The divide between the "haves" and the "have-nots" in the United States has never been so vast. This staggering gap in wealth has worsened since the global recession and has proved problematic—even in cases where the billionaires are generous philanthropists. A new report reveals that the nation's 20 richest individuals own more wealth than the entire bottom half of the population.
What's more, with a combined worth of $2.34 trillion, the richest 400 Americans—who include Bill Gates, Donald Trump, Oprah Winfrey, and heirs to the Wal-Mart fortune—own more wealth than the bottom 61 percent of the country, or 194 million people.
The study compares the Forbes list with other segments of the population, showing great disparity in how this wealth is distributed. For example, the combined net worth of the Forbes 400 roughly equals the wealth of the entire African American population, plus a third of the Latino population.
Chuck Collins, senior scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) and co-author of the report Billionaire Bonanza: the Forbes 400and the Rest of Us, explains "Concentrating wealth to this extent gives rich donors far too much political power," Collins explains, "including the wherewithal to shape the rules that govern our economy." He cites the recent New York Times report which found that half of all political contributions in the 2016 presidential campaign came from just 158 families.
To quote George Carlin: "They OWN you," and as he also said "They call it the American Dream, because you have to be asleep to believe it."