Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us

forbes400-coverThis report exposes the extreme wealth concentrated within the fortunes of the 400 wealthiest Americans and compares this wealth to the much more meager assets of several different segments of American society.

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.

The report also proposes a direct tax on wealth to break up the concentration of wealth and generate trillions of dollars in new revenue to invest in wealth building opportunities for working families.

See shareable graphics below.

KEY FINDINGS:

  • America’s 20 wealthiest people — a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet –­ now own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.
  • The Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation’s entire African-American population ­– plus more than a third of the Latino population ­– combined.
  • 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 2 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.

Two types of policy interventions can reduce extreme wealth inequality in the United States. 


First, we must close wealth escape routes. 
Wealthy individuals are moving quickly to shift wealth into offshore tax havens and bury it in private trusts, avoiding accountability and taxation every step of the way. This hidden wealth now totals in the trillions. Our first step must be to close these escape routes and tax dodges.

Second, we need to implement policies to reduce concentrated wealth. 
Without action to directly reduce private concentrations of wealth, inequality will continue to grow. By seriously taxing our wealthiest households, we could raise significant revenues and invest these funds to expand wealth-building opportunities across the economy.

Share the graphics below to spread the word.

forbes400-graphic1-2-01 forbes400graphic3-2-01 forbes400-graphic2-2-01

Read the full report [PDF].


The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us

Over the last decade, a huge share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top one-tenth of the richest 1 percent, the wealthiest one out of a thousand households.

Within this group, our richest 400 individuals command a dizzying amount of wealth, defined here as total assets minus liabilities. The annual Forbes 400 ranking provides a unique insight into the extreme wealth concentration at America’s economic summit. Forbes began publishing its top 400 ranking in 1982. The total wealth of the latest 400 adds up to $2.34 trillion, a new all-time record and more than the GDP of India, a country with a population of over a billion.

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.

The United States is becoming, 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.

 U.S. Wealth Pyramid Now Space Needle

Photo from Wikimedia Commons/Jordon Kalilich

Photo from Wikimedia Commons/Jordon Kalilich

The level of U.S. wealth inequality has grown so lopsided that our classic wealth distributional pyramid now more resembles the shape of Seattle’s iconic Space Needle.

The bulge at the top of our wealth “space needle” reflects America’s wealthiest 0.1 percent, the top one-thousandth of our population, an estimated 115,000 households with a net worth starting at $20 million. This group owns more than 20 percent of U.S. household wealth, up from 7 percent in the 1970s. This elite subgroup, University of California-Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez points out, now owns about as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent of America combined.

But these numbers don’t tell the full wealth concentration story. For that story we need to examine our wealthiest 400, a cohort small enough to dine in the rotating luxury restaurant atop the Space Needle in Seattle. These 400 all possess fortunes worth at least $1.7 billion.

Our wealthiest 400 now have more wealth combined than the bottom 61 percent of the U.S. population, an estimated 70 million households, or 194 million people. That’s more people than the population of Canada and Mexico combined.

The higher up you go up our contemporary wealth ladder, the greater the imbalance. Perched atop our distributional space needle rests a Gulfstream G650 luxury private jet. Sitting in its 20 seats: America’s 20 wealthiest individuals.

forbes400-graphic1-2-01

The Top 20 Wealth Holders

The wealthiest 20 individuals in the United States today hold more wealth than the bottom half of the U.S. population combined. These 20 super wealthy — a group small enough to fly together on one Gulfstream G650 private jet — have as much wealth as the 152 million people who live in the 57 million households that make up the bottom half of the U.S. population.

blueboxThis private jet metaphor could hardly be more appropriate. The 2015 Forbes 400 special issue features eight advertisements for private luxury jets, some running several pages long, as well as a special private jet promotional supplement entitled “The Mobility Advantage.” Very few on the Forbes 400, we can safely assume, fly on commercial flights.

The 20 wealthiest Americans include eight founders of corporations: Bill Gates (Microsoft), Larry Ellison (Oracle), Jeff Bezos (Amazon), Mark Zuckerberg (Facebook), Larry Page and Sergey Brin (Google), Michael Bloomberg (Bloomberg), and Phil Knight (Nike). The list also features nine heirs from families of dynastic wealth: two Koch brothers, four Waltons (Wal-Mart), and three fortunate souls from the Mars candy empire. Rounding out this top 20: investors Warren Buffett and George Soros and casino mogul Sheldon Adelson.

Forbes Top 20

ForbesTop20

The Forbes 400 and Cats

Another way to contemplate the wealth imbalance the Forbes 400 represents: cats. The typical U.S. household holds $81,000 in wealth. The Forbes 400 have more wealth than 36 million typical U.S. households, as many households that own cats. forbes400graphic3-2-01

The Racial Asset Divide

The United States has a persistent racial wealth divide, the result of a multi-generational legacy of discrimination in asset building that began during slavery and has continued right up to present-day discrimination in mortgage lending.

As of October 2015, the homeownership rate for white Americans stands at 71.9 percent. By contrast, only 42.4 percent of African-Americans own their own homes and only 46.1 percent of Latinos. Ownership of corporate stocks, a valuable store and generator of wealth over time, appears even more skewed, with 55 percent of white households owning at least some stocks, but only 28 percent of African-Americans and 17 percent of Latinos.

In the aftermath of the 2008 economic meltdown, wealth owned by Latino and African-American families declined dramatically as home values collapsed, especially in urban areas. The wealth of America’s richest 1 percent also dropped in the immediate aftermath of the meltdown, but then rebounded quickly in subsequent years, as the stock market recovered. This resurgent market would prove of little help to the majority of African-American and Latino families, households that own no stocks at all.

The billionaires who make up the Forbes 400 list now have as much wealth as all of America’s African-American households, plus one-third of America’s Latino population, combined.

In other words, just 400 extremely wealthy individuals — the number of people who could fit into the swanky 21 Club Restaurant in midtown Manhattan — have as much wealth as 16 million African-American households and 5 million Latino households. An even more striking stat: The wealthiest 100 members of the Forbes list alone own about as much wealth as the entire African American population of 42 million people.

forbes400-graphic2-2-01

The wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400, meanwhile, own as much wealth as the entire Latino population, over 55 million people.

African-Americans overall make up 13.2 percent of the U.S. population, but have only 2.5 percent of the nation’s total wealth. Latinos make up 17 percent of the U.S. population and hold 2.9 percent of total private wealth. (See Table 3)

What about the divide in median wealth? Typical white households in the United States now hold $141,900 in net worth. The African-American household median: $11,000. The Latino: $13,700.

