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A New Report Shows Just How Unequal America Is

The richest 20 people in the US "own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined", according to the Institute for Policy Studies.
Mark Zuckerberg via Scott Beale / Laughing Squid

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The Institute for Policy Studies is a DC-based organization that describes itself as "Washington's first progressive multi-issue think tank," one comprised of "a community of public scholars and organizers." It's just finished a depressing but not entirely surprising study, "The Forbes 400…and the Rest of Us," which is exactly what it sounds like: The Institute took a look at the earnings of the super rich folks who make up the Forbes 400 list and compared them to the rest of the country. As Donald Trump would say, the gap is tremendous. To no one's surprise, the wealthiest Americans are really really really wealthy.


To help illustrate the point, the Institute highlights some pretty startling numbers, and even matches them with some helpful charts. For instance, the richest 400 people in America "have more wealth combined than the bottom 61 percent of the US population, an estimated 70 million households, or 194 million people," or more than the combined population of Canada and Mexico. The Forbes 400 also controls more wealth than all the black people in America.

The further up the wealth pyramid you go, the more shocking the statistics get. The top 20 people on the Forbes list "own more wealth than the bottom half of the American population combined, a total of 152 million people in 57 million households." These .000001 Percenters ("a group that could fit comfortably in one single Gulfstream G650 luxury jet," per the report) include Mark Zuckerburg of Facebook, Jeff Bezos of Amazon, and Phil Knight of Nike—multibillionaires who've amassed staggering fortunes while building business empires. But that group also includes nine heirs, as the study calls them, "from families of dynastic wealth," which includes two Koch brothers, four Waltons (of Walmart), and three children of the Mars candy empire.

The study briefly explores a couple ways to help close the gap, like squashing offshore tax havens and other "wealth escape routes" that help the rich hide trillions of their dollars. The authors also suggest raising the tax rate on the rich.

You can read the report in its entirety here.

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