The Forbes 400: Thank God for the rich

Forbes, in it’s latest issue exposing the richest Americans, says this about them:

“Who cares whether somebody is worth $2 billion or $6 billion?  We do.  That personal stash is a critical barometer of how well the nation – and, to a degree, the world – is doing.” (emphasis mine)

This is disturbing and disgusting.  I fail to see how hoping that a few people are richer than ever is a critical barometer of how well the nation and world is doing. I always thought that the way one could tell the health of any ecosystem, was to see how well the least of its members were doing.  Instead, we get to check in on people who could lose 99% of all their wealth and still be richer than anyone else.  So they pretty much are always going to be doing ok, don’t ya think? But what about the 45,000,000 Americans on food stamps? The 15,000,000 Americans without jobs.  How they doing?

The only possible thing this “barometer” is measuring is greed.  “Rich getting richer?” “Yep.”  “Good, greed is still alive.  All is well.”

Oh, but Forbes says that the rich getting richer is good for the rest of us:

“By creating wealth, the people on our list help shape epic finical trends, as well as shifts in leadership and policy, often providing the spark for innovation and entrepreneurship.”

So yeah, the rich getting richer should add new jobs!  Except it hasn’t.  Instead unemployment is getting worse, and wages are sinking for the little people.  But the rich getting richer is a “critical barometer” so I’m sure that will turn around real soon. And oh yeah, you better believe that the rich are shaping “leadership and policy.” For their own ends, of course.  Maybe it will trickle down on us someday.

But hey, “both Bill Gates and Warren Buffet are richer than they were a year ago, and that has had huge implications for philanthropic giving.” So relax, it’s all good.

Here’s some numbers:

Est. net worth of the Forbes 400 in 2009: $1.27 trillion

Est. net worth of the Forbes 400 in 2010: $1.4 trillion

Increase in net worth:  10%

Increase in net worth in dollars 2009-2010:  $130,000,000,000

Average net worth of Forbes 400 member:  $3.5 billion

If average Forbes 400 member lost 99% of his or her wealth they would still have:  $35 million

400 people control $1.4 trillion in wealth:

  • enough to give every man woman and child in Lexington $4.6 MILLION each
  • everyone in Kentucky $350,000
  • and everyone in  the USA $4,516

Anything seem out of balance in all this, even just a bit?


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