Via CfAF: "An average American family would have to work thousands of years to amass a billion-dollar fortune. America's super rich, the new data on our richest 400 make clear, can lose a billion and barely notice."
This is the crowd which comprises about 10 percent of the most privileged one-percenters who own about 60% of everything, and more than 95% of all the rest of us combined.
Tsunamis, we learned this past week, amount to equal-opportunity destroyers. Against a surging 20-foot wave, an opulent beachfront manse offers no more security than a cottage. But a recession, even a Great Recession, doesn’t work that way.Doesn't get much plainer than that, does it? Read more. No, really, do!
In a recession, as Forbes documents in its just-published latest report on America's 400 richest, most super rich do see a dip in that financial abstraction known as “net worth.” But, otherwise, life goes on, as comfortably as ever. The rich emerge unscratched out of whatever wreckage a recession may bring.
By contrast, as economist John Irons reminded us last week in a powerful new report on America's lean-pocket majority, recessionary tsunamis can leave average working families permanently scarred.
Let’s put some faces on that contrast. Start with Steve Wynn, the gaming industry “king of Las Vegas.” Wynn, along with 314 other billionaires on the list of America’s 400 richest that Forbes released this past Wednesday, has certainly lost “net worth” over the past 12 months.
In fact, Wynn has lost quite a bit of net worth since the financial industry meltdown one year ago. His fortune totaled $3.4 billion then and adds up to just $2.3 billion now, a $900 million fade. That’s a tidy sum. A typical American family, according to new Census Bureau figures, would have to work nearly 18,000 years to make $900 million.
But Wynn, despite that rather sizeable loss, hasn’t had to crimp his style over the last 12 months. He “rang in the New Year” skimming the Caribbean on a 183-foot megayacht he bought last summer. He went on to spend lovely winter days dodging gossip columnists on the Riviera and in the Alps.
Wynn has, to be sure, done some (s)crimping over the last year, namely on wages and benefits for workers in his corporate empire. He slashed paychecks at Wynn Resorts by 10 percent last winter and, among other cutbacks, suspended matches to employee 401(k)s.
Overall, the total wealth of Steve Wynn and his fellow Forbes 400 ultra rich dropped $300 billion, or 19 percent, between September 2008 and September 2009, the fifth time the top 400’s net worth has registered an annual slide since Forbes started keeping count in 1982.
After all four previous slides, the top 400 quickly regained the lost ground and resumed their march to ever greater concentrations of personal wealth. In 1982, the top 400 together held only $91.8 billion. The Forbes 400 combined net worth today stands at $1.27 trillion.
Since 1982, the wealth of the top 400 has soared an amazing 12 times faster than inflation.
Some of America’s super rich are still soaring, even amid our current economic unpleasantness. The Great Recession has been, for them, an opportunity to scoop up some can’t-miss business opportunities.