Racial Wealth and Population

RacialWealthPopulation

Only two African-Americans, Oprah Winfrey (#211 with $3 billion) and tech investor Robert Smith (#268 with $2.5 billion), currently reside within the Forbes 400. The only other African-American billionaire in the United States, Michael Jordan, did not make the $1.7 billion Forbes 400 cut. Jordan’s net worth: $1.3 billion.

Five members of the Forbes 400 come from Latino backgrounds. They include Jorge Perez, the condo king of Miami (#171 with $3.5 billion) and Arturo Moreno, a billboard billionaire and owner of the Los Angeles Angels baseball team (#375 with $1.8 billion). The three remaining Latinos all hail from one family, the U.S. children of the late Colombian beer magnate Julio Mario Santo Domingo, a major shareholder of SABMiller. Alejandro and Andres Santo Domingo sit at #149 on the list with $3.8 billion each, with Julio III at #358 with $1.9 billion.

Why Inequality Matters

 According to research across several academic disciplines, extreme inequalities of income, wealth and opportunity undermine democracy, social cohesion, economic stability, social mobility, and many other important aspects of our personal and public lives.

Extreme inequality corrodes our democratic system and public trust. It leads to a breakdown in civic cohesion and social solidarity, which in turn leads to worsened health outcomes. Inequality undercuts social mobility—and has disastrous effects on the economy.

Too much inequality disenfranchises us, diminishing our vote at the ballot box and our voice in the public square. Wealthy donors dominate our campaign finance and lawmaking systems, even after efforts at reform. In the first phase of the 2016 Presidential election cycle, 158 wealthy donors provided half of all campaign contributions.

High inequality makes us sick and undermines public health. Unequal communities have greater rates of heart disease, asthma, mental illness, cancer, and other morbid illnesses. It is well known that poverty contributes to bad health outcomes. But research is showing that you are better off living in a community with a lower standard of living, but greater equality—than living in a community with a higher income, but more extreme inequalities.

Why is this so? According to UK health researcher Richard Wilkinson, communities with less inequality have stronger “social cohesion,” more cultural limits on unrestrained individualism, and greater networks of mutual aid and caring. “The individualism and values of the market are restrained by a social morality,” Wilkinson writes. The existence of more social capital “lubricates the workings of the whole society and economy. There are fewer signs of antisocial aggressiveness, and society appears more caring.”

Extreme inequalities of wealth rip our communities apart with social divisions and distrust, leading to an erosion of social cohesion and solidarity. The wealthy and everyone else today don’t just live on opposite sides of the tracks—they occupy parallel universes. New research shows that we’re becoming more polarized by class and race in terms of where we live. As this distance widens, it is harder for people to feel like they are in the same boat.

 Extreme inequality undermines the cherished value of equality of opportunity and social mobility. Intergenerational mobility is the possibility of shifting up or down the income ladder relative to one’s parent’s status. In a mobile society, one’s economic circumstances are not defined or limited by one’s family economic origins.

Today, Canada and those European nations—with their social safety nets and progressive tax policies—are now more socially mobile than U.S. society. Research across the industrialized OECD countries has found that Canada, Australia and Nordic countries—Denmark, Sweden, and Finland—are among the most mobile countries. There is a strong correlation between social mobility and policies that redistribute income and wealth through taxation. The United States is now among the least mobile of industrialized countries in terms of earnings.

Too much inequality contributes to economic instability. Research by the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the National Bureau of Economic Research point to the fact that more equal societies have stronger rates of growth, longer economic expansions, and are quicker to recover from economic downturns. According to Jonathan Ostry, an economist at the IMF, unequal income trends in the U.S. mean that future economic expansions will be just one-third as long as the 1960s, prior to the widening of the income divide. Less equal societies are more vulnerable to both financial crises and political instability.

Reversing Extreme Wealth Concentration

What can we do to reverse these extreme inequalities of wealth? In this section, we provide an overview of the public policies often proposed to address inequality. We argue that strategies to “raise the floor” and “level the playing field” will be insufficient to reduce the distorting effects of concentrated wealth.

We need public policies that directly address the top-heavy distribution of wealth. Unfortunately, the very wealthy are using offshore tax havens and private trusts to hide wealth and avoid public accountability and taxation. So before we implement our policy agenda, detailed below, we must first address the wealth escape routes.

Aggressive Avoidance at the Top: The Wealth Escape Problem

Calculations by the compilers of the annual Forbes list may understate the net worth of many of those extremely wealthy individuals listed. The Forbes calculations, for example, do not take into account the growing amount of U.S. and global wealth hidden in offshore bank accounts and secrecy jurisdictions. Nor do the Forbes data include the trillions in wealth buried in complicated and opaque trust mechanisms.

Offshore BillLoophole

An Overview of Public Policies to Reduce Inequality

Most discussions about inequality and public policy focus on a wide range of solutions, from raising the minimum wage to reducing the influence of big money on politics. Canada and many European countries today have significantly less inequality than the United States because these nations have an array of policies that raise the floor, level the playing field, and reduce concentrations of wealth and power.

  1. Raise-the-floor policies ensure a minimal social safety net and assist workers. These include higher minimum wages, paid sick leave, early childhood education, universal health insurance, and guaranteed minimum incomes. The “Fight for 15” — a $15 per hour minimum wage — represents one active campaign in the United States that aims to raise the floor and reduce inequality.
  1. Level-the-playing-field policies work to ensure consistent rules across sectors and population segments. The United States should not sport one set of U.S. tax rules for domestic businesses and another set of tax rules for transnational corporations. Similarly, campaign finance reform and the movement towards publicly funded elections could level the playing field between voters of different income levels. Instead, we effectively have a “wealth primary,” as wealthy campaign contributors winnow the field before they stand for a single vote.
  1. Policies that reduce concentrations of wealth and power directly focus on the top end of the income and wealth distribution. These include progressive taxation and antitrust policies and address the drivers of systemic inequality. Without reducing concentrations of wealth and power, efforts to raise the floor and level the playing field will either be unsuccessful or rendered quickly irrelevant.

We focus below on reducing the concentration of wealth, first through closing wealth escape routes and then via public policies designed to reduce inequality through public investments and revenue enhancements.

PART I: CLOSE OFF WEALTH ESCAPE ROUTES

To effectively reverse the concentration of wealth and power, we need to institute progressive wealth and estate taxes. But these tax policies will not be nearly as effective as they could and should be as long as offshore tax havens and trust mechanisms conceal wealth.

