Thanks to a global explosion of wealth over the past 10 years or so, the number of U.S. households with $1 million to $25 million in net worth has more than doubled. Households with $500 million and up have roughly tripled. [...]
True, only a tiny portion of all Americans meet our definition of rich: Just 0.20% of households have net worths of $25 million or more. But in absolute numbers, the group is considerable. If one representative from each of the 175,400 households filed into an NFL stadium at the same time, they wouldn't all find seats. In fact, they would have to go in two shifts -- and even then, some 15,000 would be left in the parking lots, tailgating in their Bentleys. [...]
WITH A NET WORTH OF $500 million or more, "You can buy whatever you want" in Manhattan real estate, says Mason. Or you can buy anywhere else. Some members of this group buy $20 million homes "all over the world," says Gary Gold, realty broker to the rich at Hilton & Highland in Los Angeles. He's been as surprised as anyone by the growing number of people who qualify for the Champagne & Caviar class. Five or 10 years ago, he says, "you'd know who they are. Now, they can have vast wealth and you don't know who they are."
Leslie Mandel, chief executive of the Rich List, a marketing company, contends there are now more than 2,000 Americans with net worths of a $1 billion or more, far more than the 400 who appear on Forbes' annual list (the cutoff for that is now $1.3 billion). Some bankers figure the number of billionaires is closer to 500, but either way, it's up remarkably from the 170 of 10 years ago. [...]
In his 2007 book about the wealth explosion, Richistan, Wall Street Journal writer Robert Frank tells the story of an 11-year-old girl who asked her father for a ride on a commercial airline even though the family owned its own jet. "I want to ride on a big plane with other people," the girl said.
Why didn't she or her siblings say, "I want my health insurance claims to be denied like other people," or "I want to know what real financial uncertainty feels like, just like the employees Daddy screwed out of their Enron 401(k) plans," or "I wish I knew what it felt like to be young and black and living in New Orleans's Third Ward during Katrina," or "Gosh, I wish I knew what it felt like to fight and become an amputee in Iraq or Afghanistan."
Think of this level of wealth as class warfare with a smiley face. Or no face at all. That's why we need true progressive income taxation, higher capital gains taxes, and estate taxes that kick in around $5 million.
The ultra-rich got everything they wanted from the most billionaire-friendly president in modern history and America is still shit dragging the heel of the global economy. Now it's our turn to tax the people who have profited so spectacularly from all the covertly calculated Republican carnage, both in dollars and in working-class blood, carried out in the name of faux family values and phony crusade-wars conducted with a costume cowboy hat.