Following Up on the Ever-Shrinking Trillion-Dollar Club


Last fall, I made a prediction about how concentrated our wealth would be 31 years from now if the trend of the past 31 years continued for another 31. I had intended to wait a year before checking to see how things were progressing, but curiosity got the better of me and I peeked.

It’s ugly. The further concentration of our wealth that I thought would take 31 years may not even take half that long. By all appearances, the horrific wealth concentration of the past 31 years is not just continuing, it’s accelerating.

First, the background. Last November, I wrote an op-ed piece for the Arizona Republic. It was published under the title Absurd Inequity Threatening U.S., but I think of it as the “Trillion-Dollar Club” piece.

In that op-ed, I used the Forbes 400 list from last September to figure how many of the country’s wealthiest would be required to create a group with a total wealth of one trillion dollars. Hence, the trillion-dollar club.

How many? Just 51 it turned out.

I then went back to the Forbes 400 list of 31 years ago to see how many wealthy Americans would be required to create a club with total wealth representing the same share of our country’s wealth back then as one trillion dollars represents today.

It turned out that the entire 1982 Forbes 400 list would not fill the 1982 equivalent of the trillion-dollar club. That club would have counted about 1500 members.

So, the share of our wealth that used to be spread among our 1500 wealthiest had been concentrated into the hands of just 51 billionaires.

Using the trend of that past 31 years, I then projected where we would be 31 years later, and determined that the most likely number of wealthy Americans needed to fill the 2044 equivalent of the trillion-dollar club was twelve.

In other words, the share of our wealth represented by $1 trillion today would be held in 2044 by a group small enough to sit around a dinner table. In the space of 62 years, the number of wealthy Americans needed to account for that share of our wealth will have been reduced by over 99 percent, from around 1,500 to 12.

Forbes publishes its list once each year in September. But I recently discovered a new source for information about the obscenely wealthy: The Bloomberg Billionaires Index. Bloomberg updates its index daily.

But, Lord, how can you switch data sets like that? Isn’t that comparing apples to oranges?

Actually, no. Remarkably enough, if I’d used the Bloomberg Index as of last September to determine the size of the trillion-dollar club, the total membership would have been the same number: 51.

How much has the trillion-dollar club shrunk in the past six months? A lot. Our exclusive club is down to 37 members. I had predicted it would require 31 years for the club to be reduced by 39 members. But in just six months, it’s been reduced by 14.

By all appearances, the concentration of wealth I predicted would take place between now and 2044 likely will require less than half that time. So, that dinner table for the trillion-dollar club of 2044 will have fewer than 12 seats.

How many seats will be at that dinner table for the trillion-dollar club in 2044? My guess is five, one for each for the two children of Charles Koch and the three children of David Koch.


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