You may have heard about the staggering wealth inequality that exists in America.
A new report gives us some new figures that show just how bad the situation is.
Among the findings from "Billionaire Bonanza: The Forbes 400 and the Rest of Us" by the Institute for Policy Studies: At $2.34 trillion, the Forbes 400 now own about as much wealth as the nation’s entire African-American population—about 42 million people.
They also found they own more than a third of what America's Latino population—more than 55 million people—holds.
And the situation is probably even worse than what we are able to know through public data.
"We believe that these statistics actually underestimate our current national levels of wealth concentration," they write. "The growing use of offshore tax havens and legal trusts has made the concealing of assets much more widespread than ever before."
The pair also found that:
- The wealthiest-100 households also own about as much wealth as the entire African American population in the U.S.
- The Forbes 400 own more wealth than the bottom-61% of the country—194 million people.
- At $732 billion, the 20-wealthiest Americans now own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the American population combined—a total of 152 million people in 57 million households.
The authors say the problem has been getting worse thanks to the increasing use of offshore tax havens and private trusts, "avoiding accountability and taxation," and a refusal to increase taxes on wealthy households. Their recommended solutions include strengthening and increasing estate taxes, policing special trusts to ward off their use as tax havens, taxing capital gains as ordinary income, and reinvesting all these new funds into things like debt-free schooling.
"Extreme inequality corrodes our democratic system and public trust," they say. "It leads to a breakdown in civic cohesion and social solidarity, which in turn leads to worsened health outcomes. Inequality undercuts social mobility—and has disastrous effects on the economy."
Rob covers business, economics and the environment for Fusion. He previously worked at Business Insider. He grew up in Chicago.