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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Mena Arkansas's picture

Thanks for your response, good Rabbi.

Could you tell me from your no doubt extensive study of the Talmud whether the jews worship satan or is it lucifer?

I'm a little confused on this point. You know, because I'm a stupid goy.

Drop-Hammer's picture

Spot on.  I retired recently, have adequate income, and realized that all of the things I had thought I wanted or wanted to do no longer held any attraction for me.  Even more money would not make any difference in my life.  Remember, it is all an illusion.  Bits and pieces of metal and plastic crap that bring no peace, contentment, or joy.

Clowns on Acid's picture

Thank you:

  • Sandy Weill, Robert Rubin, Larry Summers and Bill Clinton - Repeal of Glass Stegal.
  • Thank you Bill Clinton and Chamber of Commerce for NAFTA
  • Thank you Goldman Sachs, JPM, Citi al, for the CDS, CMO, and MBS market leverage of 100:1.
  • Thank you Hank Paulsen for TARP
  • Thank you Ben Shalom Bernanke  for QE top infinity
  • Janet didn't matter.
Crusader75's picture

Blather. Yes, thank you Democrats for helping to implement the Republican policies pushed since Reagan.

Porous Horace's picture

How is it the billionaires' fault that middle America doesn't save money?

AlbertthePudding's picture

Wait till they finally put the big fish on the list! Then you'll see some wealth!

Drop-Hammer's picture

At some point in life, you realize that you can not take any of it with you.  It was all an illusion.  

DarthVaderMentor's picture

Where is Teddy Roosevelt when we need him?

moorewasthebestbond's picture



We've had enough British agents and British subjects in the Oval Office to last a lifetime.

IronForge's picture

Tariffs and Eisenhower Rates may help...

... making Offshore Entities VERY unattractive to Businesses would not hurt, either...

wafm's picture

aint that hard since the bottom half owns sweet fuck all

wafm's picture

aint that hard since the bottom half owns sweet fuck all's picture

Consumer capitalism is cancer.  It will only work if it is limited to geographic boundaries.  So Amazon, pick a state.

moorewasthebestbond's picture

I'd hate to be one of the 400 when the shit hits the fan and the zombies come for blood.

ThinkAgain's picture

We have gone the wrong detour in the 80ties. Listening to the Chicago Boys with their half backed / under cooked theories. We replaced wages by credit. And the rest is history. Wealth distribution by the market of productive capitalism (50ties and 60ties) was replace by wealth concentration by the market of financial capitalism.

The last kick in this comes from Financial QE (CBs buying the stock they favor: not picking but making inners and losers).
Financial capitalism is no capitalism at all: it's a marketing cover on wealth concentration: those who are 'connected' against those who aren't. WallStreet over MainStreet. This is not populist bla bla, but just fact based math.

We need productive economies again. How to get those wuth the current set of tools and in the current setting?

dinkum's picture

Figures never lie, but liars figure. 

In 1981 my long term permanent part time secretary was paid in real/adjusted 2017 dollars, $150,000. She asked for more money since she was primary care giver to both her parents.

Offhandedly I mentioned she already earns more than GM that lost $768 in 1980. One of the few times she did not find my humor funny. We worked it out. 

Now $10 is more money than 20% of the US population is worth according to Forbes. Used to be a penny was more than 30% of the US population's net worth combined. Now we have this riddle

“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.”

What does this amount to if you combine debts to half the US population?  A negative number meaning there is no need to have more than a penny to have more net worth than half the US population?

So why the big deal about the top 3 net worth Americans?