Three Americans Now Own More Wealth Than Bottom Half of US Combined: Report

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Jake Johnson via,

“The elite ranks of our billionaire class continue to pull apart from the rest of us,” a new Institute for Policy study analysis finds.

In the United States, the 400 richest individuals now own more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the population and the three richest own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent, while pervasive poverty means one in five households have zero or negative net worth.

Those are just several of the striking findings of Billionaire Bonanza 2017, a new report (pdf) published Wednesday by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) that explores in detail the speed with which the U.S. is becoming “a hereditary aristocracy of wealth and power.”

“Over recent decades, an incredibly disproportionate share of America’s income and wealth gains has flowed to the top of our economic spectrum. At the tip of that top sit the nation’s richest 400 individuals, a group that Forbes magazine has been tracking annually since 1982,” write IPS’s Chuck Collins and Josh Hoxie, the report’s authors.


“Americans at the other end of our economic spectrum, meanwhile, watch their wages stagnate and savings dwindle.”

Collins and Hoxie are quick to note that the vast gulf that currently exists between the rich and everyone else is not the product of some inexplicable “natural phenomenon.” It is, rather, the result of “unfair economic policies that benefit those at the top at the expense of those at  the bottom.”

Based on data recently made public by the Forbes 400 list and the Federal Reserve’s annual “Survey of Consumer Finances,” Billionaire Bonanza examines in detail the principal beneficiaries of America’s “deeply unbalanced economy”: the mega-rich.

“The wealthiest 25 individuals in the United States today own $1 trillion in combined assets,” the report notes.


“These 25, a group equivalent to the active roster of a major league baseball team, hold more wealth than the bottom 56 percent of the U.S. population combined, 178 million people.”

The top 25 list features billionaires who have attained their vast riches through a variety of means, from inheritance to investing to founding a corporate giant like Amazon or Google. What unites these enormously wealthy individuals—aside from the fact that they are all white—is that they just keep getting richer, decade after decade.

Average Americans, by contrast, have not fared nearly as well: a significant percentage of the U.S. households “have no savings at all or owe more than they own,” making them residents of what Collins and Hoxie term “Underwater Nation.”

“Excluding the value of the family car, 19 percent of U.S. households have zero or negative net worth,” the report notes.


“Looking at this trend through the lens of race reveals that 30 percent of black households and 27 percent of Latino households have zero or negative wealth.”

In order to get a broader sense of the size of the chasm between rich and poor in the U.S., Collins and Hoxie place the net worth of the top one percent and the bottom one percent side by side.

“All combined, households in the bottom one percent have a combined negative net worth of $196 billion,” the report finds. “For comparison, the top one percent, a category holding the exact same number of people, have positive $33.4 trillion in combined net worth.”

Even mainstream institutions like the International Monetary Fund have acknowledged that such vast disparities of wealth and income are not sustainable, politically or economically. But as Billionaire Bonanza notes, the Trump administration—with the help of the GOP-controlled Congress—appears bent on making these disparities worse by slashing taxes for the wealthy while gutting programs that primarily benefit low-income and middle class Americans.

So the first priority, Collins and Hoxie note, is to “reject tax and other federal policies that will add oil to the inequality fire.”

In terms of going on the offensive once the “do no harm” principle is observed, the report makes several suggestions, including:

  • Enacting higher marginal tax rates on individuals earning above $250,000 and $1 million;
  • “Addressing the problem of hidden wealth,” which often leads to an underestimation of the level of wealth inequality;
  • Instituting a tax on Wall Street financial transactions, which could bring in an estimated $350 billion in federal revenue over a decade;
  • Eliminate the carried interest loophole, which allows hedge fund managers to “reclassify wage income as capital income” and pay less in taxes as a result; and
  • Bolstering, rather than eliminating, the estate tax, which only affects a tiny number families.

As “the elite ranks of our billionaire class continue to pull apart from the rest of us,” the report notes, many Americans—including students saddled with loan debt, workers suffering from stagnant wages, and families who have seen “their wealth and savings evaporate”—are revolting against the system that allowed the richest to accumulate such wealth at the expense of so many.

“A century ago, a similar anti-inequality upsurge took on America’s vastly unequal distribution of income and wealth and, over the course of little more than a generation, fashioned a much more equal America,” Collins and Hoxie conclude. “We can do the same.”

