six Waltons was equal to that of the bottom 30.5 percent of families in the U.S. In 2010, the Waltons’ share equaled the entire bottom 41.5 percent of families.

That 41.5 percent represents nearly 49 million families, notes Josh Bivens at the left-leaning Economic Policy Institute. While median family wealth fell by 38.8 percent, Bivens wrote, the wealth of the Walton family members rose from $73.3 billion in 2007 to $89.5 billion in 2010, or about 22 percent growth.


If we all have to have "skin in the game", ok. All I ask is that they wind up exactly the way the rest of us will end up --- old, poor, sick and desperate. After all they aren't "makers" any more than the rest of us are. They made their money the old fashioned way: they inherited it. 

And let's not forget that their fortune was originally made by accelerating the American worker's race to the bottom. If you haven't watched it in a while, Robert Greenwald's "The High Cost of Low Prices" will remind you of just what a crock the entire political deabte in Washington DC really is:
 


Update: Also too, this:
 

One of the most surprising, and perhaps confounding, facts of charity in America is that the people who can least afford to give are the ones who donate the greatest percentage of their income. In 2011, the wealthiest Americans—those with earnings in the top 20 percent—contributed on average 1.3 percent of their income to charity. By comparison, Americans at the base of the income pyramid—those in the bottom 20 percent—donated 3.2 percent of their income. The relative generosity of lower-income Americans is accentuated by the fact that, unlike middle-class and wealthy donors, most of them cannot take advantage of the charitable tax deduction, because they do not itemize deductions on their income-tax returns.

But why? Lower-income Americans are presumably no more intrinsically generous (or “prosocial,” as the sociologists say) than anyone else. However, some experts have speculated that the wealthy may be less generous—that the personal drive to accumulate wealth may be inconsistent with the idea of communal support. Last year, Paul Piff, a psychologist at UC Berkeley, published research that correlated wealth with an increase in unethical behavior: “While having money doesn’t necessarily make anybody anything,” Piff later told New York magazine, “the rich are way more likely to prioritize their own self-interests above the interests of other people.”

Maybe the American people really are morons. For putting up with this. 
 

Digby is the proprietor of Hullabaloo.