Stop Offshore Abuse

The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, introduced in the U.S. House of Representatives (HR 297) by Rep. Lloyd Doggett and in the U.S. Senate (S. 174) by Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, aims primarily at corporate tax avoidance. But several provisions also apply to individual tax dodging, attacking such problems as inadequate bank disclosure and the absence of transparency.

Systematically confronting offshore tax havens will require legislative action, international diplomacy, and sanctions and penalties aimed at both banks and tax haven jurisdictions. Nations must establish treaties requiring uniform disclosure and transparency, both of banks and capital flows. The large nation states have enormous potential leverage here. They could, for instance, sanction micro-states such as Luxemburg and the Cayman Islands by denying them access to trade. In 1962, France took such action against the principality of Monaco, then a tax haven for wealthy French citizens. Several analyses have detailed other possible interventions.

Close Billionaire Loopholes

A number of proposals to close tax-avoidance loopholes have appeared in legislation and in Obama administration budget proposals. One comprehensive approach, the Responsible Estate Tax Act (HR 2907and S.1677) introduced by Rep. Jan Schakowsky and Senator Bernie Sanders, includes a number of provisions to eliminate or reform dynasty trust arrangements. This legislation also aims to make the estate tax more progressive by adding graduated rates on larger estates. The Schakowsky-Sanders proposal would:

  • Strengthen the “generation-skipping tax,” which is designed to prevent avoidance of estate and gift taxes, by applying it with no exclusion to any trust set up to last more than 50 years.
  • Prevent abuses of Grantor Retained Annuity Trusts (GRATs) by barring donors from taking assets back from these trusts just a couple of years after establishing them to avoid gift taxes (while earnings on the assets are left to heirs tax-free).
  • Prevent wealthy families from avoiding gifts taxes by paying income taxes on earnings generated by assets in “grantor trusts.”
  • Sharply limit the annual exclusion from the gift tax (which was meant to shield the normal giving done around holidays and birthdays from tax and record-keeping requirements) for gifts made to trusts.

PART II: POLICIES TO REDUCE CONCENTRATED WEALTH

 Taxing Wealth

 The most effective intervention to address the intense concentration of wealth currently exhibited would be a direct tax on wealth. The idea of a wealth tax dates back to colonial times and currently exists in a number of other countries. But the practice has yet to be implemented in the United States.

The economist Thomas Piketty has made the case for a global wealth tax as a solution to the rising global wealth inequality. But we don’t need to wait for global action on a wealth tax. We can act meaningfully on the national level, and the mechanics of a wealth tax need not be excessively complicated. Cumulative assets could be assessed on an annual basis in the same manner as annual income, with minor exemptions for small, low-value items. A tax would be levied on cumulative assets over a flat exemption level.

The revenue from such a tax would depend on the rates and exemptions described. Consider a tax that subjects just the top 1 percent of wealth holders with a flat levy of just 1 percent. Our top 1 percent currently owns 42 percent of America’s household wealth, about $26 trillion in all. A 1 percent tax on this wealth would generate $260 billion annually or $2.6 trillion over ten years, more than the federal government now spends on education and environmental protection combined. Raising the wealth tax rate and broadening the base of those to be taxed could raise significantly higher revenue.

Alternatively, a more narrow focus — a 1 percent tax exclusively on the Forbes 400, for instance — could raise $234 billion over ten years. For context, that amounts to more money than the government spends on both Head Start, which provides early childhood education to over 800,000 low-income children, and the Women, Infant, and Children (WIC) program that provides nutrition assistance to over half of all infants born in the United States.

The Taxing of Capital Gains as Ordinary Income

 As mentioned previously, the owners of capital stocks and other financial assets tend to be white and wealthy. The income generated from the sale of stocks and other financial assets is currently taxed at a lower rate than income generated through traditional work. This special income tax rate, currently 23.8 percent, runs significantly lower than the highest income tax rate of 39.6 percent.

Taxing capital gains as ordinary income would end this preferential treatment for wealthy owners of capital and raise more than $600 billion over ten years, according to the Washington-based group Citizens for Tax Justice. This would inevitably reduce inequality, as those at the very top would pay a much fairer and robust tax on the income their property trading generates.

One small yet particularly nefarious loophole in the capital gains tax gives hedge fund managers the ability to pay taxes on their income at the capital gains rate. Ending this arrangement, known as the carried interest loophole, would raise between $15 billion and $180 billion over ten years, depending on how it is structured.

Progressive Income Taxation

Taxing the highest income households at higher rates would generate substantial revenue and have a negligible personal and economic impact on those households. The top 1 percent includes 1.13 million households with an average annual income of $2.1 million. Top 1 percenters pay an effective tax rate of roughly one-third of their total income in federal taxes. This calculation encompasses not just income taxes, but excise taxes, payroll taxes that fund Social Security and Medicare, estate and gift taxes, and the investor’s share of corporate income taxes.

The ultra-wealthy pay federal taxes at an effective rate far lower, as Warren Buffett, number two on the Forbes 400 list, has helped Americans understand. Buffett has noted that he pays taxes at a lower rate than his secretary. On the other hand, former Presidential candidate Mitt Romney tried to avoid talking about the 14 percent effective federal tax rate he paid on $21 million in annual income in 2010, less than half the highest income tax rate. 

According to the Tax Policy Center, if America’s top 1 percent paid federal taxes at an effective 40 percent of their income, instead of the current 33 percent, the federal government would collect $157 billion in the first year. An increase to 45 percent would bring in $276 billion.

Targeting a 40 percent effective tax rate on just the top 0.1 percent, with an average income of $9.4 million, would generate $55 billion in additional revenue annually.

 Reinvestment

 Taxing the wealthy at higher levels would reduce inequality. Investing the revenue gained through these higher taxes in wealth building for millions of families not featured in the glossy pages of Forbes might decrease inequality even more. A major increase in federal revenue would open the door to wealth-building programs that could lift families out of poverty and into the middle class. Among the potential programs that could be considered:

  • Debt-Free College and Student Loan Restructuring

Higher education continues to rise in importance for workers looking to earn a middle class income, but college has become more of a debt sentence then a launching pad, Student debt now tops $1 trillion. The average graduate in 2015 racked up $35,000 in debt, with many going more than six figures into the hole. The high cost of college and high student loan rates create a barrier to education for students from low-income backgrounds and prevent graduates from saving to buy a house or for retirement.