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Gap Admirer's picture

And they got there becasue millions of people VOLUNTARILY BOUGHT SHIT FROM THEM. Deal with it. If you want them poor, stop buying shit from them. Stop using Windows, switching to Linux. Stop ordering from Amazon, buying local. Sorry, I'm not going to hate them becasue they brought products to market that people wanted to buy/use. Their politics sucks but that's different.

Krungle's picture

Volunatarily? You're gonna go with that, really? So you're saying those companies did not use anti-competitive measures and regulatory bribes to squash the competition? Buy local? Please. How many places still have a local economy that hasn't been utterly gutted? It didn't get that way because everyone was so excited to shop at Walmart. People aren't buying food shipped from Mexico or China because they decided they just didn't want to buy from local small farmers anymore. And what about the effects of advertising, which, apparently works really well on the feeble minded products of the American education system. Trying to pin the destruction of America on consumer "choice" is just asinine. 

Gap Admirer's picture

So someone had a gun to your (collective purchasers) head, forcing you to purchase through Amazon instead of buying from your local store?

And someone threatened to kill you if you used a Linux based computer instead of paying Bill Gates for his Windows products?

Bullshit. I don't care for the individuals, especially their politics, but you "I hate people and their employees who sell a lot of products" losers are a bunch of jealous fuckups.


Gap Admirer's picture

LOL! Based on the down votes about half of ZHers have guns to their heads forcing them to use Windows and buy through Amazon. Thankfully, nobody is forcing me to use Windows or buy through Amazon. I am allowed to decide for myself.

44magnum's picture

They must like gieco too

Bes's picture

it's a good thing

we have a president

who says fuck the oligarchy

fuck wall street

fuck Goldman Sachs

fuck zionism

fuck the saudis

fuck the rothschilds

fuck the FED

fuck the MIC

fuck the war on cash

fuck.......... er



Billy the Poet's picture

it's a good thing

we don't have a president

who says

come and pay

my foundation

if you want to play

i own this nation


Escrava Isaura's picture

Capitalism is a fascist product. And also mobile, because capital has no borders.

If you want the economy to be run by the locals, it’s called anarchism, because there are no structures, no bosses, and no government.



caconhma's picture

Fuck you stupid imbecile. You are living in the socialist USA which is moving very fast to Bolshevism.

Who are all these Rockefellers, Rothschilds, etc.? Capitalists? Think again. These people always were Bolshevicks dreaming about their NWO. They financed and armed Lenin, Trotski, Stalin, and Mao.

Just wait before these people consolidate their power in the USA then they will with great pleasure exterminate 100s millions of Americans who today support them. The same way Stalin and Mao exterminated their citizens.

As for the various government employees who count on their pensions and ZH worry about the "pension bubble". Relax, as soon as the oligarchy consolidate their power, they will "reset" these pensions benefits close to zero forcing people to work for a bowl of soup.

The only good thing is that very soon these oligarchs will start slaughtering each other like Romans, Soviets, and Chinese did. Sorry, it is the human nature and nothing and be done about it!

ThirteenthFloor's picture

Most of the wealth pooled in US was from foreign investment from the likes of the Rothschilds. I agree they will eventually feed on each other, but they’ll do a lot of damage to the common man along the way.

I dont really buy for a moment Gates, Bezos, Buffett are the richest three in US, they are the elites current fiqureheads. Old geezer Bush is no doubt one of those worth more than these guys safely hidden in Paraguay.

Escrava Isaura's picture

Your history is pretty distorted by the propaganda and indoctrination.

However, you got this one right (for the wrong reasons): USA is moving very fast to Bolshevism. 

That’s right, because Bolshevism were the right wingers of the Russia coup d’état.


By the way, the left (anarchists) did win in Spain in 1936 but, they were crashed by the fascist, meaning the capitalists and communists in about 12 months.


Jack's Raging Bile Duct's picture

Not at all. You're just being willfully ignorant of the proven, extreme systemic advantages all of these cronies enjoy. Least of which is infinite access to zero interest money, which is actually negative interest when inflation adjusted. The degree to which these people have earned their keep is debatable, but the unparallelled success the enjoy begotten through cronyism that actively disadvantages everyone else...without question.

Oh wait. Do you still think we have free markets? In any of our lifetimes?

Paul Kersey's picture

The three richest people in America are Bill Gates $89 billion, Jeff Bezoz $81 billion and Warran Buffett $78 billion.  Can't name the 160 million poorest people in America.



Falconsixone's picture

Gee, where's the hackers when you need'em.

These three obviously dont care about making America great again.

