Browsing around the online news today, I came across this headline:
These three people created more wealth than 99% of the world
Well, that’s great, I thought. I wonder who these altruistic magicians are that are actually creating wealth. No doubt it’ll make the world a better place, as it trickles down to the rest of us.
Turned out, however, that it was just the usual three guys – and they’re not actually creating wealth – just hogging vast mega-tankerloads of the world’s limited supply for themselves and their families:
“Warren Buffett is the third richest person in the world and is valued at over 72 billion dollars. Buffett is now worth billions and is a testament to the concept that anyone could be rich if they put their mind to it.
Carlos Slim Helu is worth over 77 billion dollars and shares most of that wealth with his family. Slim is a very private man though is rumored to be very kind. He shares his wealth and net worth with his family and makes meaningful uses of it all. Slim is a testament to the importance of keeping trustworthy family values in tow and remembering that it doesn’t matter where you come from. If you’re savvy enough – you can be a billionaire.
Bill Gates is currently the richest man in the world and is valued at 79.2 billion dollars.
These men show the rest of us that even with limited resources, we have what it takes to be billionaires. So go out there and take chances!”
Yep, go ahead, do it, and see where it gets you. The headline might have more truthfully read: These three graspers control more wealth than 99% of the world
Anyway, while on the subject, I thought I’d check around and see if I could confirm just how enormous the wealth gap is. Howstuffworks.com told me this:
“According to an analysis of Federal Reserve data by the Economic Policy Institute, the wealthiest 1 percent of Americans control 35.6 percent of the total wealth of the country. Even more incredible is that the richest 10 percent of Americans control 75 percent of the wealth, leaving only 25 percent to the other 90 percent of Americans.”
And that’s just Americans. Factor in the rest of the world and see how it pans out!
In addition to that, Inequality.org presented this nice little bunch of stats:
- The 400 wealthiest individuals on the Forbes 400 list have more wealth than the bottom 150 million Americans.
- In 2010, 25 of the 100 largest U.S. companies paid their CEO more than they paid in U.S. taxes. This is largely because corporations in the global 1 percent use off shore tax havens to dodge their U.S. taxes.
- Between 1983 and 2009, over 40 percent of all wealth gains flowed to the 1 percent and 82 percent of wealth gains went to the top 5 percent. The bottom 60 percent lost wealth over this same period.
- The world’s 1 percent, almost entirely billionaires, own $42.7 trillion dollars, more than the bottom 3 billion residents of earth.
- Between 2001 and 2010, the United States borrowed over $1 trillion to give wealthy taxpayers with incomes over $250,000 substantial tax breaks, including the 2001 Bush era tax cuts.
- The 99 percent has seen their national share of income decline from 91 percent in 1976 to 79 percent in 2010. The share of wealth owned by the bottom 90 percent declined from 19.1 percent in 1962 to 12.8 percent in 2009.
- The median net worth of white households in 2009 was $113,149, over 20 times the median net worth of African American households ($5,677) and 18 times that of Hispanic households ($6,325).
- In 2010, average CEO pay for an S&P 500 company was $10.8 million, a 27 percent increase over 2009. The gap between CEO and average U.S. worker pay is 325 to 1, up from 42 to 1 in 1980.
- The corporate 1 percent dominates the lobbying for federal and state policies. In the last 30 years, the ranks of official lobbyists have exploded. In 1970, there were 5 registered lobbyists for every one of the 535 members of Congress. Today there are 22 lobbyists for every member.”
The UK’s Guardian, as you might expect, had a more global outlook:
“Global inequality is growing, with half the world’s wealth now in the hands of just 1% of the population, according to a new report by Credit Suisse.
383 million adults – 8% of the population – have wealth of more than $100,000. This number includes about 34 million US dollar millionaires. About 123,800 individuals of these have more than $50 million, and nearly 45,000 have more than $100 million.
The Credit Suisse report said: “Wealth inequality has continued to increase since 2008, with the top percentile of wealth holders now owning 50.4% of all household wealth.”
At the start of 2015, Oxfam had warned that 1% of the world’s population would own more wealth than the other 99% by next year. Mark Goldring, Oxfam GB’s chief executive, said: “The fact it has happened a year early – just weeks after world leaders agreed a global goal to reduce inequality – shows just how urgently world leaders need to tackle this problem.”
The only consolation I got from all this was that page about the three “wealth-creators” was full of ads for prostitutes and treatments for “penile dysfunction” – so it seems those guys still have their problems.