America’s richest 20 people own more than the bottom half of America - 152 million people combined. That is just one of the startling revelations in a new report, Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us, just released by the Institute for Policy Studies.
Wealth inequality has reached new heights. The wealthiest 100 people now own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the United States. Among the Forbes 400, but not in the top 100, just two individuals are African American—Oprah Winfrey and Robert Smith.
The report also finds that the wealthiest 186 members of the Forbes 400 own as much wealth as the entire Latino population. Only 5 Latinos from 3 families are part of the Forbes 400
This tremendous concentration of wealth has been largely created since the 1970’s. It can be un-created. The report makes several recommendations for immediate and longer-term action.
The first requirement is to stop the flight of capital. Over 8 trillion dollars is now held overseas in tax havens and secret investment accounts. No one knows the exact amounts but it is certain that the funds are increasing rapidly.
Secondly, the tax loopholes that have been created by the corporate and political elite must be plugged and the rates paid must be much higher for the rich. We need to see how unjust and how unfair the 76,000-page IRS tax code has become. We must make it impossible for Warren Buffet (number 2 on the Forbes 400) to pay income tax at a lower rate than his secretary.
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.
With a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom 62 percent of the country combined, a staggering 194 million people. The wealth of just those 400 people, divided amongst all the 115 million households in America would add over $20,000 to the wealth of every family, while more than doubling the wealth of typical African-American, Latino, Native American, poor white and Asian-American families.
How much is enough? How long will people stand for these atrocious inequalities? Those are questions each of us must ask ourselves . . . and then act on those answers. Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us begins to chart the course to recovering the dignity and the wealth that has been taken from so many of us if we listen, learn and act.