Microsoft founder Bill Gates, Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos, and business magnate Warren Buffett — the three richest people in the world — are as wealthy as the bottom half of the U.S. population combined, according to a report from the Institute for Policy Studies.
The poorest 50 percent of America amounts to roughly 160 million people or 63 million households.
America’s top 25 billionaires have as much wealth as 56 percent of the population, equivalent to 178 million people or 70 million households, according to the Institute for Policy Studies’ report.
The 400 richest people in the U.S. have a combined wealth of $2.68 trillion and collectively have more than the gross domestic product of Britain, the study found. Furthermore, that group owns more wealth than the bottom 64 percent of the U.S. population (240 million people or 80 million households). This is more people than Canada and Mexico have combined.
“The elite ranks of our billionaire class continue to pull apart from the rest of us,” the study’s conclusion reads. “We have not witnessed such extreme levels of concentrated wealth and power since the first Gilded Age a century ago. Such staggering levels of wealth inequality threaten our democracy, compound racial and class divisions, undermine social cohesion, and destabilize our economy.”
Buffett, who is outspoken about wealth inequality in America, says that despite his personal concerns of the stark disparity, generations are still always going to live a better life than the ones immediately before.
“In every respect, we’re living better than [John D.] Rockefeller, a fellow who was alive in my lifetime,” Buffett said in a February interview with The Atlantic. “And you would think that people would be happy in this utopia, but they’re in a funk. They think their children are going to be worse off than they are. They’re absolutely wrong. Their children are going to live better and their grandchildren are going to live even better. We’ve got half as many people in the world under five dying, and that number is going to get cut in half again.”
After being asked why people “can’t be happy,” Buffett said he think it’s the income disparity, that also bothers him.
“Nobody can name the person who topped the Forbes list in 1982,” he continued. “It was Dan Ludwig. He had two billion dollars in 1982. It put him on top of the list. He’d barely make the cut today. The aggregate wealth on that list has gone from $93 billion to $2.4 trillion and the disparities are extraordinary.”
There are many examples of life getting better for all, even if the top one percent are also getting disproportionately richer in comparison to the rest. In fact, Marian L. Tupy, a senior policy analyst at the Cato Institute, created a one-stop resource for people to see how much societies have exponentially grown over time called HumanProgress.org.
Nevertheless, it is clearly a worry for the Institute for Policy Studies.
The study concludes: “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. We can do the same.”
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