U.S. Senator and Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders has introduced legislation to create a tuition-free public college system at a cost of $70 billion over ten years. The plan would also enable existing borrowers to restructure their loans with lower interest rates. The source of revenue to pay for the plan would be a financial transaction tax, a small levy on trades of stocks and derivatives, which would also help reduce inequality. Presidential candidates Hillary Clinton and Martin O’Malley have also each introduced plans for debt-free higher education.

  • Baby Bonds

Children born into the 1 percent come into the world with family wealth guaranteeing at least a modest cushion to fall back on. Children from poor families do not have this same cushion. They struggle to generate savings. Without an initial modicum of wealth, unforeseen shocks like failing health or car problems and long-foreseen costs for education and childcare can devastate young families.

We can reduce this asset gap through individualized development accounts created for infants at birth that earn interest for a continued period until the child reaches adulthood. These child savings accounts (commonly referred to as Baby Bonds or children’s development accounts) have taken hold in some states. Funding for these have usually come from private foundations rather than the public purse.

Former U.S. Senator Robert Kerrey championed legislation, the KidSave Accounts Act, to provide a $1,000 savings account to every child at birth, with an extra $2,500 deposited over the child’s first five years. The funds would grow over time with compounding interest.

For a rough idea of how much a program like this might cost today, consider that 400,000 babies are born annually. Adjusting for inflation, Senator Kerrey’s $3,500 per child in 1995 would now equal about $5,500, making the current cost of the program about $2.2 billion per year. That’s only slightly more than the most conservative estimates for revenue that could be raised by closing the tax loophole hedge fund managers use to avoid paying their fair share of taxes, known commonly as the carried interest loophole.

  • Affordable Housing

One of the biggest barriers to generating wealth has been the gap between wages and the cost of housing. As home and rental prices have risen steadily, wages have stagnated, especially at the lower end. The national housing wage, the amount needed to afford market rate housing, now stands at $19.35 per hour, two-and-a-half times more than the current $7.25 minimum wage. As a result, over 9 million low-income families are considered severely cost burdened by housing.

Compounding this problem: the erosion of affordable housing programs that provide adequate housing to the working poor. These housing subsidies provide a lifeline to families in need, most of whom work full-time and still don’t earn enough to save and pay market rent.

Investing in the National Low Income Housing Trust Fund could generate housing for extremely low-income families at a cost of $30 billion over ten years. Increased investments in other rental assistance programs would generate a significant additional impact in the savings potential of low-income families at the brink.

Making a serious investment in housing for working families would enable millions of people to begin to generate savings and start to create wealth. This “raise the floor” approach could easily and effectively be funded by any one of the revenue enhancement programs outlined above. Failing to invest in programs that encourage wealth creation at the bottom perpetuates a wealth gap that concentrates the nation’s resources into fewer and fewer hands.

Conclusion 

The Forbes 400 provides a useful snapshot of the nation’s wealthiest individuals, an insight into a world most people will never witness firsthand. The Forbes 400 also provides an insight into just how lopsided our economy has become: Just 400 people hold as much wealth as over 190 million.

To even more accurately depict our current wealth divide, we need further research into the tax-evading strategies 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. We have before us serious policy options for creating a much fairer economy. As Thomas Piketty reminds us, inequality will only continue to grow if we do not act.

Methodology

 The two major datasets used in this report were the 2015 Forbes Magazine Forbes 400 and the 2013 Federal Reserve Survey of Consumer Finance (SCF). Forbes has been calculating the wealth of the 400 wealthiest Americans since 1982 and releasing this information in their annual report. The SCF is a triennial survey conducted by the Federal Reserve Board of Governors and widely regarded as the most comprehensive government dataset documenting household wealth. These two datasets provided the basis for wealth estimations of the top 400 as well as the general population and racial populations.

To derive the wealth figures cited for the general population, the SCF Main survey dataset was analyzed using SPSS software and the following methodology. This was completed with exceptional quantitative help from Dr. Salvatore Babones, associate professor of sociology at the University of Sydney, and Tatjana Meschede, Research Director, Institute for Assets and Social Policy.

Wealth figures were calculated using the SCF variable “networth”. Total household wealth was calculated by multiplying the weighted mean net worth for the SCF-2013 sample by the total number of households in the United States as reported by the Census Bureau USA Quick Facts.

Net worth owned by each percentile is calculated based on the SSPS frequency output. First total net worth of each net worth level is calculated by multiplying the net worth by the frequency. Net worth levels are then grouped by cumulative percentile according to the “less than” rule: e.g., all observed levels of net worth corresponding to a cumulative percentile absolutely less than 1 are included in the first percentile, all levels of net worth on the interval [1,2) are included in the second percentile, etc. The highest net worth household is included in the 100th percentile. Total net worth in each percentile group is then summed. Percent of net worth is calculated by dividing each net worth category’s total net worth by the sample total net worth. Cumulative percent of net worth is the running total of the net worth owned by each percentile divided by total national net worth.

For information on the Methodology used by Forbes to calculate their list, see:
Kroll, Luisa. “Inside the 2015 Forbes 400: Facts and Figures About America’s Wealthiest.” Forbes. September 29, 2015. Online.

Tables & Endnotes: For the full collection of tables and full list of citations, download PDF version of the report.

  • K VASS

    When are we going to stop these obscene transfers of wealth to the rich and start reversing the trend???

  • rtwngr

    What a bunch of envious crap. Jeff Bezos, through risk taking and innovation created a company that now employs 225,000 people. Bill Gates likewise created a company that employs 118,000. Larry Ellison’s inventions at Oracle enable most of the companies that create jobs for millions. Together, these risk taking entrepreneurs created wealth for millions. They didn’t take from anyone, just the rewards of their risks. And they are among the most benevolent people on the planet pumping millions if not billions into hunger alleviation, cancer research, and other charitable endeavors. People who write and propagate this baloney have no idea where opportunity comes from.

    • OHDisqusNSA666100

      Bill Gates wasn’t a billionaire when he did those entrepreneurial things which created jobs for Americans, and Bill Gates never lobbied for more H1B visas before he was a billionaire either.

      • chetdude

        He was born on 2nd and thought he hit a double though…

        His billions can be DIRECTLY attributed to his FATHER’S corporate connections…and IBM’s inability to comprehend the value of software…

        His ONLY “entrepreneurial thing” was to option an incomplete copy of Gary Kildall’s CP/M written by someone else to show his poppa’s friends from IBM…

    • tlspam2015

      About a third of the people on this short list are simply “heirs.” The money fell into their laps.