Stuck on Zero's picture

Buffet has used corruption and the power of lobbyists to build his wealth. Bezos and Gates have used their clout to stop anti-trust action.

Jack's Raging Bile Duct's picture

Um, Gates had a great deal of help from the NSA. Considering that Bezos sits on "national security advisory boards" can bet he's getting help.

Oh yeah, and THE FED. Stagflation is GREAT when you're already on top.

Falconsixone's picture

They'll end up like  the SA princes sooner or later. They dont have  army/laws/police/courts or a printing press. Maybe they should get together and buy another 


Jolt's picture

Go look at Glassdoor to get an idea of the shit wages that Amazon's Jeff Bezos pays his army of employees, and then figure out whose pocket is getting all those wages. HINT: Jeff Bezos.

He and Gates and Buffet and Soros and all the others have so much money that they have bought off nearly all politicians, who then write laws favoring the billionaires, not the masses of Americans, like yourself. They use their money to rob citizens of representation. They use their money to make war, to kill mom-and-pops, to destroy what took decades to create.

And it appears that you and at least 10 other assholes here approve. PATHETIC, all of you.

FIAT CON's picture

These big guys use their clout to make sure your local store has to pay more for the item then they do. Criminal advantage. 


Justin Case's picture

In capitalism you buy up the competition or destroy it with low prices til the weaker one bankrupts. You don't have to inprove yoar product or compete if yoar the only producer. The mega corporations moved to China to cut costs and tap a much larger consumer market. Want to start a business in merica? hahaha.

Why compete, just buy them out and close them. The mega corporations can sell on shear volume, not so much on price, like little outfits and Ma Pa businesses. Big corporations also get volume discounts for components and raw materials. You can't compete in this corporatocracy. Apple and GE tell the Gov't how much tax they are willing to pay. If they don't agree the company threatens to move and lay-off people in yoar state.

Endgame Napoleon's picture

Well, you can stay in business, make a small profit and pay a business loan, living on the proceeds, but never making much money. That is what we did. We always made a profit, but it was just very limited. The store — the overhead — absorbs so much of your profit, because like you say, the big retailers get huge bulk discounts. Most customers expect the prices of big-box stores, but the rich will pay a little more for quality. The other thing is the taxes, not so much income taxes, but the twice-as-high SS taxes. It is stressful, but the churn-mobile job scene is worse. I would still recommend it, even despite the David-and-Goliath thing. It is a better quality of life.

Justin Case's picture

If you count the hours and book keeping, expenses you might make minimum wage when all is said and done.

Gap Admirer's picture

A fascinating thing to find out (for me): What percentage of costs are due to government regulations and mandates? They seem to be high and getting worse by the year. If government got out of the way maybe the owner's "wage" could double? The employee's wages go up as well because the owner won't have to spend on government mandated costs.

Falconsixone's picture

Yur gunna need a licence for that comment.

Gap Admirer's picture

Zactly. Paperwork to be filed in triplicate and in person at the gubmint office 80 miles away.

hongdo's picture

I did an estimate a while back and I seem to recall about 25% of your time is spent on doing stuff for the government - payroll, insurance, local taxes, state taxes, federal taxes, surveys, reporting, property inventory, licensing, zoning and building permits, maintaining records, etc.  Back when it was interesting and I was learning about it, I spent every Sunday - one day a week doing government work.  Then I hired a CPA to do some of it.  I got it down to about 10% of my time now.  But I still have to pay him. 

Gap Admirer's picture

Amazing. Death by government...

hongdo's picture

One thing I have noticed about Amazon versus a local business is the changes that the Republicans have made to import duties.  Used to be a small outfit ordered a wholesale quantity of stuff from another country, paid a small duty, and resold it.  Now the increased duties are too large to make a profit and a small local business loses access to foreign products that are in demand in the US.  Now how does Amazon handle it?  You buy a retail quantity through Amazon and it is shipped directly from the supplier in China for example.  It comes in the mail and the individual value is not great enough for the government to bother collecting duty.  So in this case the government is acting as a defacto taxing agent supporting Amazon.  And you have to buy from Amazon because the product is not available from a local store. 

I also learned how to do the same thing when shipping stuff back to the US when overseas. It's all in how you do the declaration.

FIAT CON's picture

There is no doubt the largest of corporations own the policitians, and are gaming us all.

 All the money they would ever need is not enough for these fuckers, they want it all.

hongdo's picture

"The world is not enough."  I never could figure out how you could want more money than you could spent.  But I guess Hollywood and sports people like Johnny Depp figured that out.

