The 2012 Forbes 400 Richest List is Out
How the 1% Leave the Rest of America Behind
How did the very rich really get that way? We trim, blend, and append three 2012 articles from: (1) Christian Science Monitor, Spt 19, on wealth gap by M. Trumbull; (2) Common Dreams, Spt 19, on inheritance; and (3) PLRG, Spt 18 on a UK bill by Tony Vickers.
by Mark Trumbull, by Common Dreams staff, and by Tony Vickers
Forbes 400 Richest: Are They Leaving Rest of America Behind?
As a group, the 400 saw their net worth rise by about 13 percent to some $1.7 trillion. The Forbes tallies were made using stock prices for the year ending Aug. 24. There isn't a gauge of overall American net worth for that precise period. But for those 12 months, the Standard & Poor's 500 stock index rose about 20 percent. And during that time, home prices have also been rising.
Yet many households don't own any stocks or mutual fund shares, and are renters rather than home sellers. So the most accurate gauge of prosperity for many Americans is whether wages are going up. On that score, hourly wages have remained flat over the past year.
Moreover, about 1 in 5 mortgage holders is a "negative equity" position. That means that, even with price gains over the past year, the homes are worth less than the balances due on the loans.
The Forbes list is rolling out alongside recent news that about 1 in 6 Americans is in poverty, that median incomes fell in 2011, and that unemployment remains higher than 8 percent.
Household income has essentially fallen back to 1990 levels for the median family in America, adjusted for inflation. That household earned about $50,000 last year. Similarly, real incomes are at 1990 levels for households at the 10th percentile -- very low income households.
But at the 95th percentile, just four rungs from the "top 1 percent," real household income is up 18 percent since 1990.
The very richest, the Forbes 400, in today's dollars had net worth of $480 billion in 1990. Today they have more than three times that level of wealth.
To read more
JJS: The rich have so much more and what they have is mostly not earned.
'Born on Third Base': How the Wealthy Inherit the Earth
Is America the land of opportunity for hard-working, gutsy entrepreneurs? Is great wealth merely evidence of great accomplishment? The real story told by the Forbes 400 is about privilege and the growing inequality in both wealth and opportunity.
The list of the country's richest people tells the story of a nation where being born into wealth or inheriting great sums from a departed spouse are by far the most common paths to financial fortune.
Roughly 40% of the individuals who appeared on the 2011 Forbes list inherited a sizeable asset from a spouse or family member. Strikingly, more than 20% received sufficient wealth to make the list from this inheritance alone.
The net worth of the Forbes 400 grew fifteen-fold between the launch of the list in 1982 and 2011, while wealth stagnated for the average U.S. household.
The rich in 2011 got richer as the poor got poorer because of policy and legislation enacted by government at the behest of the wealthy individuals.
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JJS: Because Americans suffer a blind spot when it comes to land, they fail to see how mortgages endow Wall St and the 1%. The even forget to mention how oil in the ground does the same, too (unduly enrich a few). And they routinely overlook corporate welfare, the overcharges to the military, the lax enforcement of environmental rights, etc. Instead, they only blame tax breaks, whereas most taxes should not even exist. The only taxes a state can rightfully levy are those that recover society’s common wealth, a reform being promoted in Great Britain, by Greens among others.
A Bill to Research Land Value Taxation
Calling all with an interest in major reform of Britain's property taxes. The Green Party MP Caroline Lucas has tabled a Private Members Bill to require the Secretary of State to commission a program of research into the merits of replacing the Council Tax and Non-domestic rates in England with an annual levy on the unimproved value of all land.
The Bill has the support of Liberal Democrat and Labour MPs. Its 2nd Reading (where a Bill and Explanatory Notes will be published) is on Friday 9th November.
It is almost exactly a year since the Conservative MP Nick Boles wrote in the Financial Times: "We should embrace a land tax". Boles was appointed Minister of Planning last week. Liberal Democrat supporters of these reforms are also in positions of influence -- notably Dr Vince Cable at the Department of Business Innovation & Skills (in charge of banking reform and the Government Growth Strategy).
To read more
JJS: Their study bill should calculate just how much money their society spends for the nature it uses and the privileges it grants, and what the impacts would be if that flow of “rents” were redirected into the public treasury then out again as dividends or social programs or both.
If a society were to recover all the spending it does for things like nature and privilege, then there’d be no “free” money floating around to unfairly enrich a favored few. If the citizenry in general were to get a share, then nobody would be poor. People could shrink their workweek. With the supply of labor down and the demand for it up, wages would rise. The few remaining fortunes would be truly earned by creative types: inventors and entertainers. There’d no longer be any wealth gap to speak of and no filthy rich for the do-gooders to envy.
Distribution would be fair, rough parity would reign, the materialist hierarchy would tumble, and members of society would see themselves and their “betters” far differently. People could become human again. First, we must resurrect the notion of the commons.
Editor Jeffery J. Smith runs the Forum on Geonomics and helped prepare a course for the UN on geonomics. To take the “Land Rights” course, click here .
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