      • IceTrey

        So two thirds are self made.

        • Dan

          No such thing as a self-made person. Not single person on the list made it all by his or herself. They all depended heavily on other people. Just because a person is innovative, works hard and takes risk does not make them self made. Right time, right place, right idea – none of the people on the list created any of that trifecta.

          • IceTrey

            You’re right. They have to be innovative, work hard, take risks and SUCCEED to be self made.

          • Dan

            No success without all those other ingredients.

          • IceTrey

            Yeah, I said “have to be”. Is English not your first language?

          • chetdude

            To SUCCEED, they have to have GOBS of LUCK and a huge publicly financed infrastructure…

            The rest, not so much…

            They also tend to be ANTI-INNOVATIVE. Micro$oft certainly has been over the years…

      • rtwngr

        And so what should they do with the wealth they earned? Give it to the government for safe keeping and benevolent redistribution? Give it to you? Most of these people find perfectly just causes to donate their money to without the help of the nanny state or its laggard supporters. And even if they don’t, so what? It’s theirs. Want some? Get a job for starters.

        • http://hcle.org Liza Loop

          Excellent questions. Redistribution can be managed very effectively by the private sector and does not require government intervention. But what will be the most effective target for the rich to aim at in order to enhance the world their grandchildren will inherent? Those who are taking “the giving pledge” know that inherited wealth doesn’t protect us from war and wide-spread civil unrest. Masses of disenfranchised young people with no hope of sharing in the bounty they see around them endanger all of us. Yet our moral/ethical/religious values don’t permit simply machine-gunning them. So what policies do you suggest the wealthy adopt?

          • FdoCenteno

            There are several think tanks who can answer that question, as food for thought. I haven’t focused on “the wealthy” in my work, but do know that there are analysts who have good ideas on this issue. It’s only a matter of follow-up to promote sound ideas rather than winging it as we do on Commentary blogs.

    • Grey

      Just because the point of view of the writer is to limit the wealth of our richest doesn’t mean that he is envious. The point of the article isn’t to vilify each person on this list (obviously there can be good rich people), its to show the wealth inequality we have in America and to offer solutions to it.

      “They didn’t take from anyone, just the rewards of their risks.”

      And I would argue that anyone who that uses tax evasion is taking from our country. Under these loopholes, its legal. But it’s unethical.

      “And they are among the most benevolent people on the planet”

      And I do believe that people like Gill Gates are doing a huge service to this country, but people like the Walton family are not. Actually, of the 17 billion in dividends they received of the last 23 years, they only gave 0.34% as donations. Almost all of it coming from Christy Walton(the in-law), while Rob, Jim and Alice only gave 6.4 million. You don’t have to give to charity, but “benevolent” cannot be used as a blanket term for Forbes 400.

      There is no point other than gluttony for a person to amass wealth more than he or she can ever spend in their life. Not while there are people starving or in need of help.

      • IceTrey

        Why offer solutions when it’s not a problem? These people have CREATED wealth which didn’t exist before. It’s not a zero sum game. Gates has not taken one dollar out of your pocket.
        If tax evasion is taking from our country you are saying that no one owns anything but the government and they just allow us to keep a portion of our income.
        Their wealth is mostly in stock. Gates does not have a vault full of gold coins he goes swimming in like Scrooge McDuck.

        • Grey

          “If tax evasion is taking from our country you are saying that no one owns anything but the government and they just allow us to keep a portion of our income.”

          You may this taxes like this, but you can’t infer my opinion. I own plenty of things, but I do also have to pay taxes on the money I earn as income or as capital gains. It’s to help pay for our gov’t and the services it provides. Taxes aren’t obligated, they are mandatory.

          “Why offer solutions when it’s not a problem?”

          The article above points out a few specific reasons that income inequality is a problem. To name a few from the above article, income inequality diminishes our vote and decreases our economic stability.

          • IceTrey

            Isn’t obligated and mandatory the same thing? Anyway they aren’t mandatory, 50% of Americans pay no income tax.
            Diminishing our vote is not a problem of income inequality it’s a problem of government corruption and tyranny. You blame the rich for buying votes while ignoring the fact the politicians are selling their votes. This is simple to solve. Limit government authority to the retaliatory use of force.

          • Grey

            I actually meant optional instead of obligated(thanks for catching that).

            “50% of Americans pay no income tax.”

            Each person pays income tax, the stat that you are referring to is federal income tax. But that number is actually closer to 40%. This statistic also ignores state income tax and payroll tax and other taxes like gas or sales tax. Also. most of the people who pay neither federal income tax nor payroll taxes are low-income people who are elderly, unable to work due to a serious disability, or students, most of whom subsequently become taxpayers.

            It’s a very convenient stat to use, but it’s not accurate.

            Can you please explain this point? “This is simple to solve. Limit government authority to the retaliatory use of force.”

          • IceTrey

            Taxation, drug prohibition, etc. requires the initiatory use of force.

          • Mister West

            That approximately 40%, not 50%, of Americans who pay no federal income tax are, also, for all practical purposes the 40% of Americans who occupy the lowest socioeconomic position in our society. In other words, they are the poorest most economically disadvantaged members of our society.

            These Americans who pay no federal income tax do so because it is understood they can’t afford to pay federal income tax. In fact, not only are their relatively meager incomes unable to support an income tax levy, this 40% of Americans has virtually no financial wealth and they own just a miniscule amount of our nation’s privately held net wealth.

        • chetdude

          Gates’ monomania not only took MANY dollars out of my pocket for his overpriced, under-powered software but as I was a programmer/consultant his crap caused hundreds of agonizing hours (and many bucks) thanks to his 3rd rate operating system and Micro$oft’s business model, that includes healthy doses of Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt to kill innovative software application platforms in order to create more profits for M$, personally cost me the balance of my career…

          He may not have Scrooge’s swimming pool but he DOES have this from his ill-gotten gains derived from stifling innovation:
          “Bill Gates house encompasses more than 66,000 square feet which is equal to 1.5 acres.The major rooms include 7 bedrooms, 24 bathrooms, six kitchens, and six fireplaces.”

          “Floors are pressure sensitive, at any given time family member or security can know who is in the residence by the weight of their footsteps in Bill Gates home.

          “Visitors to the Bill Gates House are surveyed and given a microchip upon entrance. This small chip sends signals throughout the home, and a given room’s temperature and other conditions will change according to preset user preferences.

