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'Ten Year Challenge' for 400 Wealthiest Americans Shows Fortunes Doubled Since 2009 While Tax Rates Dropped

"Here's the thing: the way the system is set up, we're headed for another decade of this."

The wealth of the 400 richest Americans doubled in the last decade.

The wealth of the 400 richest Americans doubled in the last decade. (Photo: Dean Chahim/flickr/cc)

Exemplifying a national economy rigged in favor of the already rich, the wealthiest 400 people in the U.S. enjoyed a drop in their tax rate from 2009 to 2019 even as they enjoyed a drop in their tax rate.

University of Calfornia Berkeley economist Gabriel Zucman—citing the social media meme known as the "ten year challenge"—crunched the numbers Sunday in a tweet, finding that the total wealth of the 400 richest Americans jumped from $1.27 trillion to $2.96 trillion. The tax rate fell from 27% to 23% in that time. 

As Gravity Payments CEO Dan Price pointed out on Twitter, the real increase of the wealth was not double due to inflation, but was nonetheless a staggering 136%. 

"Here's the thing," tweeted Price. "The way the system is set up, we're headed for another decade of this."

As Business Insider explained, the jump in wealth is due to a number of factors, including taxes:

Zucman and Emmanuel Saez—another economist at the University of California he's partnered with—have argued that the relatively small tax burdens of the wealthy are the product of decisions made by American lawmakers, whether directly or through congressional gridlock. Tax avoidance has also become more common.

Congress has cut taxes on capital gains and estates over the years. And the top income tax rates were slashed six times since 1980, some with the support of Democrats, The Washington Post reported. In 2010, President Obama delayed ending the George W. Bush tax cuts by two years, and Congress allowed it to expire in 2013.

As Common Dreams contributor Norman Solomon noted on November 7, the increasing concentration of wealth in the hands of the superrich is creating a situtation where it's harder and harder to ignore the consequences of such inequality.

"In the real world, class warfare—or whatever you want to call it—has always been an economic and political reality," wrote Solomon.

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