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9 Pictures Of The Extreme Income/Wealth Gap

Monday, February 14, 2011 15:20
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Many people don’t understand our country’s problem of concentration of income and wealth because they don’t see it. People just don’t understand how much wealth there is at the top now. The wealth at the top is so extreme that it is beyond most people’s ability to comprehend.

If people understood just how concentrated wealth has become in our country and the effect is has on our politics, our democracy and our people, they would demand our politicians do something about it.

How Much Is A Billion?

Some Wall Street types (and others) make over a billion dollars a year – each year. How much is a billion dollars? How can you visualize an amount of money so high? Here is one way to think about it: The median income in the US is around $50,000, meaning half of us make less and half of us make more. If you make $50,000 a year, and don’t spend a single penny of it, it will take you 20,000 years to save a billion dollars. . . . (Please come back and read the rest of this after you have recovered.)

What Do People Do With SO Much?

What do people do with all that money? Good question. After you own a stable of politicians who will cut your taxes, there are still a few more things you can buy. Let’s see what $1 billion will buy.


This is a Maybach. Most people don’t even know there is something called a Maybach. The one in the picture, the Landaulet model, costs $1 million. (Rush Limbaugh, who has 5 homes in Palm Beach, drives a cheaper Maybach 57 S — but makes up for it by owning 6 of them.)

Your $1 billion will only buy you a thousand Maybach Landaulets.

Here are pics of just some of Ralph Lauren’s collection of cars. This is not a museum, this is one person’s private collection. You don’t get to go look at them.

Luxury Hotels

This is the Mardan Palace Hotel in Turkey, Burj Al Arab in Dubai.

Here is a photo gallery of some other expensive hotels, where people pay $20-$30,000 per night. Yes, there are people who pay that much. Remember to send me a postcard!

A billion dollars will buy you a $20,000 room every night for 137 years.


Le Grand Bleu – $90 million.

Some people spend as much as $200 million or more on yachts.

You can buy ten $100 million yachts with a billion dollars.

Private Jets

Of course, there are private jets. There are approx. 15,000 private jets registered in the US according to NBAA. (Note: See the IPS High-Flyers study.)

This is a Gulfstream G550. You can pick one up for around $40 million, depending. Maybe $60 million top-of-the-line.

Your billion will buy you 25 of these.

Private Islands

If the rabble are getting you down you can always escape to a private island.

This one is going for only $24.5 million – castle included. You can only buy 40 of these with your billion.


This modest home (it actually is, for the neighborhood it is in) is offered right now at only about $8 million. I ride my bike past it on my regular exercise route, while I think about how the top tax rate used to be high enough to have good courts, schools & roads and counter the Soviet Union and we didn’t even have deficits.

I ride there but that neighborhood is not like my neighborhood at all. While there is one family in that house, I live closer to the nearby soup kitchen that serves hundreds of families. One family in a huge estate and hundreds at a soup kitchen roughly matches the ratio of wealth concentration described below.

Here are a few nearby homes up for sale.

You can buy 125 houses like this one with your billion.

Luxury Items

Here is an article about ten watches that are more expensive than a Ferrari.

The one in this picture costs more than $5 million. You can buy 200 of these with your billion.

Medieval Castles

Just for fun, this is Derneburg Castle. Do you remember the big oil-price runup a few years ago that too the price of a gallon at the pump up towards $5? One speculator who helped make that happen got a huge bonus paid with government bailout money. He owns this castle. He has filled it with rare art. You can’t go in and see any of the rare art.

Click here to see the layout in an aerial view. That’s as close as you’re going to get, peasant.

Let’s Go Shopping

So you say to yourself, “I want me some of that. I’d like to place the following order, please.”

  • One Maybach Landaulet for $1 million to drive around in. (Actually to be driven around in.)
  • One $100 million yacht for when I want to get seasick.
  • One Gulfstream G550 private jet for $40 million/
  • One private island for $24.5 million (castle included) for when I want to escape the masses.
  • One $8 million estate for when I have to go ashore and mingle with the masses (but not too close.)
  • One $5 million watch so I can have one.
  • Total: $178.5 million.

My change after paying with a billion-dollar bill is a meager $821.5 million left over. I might be hard up for cash after my spending spree, but I can still stay in a $20,000 room every night for 112 and 1/2 years.

So, as you see, $1 billion is more than enough to really live it up. People today are amassing multiples of billions, paying very little in taxes and using it in ways that harm the rest of us.

How Extreme Is The Concentration?

