The Washington Post reports that a new paper on wealth inequality by University of California at Berkeley's Gabriel Zucman found that the 400 wealthiest people in America have tripled their percentage of the nation’s wealth in the past 40 years.
The top 400 Americans, which make up the top 0.00025 percent of the population, own more of the nation’s wealth than the bottom 60 percent of the wealth distribution, which is made up by 150 million people.
Zucman finds that “U.S. wealth concentration seems to have returned to levels last seen during the Roaring Twenties.” The shift is resulting in an increasingly insecure lower and middle class with an increasingly powerful upper class, who often use their power to buy political influence.
Zucman cautions that these numbers may not be the full story. It has become more and more difficult to account for all the wealth of the rich, partly because many of their assets are hidden.
Zucman has found that the top 0.1 percent of the population has nearly 20 percent of the country’s wealth.
There is good news, though. Although incomes for the wealthy have risen dramatically, middling incomes have risen too. Still, the middle incomes have risen more slowly.
For those who are less wealthy, money provides security. For those who are already secure, money provides power, and it is often political. For this reason, politicians are especially attentive to the interests of the rich.
“Wealth concentration may help explain the lack of redistributive responses to the rise of inequality observed since the 1980s,” Zucman writes. The interplay between money and power, in other words, may be self-reinforcing: The wealthy use their money to buy political power, and they use some of that power to protect their money.
Read the full story here.