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The World’s Richest Families 2020 (www.bloomberg.com)
54 points by pseudolus 5 days ago | hide | past | web | 82 comments | favorite

Imagine being Jerome Powell and saying with a straight face to the cameras that the Fed monetary policy has absolutely nothing to do with inequality. Pitchforks get ever closer.

Robin Williams on the topic: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=etQeFJ2lbbo

I’m not sure billionaires are the problem with respect to income/wealth inequality. We’ve always had mega-rich families, but what’s driving the anger against wealth inequality now?

The new phenomenon we’re seeing now is the pulling away of the upper middle class from everyone else. I think that’s the real source of anger against inequality. I don’t think most people really care that there is some billionaire out there. All billionaires combined earn just 1% of all income, so it’s not like they’re sucking up a huge part of all income. People get mad when they feel like they’re competing for real world resources, and there just aren’t enough billionaires to do that. But the Facebook engineer making $500,000/year? They’re the ones buying up the houses and driving middle class people out of neighborhoods.

I’ve been listening to the new New York Times podcast “Nice White Parents”: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/07/30/podcasts/nice-white-paren.... The first couple of episodes talks about the conflict between lower income Black and Hispanic parents and high income white parents in a Brooklyn neighborhood school. I think when people get mad about income inequality, for the most part they’re reacting to that sort competition for limited resources in American neighborhoods. And the “rich people” that are competing for those resources aren’t billionaires, but the upper middle class.

>We’ve always had mega-rich families, but what’s driving the anger against wealth inequality now?

The anger is from realizing the future isn’t as bright as expected. If this was a rising tide lifting all boats, no one would care the FB engineer making $500k if they also had an upward trajectory.

Instead the Facebook engineer is putting many yearbook company employees out of business, and google maps engineers are putting map makers out of business, etc.

There’s nothing wrong with obviating people, but they are understandably responding to the volatility with fear and anger as there is no social safety net.

""" But the Facebook engineer making $500,000/year? They’re the ones buying up the houses and driving middle class people out of neighborhoods. """

Wait this sounds like demonizing the FB engineer for making the 500k even though he would now have to pay millions for a medium size/class/type home that was previously owned by (and sold for) a crazy amount by said "middle class".

I get very worried when I see this sentiment where somehow the employees of these companies are responsible for killing the previous fabric but what is driving them to these decisions is somehow sacred?

I’m not demonizing anyone. But the inequality that affects every day people directly—rising housing prices in formerly middle class suburbs, competition for good school districts, rising prices in restaurants, etc., is driven by the large growth in upper middle class salaries. (My parents wouldn’t have been able to afford the 1,100 square foot 3BR 1950s house I grew up in at today’s prices. The neighborhood isn’t full of parked Saudi money. It’s the explosion in upper middle class incomes.)

Housing prices in full Silicon Valley suburbs aren’t exploding because of a handful of billionaires, it’s because of a vastly larger number of engineers making $500k.

I do apologize for the over reaction :). Engineers like anybody else are going to flock to where the money is (the intent of capitalism). To me it sounds like Engineers aren't wilfully driving away middle class as much as congregating closer to their employers for convenience. No? The same 500k eng would drive up a price no matter where they are located. So instead FB should limit salaries so that these engs cannot inflict this (unwilling) damage?

I wouldn’t call it “demonizing”, per se, but it’s a real phenomenon.

I live in Brooklyn where rent isn’t the cheapest. The rents aren’t driven up because I’m in a bidding war with Jeff Bezos; they’re driven up because I’m in a bidding war with other high earning millennial yuppies. The blue collar “middle class” worker doesn’t stand a chance in our neighborhood.

In contrast, my folks live in Wisconsin, where the same blue collar “middle class” worker probably doesn’t care about rent bidding wars because they just put a down payment on a nice starter home.

I agree demonizing is a strong characterisation. What would you suggest is the solution for these "ridiculous" salaries impacting the middle class? (Not considering the high real estate prices also disproportionately contributing to property taxes).

