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In this season of mass commercialism, let’s pause to consider the plight of simple millionaires.
Astonishingly, they’re being abandoned by retailers that are now catering to the most lux of the luxury market. “Whether the product is yachts, diamonds, art, wine, or even handbags,” says Robert Frank, a chronicler of American wealth, “the strongest growth and biggest profits are now coming from billionaires and nine-figure millionaires, rather than from mere millionaires.” What this reflects is not the wealth divide between the 1-percenters and the rest of us, but a stunning concentration of America’s total wealth in the vaults of the ever-richer 0.01-percenters.
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They are an extravagant moneyed aristocracy, sitting so high above our society that they largely go unseen. This exclusive club includes only two-hundredths-of-one-percent of American families, with each holding fortunes of more than $110 million. The riches of these privileged ones keep snowballing – their outsized share of our national wealth has doubled since 2002, and their holdings are expanding twice as fast as other 1-percenters.
Their growing control of wealth is distorting high-end consumerism, including such goods as private jets. Sales of your common millionaire-sized jets are down by two-thirds since the 2008 Wall Street crash. So, jet makers have shifted to the billionaire buyers, including some who are spending eye-popping levels of lucre to possess such pretties as their very own Boeing 777-300 – which normally carries 400 passengers.
This extreme, obscene concentration of wealth is creating an intolerable inequality that will implode our economy and explode America’s essential, uniting sense of egalitarianism. It’s time to remember that money is like manure – it does no good unless you spread it all around.
“Another Widening Gap: The Haves vs. the Have-Mores,” The New York Times, November 16, 2014.
“America’s Families and Living Arrangements: 2013: Family households,” www.census.gov, 2014.