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World’s Richest Now Own as Much Wealth as 3.8 Billion People

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Twenty-six individuals now own as much wealth as 3.8 billion people, according to an Oxfam International report released in January. The individuals are collectively worth $1.4 trillion. The number of billionaires has doubled in the last decade to roughly 2,200 since the global financial crisis began in 2008.

Most people on the list are American. The collective wealth of Amazon’s Jeff Bezos, Microsoft’s Bill Gates, Berkshire Hathaway’s Warren Buffett and Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg is about $357 billion—roughly the amount of Denmark’s entire GDP in 2018.

But how much is 1.4 trillion dollars, anyway? One trillion is a million million, or a thousand billion. Here’s a helpful visualization to start with.

Still having trouble? Yeah, it’s a lot:

  • If you earned a dollar a day, it would take 31,546 years for you to accrue $1 trillion.
  • If you were to go back in time one billion seconds, you’d be in 1987. One trillion seconds would put you closer to 30,000 B.C.
  • With $1 trillion, you could buy every resident of San Francisco (1 million people) a nice apartment.

The entire U.S. deficit is projected to hit $1 trillion this budget year, up 26 percent to its highest point in seven years.

Progressive 2020 presidential candidates including Sens. Elizabeth Warren and Bernie Sanders have called to overhaul the U.S. tax system. Under Sanders’ proposal, the wealthiest individuals — not even the 1 percent, but the 0.1 percent, or 400 richest Americans — would be taxed at a rate of up to 97.5 percent. 

Bezos, for example, who currently owns about $110 billion, would owe about $8.9 billion this year. Walmart founders the Walton family would pay $14.8 billion

That $23.7 billion, from one fiscal year and just two individuals, could pay the entire education budgets—about $24 billion—for the five lowest spending states: Utah, Idaho, Arizona, Oklahoma and Mississippi.

Kaley LaQuea is an award–winning print and digital journalist who’s been creating content since 2008. She’s passionate about economic, environmental and social justice. She has an unhealthy relationship with caffeine and two cats: Totoro and Mononoke.