Lumberjack's picture

You know what is not so fucking funny about that? When gov picks the winners (useless fucks),steals proprietary business info, interferes with contract ‘RICO’ and works with organized crime via the “intelligence network”.

Billy the Poet's picture

You're ranted against productivity with nonsense arguments but you haven't told us how you'd run the world if you could ban freedom and make everyone do what you think is fair.

Here's your chance.



Xena fobe's picture

The answer to the very real problem Justin raises is to not tolerate corporatocracy.  But that requires a homogenous population and a nationaiist mentality. 

You get concentration of wealth under democracy or socialism.  So those are false dichotomies.  This level of inequality will result in the break up of the union. 

Maybe medical science can find the gene for sociopathy and breed it out of humanity.  You have to be a sociopath to amass multi billion dollar fortunes. 


RafterManFMJ's picture

I voluntarily pay my property taxes, and my ObamyCare premiums. LOL what a FUCKING TOOL!

Endgame Napoleon's picture

I used to have a Main Street business, trying to compete with big retailers. It was the rich who were willing to buy stuff from me, bypassing the big retailers. Granted, they were the ones who could afford it, but they also did it on purpose to help small merchants. We catered to them more than big businesses would. But still. I do not hate them. They were mostly just born with it, or they just became very good at something, not really even knowing that it would make them outrageously rich. Other than the fact that they create more jobs overseas than here in many cases, I am more worried about how the top 20% of [wage earners] concentrate the decent-paying jobs in fewer households through assortative mating and how the bottom of the job market is rigged by government with womb-productivity welfare, tax-code welfare and other social-engineering projects. Those things affect far more people.

Gap Admirer's picture

I'm always impressed by people like you who've had the guts and ingenuity to run a mom and pop shop. On the Main Street in the small beach town where I have a vacation home I'd say that there are about four blocks of somewhere around 50 businesses. Every year about three of four go under. It really makes me cringe seeing that. One reason I try to buy from them instead of Walmart/Amazon. I'm not rich by any means but I can afford to pay a few more dollars to help out the local economy.

Gap Admirer's picture

And, again, obviously some disagree with me, preferring to make Bezos more wealthy, not buying locally. But, thankfully, that's still their right...

Xena fobe's picture

Yes, the US elite are a new monarchy.  And they are not benevolent.

SmackDaddy's picture

Bullshit. The business my great grandfather started was bought by some east coast hedge fund jew. "Capitalism" is going around buying up the competition with borrowed money at no risk, consolidating and centralizing the entire industry

Billy the Poet's picture

There's nothing capitalistic about a government sponsored banking cartel giving preferential treatment to cronies.

nmewn's picture

Could I interest you in a taxpayer subsidized solar panel or perhaps a Tesla? ;-)

Majestic12's picture

"Excluding the value of the family car...19% have negative equity"

What "value"...a subprime auto loan?

Us "little" folk can't report debt "off balance sheet", like the rich can...

that's fair...right?

nmewn's picture

As others have already said, as soon as government gets involved in picking the winners & the losers it ceases being capitalism. 

"Subprime" was started by Carter because of "feelz" was called the Community Reinvestment Act. 

Now everything is "subprime"...we are all equally miserable (as in socialism) accept the top layer (as in socialism).

Embrace the gloom ;-)

44magnum's picture

That explains the Federal reserve

RafterManFMJ's picture

Cheap is small and not to steep
But best of all, cheap is cheap.
Circumstance has forced my hand
To be a cut-priced person
In a low-budget land.
Times are hard, but we'll all survive.
I just gotta learn to economize.
I'm on a low budget!
I'm on a low budget!
I'm not cheap, you'll understand;
I'm just a cut-price person in low-budget land.
Excuse my shoes they don't quite fit,
They're a special offer and they hurt me a bit.
Even my trousers are giving me pain
They were reduced in a sale, so I shouldn't complain.

Endgame Napoleon's picture

There is a book by Gary Rivlin that traces the history of this, detailing how people in the Clinton Administration saw this coming, likely due to Clinton’s middle-class-killing policies, and they cynically invested in the giant poverty industry.

crazzziecanuck's picture

The CRA had no demonstrable effect on the housing crash.  Wall Street went around the CRA through third parties so the CRA legislation itself became pointless; this is why using the CRA to claim government was picking winners and losers is a very bad example.

Everything is subprime because people don't have the excess income to cover proper debt like they used too.  So, to keep the debt game going, they've had to become ... creative.  And by creative, I mean criminal.