I have a new post up at inequality.org, A Third of a Trillion for Three Families. Here are a few excerpts, but please click through and read in full if you have a few minutes:
Some of our billionaires seem to recognize the unseemliness of this intense concentration of wealth.
These billionaires have joined together to take the “billionaires’ pledge.” They’ve made a public, but non-binding, promise to leave half their wealth to charity upon death.
We have plenty of other billionaires who won’t even make this token gesture.
On that front, three families stand out: The Koch, the Walton, and Mars households. Their combined net worth: a cool quarter-trillion dollars or so, according to the Forbes magazine list of the 400 wealthiest Americans released this past September. But a more recent survey, the Bloomberg billionaires index, has their collective wealth much closer to a third of a trillion.
The collective wealth of the entire populations of some of our states can’t
match the wealth of those three families.
Ultimately, if we’re going to rein in the concentration of wealth at the top, tax policy must change — and fast. First, taxes on income from capital must be raised sharply in order to slow the growth of mega fortunes. Second, our system of inheritance taxes must be structured to impose taxes on the super-rich at an effective rate high enough to reverse at death all the advantages the super-rich have over the rest of us in the ability to accumulate wealth during life. It’s that simple.
If we don’t take those steps, the concentration of wealth at the top will be limited only by the generosity of our billionaires. Many may sign the billionaires’ pledge — and some may even follow through in a meaningful way. But that only will slow the concentration of wealth, not eliminate it. And do we really want to condition our economic well-being on self-regulation by the ultra-wealthy?
If we do, families like the Kochs, Waltons and Marses will simply garner an ever larger share of our nation’s wealth and with it more and more clout.
After all, if you have billions in the bank and you’re still hell-bent on accumulating more, you’re really not chasing after wealth. You’re chasing after power.