20 People Now Richer Than Half Of America by Dariel Garner


Image by Dean Chahim via Flickr

by Dariel Garner
Guest Writer, Dandelion Salad
December 4, 2015

The 20 richest Americans will sit down to breakfast this morning to lovely dishes carefully prepared by their chefs and served them in the most elegant of dining rooms that can be imagined. How will they greet the news that they now have more wealth than half of America combined? Twenty people, all white and mostly male, nine of them from just three families, are now richer than the poorest 152,000,000 Americans combined.

The Institute for Policy Studies makes that and many other eye-popping revelations in the just released report, Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us.

What will those rich people think when they realize that the top 100 of the Forbes 400 own as much as all the African-Americans in the nation combined. Except for a handful, all the richest 100 are white males; will they recognize that their wealth has accrued in a society built on the enslavement of Africans? Will they decide to give the wealth back?

What will the Latino population of the country think when they learn that their combined wealth just comes equal to the top 185 richest Americans? Will they feel satisfied knowing that at least the white American capitalists had to steal their wealth in illegal wars of aggression that took the Western states and all the gold in California?

The combined wealth of the remaining Native American population is not even considered in the report as the wealth of the people that once cared for this land must be not be much more than pocket change to the truly rich.

Most of us did not have breakfast this morning wearing a Tiffany diamond and sipping champagne. Many of us were lucky to have time to grab a cold Pop-Tart and a cup of instant coffee. If you are in the bottom 62 percent of America – and the chances are nearly two out of three that you are – you will be happy to know that all our wealth combined is equal to the richest 400. That is, 194 Million of us have the same net worth as the richest 400 Americans. Besides enormous wealth the richest 400 don’t conform to our nations profile in other ways; 97% of them are white and 85% are men.

It could be a great party when the Forbes 400 gather. They would just fill the restaurant at the top of the Seattle Space Needle. 400 people, owning 2.34 trillion. What would make it a great party is dividing their treasure equally among all the 115 million households in America. Dividing the wealth of just the 400 richest would add over $20,000 to the wealth of every family and more than double the wealth of the typical African-American, Latino, Native American, poor white and Asian-American families.

The Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us report delivers strategies for reversing this extreme inequality. The strategies include tax reform. Closing the billionaire loopholes in the 76,000-page tax code, stifling the overseas secret tax heavens, instituting a truly progressive income tax, and increasing the capital gains and estate taxes are all called for as are strategies to increase the earnings and advancement of working people.

Probably the simplest reform recommended involves taxing wealth when it is concentrated in the obscene quantities we see today. No better way could exist than to help the wealthy give their money back to the workers and the society that created it.

Dariel Garner was a member of the wealthiest 0.01 of 1%. He is the inspiration for Billionaire Buddha, a novel by Rivera Sun about a man who had incredible riches, turned his back on wealth and found everything worth living for. He speaks, holds workshops on wealth and income inequality and blogs at riverasun.com. You can reach him by email at dariel@riverasun.com.

from the archives:

The Looting Class and its Hoarded Gold by Danny Katch

85 Billionaires and the Better Half by Michael Parenti

Circus of Deceit–The Big Boys of The Fortune 500 by Wayne Burn

Richard Wilkinson & Kate Pickett: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger (must-see)

see also:

The 62 billionaires and the truth about inequality by Michael Roberts

Kuznets, Piketty, Marx and human development by Michael Roberts

Global wealth: 1% own 48%; 10% own 87% and bottom 50% own less than 1% by Michael Roberts

27 thoughts on “20 People Now Richer Than Half Of America by Dariel Garner

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  12. The only way that the rich will pay tax is the National Nurses Assn suggestion of the Robin Hood tax.
    Paying taxes on wealth and income is avoidable when you have an army of lawyers, accountants and lobbyists at your beck and call.
    The Robin Hood Tax is a small tax on each buy or sell transaction that they hardly feel. It’s not much, but it IS something — and their unwillingness to let a bill pass doing this shows how selfish they really are.
    It is possible to work state by state to achieve this. I’ve lobbied for this at Interoccupy and in state legislatures, made videos, too.

    Thanks for the article, Dariel and Lo.

    • The Robin Hood Tax is a great idea. There are a lot of other tax programs that need to be instituted to attain equity for all. We need to remember that the income tax rates during most of the last century were in the 70 to 90 percent range.
      The greatest danger right now is that the wealth and capital of our country, held by a very few people, will soon disappear to secret off-shore havens where it will be untaxable and untouchable by the people who have truly created the wealth. During the “recovery” from the depression nearly 30 Trillion dollars (out of a USA 85 Trillion net worth) has gone into the hands of the super wealthy. Even they are not used to this sort of bonanza

  13. Of the many evils of the richest is not just the impact upon the environment they have but their contribution to creating devastation to our environment? the destruction of native forests today for crops of palm oil and so on for what? more money making, the last of the white rhinos now only three exist and are no longer able to breed, surely this is as he canary down the coal mine? the destruction of these animals are all part of the contribution to the erosion of our species? it is the mindless and callous indifference of those in power for our planet which may be the only one of its kind in the Universe that we will ever know is a misunderstanding of our unique being here as in the human form?