Agreed, I think people are underestimating the potential for societal breakdown in the US. The common refrain is that inequality is necessary but not sufficient for a revolution, but that it's also the case that the absolute level of the masses needs to be bad enough that the feeling of "I've got nothing left to lose" sets in.

I think the post-covid housing crisis could be a potential trigger for that. There are going to be a flood of evictions once the moratoriums are lifted. There is already a growing belief that property ownership in the US is "rigged", and once a society has widespread disillusionment with property rights, it's usually downhill from there.

I'm not saying it can't happen, but every urban society in history has had rich landlords and frustrated renters. It'll become a more critical problem if people start getting booted out onto the street en masse, but I think there's reason to be optimistic that can be avoided, since politicians on all sides have made it clear they don't plan to let it happen.

> since politicians on all sides have made it clear they don't plan to let it happen.

Really?? The only "plan" I've seen is continued moratorium on evictions, which at some point just becomes stealing from landlords to give to renters (as many have pointed out, there hasn't been a corresponding moratorium on mortgage or property tax payments), which at some point guarantees there will be less people willing to rent housing. I haven't seen any widespread plan that actually addresses the problem at a broader level.

I think that's the appropriate action for an economy in emergency mode. When you see a bad thing coming, you simply say "the bad thing is banned", and deal with secondary problems as they arise. The problem at a broader level is the virus, which economic policy can't directly address, and the health crisis is expected to end soon enough that our policies don't need to be sustainable indefinitely.

But that's the whole point. In Texas there are many (most?) areas that have eviction moratoriums until Sept 30 (already extended twice, not surprised if they are extended again). Many landlords have received no rent payments for months.

IMO that makes sense, but when they do eventually lift the moratoriums, very few of these people will be able to pay their back rent. When you haven't paid rent for 6 (or 9 or 12 or whatever) months, the normal policy is to get evicted. This flood is inevitable and all I've heard from politicians are kick the can down the road type solutions.

A large proportion of those masses (Republican voters) fervently support the very policies that have been driving inequality for decades. They don't really understand that, of course, but the worse things get, the more they flock to right-wing populist nonsense, accelerating their own financial ruin.

I'm not sure how to fix it. It's clearly too late to educate them properly about how economies function.

Loss aversion among the oligarch & owner classes will always result in fascism eventually, as enemies are created within or without to satisfy the will to power, which is itself the will to live: I am that I am. All of this has happened before, and unless we end it, all of this will happen again, assuming we have the opportunity to even try again. The violence of this loss aversion turned inwards is what destroys societies and makes them vulnerable to foreign invasion through more concrete material means of productions. In short: wealth inequality is fundamentally destructive to civilizations.

I used to believe this, but then I realized why ordinary Republicans for the most part don’t care so much about rising inequality: they don’t live in places where it’s that noticeable.

In DC or New York or San Francisco inequality is always in your face. Public housing down the block from co-ops that even Facebook engineers can’t afford. But for the most part, republicans don’t live there.

My Maryland county is pretty red—Clinton was the first Democrat to win it (barely) since JFK. There are some very rich people here, but you can really only tell by their boats. The waterfront houses are mostly owned by retired middle class people. (We bought ours from a young couple: a disabled vet and a nurse.) The nicer waterfront houses are as likely to be owned by a guy with a successful contracting business as a business executive. The public schools are excellent and you can buy a 3BR house zoned for the best high school in the area for 3-4 times the median income. You could make $1 million/year (and some people do) but other than on a boat there is nowhere extravagant to spend that money. There’s no restaurant in the entire county that the vast majority of people couldn’t afford to go to for at least a special occasion.

And like I said, we do have some old money yacht racing types. Go a bit further out where the rich people are farmers with their wealth tied up in land, and the society is even flatter. The vast majority of Republican America is like that.

> The vast majority of Republican America is like that.

I don't think that's really true. If you take suburbs/exurbs out of the equation (which polling shows turning quickly away from Republicans due to Trump revulsion, though not necessarily into the arms of the Democrats), many Republican strongholds are (a) places where voting patterns fall nearly entirely along racial lines (i.e. the Deep South), and (b) places that have seen a demise in opportunity, like the Rust Belt, where pretty much any young person with talent and ambition gets out as soon as they are able.

