"Today's extreme wealth inequality is perhaps greater than any time in American history. This is largely the result of rapidly growing wealth dynasties and a rigged economy."
'Here are just a few startling facts that tell you nearly all you need to know about who the American economy has worked for—and against—over the past several decades:
- Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, Microsoft founder Bill Gates, and financier Warren Buffett own more wealth than the bottom 50 percent of the U.S. combined;
- As median household wealth has declined since 1982, the Walton, Koch, and Mars families have seen their wealth grow 6,000 percent;
- A full-time Amazon employee making $15 an hour would have to work for 2.5 million years to earn $78.5 billion, the amount Bezos's fortune has expanded in the past year alone.
Published by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) on Tuesday in a new report—titled "Billionaire Bonanza 2018: The Role of Dynastic Wealth" (pdf)—these numbers paint a striking portrait of an economy designed to enrich a handful of individuals and family dynasties while leaving the rest of the American population with stagnant or falling wages, meager or even negative wealth, and soaring economic insecurity.
"Today's extreme wealth inequality is perhaps greater than any time in American history," Josh Hoxie, a co-author of the report, said in a statement. "This is largely the result of rapidly growing wealth dynasties and a rigged economy that enables the ultra-wealthy to grow their wealth to never-before-seen highs."
"These families have used their wealth and power to lobby and rig the rules to expand their wealth and power."
—Chuck Collins, Institute for Policy StudiesCiting economist Thomas Piketty's warning that the United States is operating under a system of "patrimonial capitalism" that allows the wealthy few to hoard their riches and pass them on to their heirs—fueling the rapid explosion of inequality since the 1970s—IPS found that "seven of the 20 wealthiest members of the Forbes 400 inherited their wealth from previous generations, often through companies founded by their ancestors."'
Read more: As Handful of Billionaire Families Grab Nation's Wealth for Themselves, New Report Details How Dynasties Rig US Economy