Many of today’s super-rich never did a day's work in their lives. Six out of the ten wealthiest Americans alive today are heirs to prominent fortunes. The Walmart heirs alone have more wealth than the bottom 42 percent of Americans combined.
Rich millennials will soon acquire even more of the nation’s wealth.
America is now on the cusp of the largest inter-generational transfer of wealth in history. As wealthy boomers expire, an estimated $30 trillion will go to their children over the next three decades.
Those children will be able to live off of the income these assets generate and then leave the bulk of them—which in the intervening years will have grown far more valuable—to their own heirs, tax-free. After a few generations of this, almost all of the nation's wealth will be in the hands of a few thousand families. It puts economic power into the hands of a very small number of people who have never worked, but whose investment decisions will have a significant effect on the nation's future. It creates a self-perpetuating capitalist aristocracy.
The estate tax applies only to estates over $11 million per couple. And wealthy families stash away dollars above this into "dynastic" trust funds that escape additional taxes.
If the wealthy hold on to assets such as stocks, bonds, mansions, and works of art until they die, the tax code allows their heirs to inherit them without paying any capital gains taxes. According to the Congressional Budget Office, this loophole saves heirs $50 billion a year.
The richest 1 tenth of 1 percent of Americans now owns almost as much wealth as the bottom 90 percent.