What is to be done about the plutocrats?
2 November 2018
A new report from the Institute for Policy Studies, made public Tuesday, underscores the role of inherited wealth in the growth of social inequality in the United States. The report, titled, “Billionaire Bonanza: Inherited Wealth Dynasties in the 21st-Century United States,” analyzes the Forbes magazine list of the 400 wealthiest individuals in the United States, and finds that one-third of them derived their wealth primarily from inheritance from their parents or from an even older generation of the super-rich.
The three wealthiest of the dynasties, the Waltons, the Koch brothers and the Mars family, saw their combined wealth increase nearly 6,000 percent since 1982, while average household wealth in America actually declined slightly. These three families, based in retailing, oil production and food manufacturing respectively, had a combined wealth of $348.7 billion in 2018, up from $5.84 billion in 1982, adjusted to 2018 dollars.
Besides the seven Waltons, two Kochs and six Mars, the report notes nine Cargill heirs on the Forbes 400 list, along with five Johnsons (Fidelity Investments), nine Pritzkers (Hyatt Hotels), five heirs to the Cox media fortune, four heirs to the Duncan oil fortune, four Lauders (perfumes), five billionaires from the Johnson & Johnson empire, four Bass brothers (oil), three Strykers (medical equipment), and so on. The top 15 billionaire dynasties had a combined wealth of $618 billion.
In the 100 years since the first US “Gilded Age,” the vast wealth of the original dynastic families like the Rockefellers, Mellons, Carnegies and DuPonts has been dispersed among large numbers of descendants, as well as diluted by progressive taxation (before 1980) and, in a few cases, by transfer to…