Now you have a way to visualize just how much money is concentrated at the very top. And the concentration is increasing. The top 1% took in 23.5% of all of the country’s income in 2007. In 1979 they only took in 8.9%.

It is concentrating at the expense of the rest of us. Between 1979 and 2008, the top 5% of American families saw their real incomes increase 73%, according to Census data. Over the same period, the lowest-income fifth (20% of us) saw a decrease in real income of 4.1%. The rest were just stagnant or saw very little increase. This is why people are borrowing more and more, falling further and further behind. (From the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

Income VS Wealth

There are a few people who make hundreds of millions of income in a single year. Some people make more than $1 billion in a year But that is in a single year. If you make vast sums every year, after a while it starts to add up. (And then there is the story of inherited wealth, passed down and growing for generation after generation…)

Top 1% owns more than 90% of us combined. “In 2007, the latest year for which figures are available from the Federal Reserve Board, the richest 1% of U.S. households owned 33.8% of the nation’s private wealth. That’s more than the combined wealth of the bottom 90 percent.” (Also from the Working Group on Extreme Inequality)

400 people have as much wealth as half of our population. The combined net worth of the Forbes 400 wealthiest Americans in 2007: $1.5 trillion. The combined net worth of the poorest 50% of American households: $1.6 trillion.


Corporate wealth is also personal wealth. When you hear about corporations doing well, think about this chart:


The top 1% also own 50.9% of all stocks, bonds, and mutual fund assets. The top 10% own 90.3%.

Worse Than Egypt

In fact our country’s concentration of wealth is worse than Egypt. Richard Eskow writes,

Imagine: A government run by and for the rich and powerful. Leaders who lecture others about “sacrifice” and deficits while cutting taxes for corporations and the wealthy. A system so corrupt that rich executives can break the law without fear of being punished. Increasing poverty and hardship even as the stock market rises. And now, a nation caught between a broken political system and a populist movement that could be hijacked by religious extremists at any moment.

Here’s the reality: Income inequality is actually greater in the United States than it is in Egypt. Politicians here have close financial ties to big corporations, both personally and through their campaigns. Corporate lawbreakers often do go unpunished. Poverty and unemployment statistics for US minorities are surprisingly similar to Egypt’s.

The Harmful Effect on The Rest Of Us

This concentration is having a harmful effect on the rest of us, and even on the wealthy. When income becomes so concentrated people who would otherwise think they are well off look up the ladder, see vastly more wealth accumulating, and think they are not doing all that well after all. This leads to dissatisfaction and risk-taking, in an effort to get even more. And this risk-taking is what leads to financial collapse.

Aside from the resultant risk of financial collapse, the effect of so much in the hands of so few is also bad psychologically. People need to feel they earned that they have earned what they have, and develop theories about why they have so much when others do not. Bizzare and cruel explanations like Ayn Rand’s psychopathic theories about “producers” and “parasites” take hold. Regular people become little more than commodities, blamed for their misery (“personal responsibility”) as they become ever poorer.

Teddy Roosevelt, speaking to the educators about “False Standards Resulting From Swollen Fortunes,” warned that while teachers believe their ideals to be worth sacrifice and so do non-renumerative work for the good of others, seeing great wealth makes people think that obtaining wealth is itself a lofty ideal,

The chief harm done by men of swollen fortune to the community is not the harm that the demagogue is apt to depict as springing from their actions, but the effect that their success sets up a false standard, and serves as a bad example to the rest of us. If we do not ourselves attach an exaggerated importance to the rich man who is distinguished only by his riches, this rich man would have a most insignificant influence over us.

Societies that are more equal do better. In the book The Spirit Level: Why More Equal Societies Almost Always Do Better, Richard G. Wilkinson and Kate Pickett make the case that great inequality harms us physically as well as spiritually, and the these harmful effects show up across society. The book examines social relations, mental health, drug use, physical health, life expectancy, violence, social mobility and other effects and show how inequality worsens each.

Influence Buying

There is a problem of the effect on our democracy from the influence that extreme, concentrated wealth buys. In the book Winner-Take-All Politics: How Washington Made the Rich Richer–and Turned Its Back on the Middle Class, Jacob Hacker and Paul Pierson make the case that the anti-democracy changes we have seen in America since the late 1970s that led to intense concentration of wealth and income are the intentional result of an organized campaign by the wealthy and businesses to use their wealth to, well, buy even more wealth.

