The Lesson We Need to Teach Our Nation’s Rich
We will not let your wealth come at the expense of our children’s future.
People holding personal fortunes worth over $5 million this year make up less than one-tenth of 1 percent of the world’s adult population.
People worth over $5 million may also this year make up nearly 100 percent of the picks Donald Trump chooses for his cabinet and inner circle.
President-elect Trump’s choices for top slots so far include at least two billionaires, two former Wall Street executives at Goldman Sachs, and assorted other mega-millionaire heirs and corporate honchos. Donald Trump, notes the Washington Post, “is assembling the richest administration in modern American history.”
The Trump choice for commerce secretary, Wilbur Ross, holds all by himself ten times more personal wealth than the entire cabinet George W. Bush appointed back in 2001.
This assemblage of awesomely affluent may not reflect the America most Americans experience in their everyday lives. But these Trump deep-pocket picks absolutely do reflect the core reality of our contemporary worldwide distribution of income and wealth: The United States today hosts more really rich people than any other nation on Earth.
No other nation comes close.
The Swiss banking giant Credit Suisse has been tracking the wealth of the world’s wealthy for most of this century, and analysts with the Credit Suisse Research Institute have just released the latest edition of their highly respected annual Global Wealth Report.
The United States, the new 2016 Credit Suisse numbers show, abounds lavishly with rich people who can help Donald Trump rule the rest of us. Some 582 billionaires currently call the United States home, more billionaires than Japan, the UK, Germany, France, China, Italy, Canada, Australia, Switzerland, and South Korea combined.
In the “centimillionaire” category — those swells who hold nine-digit fortunes, anything from $100 million to $1 billion — the United States rates as even more dominant. Nearly half the global centimillionaire crowd, 46 percent, hails from the US of A.
Donald Trump, in all, has 23,222 Americans worth over $100 million to choose from for his new administration. Some of them, of course, are going to be too busy to serve. But that shouldn’t pose any problem. The United States has well over half — 56 percent — of all the adults in the world with fortunes valued at between $5 million and $100 million.
None of these numbers will surprise folks who’ve been reading the annual Credit Suisse Global Wealth Report over the years. But Credit Suisse’s 2016 edition does add some numbers that will likely shock even veteran wealth watchers.
This year’s Credit Suisse study for the first time takes an in-depth look at the wealth of the world’s “bottom billion,” the poorest 20 percent of the global adult population.
You can probably guess the nations that contribute the most people to this “bottom billion.” Nearly a quarter of the bottom billion, 246.2 million people, come from India. Over another 100 million more come from China and Nigeria.
On the other hand, you might not be able to guess the nation that adds more people to the bottom billion than the Philippines and Mexico taken together.
That nation just happens to be the United States. Only 12 nations in the entire world can claim a greater share of the world’s absolute poorest.
The sunny side of this depressing statistic? If Donald Trump wanted to appoint some people without ample means to his administration, he certainly would have no problem finding plenty of possibilities.
Institute for Policy Studies associate fellow Sam Pizzigati co-edits Inequality.org. His most recent book: The Rich Don’t Always Win: The Forgotten Triumph over Plutocracy that Created the American Middle Class, 1900–1970. Follow him on Twitter @Too_Much_Online.