During the past year, the richest Americans made a wealth grab that furthered the financial income disparity in the country. Since the recession, the wealthiest Americans have made millions from their stock holdings, while the average American household earns less today than it did in 2009. A recent report by Paul Buchheit, founder of Us Against Greed, shows startling facts about the increase in US wealth distribution to the wealthy over the past year.

1. In 2013, just 13 Americans made more from their investments than the entire Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP). According to Buchheit’s research, the top 13 wealthiest Americans, including Warren Buffett, Bill Gates, and four members of the Walton (Walmart) family, took in $80 billion among them just by being invested in the stock market. That’s more than one year of food stamps for nearly 50 million people.

2. The richest 400 Americans took in $300 billion in 2013, which is more than the total budget for SNAP, Women, Infants, and Children (WIC), Child Nutrition, Earned Income Tax Credit, Supplemental Security Income, Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, and Housing.

3. It can be estimated that the richest 12,000 American families, or the .01 percent, each made $40 million during the past year. According to Buchheit’s calculations, each member of the .01 elite owns about 40 times the wealth of an average member of the richest 1 percent.

4. The richest 400 American own more than three-fifths of the country. The richest 400 Americans now possess over $2 trillion, or about 2.8 percent of the country’s wealth of $72 trillion among them. That’s more than the wealth of three-fifths of the country, or 72 million families.

According to the Economic Policy Institute (EPI), “An economy that does not provide shared prosperity is, by definition, a poorly performing one. Further, such an economy will not provide sustainable growth without relying on consumption fueled by asset bubbles and escalating household debt.”

While corporate profits are at historic highs, wages for most Americans have stagnated. CEO pay has increased by 725 percent since 1978, more than 127 times faster than worker pay has increased during the same period. “Income growth has been captured by those in the top 1 percent, driven by high profitability and by the tremendous wage growth among executives and in the finance sector,” EPI reports.

Buccheit says that while capitalism should provide every American the opportunity to benefit from our country’s productivity, the horrible distortion of the system in favor of a very small group of people stands in the way of prosperity for the majority of Americans. “Today only the people who already have money can increase their wealth,” he notes. The system favors a select group “who need to do very little to take most of the wealth.”


Not a Democracy - wealth pie chart












Image via: Truthout.org

Alisha is a writer and researcher with Ring of Fire. You can follow her on Twitter @childoftheearth.