The secretive Koch Brothers are said to have a net worth of $21.5 billion each and are particularly influential. They financed the Tea Party movement and along with big corporations and other billionaires they financed the massive assault of TV ads in the midterm elections that helped change the makeup of the Congress. And now Congress is paying them back,

Nine of the 12 new Republicans on the panel signed a pledge distributed by a Koch-founded advocacy group — Americans for Prosperity — to oppose the Obama administration’s proposal to regulate greenhouse gases. Of the six GOP freshman lawmakers on the panel, five benefited from the group’s separate advertising and grassroots activity during the 2010 campaign.

… Republicans on the committee have launched an agenda of the sort long backed by the Koch brothers. A top early goal: restricting the reach of the Environmental Protection Agency, which oversees the Kochs’ core energy businesses.

We Must Address This

We owe it to ourselves to come to grips with this problem. We owe it to democracy to begin taxing high incomes and inheritance again. We owe it to future generations to use a temporary wealth tax to pay off the debt.


The Working Group on Extreme Inequality explains why inequality matters in many more ways, and is well worth clicking through to study. They also have a page of resources for study with links to other organizations. Also, spend some time at Too Much, A commentary on excess and inequality because it is “Dedicated to the notion that our world would be considerably more caring, prosperous, and democratic if we narrowed the vast gap that divides our wealthy from everyone else.” The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities has a Poverty and Income area of research with good resources. The Center for Economic and Policy Research has a research section on Inequality and Poverty.


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Total 21 comments
  • 14u2trust

    Amendment 29 to the U.S. Constitution, Abolish Corporate Personhood will help prevent corporate lobbyist from corrupting our freedom to vote. Corporations have won a lawsuit that permits corporations to have constitutional rights. This created a corrupt business practice that allows lobbyist to use money to influence others instead of “We the People”. Corporate money is over ruling human values. Please take the time to sign the petition to get your rights back.Google: Amendment 29 to the U.S. Constitution, Abolish Corporate Personhood

  • Anonymous

    The politics of envy is the root of all depression.

  • Anonymous

    Audit the federal Reserve, support HR 459 Paul

  • Anonymous

    This artical sickened me, I did not even want to read it all, but I did.

    Did you know that one day a few years back 2007, I think, a report jokingly asked Evelyn Rothschild how much he was really worth today? without heasitation Evelyn repiled he was worth about 700 Trillion US dollars and that most of it was in Gold.
    At that time Gold was valued at near 600 dollars an ounce.
    What was it yesterday, 2011? $1350+ a ounce?

    There is no reason in the world why any one family or person should have and keep that kind of money for their own personal use.

    Before I die, I will find a way to take it all away from them and give it back to the world they took it from.

    God grant me the health and strangth to build an army and use it to take away every single ounce of that gold and give it back to the world to rebuild the world as it should be.

    If I could I’d lock Evelyn Rothschild up in one of his vaults with a grinding machine and a couple of gold bars so he could grind them into the white powder the Pharios used to eat to bring them into a near death state so they can view the other world and if they liked it, die there.

    2007, 700 Trillion. 2011 ??? Trillion

  • Anonymous

    Total gluttony but not in regards to food. Depopulate the
    extreme wealthy as they are the ones destroying the planet.
    Should a revolution occur in this country, the first ones to go
    after are vile like Rothschild.

  • Anonymous

    The scriptures say that when the rich die they wake up in TERROR!

  • Anonymous

    I agree to some extent.
    The problem that I had with obamas tax plan was the 250000 he planned on taxing.
    From what I understand,it was a GROSS number not NET gain.That would have been detrimental for business.(unless i was lied to)

    If obama would have went after that top 10%, we probably would have all been on his side.
    I am a conservative, but I did not vote in either election this round because everything was to wishy washy.

    Even though I believe in capitalism, I would submit that it needs to be MORAL capitalism and not downright thievery.

    Personally, I would have raised the tax bracket on 200000 year/net after expenses, and taxed the hell out of hedge funds.
    There was a hedge fund manager that made 5 BILLION last year.

    In closing, yes, I do agree with you guys, but the deciding factor for personal taxation has to be considered by the NET SUM, with hard figures, and it has to be low enough to make working worthwhile. Of course, we are not talking about the working stiff are we?

  • Spuffmunki

    I think that sort of money is OFFENSIVE.

  • godsontoo

    My investment is in a treasure that is innumerable and more than likely unobtainable by the so called elite, we are on this earth but a nanosecond in the great scheme of our existence. So invest your treasures in Heaven where they will never be corrupted.Matt.6:20

  • Anonymous

    I miss the pictures of the other side of the extreme…

  • Anonymous

    Well, at least someone has the money to fight Al Gore’s global warming fraud.

