True: the 400 richest have more wealth than half of all Americans … combined

Michael Moore said it in Madison, and it is true…

Politifact rather grudgingly gives the man his due:

The liberal firebrand opened his speech by heaping praise on those fighting the Republican governor’s efforts to take collective bargaining powers from state and local government employees.

But he put more firepower into bashing the nation’s rich.

“Right now, this afternoon, just 400 Americans — 400 — have more wealth than half of all Americans combined,” Moore avowed to tens of thousands of protesters.

“Let me say that again. And please, someone in the mainstream media, just repeat this fact once; we’re not greedy, we’ll be happy to hear it just once.

“Four hundred obscenely wealthy individuals, 400 little Mubaraks — most of whom benefited in some way from the multi-trillion-dollar taxpayer bailout of 2008 — now have more cash, stock and property than the assets of 155 million Americans combined.”

OK, we’ve repeated Moore’s declaration (including the reference to Hosni Mubarak, the former Egyptian president).

Now let’s see if what he asserts — that 400 Americans “have more wealth than half of all Americans combined” — is true.

Moore has made other staggering claims about the gap between the nation’s rich and poor. In Capitalism: A Love Story, his 2009 documentary, Moore said “the richest 1 percent have more financial wealth than the bottom 95 percent combined.”

He was awarded a Mostly True by our colleagues at PolitiFact National for that claim.

For his Madison speech, Moore posted a version of the text on his website. It included a link to back up his statement about the 400 wealthiest Americans. The link was to a blog post by Dave Johnson, a fellow at the Commonweal Institute, a California organization that says it promotes a progressive agenda.

After going through a few permutations, Politifact comes to this:

The 2010 net worth of the Forbes 400 was $1.37 trillion, Forbes reported in September 2010. That same month, the total U.S. net worth was $54.9 trillion, according to the Federal Reserve Board report cited by Moore.

Wolff hasn’t updated his 2009 figures. So we used his 2.3 percent figure again, multiplied by the 2010 total net worth of $54.9 trillion, and found that the net worth of the poorest 60 percent of U.S. households was $1.26 trillion in 2010.

That’s less than the 2010 net worth for the Forbes 400.

How could it be that 400 people have more wealth than half of the more than 100 million U.S. households?

Think of it this way. Many Americans make a good income, have some savings and investments, and own a nice home; they also have debt, for a mortgage, credit cards and other bills. Some people would still have a pretty healthy bottom line. But many — including those who lost a job and their home in the recession — have a negative net worth. So that drags down the total net worth for the poorer half of U.S. households that Moore cited.

Well that’s one explanation.

Here’s another. And another.

So how good is it to be in the top 400?

- The 400 richest Americans saw their incomes double between 2001 and 2007 – a period when the incomes of the average American declines. The windfall was so massive, and so hitched to the Bush tax cuts, this group has been dubbed the “Bush 400.” Or as Dubya called them: “my base”…

- The shift in wealth upward isn’t new. It’s actually ben 50 years in the making, and has been a result nt of accident, but rather of public policy.

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5 Responses to True: the 400 richest have more wealth than half of all Americans … combined

  1. Nick says:

    Anyone who believes anything Michael Moore says is an idiot.

    Lets really think about his statement…The Richest 400 is taken from Forbes 400 list….so thus, they are 100% workers or producers. And now compare that to HALF of all Americans….155 million Americans. Who’s in that demographic? LOTS of people who dont even work. You are comparing welfare recipients, minimum wage workers, non working people, children and seniors, and students. Now compare them to the bottom 50% of WORKERS. The numbers will be QUITE different.

    From 2003 numbers —-The top 1% earns 17.53 (2000: 20.81%) of all income. The top 5% earns 31.99 (2000: 35.30%). The top 10% earns 43.11% (2000: 46.01%); the top 25% earns 65.23% (2000: 67.15%), and the top 50% earns 86.19% (2000: 87.01%) of all the income.

    The bottom 50% earn almost 14% while the Top 1%, let alone the Top 400, earned 17.5%. Those numbers went down from 2000….the bottom 50% pay a paltry 3% of all income taxes, but the Top 1% pay ten times that amount.

    Again…is it really so hard to see the bottom 50%….which are those who earn less than $33k a year….not have any net wealth? Is it really Bill Gates or Warren Buffett’s fault that the bottom 50% dont have any wealth? What has changed in the last 100 years? Nothing. Gates and Buffett arent stealing from anyone, so there is no mythical “transfer of wealth” to the rich. We now have a Mexican as the richest man in the world, not Gates or Buffett. The bottom 50% are there because they dropped out of school, are lazy, or had children out of wedlock….OR, are just students and either not working or working part time or fresh out of college making less than $33k a year, which is not that bad for a 22 yr old recent college grad. The #1 cause of poverty in this country are teens having children and not finishing school. How is that Gate’s fault?

  2. R Ernst says:

    Nick It’s nice what people are able to do with numbers .Not exactly the truth though.
    Since the Reagan years the wages of the working class in real dollars has declined while the wealthy has risen to the greatest amounts in history. And these so called job creators have sent jobs overseas kept wages in US low and that is managements fault. The bottom 25% of tax filers earn BELOW the poverty line the next 25% don’t earn enough to pay federal taxes -facts. We now have the greatest disparity between rich and poor in the world. Calling people who work, probably harder than you, for sublivable wages lazy is the only the defense the right has. This country has always prospered when the wealthy paid their fair percent. Yes they pay the lions share but they earn much more than the lions share. Check top tax rates v growth 40′s 50′s 60′s 70′s 80′s .

  3. Mike says:

    I am all for people working hard and making money, but the way the system works is stacked for the rich. Many of the names on the top 400 list, didn’t earn the money themselves. They just got lucky to be born into wealth.

  4. If your father is rich you will be rich also in 99% of cases.

  5. Pingback: American Dream Is Dead—If You Are In The 99% | Your Daily Dose of Spice – News From Across The Globe

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