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As wealth inequality soars and the class war rages...  the rich are winning like never before. (Photo: Getty Images)

The Billion Dollar a Month Club: A Runaway Transfer of Wealth to the Super-Rich

Paul Buchheit

Our national wealth has grown by an astonishing $30 trillion since the recession, but most of it has gone to people who were already wealthy. 

We are living through a massive redistribution of America's net worth to the beneficiaries of a financial industry that has used cunning and money and power to impose their version of economic "freedom" while deregulating any policies that might have stopped the incessant transfer of wealth. 

It's getting worse, by the year and by the month. President Obama's claim that "We've recovered faster and come farther than almost any other advanced country on Earth" applies largely to the people whose wealth accumulation has dramatically pulled up the averages. The evidence is staring us in the face, but the super-rich are only watching their portfolios. 

1. Kochs and Waltons Took $6.6 Billion of National Wealth -- In Less Than Two Months 

We live in a society that allows great portions of its national wealth to go to people who pollute our air and water while blocking any attempts to change their dirty business; or to people who pay their workers so little that average citizens have to use their tax money to provide food. 

The 2014 Forbes 400 list came out in mid-September. Since then, in less than two months, the four Waltons made $4.8 billion dollars, and the Koch brothers made $1.8 billion dollars. 

$6.6 billion is enough to pay the total food stamp benefits for all 48 million recipients for an entire month. 

Warren Buffett made 3.3 billion dollars in less than two months. He may not stir up our passions like the Kochs and the Waltons, but according to a 2011 New York Post story, his company, Berkshire Hathaway, "openly admits that it owes back taxes since as long ago as 2002." 

2. 43 People (It Was 47 Last Month) Own As Much As Half of America 

It was recently reported that just 47 individuals in the U.S. own more than all 160 million Americans (about 60 million households) below the median wealth level of about $53,000. 

But Forbes keeps building up the numbers. As of November 8, 2014 just 43 individuals own as much as the bottom half of America, based on the Credit Suisse Global Wealth Databook (GWD). 

We're drawing closer to the day when the first trillionaire will be 'worth' half of us. 

3. American Exceptionalism: $50 Million a Year 

They certainly don't want to advertise their good fortune, but 12,000 families around the country have been pulling in anywhere from $40 million to $60 million a year from their post-recession investments. Over 100,000 families have made $4 million per year. 

These are incomprehensible numbers for hard-working people for whom wages have nearly flatlined in recent years. The visual evidence is unmistakable, and the next little-mentioned fact makes it clear that wealth is being drained from the middle class... 

4. The Median American Net Worth Is Further from the Top Than in Any Other Country except Russia 

The numbers are here, and the meaning is that American wealth has been sucked away from the middle to a greater extent than in any major country except Russia. 

A revealing study from the Russell Sage Foundation found that:

  • Median wealth has dropped, stunningly, by 43 percent since 2007 
  • Only the richest 10% of the country gained wealth since 2003 

Are We Helpless? 

The "Billion Dollar a Month Club" isn't new, as several Forbes 400 members have averaged close to a billion a month in recent years. But the club is issuing golden tickets as the stock market climbs to new heights. 

The rest of us own a smaller and smaller share of a nation that we, and our ancestors before us, all helped to build. Unprincipled members of business and government have taken away the financial regulations and progressive taxes that once protected the majority of Americans. It has been argued that a Financial Speculation Tax might be the best approach to stop the wealth transfer carnage. We have to do something. The splitting of our society is nearly beyond repair.


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.
Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit

Paul Buchheit is an advocate for social and economic justice, and the author of numerous papers on economic inequality and cognitive science. He was recently named one of 300 Living Peace and Justice Leaders and Models. He is the author of "American Wars: Illusions and Realities" (2008) and "Disposable Americans: Extreme Capitalism and the Case for a Guaranteed Income" (2017). Contact email: paul (at) youdeservefacts.org.

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