    Why does everyone resent the ultra wealthy? Jealous are you? Maybe you feel that you have some entitlement to some of what many of these people worked very hard to earn or were born to?

    Someone manufactures all the expensive toys they buy. The last time I checked, manufacturers create jobs. Now, I don’t know where some of these things are made (airplanes, Maybach, and all other assorted trinkets), but I am sure some Americans are employed by some of the ultra wealthy either directly or indirectly. How many people are employed by Microsoft and Apple? MANY.

    I prefer to live simply. I am happy. It is very easy to live simply, comfortably, and be well fed in California without government aid for about $25,000 per year. The trick is to forget about what you don’t have and be grateful for what you do. Don’t use credit. Live within your means and you can, indeed, live a fulfilling life. Let go of the illusion that monetary wealth is something to pursue. Geeze, focus on what is really important – your family and friends. They are the ones that can benefit from your existence and they are the only ones that actually care about you. STOP GLOBAL WHINING – IT BEGINS AT HOME!!!!!

  • MsPseudolus

    @14u2trust – Cheers to that! That’s the place to start. Join the movement to amend.

    Last time I looked, janitors and garbage collectors work hard. It’s not about how hard people work. It’s about the laws that have been tailored to allow corporate leaders to hoard wealth and not put back into the system that made them rich in the first place. No one is talking about bleeding these people dry. But they should pay their fair share into the system, like the janitors and garbage collectors have to.

  • Anonymous

    “The Poor Wouldn’t Be NEEDY if
    The Rich Weren’t So GREEDY”

  • Spuffmunki

    “Why does everyone resent the ultra wealthy? Jealous are you?”

    Not everyone does resent the ultra wealthy, some people idolise the ultra wealthy.

    “It’s not about how hard people work. It’s about the laws that have been tailored to allow corporate leaders to hoard wealth”

    ^^^ This….

    A friend of mine works like a Ninja, 3 jobs, THREE, that’s working pretty hard, she hardly see’s her children as she’s working to ensure she doesn’t loose the house they live in as mortgage payments are high, along with utilities, and the jobs are just not out there like they used to be.

    She works SO hard, to the point of exhaustion, yet doesn’t ever seem to move any distance forward.

    Bill Gates has 50 Billion +

    50 Billion. Now ok, I don’t doubt that Microsoft provides jobs to other people, and that’s a lovely thing, but 50 Billion for one man?!

    What’s the Defecit in the US?

    I know it’s lower here in the UK, but then, we’re no where near the size. So it’s probabable ours is higher relatively.

    We’re all screwed anyway huh? This little problem of ours isn’t going away, and it’s us who’s paying for it, the world is under the thumb of a global conglomorate of bankers, and the rich poor divide gets bigger each passing year.

    And if you can’t see that, or don’t have a problem with it.

    Then you’re obviously on the right side of the fence, or life hasn’t kicked you in the bollocks yet.

  • Anonymous

    what does it gain a man to have all the riches in the world if he has lost his soul??? It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle, than fro a rich man to enter heaven, why?? because the rich belong to satan-their god created in their own image-one who has the worst sin-the sin of iniquity. God hates iniquity. God hates the Rich. The universe is completely fair and balanced. Those who hoard wealth-they will never even use-while many starve-will be lacking in all other things-to put their hoarding in balance-they will lack for all other things-especially love, happiness and creativity. The rich belong to satan and when they leave this world-what will all their money and riches gain them when they are soulless and in Hell-cut off from God and his love forever. My treasure is in Heaven where Jesus told us to put it. I pity the rich.

  • Royal Payne

    The meek shall inherit the earth…after the rich are finished with it !
    On a serious note, a nation this top heavy with a few owning almost everything cannot last. Super greed is killing the USA at all levels. Bastille Day will happen here at sometime in the not to distant future.

  • Anonymous

    They’ve got all that money and I’m struggling to buy a $50,000 house! Life SUCKS!!

  • Anonymous

    I walk around my house at night with a flashlight instead of turning on the lights. I got my bill down under $20.00. Now I’m saving big time. I estimate that it will take me over one million years to reach a billion at the rate I am going, unless of course the dollar isn’t around in a million years. I am not concerned about the money issue, only that these evil bastards want the rest of us dead so that they can have the world without the have not’s. But, they forget to factor in a Living God that has not turned His eye away from those who will inherit the earth.

  • Anonymous

    Hobbit here: Now I know why Rush Limbaugh is so divorced from reality.

  • Veppo

    the Collection of Things is a worthwhile pursuit to some…I’d rather collect experiences.

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