“The earth does not belong to us. We belong to the earth.” -Chief Seattle

Fat Cat CapitalistAccording to Forbes there was a total of 1426 billionaires in 2013 with a net worth of $5.4 trillion as opposed to 470 in 2000 worth $898 billion. This means that the amount of
billionaires has tripled in 13 years where as the net worth is six times greater (not accounting for inflation). Even with an accumulated inflation rate of around 35% (meaning that every dollar in 2000 would cost $1.35 in 2013) the math still yields an increase of 4.5 times, so there are more billionaires making greater profits today than thirteen years ago, around 50% greater profits to be precise. Has your income increased 50% in the last 13 years?

The question then is, how well off are the general public in comparison? Of course this depends on one’s perspective and who exactly is making the claim. An article that appeared in the British paper the Daily Mail (March, 2013) stated British families “…will be no better off in 2015 than in 2000 due to devastating attack on family finances”. Is any of this negativity contributable to the growing numbers of people diagnosed with depression? There are others that claim the opposite, that we are doing great and that the proof is seen in how many choices we have when watching television (I kid you not). In a December 2013 article titled Who Needs a Raise When You Have TV?” that appeared in Bloomberg Opinion (bloomberg.com), author Virginia Postrel stated: On a flight across the country, you watch the playoff game on live television, listen to some favorite playlists…then relax with some video poker. Arriving home, you delete the game from your DVR and consider your options. Too tired for an intense cable drama – which you prefer to experience in…marathons of at least three episodes each – you stream a first-season episode of “Duck Dynasty” from Amazon.com, then run last week’s “Elementary” from your DVR queue. While watching, you check IMDB.com…then you jump to your Facebook and Twitter feeds. You finish the evening with “SportsCenter,” recorded just far enough ahead that you can skip most of the commercials. Wow, our progression is truly amazing thanks to TV. Postrel goes on to say: “A form of progress that large numbers of people experience every day, the increase in entertainment variety and convenience represents a challenge to the increasingly conventional wisdom that American living standards have stagnated, at least for the middle class.” How is it possible that anyone wishing to be taken seriously could make such a demeaning and elitist comment. This smacks of the Roman adage “Bread and Circuses”, keeping the Plebs happy through mindless spectacle, but Postal has gone one step further and eliminated the “Bread”. However, we must remember where this article appeared. In a media channel owned by Michael Bloomberg whose estimated worth is $31 billion and described by thedailybeast as: “…a rogue billionaire who doesn’t believe the rules apply to him even as he’s busy inventing new ones for the rest of us.” Interesting.