The annual Forbes list of America’s 400 wealthiest individuals was released Monday.
Our 400 plutocrats had another stellar year, increasing their wealth by a tidy 13.5% to a record $2.29 Trillion. As has been the case for all but a few of the past 35 years, they did better than the country as a whole. Our national household wealth was up 10.5% over the past year. A good year, but nowhere near as good as the year the top 400 had.
A few tidbits on America’s concentrating wealth:
In a piece last year for the Arizona Republic, Absurd Inequity is Threatening U.S., I noted that our 51 wealthiest Americans controlled a total wealth of $1 Trillion. In 1982, reaching an equivalent share of our aggregate wealth would have required the wealthiest 1500 or so Americans.
Well, that “trillion-dollar club” shrank further over the past year. The 38 wealthiest Americans now have total wealth of $1 Trillion. And to reach $1.1 Trillion, the same share of our total wealth as $1 Trillion represented last year, would require the 47 wealthiest Americans. In other words, the share of our national wealth that the top 51 Americans held last year is now held by the top 47 Americans. See the trend?
Last year, I estimated the trillion-dollar club of 2044 would have just 12 members if our current pace of wealth concentration were to continue. A year later, we’re still on track.
Of course, the road to aristocracy is paved with poverty. While the wealth of the fabulous 400 has soared, the incomes of middle class and poor in America have declined.
So I continue to wonder: How much wealth and how much income can we cram into the top 1% before the bottom 90% explodes?