Richest 20 People Have More Wealth Than Half Of All Americans

Can we call this neo-feudalism yet?
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    Published in partnership with ShadowProof.

    According to a new report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) America’s 20 wealthiest people now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined. IPS calculates the top 20 in the Forbes 400 richest list own more wealth than 152 million people in 57 million households.

    Beyond the top 20 the numbers get even worse. The IPS report estimates that the entire Forbes 400 Richest Americans list own more wealth than the bottom 61% of the country — 194 million people — combined. IPS can only estimate due to widespread use among the rich of offshore tax havens, which means inequality could actually be more severe.



    The Forbes 400 richest Americans are not just wealthy relative to other Americans, but to people all over the world. As IPS notes, the total amount of wealth estimated to be held by the Forbes 400 is $2.34 trillion, an amount that surpasses the GDP of India with a population that exceeds 1 billion people.

    IPS claims wealth concentration has been a result of public policy as much as so-called market forces:

    Many members of the Forbes 400 have amassed wealth in their lifetime through successful companies and innovation. But all of the Forbes 400 have also benefited enormously from a system of tax, trade, and regulatory rules tipped in favor of wealth holders at the expense of wage earners.

    Tax policies, for instance, routinely favor capital income over wage income, and these policies disproportionately benefit the Forbes 400, especially those working in finance.

    Well before Washington bailed out Wall Street, it was giving banksters special privileges in the tax and regulatory code. These advantages helped further finacialize the US economy. Wall Street paid back the politicians with large campaign contributions.

    To counter increasing wealth concentration and inequality, IPS recommends a new round of progressive policies. The first part would be restoring and reinforcing the social safety net — raising the minimum wage, universal healthcare, and paid sick leave — policies that would do a lot to stop people from becoming extremely poor.

    IPS also recommends policies that will “level the playing field.” Policies preventing the wealthy from using offshore tax havens and other tools to avoid US taxes and regulations, as well as campaign finance reform to limit the power of money in elections. This prevents the rich from abusing the system and perverting it for their own ends.

    And, ultimately, IPS recommends policies that will undo much of the present wealth concentration including higher taxation on the rich and antitrust activities to breakup firms dominating markets and grossly enriching executives.

    The problem, of course, is that in order to make those policies happen progressives would have to overcome the power and influence of the Forbes 400 and friends who have captured the government. Power and wealth feed on each other, especially in a post-Citizens United America, and the more the inequality grows the more the 1% can dominate policymaking institutions.

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    • Me Who

      This article describes oligarchy, right? It reminds me of how the US always scores so low on happiness inventories compared to other countries, the suicide rate is so high – and quality of life keeps deteriorating in correlation with the increase in globalization. First NAFTA, then the trade deal with South Korea, were when much of our good paying jobs were shipped overseas. A free market can’t work when companies violate tax laws and kill competition. They kill innovation and society deteriorates. If this is allowed to continue, our society will be nothing to be proud of. The motivation for becoming successful will cease to exist as people begin to realize that no matter how hard they work or what talents they have, they can’t get ahead in life.

      • TecumsehUnfaced

        It looks like the American ruling elite is so seized by its feeding frenzy that it will provoke the major insurrection that FDR feared. But these vampires aren’t complete fools. That’s why they are militarizing our police and building more and more prisons.

        • Me Who

          Privatizing prisons, just like healthcare, must be good profits when monopolization and corruption are permitted to go on. But one chunk of people who aren’t often mentioned, call them upper middle class, pay dearly for all this. They aren’t imprisoned or making profit like the big guys, but pay over half their wages in taxes to keep these inefficient, unethical programs going that the government-private sector partnerships profit from! So even they never get ahead in life due to waste, fraud, and abuse in these gov-private profit schemes. We are seeing this damage all sectors of our society for sure!

          • GALT

            Interesting claim and point……but what would be more interesting
            would be who this subset is working for? Every tier on the way
            down supports those above them……enables them, if you will…
            and each, in their turn will be pushed off the edge…..because that
            is the only way it can continue…..and it MUST continue.

            This is the continuous lesson of history with a brief respite after
            WW2……which lulled everyone to sleep and introduced the
            further fantasy that “technology” would provide a solution to
            all problems……which it has not and will not unless this cycle is
            BROKEN. ( and even then it will be a near thing )

            • Me Who

              I think this subset of people is necessary to bring into the mix as they’re supplying the bulk of the income (with around half of their wages stolen in taxes) that allows some of these schemes to continue. Statistics show that they are not gaining wealth, and their quality of life (against logic) is deteriorating. So the groups that focus on producing positive change in society ought to focus of this group as well as others. While it’s evident in statistics we keeps seeing about wealth gap, etc., these people are starting to become or are disgruntled. A while back I had a disagreement over Walmart’s low wages with someone who felt that they did not deserve a wage increase. My response was that workers don’t make enough money to pay for childcare, healthcare, and receive welfare for those things. While, the wealthy owners-a small at the top of the company were greedily rolling in profits. If the owners gave up a percentage of their profit (still remaining wealthy even) then their workers could afford those things they need. BUT, who is really paying for what the small group at the top refuse to give? THAT GUY I WAS TALKING TO! Besides those companies refusing to pay a living wage, they hide their tax money overseas, etc. All in all, I agree that the problem is with an unethical, greedy group at the top. Even people close to that group at the top, above the people who are paying over half their wages in taxes, are starting to realize that they aren’t gaining wealth…they’re just running in place.

              • GALT

                Again, they are not going to stop running in place….nor be
                able to stop losing ground……and this continues down the ladder.
                And they will vote for anyone who promises to solve THEIR problem.

                Most of the people who have wealth, are not producing anything of
                actual value or benefit, and what they do produce is more damaging
                than useful…….most “work” produces more harm than good…..and
                this is accelerating, Unfortunately, humans take pleasure in the
                misfortune of others, and the fact that things could be worse, until
                they can not…..is what keeps this insanity going.

                Until a connection is made that the wealthy are both evil and immoral,
                and that money from money is the worst evil of all…..we are facing
                unbelievable horrors as this plays out……coming to a place near you,
                sooner or later…….