          In 2009, total assessed value was US $147.5 million.”
          http://www.billgatesmicrosoft.com/billhouse.htm

          $147.5 million — hell he could buy his own F35 fighter jet. Although he wouldn’t be allowed to fly it in bad weather…

          Lots of room for the three of them to rattle around in (with their cohorts of servants and security force, no doubt).

          • IceTrey

            No, YOU took money out of your pocket to voluntarily buy his shitty software. No one forced you. You could have bought a Mac.

        • FdoCenteno

          If one sits in his man cave, there are no “solutions” to solve or tackle, but when one works seriously in the public arena, with responsibilities to address a growing socioeconomic divide, structural poverty and deprivation, with a shrinking middle class (confirmed by PEW recently), Houston, we do have a problem. We don’t want to penalize the job creators, we just want them to pay their fair share of the social burden, & not use lawyers & accountants to skip town with their largesse, or lobbyists who game the tax system, as many do. They can also set a good example by being good citizens (many are) & helping out with policy ideas & rewarding constructive public-private partnerships to “create” win-win outcomes, plus so much more than I can detail here.

          • IceTrey

            The 1% pay 35% of all federal income taxes. The top 10% pay 68%. It looks like they pay more than their fair share.

          • FdoCenteno

            If, and only if, you are sincerely interested in “tax fairness”, check out
            americansfortaxfairness.org

          • IceTrey

            The only fair tax I’m interested in is the one that repeals the 16th amendment. The proper function of government is to defend individual negative liberty with the retaliatory use of force. Income taxes require the government to initiate force to make people pay and is therefore immoral.

          • FdoCenteno

            In that case, you’re up against the Supreme Court, the Constitution, and our Founders; good luck.

          • IceTrey

            No, I’m up against Congress and the States. Do you not know how the Constitution is amended? BTW, it’s the Framers who wrote the Constitution, which didn’t include direct taxation hence the 16th. The Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and fought the Revolution.

          • FdoCenteno

            Federalist Paper 39 explains the original amending process, hence, allowing for direct taxation years later, as per general consensus. Really? The Founders wrote the Declaration of Independence and fought the Revolution? And all done behind closed doors, in secret.

          • IceTrey

            Yes, the 16th amendment is an amendment. It was ratified in 1913. So like I said the Constitution did not originally allow direct taxation. Legal and moral are not synonyms. You do understand the Founders were all traitors to England so it makes sense they wrote the Declaration in secret because to not do so would invite their death by hanging?

          • FdoCenteno

            There are a lot of things the Constitution did not originally allow. Our Founders were revolutionaries who wrote the Constitution in 1787, four yrs AFTER the war ended in 1983.

          • IceTrey

            I know, I was 17 in 1983. It was hell.

          • FdoCenteno

            Check this out: http://www.nber.org/papers/w11783, well worth the read

      • rtwngr

        I missed the solutions part.

        • FdoCenteno

          There are many “solutions” on the table of top public policy institutions & academia; I’ve collected a big batch of them, but who reads them, much less compare them, much less act on them, much less measure for best impacts, much less distribute results, much less adopt best practices, much less reward for actual results? No one. I’m not looking for “solutions”, I’m looking for the best practical, measureable, productive, effective, & adoptable ideas; they exist in theory, it’s the practice which is missing. I work in the CED field, but there is no peer group to work with, from my experience. I can’t interest “professional planners” in any of this, regrettably.

          • http://hcle.org Liza Loop

            Where should we look for your solutions?

          • FdoCenteno

            When I write a book, and when I’m convinced there will be readers. I wouldn’t provide “solutions” as this implies solving a problem; it would need to need to be a comprehensive, multifaceted, interdisciplinary, collaborative, leveraged approach, with the objective of actually closing the socioeconomic gaps as much as possible, & the creation of a viable benchmarking system open to the public, & policy prescriptions reflecting cutting edge thinking & empirical evidence. In theory, the construct is there, it just needs to be put together into a modern format(s).

    • chetdude

      The one who’s obviously envious is you.

      We look upon this scourge in horror…

    • Issis

      Exactly … but those from families of inherited wealth (the Koch brothers, the 3 Mars family members, the Waltons) support neo-conservative policies and programs that seek to maintain their unearned priviledges.

      • rtwngr

        You’re a college student, aren’t you?

  • TrollPatroll

    If you can’t afford to raise a child stop breeding, definitely don’t have 5 of them, and apply yourself in life so you aren’t making $8.50 past the age of 18… that should close the wealth gap, but then again, with the impending robot hordes that will replace all remedial jobs I’m not sure any of it matters much.

  • http://hcle.org Liza Loop

    Nice compilation of potential interventions. In addition, we might improve our understanding of wealth inequality issues by looking at them from two other angles:

    1. Aspiration. Not all individuals and/or families have goals involving accumulation of either physical/real wealth or financial (on the books) wealth. They value social interaction, artistic expression, contact with nature, for example, more than “being rich” or controlling assets. The wealth distribution problem might respond to very different solutions if we measure wealth in terms of personal aspirations, sense of satisfaction, happiness and achievement of personal goals rather than financial ledgers. This is not to say that we should ignore a strict financial analysis but that we should broaden our approach.

    2. Opportunity to consume. Wealth concentration is a problem because
    a) the wealthy few cannot consume enough to fuel industrial production of real goods and thus dampens productivity and
    b) lack of access to money prevents those who wish to consume from obtaining the output of our industrial production engine thereby slowing down the whole economy.

    In other words, neither a level playing field (equal opportunity) nor radical redistribution (equal outcome) are likely to maximize global satisfaction. Effective interventions will embody the maxim “different folks, different strokes” and will encourage individuals to address seriously the question of what they want out of life when they have both the freedom and opportunity to choose.

  • IceTrey

    The author falls back on the old reliable tactic of using force to get what he wants. I’d rather have income inequality than tyranny.

    • Grey

      I think that I would rather have income inequality over tyranny as well, but those aren’t the only two options that we have. It isn’t North Korea or the US, there are a lot of countries in between.

      Of the solutions listed in the above article, I didn’t see any that I would call “using force”. Of the listed above solutions: Higher taxes on the wealthy, Affordable housing, Student Debt reconciliation, or Reinvestment. Which one is the ” old reliable tactic of using force”?

      If I assume you were speaking of the higher tax on the wealthy, how would taxation be taking money by force? Income taxes is something that we have doing since 1913 and the penalties are steep for tax evasion, but they are not taking money by force.

