The Concentration of Wealth Is Becoming Severe


Here are two charts on the widening income inequality in the U.S. The first chart shows that the top .1% now own as much as the bottom 90% of Americans.

The second chart shows that, in terms of income inequality, the U.S. is an outlier among developed nations.

The following list of the nine wealthiest U.S. citizens was compiled for Business Insider by Lauren Lyons Cole:

9. Larry Page, $44.6 Billion

8. Michael Bloomberg, $46.8 Billion

7. David Koch, $48.5 Billion

6. Charles Koch, $48.5 Billion

5. Larry Ellison, $59 Billion

4. Mark Zuckerburg, $71 Billion

3. Warren Buffet, $78 Billion

2. Jeff Bezos, $81.5 Billion

1. Bill Gates, $89 Billion

The total wealth of these nine individuals is $567 billion. To put that number in perspective, here are the GDPs of the U.S. states:

Note that the list of the nine wealthiest Americans does not include any of the Waltons. In a post to this blog in 2012, I highlighted the following statistics to suggest that the labor activism among Walmart employees might be more justified that many Walmart shoppers realize or are willing to admit:

1. Walmart has 8,500 stores in 15 countries. In 2012, it was the international corporation in terms of gross revenues, at $447 billion. The corporation’s net income was $12.7 billion. To put those numbers in perspective, its gross revenues slightly exceed the GDP of Argentina, which according to the International Monetary Fund has the 27th largest GDP among nations of the world. Its net income is as large as or larger than the GDP of 69 of the 184 nations recognized by the United Nations. In addition to being the largest retailer in both the world and the U.S., Walmart has become the largest U.S. grocery chain.

2. The Walmart family still owns 48% of Walmart’s stock. Their combined personal wealth was estimated in 2010 at $89.5 billion. To put that number in perspective, the Walton family’s wealth would place them 63rd on the list of nations by GDP. Their wealth is the equivalent of the annual economic output of the entire state of Nebraska. The Walton family’s wealth is the equivalent of the combined wealth of the bottom 41.5 percent of American families.

3. Each week 100 million, or almost one in three, Americans shop at a Walmart.

4. Walmart employees more than 2,000,000 Americans. The median pay of a Walmart employee is $10.78 per hour, or $22,422 per year. So half of Walmart’s employees earn less than that hourly wage. Since many are given slightly less than a 40-hour work week, health insurance and other benefits are not available to them. In addition, most of the workers in Walmart’s extensive system of warehouses are hired through temp agencies at even lower wages and usually with no benefits. It has been estimated that Walmart employees cost  the federal government and states $1 billion annually in basic assistance such as food stamps and Medicaid.

5. It has been estimated that for every 210,000 jobs that Walmart has created in the U.S., 200,000 American manufacturing jobs have been lost to China alone. In addition, for every two jobs that Walmart creates in the U.S., one job at another retailer is lost. Between 1992 and 2007, the period of Walmart’s most aggressive expansion in the U.S., 60,000 independent retailers in the U.S. went out of business–not all solely because of Walmart, but except for a brief recession in the early 2000s, that was a period of extended economic prosperity.

All of these statistics should suggest, first, that further tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans are not justified by any pressing socio-economic need and, second, that the wealthiest Americans are now paying a large proportion of federal income taxes because they now control an unprecedented portion of the national wealth. There are a lot of options within the national dialogue between demanding an extreme redistribution of wealth and advocating for a still further concentration of wealth.


3 thoughts on “The Concentration of Wealth Is Becoming Severe

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