You may not see a ton of inequality in some of these "hollowed out" areas, but people certainly know it exists.

This probably doesn't describe Ohio well.

I’m not familiar with Ohio. It describes parts of Georgia and Missouri I’m familiar with (outside Atlanta and Kansas City).

Look at what happened to the large majority of bank-owned homes from the previous crash (~17 million of them): they let them rot. Rather than affect the price of real estate, they let these homes rot, so the trade unions of finance and insurance can charge more for mortgages and fees. Now there are about to be ~10-30 million displaced peoples. This is not an ethical society and it deserves and should expect revolt, and it should be no surprise whatsoever when people begin committing property crimes. You were warned. You just didn't listen.

I think that was the point at which I stopped watching as it was utterly shocking how much of a disconnect there is there.

Thank you for sharing the Robin Williams clip, I had not seen that before and found it hilarious and perfectly fitting.

The Feds have picked the lesser of two evils. QE and various monetary policy does increase inequality (of opportunity), but it also propped up some businesses which are employers and prevent an even larger economic collapse.

> But even a pandemic hasn’t stopped the relentless growth of their fortune. The Waltons are richer than ever, adding $25 billion in the past year to take their combined fortune to an estimated $215 billion

To put things into perspective, the entire Wolton fortune, accumulated over decades, would bankroll the ongoing COVID lockdowns for about a week.

To put things in perspective, a billion is a thousand million. The Waltons are worth 215,000 million dollars.

A relatively few lucky Americans may acquire a few million over their entire careers. I am a well paid developer who's had a number of good breaks and I hope to have that much some day for retirement.

215B is an unimaginable amount of wealth.

They're worth that. It doesn't mean anything until that is converted into cash. So their wealth increase or decrease isn't coming at the expense of everyone else. It is a reflection of the secondary effect of millions of other economic decisions made by others.

These are all clickbait articles that multiply equity * most recent sale price and make grandiose claims out of it.

The real story would be how economies of scale and technological efficiencies, and now coronavirus lockdown effects have driven even more business to the already biggest businesses, and what to do about that.

EDIT: Not sure about the downvotes. It is a factual statement. Their increasing wealth is a reflection of other broken parts of the economy.

Good, they should do exactly that.

If we could have a hard lockdown for 4-8 weeks and still come out the other end in good financial shape, that would be amazing, and really get the virus under control. If a small number of families could make that happen, let's do it.

That reads like “If a small number of families could forfeit several lifetimes’ of fortunes accumulated via serving the needs/wants of vast swaths of population, let’s take their money and do it!”

This seems like something that is much more properly paid via broad-based taxation, not by seizing wealth from a small number of families.

> That reads like “If a small number of families could forfeit several lifetimes’ of fortunes accumulated via serving the needs/wants of vast swaths of population, let’s take their money and do it!”

"via serving the needs/wants of vast swaths of population" is completely false. The article was about inherited wealth. When you inherit wealth, you didn't serve the needs of vast swaths of the population. You were simply born to the right parents.

We have already spent 15 times that much money on the lockdowns we did have, and didn’t get the virus under control. And it’s not a “small number of families.” The top 10 richest American families could only cover about 3-4 weeks of lockdowns. The first four months of lockdowns cost as much as the total wealth of the entire Forbes 400, and we’re not even done yet.

And of course, you’re comparing wealth accumulated over 50-60 years to a one time bailout. This likely won’t be the last pandemic of our lifetime. What’ll we do next time?

The United States hasn't had a lockdown. Small sections of the US did, but mostly people didn't take it as seriously here as they did in a number of other countries. We basically wasted the money because we only took half-hearted measures.

This is a hundred year pandemic. The worst pandemic since the 1918 flu. We save up during the good times just in case we need it during the bad times. So yes, spending wealth accumulated over the past decades is necessary now.