    • My sense is that environmental (and social) destruction is not just the result of the actions of the rich, but of all of us. When people ask me “What can I do?” the very first thing I call them to do is examine their own lives as part of the system of our existence. It would be a very different world if each of us, not just the rich, consumed as lightly and conscientiously as possible. Re-use, re-purpose, alternative fuels, vegetarianism, co-operatives, etc. 70% of our economy is directly driven by consumer choices. Individuals joined in mass action is a tremendous force for change. Apartheid in South Africa, the Nashville sit-ins and countless other struggles have been won by boycott and buycott. Imagine how the fortunes of the Walton’s (Wal-Mart) would plummet if just ten percent of the people turned away from them. Joining together to speak for the rights of nature and all creation is no different

      • Point taken, the masses often are under stress to survive? this in part is the Rothschilds and the financial corporations having arranged big time debt in just paying mortgages and food and so on have to have priorities and saving your scraps of food in a high rise for the pigs and that is not just viable, we need to turn the clock back to a time when the recycling was all part of the natural order? often the lower classes are so up themselves as a defense against being seen or compensating for in built inadequacies as a result their history and culture, I am not able to summarize all conditions that come to mind on this issue, on a page, what I am saying is if the last 3 white rhinos are left in the world to become exterminated as a result of colonization economics and corruption that sort of thing? I as a individual have not the resources to save these creatures? although I am a vegetarian and recycle my tea leafs and so on, this is a micro contribution to the big picture, although quantum mechanics can operate under certain conditions this or my contribution is almost of non significance.
        What is questionable is the wasteland by the military of places such as Syria, this drama is so incredible that in a so called time of enlightenment we can be stupid enough to let the 1% rich get away with these atrocities, the rockets used in Syria are sometimes costing $600,000 each it is not a great brain to understand this is not a good way to go and land mines manufactured in USA are often less than a cup of coffee, it would be understood these mines would have a serious impact upon the third world as bread winner and the encumbering misery of those already having limited welfare or most likely non.
        Last night on Australian TV on 4 corners a documentary on those who come back from the Middle East with emerging PTSD the description of how these returned soldiers who scrapped the body parts of fellow soldiers off walls as for the return of the dead to Australia, Australia could not afford the medical attention as to costly for those with PTSD, but Australia can afford submarines at a billion dollars? need I say more of one of the most affluent countries in the world? what? did you say?

  14. Is this an indication that the human race has built in obsolescence and it’s a matter of time that we disappear altogether. Will that make any difference.

      • Thank you for all these generous responses Dariel. I couldn’t agree more, those few words also make a difference “all life is sacred.”

        What we do not yet seem to be witnessing, is the wider public realisation that this profound truth has to be enacted, that it is a vital moral philosophy which must be lived by each and every one of us, not just deferred or delegated to others.

        In practical terms, I see this as being exercised & articulated politically and economically through the empirical concept of stewardship & community. Sacred life means (indigenous) sacred trust; only it is this trust that is truly wanting today, the instinctive sense that purpose is deeply rooted in a duty of care, both for planet, self & other. I attribute this ethical lacuna to the predominant cult of corporate dominance.

        So, that difference you allude to is not only desirable, it is essential. We are the true guardians of the sacred, and this sacred bond of obligation fulfils us not only as human beings, but as potentially universal beings, aligned with the cosmic forces of life.

  15. 194 million divided by 400 is 485,000. So on a strictly equivalent basis, every one of these 400 richest Americans is equal in monetary terms to the evenly divided wealth of 485,000 people. In other words, for every mouthful of food each of these average citizens enjoy, the richest 400 can have 450K times as much. Even the most conservative social scientists would have to concede that this is dangerously disproportionate.

    During the reign of terror in France 1792-95, thousands are estimated to have been put to death. Bad harvests and punitive taxation have been implicated in that brutal overthrow of an extravagant monarchy and their indulgent clergy.

    So, perhaps this United States “elite” cadre would be advised to refresh their memories, and brush up a little on world history, not to mention statistical theory and moral philosophy.

    • Very nice way of portraying the inequity. A round table but each rich person gets 450,000 times more.
      That this extreme inequity will end, either through choice or coercion is the message I hope to start delivering this year. I feel that the extremely wealthy are becoming aware of the precariousness of their position. We are beginning to see voices of alarm coming not just from individuals but from the international fiscal institutions and even Davos. All of us will have a choice in how the play acts out. We can help the wealthy re-join humanity or we can replay the cycles of force, dominance and hierarchy that have gotten us to this position.

  16. It’s very clear that this serious, even fatal, issue is not going to be addressed within our present system. As Chris Hedges says, we’ve got to overthrow the corporate state, or radically change the capitalist system that inherently produces these inequities. And the TPP, TTIP and TISA agreements will be the nail in the coffin that will make revolution necessary, not optional.
    P.S. I just read Dariel’s bio on the page. Have been periodically corresponding with him on Facebook (along with Rivera Sun) Glad to know who I’ve been corresponding with and I congratulate him for writing this for Dandelion Salad!

    • Thanks for your encouragement. Likewise for me it is very encouraging to see someone else with a management and entrepreneurship background becoming so radicalized, 🙂 But of course once you have seen the truth how can you turn away? i look forward to seeing you in the trenches and at the victory party.

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