by Josh Hoxie
is on track to
by the children
and took action.
We can too...
This year's stock market saw high returns for month after month, as
retirees and stock runners alike saw their portfolios rise. Then one
day this fall, the market took a turn, and all of the increases of
the past several months vanished.
That's how it goes for the market:
sometimes you're up,
sometimes you're down.
For the three wealthiest
families in the country, however, the market only ever shoots
of Wal-Mart, the Kochs of Koch Industries,
and the Mars of Mars chocolate own a combined
$348.7 billion. Since 1982, their wealth has skyrocketed nearly
None of the living members of these families founded the companies
from which their fortunes come - all were started by earlier
In fact, more than a third of the Forbes 400 inherited the
businesses that generated their wealth. These modern wealth
dynasties exercise significant economic power in our current gilded
age of extreme inequality.
A new report I co-authored with my colleague Chuck Collins at
the Institute for Policy Studies,
Billionaire Bonanza 2018, looks at
the rise of these wealth dynasties.
The Forbes 400
combined own $2.89 trillion, we found. That's more than the combined
wealth of the bottom 64 percent of the United States.
The median family in the United States owns just over $80,000 in
household wealth. The richest person in the United States (and the
world), Jeff Bezos, has accumulated a fortune nearly 2
million times that amount.
These pictures paint a grim picture
of wealth inequality in the United
States in 2018.
Wealth is concentrating into fewer and fewer hands while the rest of
the country struggles to get by.
tried to warn us about economic inequality.
Former President Teddy
Roosevelt said in 1913,
"Of all forms of
tyranny, the least attractive and the most vulgar is the tyranny
of mere wealth, the tyranny of a plutocracy."
A generation later,
Supreme Court Justice Louis Brandeis warned in 1941,
"We must make our
choice. We may have democracy, or we may have wealth
concentrated in the hands of a few, but we can't have both."
And for a time, we heeded
Wealth and income
inequality peaked in the 1920s before the passage of high personal
income tax rates on the rich, a federal estate tax, and other
inequality-fighting public policy measures took hold.
Americans enjoyed a
general flattening of the economic pyramid up until the 1980s when
the modern period of tax cuts for the rich and austerity for the
rest of us begun.
It's safe to say that a country in which three individuals own more
wealth than half the country - as Jeff Bezos,
Bill Gates, and Warren
Buffett do now - is not what Brandeis or Roosevelt hoped for the
direction of the country.
Without action, French economist Thomas Piketty warns, the
United States will devolve into a,
capitalism" where the heirs of today's billionaires dominate our
politics, culture, and economy.
The good news is we have
solutions to avoid this.
A smart step
forward would be instituting a federal wealth tax on assets
above $20 million, which would raise an estimated $1.9
trillion over 10 years that could be invested in generating
economic opportunities for low-wealth families.
Another good idea
is to tax large inheritances - people's genetic lottery
winnings - as ordinary income.
There's nothing natural
or inevitable about wealth dynasties.
Our ancestors recognized
this and took action. We can too...