Every once in a while we write about the paper wealth chase between Bill Gates, Jeff Bezos and other super rich people, as fluctuations in share prices puts one or the other of them at the top of the list.
Now, a new report puts just how much money we're talking about into perspective, calculating that Gates, Bezos and Warren Buffett have a higher combined net worth than literally half of the rest of all Americans combined. (Related: This Forgotten Jeff Bezos Interview Explains Why Amazon Is So Successful Today).
The Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington, DC think tank, did the calculations, finding that the combined Gates-Bezos-Buffett fortune totaled $248.5 billion at the time they did the study. That's well over the combined wealth of more than 160 million Americans, living in 63 million separate households.
The group is a progressive-leaning institute that produced the study, called Billionaire Bonanza, as part of its review of the tax change legislation currently under review in the U.S. Congress. Its findings are stark--and perhaps even grim, depending on your point of view. Among the other top data points:
- The average U.S. family has a net worth of $80,000, "excluding the family car," but over 60 percent of Americans report not having enough savings to cover a $500 emergency.
- The 400 billionaires that Forbes identifies as the wealthiest people hold more wealth than the bottom 204 million Americans, a number that would also exceed the total combined populations of Canada and Mexico.
- That same group's wealth exceeds the GDP of most countries, including the United Kingdom, which is the world's fifth-largest economy.
- Almost 20 percent of U.S. households have a negative net worth, and the figure his higher for black and Hispanic families (30 percent and 27 percent, respectively).
The report warns against tax systems that favor the wealthy, and breaks down the list of the 25 wealthiest people, to include:
- 10 corporate founders (Gates, Jeff Bezos, Mark Zuckerberg, Larry Ellison, Michael Bloomberg , Larry Page, Sergey Brin, Phil Knight, Michael Dell, and Elon Musk)
- 7 heirs from "families of dynastic wealth" (including two Koch brothers, three Waltons, "and two fortunate souls from the Mars candy empire")
- 3 investors (Warren Buffett, George Soros, and James Simons), and finally Sheldon Adelson (casinos), Steve Ballmer, British-American businessman Len Blavatnik, and Laurene Powell Jobs, "the heir to the fortune of Steve Jobs, the founder of Apple."
"All the wealthy Americans on the Forbes 400 list have benefited enormously from a system of tax, trade, and regulatory rules tipped in favor of wealth holders at the expense of wage earners," the report states. "Tax policies, for instance, routinely favor capital income over wage income. ... The United States is becoming, as the French economist Thomas Piketty warns, a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power. "
The report suggests eight tax strategies to address wealth inequality, such as restoring progressive income tax rates, taxing capital gains and ordinary income the same, strengthening the estate tax, and others.
These are pretty much the opposite of the tax bill currently in Congress, of course. What do you think of these proposals? Let us know in the comments.