Rise of the American bourgeoisie

An increase in billionaires is widening the class and wealth gaps.

The Forbes 400, an annual list of America’s wealthiest, is now composed entirely of billionaires – an unprecedented affair. This occurrence serves as more of a sincere reflection of class inequality in this country rather than of a sign of progression.

U.S. economic growth has been slow the past 25 years. Twenty-five years ago, the Forbes 400 included only 13 billionaires. The fact that the entire list now is composed of all billionaires is alarming, especially when the rest of the country is not experiencing the same growth.

It would be naïve to assume this is the result of the market alone. Some economists argue tax breaks for the wealthiest are aiding this new trend. A quarter-century ago, the tax rate for the wealthiest was at 60 percent; it is now down to 35 percent. During a period in which there are massive budget cuts across the nation that are taking a toll on public education, law enforcement and communities in general, it seems counterproductive for the state to issue tax breaks for the extremely wealthy.

This is not only an instance of the rich getting richer. Rather, it points to massive class disparity in this country, and it is contributing to the issue of class inequality.

Among the top 10 of the list are four members of the Wal-Mart family, who more or less represent a corrupt corporation that has been the center of several controversies and refuses to grant its workers the right to organize in unions. Not only is there a disparity in the distribution of wealth, but it likewise is strange that those who own the labor are making billions while those who actually perform the labor are not even granted the right to organize.

Furthermore, the question of disparity also extends geographically. California and New York dominate the list with many billionaires, while some states have none. With a fairly stagnant economy and less money being funneled into communities, it’s likely that the existing disparities will only grow if the current trend continues and the state continues to secure more money for the wealthiest while neglecting the very people who fuel the economy.