      • IceTrey

        Uh, if you don’t pay your taxes men with guns will come to your house and try to put you in a cage. If you resist they WILL shoot you. When thinking of the income tax just imagine a gun to grandma’s head because that’s the reality.

        • Grey

          I think you may be using sarcasm to avoid addressing the topic at hand. Please feel free to comment again or write back. Also, my grandma has never had a gun put to her head because someone didn’t pay their taxes.

          • IceTrey

            No sarcasm, the government will kill you if you resist being taxed. No, if SHE didn’t pay her taxes.

          • Grey

            Is there a specific dept that does the tax killings? IRS, the Inequality Rape Samurai?

            “No, if SHE didn’t pay her taxes”
            So, if my grandma doesn’t pay her taxes then I get shot? Can you elaborate please? Also, how many people die if I’m just late on my taxes?

          • IceTrey

            Department of the Treasury.

            If YOU resist for not paying YOUR taxes YOU may be shot. It’s not that hard to understand.

          • Grey

            Oooh, the dept of the Treasury. Maybe it’s the treasure pirates then doing all of the tax killings. You think we should let the CDC know of the tax killing, so maybe then they can start keeping track of it. I didn’t see dying resulting from “not paying taxes” on their website.

          • IceTrey

            You do know when Eric Garner died he was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes?

          • Grey

            Was it the treasury pirates? Did his grandma get shot in the head too?

          • IceTrey

            Yes.

          • chetdude

            In the absence of any actual evidence, it’s impossible to believe…

            I think you just pulled that crap out from your nether region…

          • IceTrey

            So you think if you don’t pay your taxes and when they come to arrest you and you point a gun at the cops they will just let you go?

          • chetdude

            What an asinine statement! Are you for REAL?!?!?!

            If you don’t pay your taxes and they send you a letter requiring payment. Then if you don’t pay, they garnish your wages…they DO NOT ARREST YOU unless you commit fraud (and aren’t rich)…

            However, if you’re a REALLY STUPID MOFO (and you seem to be since YOU brought it up out of nowhere) and “point a gun” at ANYBODY because you don’t want to pay your taxes or for whatever f*cking reason your dim bulb of a “brain” comes up with…

            if you’re Black, they’ll shoot you immediately, if you’re white, they WILL arrest your sorry a**…

          • IceTrey

            You’re really rich and don’t have a job from which to garner your wages. You’re white and when they try to arrest you you shoot at them. You really don’t want to pay your taxes.

          • chetdude

            And when someone’s bat-crap crazy, they post nonsense such as what you’re posting…

        • chetdude

          Name ONE instance of someone being shot for not paying their taxes…

          You’re just silly…

          • IceTrey

            Eric Garner was being arrested for selling untaxed cigarettes.

          • chetdude

            No, he was murdered for being black…

    • Alberto caceres

      Wait…I understand and agree with the income inequality, if it was honestly obtained if I may add.But do you agree with the richest avoiding paying their proper taxation on their wealth, as every other income class does.

      • IceTrey

        Yes, I agree the rich should avoid paying their taxes like every other income class does.

    • chetdude

      You’re getting your wish…

  • Curt Welch

    The inequalty is a natural result of our advancing machine economy. It’s no accident that the top of the list is dominated by high tech industries. As our technology advances, this problem will get far worse. The only correct solution is a Basic Income. Direct cash redistribution from the rich to everyone.

    • http://hcle.org Liza Loop

      Yes, the effect of robotics and AI is increasing productivity — more real wealth being created. But is the assignment of that wealth to the owners of the robots a “natural” phenomenon? IMHO the way we distribute wealth in the developed (or 1st or Western) world is determined by our cultural “social contract”. We have the power to change it. There are communities, largely very old, traditional cultures, in which the hunter does not “own” his (or her) kill. In these societies the production of wealth is unevenly distributed but is shared differently from the way we do it. We might learn some valuable lessons by studying “primitive” societies before they all become extinct.

      • FdoCenteno

        You might be interested in “Who Cooked Adam Smith’s Dinner?, A Story About Women and Economics”, by Katrine Marcal, which applies to not just women but men, of course.

      • DHFabian

        No, most working class jobs have been lost to corporations “going international” — shutting down jobs here, moving them outside of the US. Successful societies are those that are able to adjust to change, as the US did from the start of the industrial era. Of course there are far better ways of doing things than our rather primitive socioeconomic system (“survival of the fittest”), such as the basic income guarantee, opening up doors tp innovation and creativity. Unfortunately, it does appear that the US has finally become rusted into place, unable to move forward.

    • DHFabian

      Today, a number of countries are doing better than the US, relieving and reducing poverty while building a higher overall quality of life than we have in the US today. Here, we could look at the policies and programs that were in place from FDR to Reagan, which took this country to its height of wealth and productivity. Since the 1980s, the US increasingly embraced something like a “survival of the fittest” agenda, and we have to live with the consequences.

    • samuelstorns

      It’s natural result of greed. It’s a natural result of buying politics. It’s a natural result of trickle down. It’s natural result of being able to propagandize the populace to think they deserve it all, while minimum wage workers, and the rest of us really are lucky to have jobs at all!

  • Natalie Ann

    there companies can hold there adresses in countries were they pay no taxes for alll we know these companies are behind fundings for terrorist

    • IceTrey

      Your taxes fund terrorists. How many innocent women and children has our government killed in the past 15 years? I say the more money they keep out of the governments hands the better.

  • Cornell Junior

    man, you’d think that the authors would get at least some modicum of respect from these trolls for their research, AT LEAST. but of course not, these keyboard warriors just bash anything that doesn’t conform to their ideology.

    i mean, it’s not like the author is using rhetoric or imagination to come up with his arguments… he’s using FACTS which some of you seem to reject on the basis that they’re the TRUTH

  • Roy Stevenson

    Be interesting to analyze what the wealth percentage would have been back in 1776. By and large the signers of the declaration of independence were the wealthiest citizens of their states.

    • http://hcle.org Liza Loop

      Yes. 1776 was a time of almost exclusively face-to-face communication and people couldn’t travel to the meetings unless they were wealthy. It was the beginning of the industrial revolution that has resulted in today’s networked world and robotically enhanced human productivity. Now, we live in a changed landscape. With our new opportunities, let’s explore ways of including everyone in the abundance we have created. The objective is not to make the rich poor or to eliminate all economic differentiation. It is to provide a minimum standard of support so that no one need fear death by starvation, exposure or succumbing to curable disease. Any workable solution along these lines must also include population decline. Equally important is education for personal self-actualization and peaceful conflict resolution. The past need not be our blueprint for the future.