The worst pandemic since the 1918 flu.

It’s not even as bad as previous Asian flu of 1957, so far.


"About 70,000 to 116,000 people died in the United States"

"The second wave, in January and February 1958, was more pronounced among elderly people and so was more fatal."

There have been over 150,000 deaths in the US in the first 7 months of the current pandemic. So no, you're incorrect.

Agree, at this point it seems like that’s the only thing that’s going to save us from a long drawn-out clusterfuck.

Damn, John-Boy made good...

Things I like to think I’d do if I made 10^9 every 2 weeks:

-pay everyone making minimum wage or below 100$ for registering to vote. Cost about 170m.

-devote some portion of it to animal safety and care taking. Even stuff like sanctuaries for feral cats, dogs, and other non-adopted creatures as opposed to euthanasia.

-public libraries that provide services people otherwise wouldn’t have. Like a public square almost. Have a clearing house match up community interests with speakers and the like. Ie inviting religious people or leaders from religions foreign to the community to come in and discuss their beliefs and culture. I also want people to be able to request and invite things like lectures from theoretical physicists. Also do stuff like letting people request time on musical equipment in the building to learn how to play - or even just see if it’s for them.

Granted, all of this would probably negatively affect that biweekly 1 billion!

Would invest almost of it in my medical charity of choice: SENS, and after that public outreach.

Some people would accuse me of making medicine only for the rich, but that is not my intention. The disease of old age affect equally both billionaire and the poorest of grandparents, and everyone in between. To have new medicine only available to the rich and only the rich would be a total failure of my aim.

I'd probably throw it at nuclear fusion power research.

First you'd have to convert your 1BN gain of non-cash assets to cash every 2 weeks.

That wouldn't be very difficult.

You think the demand is so high that increasing the supply of shares for sale won’t have an effect on price?

Yes, look at the average daily volume for stocks. There’s plenty of opportunities for cashing out when you have that sort of asset.

You'd also run out of that asset pretty fast.

I build factories that build factories that build solar panels and batteries which would power the factories

With the resulting glut of energy I would do anything

P.S. Mild curiosity: why the downvotes. seems like a solid plan

Maybe someone’s seeing this discussion as OT. I see it as a discussion of opportunity costs-we’re not doing any of these in part because the funds go places like this.

I like your idea. I don’t recall much RD being put into self assembling machines. The potential there seems like obvious incentive. Like why not try to send such machines to the outer solar system and send stuff back to us?

Hubble 2 (visible light)


>Family's political network is planning to engage in nearly 200 federal and state races in 2020.

Why not take all of that and put it toward green or fusion research?

The own and run this business: https://www.kochcarbon.com/

“It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.” -Upton Sinclair

Except in this case, the salary is more like their portfolio rate of return.

Only 200 races? That's honestly a lot less than I expected. There's probably at least 100 contentious races in the House and Senate, for instance, and that's before even looking at state races.

And really, the important thing is the amount they give, not the number of targets. One could argue that giving $20 to ActBlue is engaging in hundreds of races, too.

Because their power rests on fossil fuel revenue?

Unsustainable. I'm not a billionaire but I think it would be wise to own the next big energy source.

I wonder at which point you can be considered a bad person, if you have money and actively work against mankind - which ignoring climate change is IMHO.

the intersting bait and switch that always seems to happen is people point at billionaires and then use their wealth to justify raising taxes on dentists that make 200k. Whereas the billionaires can just offshore their wealth.

they are used as scapegoats but the damage is done to working professionals like family physicians

The poor “working professionals” that are making more than 90% of households but still consider themselves “middle class”/“working class”.

I know where my household income ranks


I’m in no way “rich”. But, I am intellectually honest enough not to consider ourselves “middle class” according to statistics.

I was listening to the BBC the other day and someone was something they estimate there's 32 Trillion dollars in tax havens the world over. I've never understood why some small country just doesn't invade a tax haven and seize the money. I know it wouldn't happen but it'd be a great way to disrupt crime in the world.