  • benleet

    45% of the U.S. workforce earn less than 6% of the annual income. These 71 million workers all earn less than $25,000 a year, and as an average they each earn about $12,500. In the past 8 years the nation has increased its “household net worth”, or private wealth, by $28 trillion, from $57 trillion to $85 trillion; that’s a 50% increase during the time of the worst economic contraction since 75 years ago, the 1930s Depression. Just about all of this new wealth went to the top 5% of households who own over 75% of financial assets. If it had been spread evenly, and God forbid we would do that, then each household would have $233,000 in new wealth. Chuck Collins has also published Class Lives, an interesting collection of personal stories about class consciousness. He does a lot. These facts I mention above are from various sources, the Social Security Administration annual wage report, the Joint Committee on Taxation Overview for 2014, page 30, the Flow of Funds report from the Fed, page 2, Sylvia Allegretto’s report The State of Working America’s Wealth. I have to read this new report, now. In short, this economy out of whack, out of balance, incredibly unfair. It’s time for the news to be spread. My blog is http://benL8.blogspot.com if you want more of my flow.

  • Issis

    It is interesting that of the top, most with inherited wealth are neo-conservatives fighting tooth and nail to keep wealth that they did not, in fact, create … while those who developed their own companies or otherwise created their wealth from inventive, intelligent actions have pledged their wealth to assist social welfare programs and more liberal policies and programs.

  • DoseOfReality

    The problem is the income inequality parrots support politicians that make it almost impossible for an average person to become wealthy. I advocate improved income equality metrics in the USA, but I much prefer seeing more people become wealthy and not increasing the size of our already bloated government that is run by plutocrats and oligarchs. Our government is bought off at many levels, yet you think making it bigger and stronger will help your cause. Wow. Keep government small and taxes lower so more people flourish. Let government provide true public goods in the strictest sense of the phrase and let government become accountable and fiscally sound so it doesn’t have to tax the peasants at high rates in order to survive. We are at a point where confiscating 100% of the wealth of the “rich” people will do very little in terms of our debt and unfunded liabilities.

  • microsrfr

    There are two main factors that have resulted in the rapid advance of inequality — reformation of monopolies which squelch innovation and gouge prices and the information technology revolution which has enabled elimination of wages through outsourcing and automation.

    Workers don’t care about the very rich, they care about the purchasing power of their take-home pay. Ultimately, if we don’t change our ways, machines will do everything and nobody will work. Then take-home pay will be zero and economic collapse is certain. Non-supervisory wages have already fallen from 52% to 42% of GDP since 1972, so we have travelled 20% of the way toward that impossible end point — and the seams in our political/economic system are already exposed. Increased economic insecurity (along with media-driven personal safety insecurity) is resulting in increased irrationality, tribalism, political polarization and eagerness to follow a demagogue. That 10% drop in wages represents $1.7 trillion/yr diverted from pay to corporate profit or a paycheck shortfall of over $1,000/month for every full time worker in the U.S.

    Historically, our political system has not been able to address inequality until failing worker demand for goods and services causes economic collapse where everyone loses. Then suddenly everything becomes possible and we have used all the tools of the New Deal to dig ourselves back out. This includes strengthening unions as well as increased tax and redistribution schemes.

    There is a better way. If we look at our golden economic age, which lasted from 1948 to 1973, we find that non-supervisory wages hovered right around 50% of GDP. In my website, http://www.middlerising.org, I explain how the government can utilize the W2 and earnings filing history of a corporation to determine a cap on its profit-to-wage ratio and gradually restore a fair and economically sustainable wage for workers. Combine this with an aggressive break up of national and regional monopolies and you will go a long way towards resolving this for decades.

  • BrankyCastard

    Can I claim all the people sucking off WELFARE as Dependents? Because they Depend on me to work.

  • Tedder

    With these tax policies extracting wealth from the one-percent, we could view our Forbes folk as the engines of economic growth, the mules striving to build our economy. Then, the top-earners can truly look at America and say, “I built that!”

  • Tatiana Covington

    People have the right to keep their private property for themselves. Others are not entitled to my PRIVATE PROPERTY just because they want or need it. Nor are they entitled to take it by force.

    • richard coolidge

      So I expect you will return your private property to the native Americans right now. It was, after all, taken from them by force

      • Tatiana Covington

        They can all go to Hell for all I care. I had nothing to do with any of that, any more than with the Holocaust, or the Roman games, or the Chicxulub impact.

      • Tatiana Covington

        Not by me, and all that was none of my business. So to hell with them for all I care, which is nothing. Pretty soon they may end up obsolete.

      • Tatiana Covington

        Frankly, I couldn’t care less about that lot. None of that was any of my doing.

  • DHFabian

    The inequality that has concerned liberals is the gap between the middle class and the rich. We greatly need to look at and discuss the canyon between the poor (low wage workers, and those who are far worse off) and the middle class. We know that not everyone can work (health, etc.) and that there aren’t jobs for all. The US shipped out a huge number of jobs since the 1980s, ended actual welfare in the 1990s. We need to examine the consequences, both in terms of the crisis among our very poor, and of the impact on the overall economy and society/culture.

  • George_Costanza

    A correct Constitutional tax on wages & salary, would be 0%. The super-wealthy make money from the fact they have money-meaning they didn’t earn it.
    A better tax rate on ‘capital gains’ would be 50%, split equally between the federal government & the state(s) where “earned”.
    The top 0.5% is the ‘problem’. The bottom half of the top 1% start new business enterprises, which hire people.
    and the bottom 90% is struggling to stay where they are at, and not slide into complete destitution, from the advancement of robotics, automation, and artificial intelligence.

  • R. Rockran

    The G650 can fit up to 19 passengers. So why use it as an example in the article if it’s wrong?

    http://www.gulfstream.com/aircraft/gulfstream-g650

  • Dwite Of The Right

    The Chinese went from Socialism to Capitalism and their economy has soared. The US went from Capitalism to Socialism and our economy has faltered.

  • Tatiana Covington

    Right. The Feds would get 100-200 B more. And they’d blow it all on still more socialist nonsense within two years. The nat’l debt alone takes some 400B/yr just to service it, some one-ninth of the entire absurdly bloated budget.

    You see? Eating the rich never works. Besides… suppose they do not want to be eaten, but fight back?

  • Shooter2

    When the 0.1% controls the entire wealth of America, it’s the deficiency and the decline of American capitalism.