Because there isn’t 32 trillion in cash laying around with in various island vaults.

This thread is rife with lack of knowledge about what wealth even is and how to re distribute it to society.

I agree, I think the line between low taxes and high taxes should be very high, 200k or above. 200k people don't have enough resource control to personally warp democracy. In the context of class war, it could help change the lines of battle and get 200k people to realize they are on the side of the poor

> With that much money, you could pile $1 million onto each of the 19,368 seats in the Walton arena and still have enough left to give Walmart’s 2.2 million associates about $90,000 each.

Does this measurement mean anything to anybody? It doesn't help me visualize anything.

They really need a serious billionaire tax. Something fun like: If your a billionaire and at your death your collective wealth was greater than 2 Billion. You get a public statue with a plaque that overlooks all slimy stuff you did to make that money. Also you can give your kids 1 Billion and the rest is returned to the government.

Maybe even throw in a street name or something.

They would just put the money and company shares in trusts. It wouldn't change anything.

What we really need is for capitalism as we know it to die. It's unethical that people are having to worry about starvation, not having a roof, and not having access to medical care in the US while Mark Zuckerburg is colonizing an island of Hawaii and suing native residents out of their family land.

I'm all for killing capitalism, but that doesn't magically solve the inheritance problem. If they would put it all in trusts, then make laws to prohibit that. You need to close all the loopholes of inherited wealth, which goes far beyond trusts as well.

It does bring into the mind the image of "a hell of a lot of money"....

One might have expected Georgina Bloomberg to make this "top 25" list... does the founder have to be dead?


> The ranking excludes first-generation fortunes and those fortunes controlled by a single heir.

Sam Walton made a fortune by offering people goods priced lower than anyone else offered. He also pioneered no-questions-asked return policies.

Wal-Mart has done a lot of good for people with lower incomes. Prices are low, employment is usually easy to come by.

It's not home to the finest of goods, but when the chips are down Wal-Mart is your friend.

What would happen over time if a specific class of people had an unfair advantage?

I did the math and Bloomberg has ALREADY earned back all the money he spent in the election by literally doing nothing.

- They pay dramatically less taxes. Often zero percent on many transactions and with money hidden overseas or in specifically designed financial instruments for the rich.

- They have connections you don't because they send their children to ivy league schools, the ENTIRE purpose of which is to act as a filter for the rich.

- They own the means of production.

- The working class won't stand up for their rights, won't unionize, and consistently ...

- They can bypass state taxes entirely by lying about where they live.

I've started FOUR companies now. Sold three. I'm NOT a communist. Capitalism is amazing - but it's fundamentally broken.

All the criticisms that US conservatives have previously applied to the Soviet Union now apply to the US.

- The government picks the winners. - Government and corporations are in bed with one another to the point where we have a centralized control of power.

The BEST reform we could have, and fight for, is adequate taxation. Make the rich pay the SAME % as everyone else. NO tax benefits for corporations for moving to a specific state/city. Uniform state taxation.

The extra money we make from making the rich pay their fair share, without having YOU subsidize them, should go to help ALL Americans pay for health care, education, etc.

If you're a Christian it's what Christ commanded you to do. If you're a good person it's the RIGHT thing to do because it helps your fellow man. If you're a capitalist it's the right thing because it will SAVE capitalism.

The rich shouldn't pay the same percent. 20% of my income in taxes has pretty profound changes to my life. Bezo's getting taxed at 90% means he has fewer megayachts and fewer private jets and fewer private islands. That 20% means a lot more to me than that 90% means to Bezos. That is how we should measure value.

They must be 260,000× engineers.

> That’s partly testament to long-standing advantages vast wealth affords. Bolstered by years of strategic diversification and family offices that can rival investment banks in their scope and sophistication, the 0.001% can weather economic and social turmoil.

Interesting how this article points to their tactic being some kind of sophisticated investing strategy, and not the federal reserve bailing out stocks and lowering interest rates to prop up property prices.

The whole article reads like a desperate attempt to keep people from realizing our own government props up these rich families at taxpayer expense.

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